Monday, 25 June 2012

Our Weekend: Soyang Orphanage

We've spent lots of time getting well acquainted with the bars and restaurants in Busan so we thought it was time to do something different. We arranged with a volunteer group to go and visit Soyang Orphanage this weekend. When we were told that the final numbers of the trip were going to be 25 volunteers with 12 children, I wasn't sure whether to go or not. I envisioned us being sat around or brawling over children, but I'm so glad that I went now.

We got dropped off by bus on the Island, and it was strange to be in such a green space after hardly leaving the centre of Busan for 3 months. There were a few houses dotted around, lots of pretty flowers and allotments all set into the greenest mountains that surrounded us. I'd forgotten what quiet really was until we got there.

It was in such a secluded spot that I felt like we'd found Peter Pan's hide out for the lost boys. IThe orphanage is an amazingly colourful set of buildings. My favourite place was the round library with a 'story telling pit' set in the middle which was brightly coloured and cushioned. We spent a long time chasing the kids around there, who would magically disappear thanks to the concealed cupboards and the mini door that lead to a slide where you could escape to the playground.

The little girls went wild for the nail varnish that someone had thought to bring along, while the boys liked to make the airplane models someone had bought from Daiso for hardly anything.

Tasha bonded with a little boy who must have only been two or three, who communicated mainly by throwing leaves at her. There was also a really tiny baby there, that the orphanage dad said he was personally bringing him up with the help of his wife.

I made friends with a 10 year old girl called Park Su Yeon who had brilliant English and whenever she could see that I was hot, would get me a prime seat next to the fan. She loved taking pictures and when we caught up with Tasha she drew these cute pictures of our favourite animals, and meticulously copied them so we all had a copy to keep. She later came to find us to introduce us to her sister and show us our cute new accessories that she had made us with pipecleaners.

It turned out she had two sisters and a brother at the orphanage too, who were all so cute and friendly. Tasha and I chased them around the playground and helped them run away from Ethan, who they insisted was a monster. The older high school and middle school kids eventually surfaced and the gaelic football team had a game of basketball with them.

At the end we all whipped out the snacks that we'd brought. I think they thought it was Christmas as we unloaded bag after bag of chocolate, sweets and crisps. It was funny to watch them all sneakily loading up their pockets as if we were about to turn around and change our mind about the food.

It was so sad to say goodbye when it was time to leave, and I felt a bit choked when Su Yeon quickly tore off a piece of paper from her sister's colouring book and wrote 'Goodbye' on it. I was really tempted to somehow smuggle them all out of their, but it seems like their life is alot better there than if I kept them all in my studio apartment!

We walked back down the hill, still donning our new pipecleaner accessories, back towards the hustle and bustle of Busan. I really hope that I can make it back there soon. I'd love to know what happens to the kids there, how long they're allowed to stay at the orphanage and when they're expected to leave?

We still found some time to go to Chinatown as there was some festivities going on, although we arrived a little late and ended up having a few drinks outside Amby's, watching the Russians stumble past, and Saturday night we attended an 80s themed drag prom night.

Then last night our lovely co-teacher, Hannah, took us to her friend's Japanese restaurant in Daeyon for the induction to our Korean language class which will be starting in a few weeks! I can't wait until I don't feel like an idiot when I'm trying to order in a shop!


On the path to Soyang

Soyang Orphanage
Colouring in Time

Su Yeon, Natasha and I
Table of sweeties
Tasha's Pipe cleaner bracelet
Cute boy with pipecleaner crown and flowers
Having more fun than the kids on the playground
Su Yeon.
Piggy Back. And my new pipecleaner headband
At the Drag Prom


  1. That looks and sounds lovely. I visited a few orphanages in India 10 years ago. The majority of the children spent their lives their. The older ones looked after the younger ones, unless they were lucky enough to get married and move away.

  2. Yeah there were a few older women there that made us wonder whether or not it was some sort of shelter as well, but I suppose that they could just be grown up. Seeing how hard our students are made to work and how much emphasis is put on education out here, it seems pretty impossible that the orphans that spend their whole life in care would ever become properly integrated into 'real life'. It's very sad.