Had I forgotten why I donned my suit this morning during the two minutes it takes to walk to my school, the long row of flower vendors camped outside school gates reminded me again about the big event teachers had been mentioning for over a week.
In Korea, students graduate from Middle School and High School in early to middle February, instead of May like their American counterparts, or March, like their peers in Japan.
I was asked to attend the commencement ceremony for graduating students. I naturally expected a few differences. Like Japan, Korean students wear their school uniforms, instead of the robe and funny hat that American graduates don for the occasion. The ceremony was also refreshingly brief, with none of the long winded obligatory speeches they so love in Japan or the endless 'pomp' and ceremony of a Western School. The school prinicpal made some brief remarks in Korean, a couple of top students spoke briefly, and they handed out the diplomas. Just as it should be.
While it was nice to be allowed to watch, I felt a bit awkward with my presence. Having not worked with the third graders during my brief time here, I did not know these kids. I didn't know their names. I'd never chatted with them, taught them, answered their questions, helped them with some problem, scolded them for misbehavior or even said hello.
Some of the teachers were kind enough to treat me to a delicious lunch following the ceremony and everyone took the rest of the day off early.