As a member of the choir community at Seoul International School for many years, I’ve always looked forward to joining the Ambassadors choir. Ambassadors is the audition-only choir for all students in grades 10~12 and generally provides more opportunities to perform and bond outside of SIS, hence the name. As a sophomore for the 2018-19 school, this was my first year in the choir and was excited to participate in the many trips and activities offered.
The first activity for the choir this year was a team retreat to several cities in South Jeollanam-do. The trip would consist of many team-bonding activities and rehearsals, as well as some sightseeing. The retreat occurred on the first weekend after the school year began. Ms. Whitney Meininger, the director for all MS and HS choirs, said that this was to forge friendship among the choir members before proper rehearsals began in order to build teamwork and communication during performances. Although not all students in Ambassadors were able to attend due to scheduling conflicts, enough members came to the trip to create a family-like atmosphere.
The choir first stopped by the green tea fields in Boseong, a region famous nation-wide for its abundant high-quality tea leaves. In the green tea fields were multiple cafes and restaurants, all boasting the unique incorporation of green tea in their menus. Our choir ate at a restaurant that sold pork cutlets, Korean traditional noodles, and black bean paste noodles, all of which contained green tea or green tea leaves. Afterwards, we were given an hour and a half for free time with our friends. My friend and I went to a café located inside the fields and ate green-tea ice cream, a dessert the fields were famous for. We were surprised to see in line at the café that there were many foreigners at the fields. We weren’t aware how famous Boseong was for its tea until now. Before we left the fields, our choir director made sure to take myriad group photos to post on the music department bulletin board at school.
|[Rachel Lee (author) at the green tea fields in Boseong.
Photo courtesy of Ms. Whitney Meininger]
After we left the green tea fields, we stayed in Boseong to further our green tea experience – this time firsthand. At a nearby green tea plantation, we were given the opportunity to pick out green tea leaves and grind them up to later create Korean traditional tea, called don-cha, or money tea. We used the paste made from grinding up the tealeaves to mold small, circular tea stones. We were allowed to take some of the tea stones home; we could drink tea we made ourselves by breaking off part of the tea stones. At the plantation, we also learned the proper etiquette to drink Korean tea, as well as the history behind various teas and their connection with Korean history.
At night, we were taken to the Nagan Folk Village in Suncheon City, which would be our dorms for the night. To be quite honest, a lot of us were a bit creeped out by the folk houses because, from the outside, the houses seemed old and crumbling. We were told that the houses didn’t have locks because they were built hundreds of years ago. But when we actually entered the folk houses, they exceeded our expectations by far. I was expecting to see stone walls when I went in, but the rooms had air conditioning and TVs. It was interesting to see how the folk village had managed to combine modern and historic qualities of houses on their sites.
|[The Nagan Folk Village in Suncheon City. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Lee]|
The next morning before we left for Seoul, we went to the Suncheon Wetland Bays, which are famous for their large reed fields. There wasn’t much to see at the wetlands, but we used the large space at the bays to rehearse some of our pieces for the semester. It was a little awkward as we were singing because other tourists and local visitors were staring at us (one even started to film us), but we eventually embraced it and were able to tune them out.
All in all, this choir retreat to Jeollanam-do not only gave me a refreshing beginning to the school year but also helped our choir bond and experience new things together. I can truthfully say that this trip made me look forward to all the other opportunities Ambassadors will allow for us to grow as singers and a team.
Seoul International School
Rachel Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
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