Swimming with Sharks

This weekend was shark diving time! I had been wanting to do this ever since hearing about it during the TaLK orientation in Jochiwon. I joined about six other TaLK scholars at the Busan Aquarium and spent the day training in how to scuba dive and then doing the shark dive itself. At first, I was a bit intimidated by the very idea of scuba diving—being underwater, covered in breathing apparatus, but it turns out it’s not that hard. And if your air tube or mask come off during the dive, you can put them back on, flush out the water, and continue just fine. We all had to wear weight belts to keep us on the bottom of the tank. When we first put them on out of the water, they were so heavy that we could barely walk!

The entrance to the shark diving tank.

Even the aquarium was showing some Christmas spirit.

The shark tank.

These big sea turtles were locked up during our dive because they like to chomp on fingers!

Above the tank.

All suited up. All the equipment weighed so much that I could barely walk!

My diving group.

Training is complete…we’re all ready to go!

Descending into the tank.

The only negative part of the experience was the temperature of the water. To make the animals comfortable, the water was very cold and the wet suits did not help much at all. I was shivering for most of the time we were in the water. But being able to see sharks, groupers, sting rays, and porpoises up close underwater was worth it! Since the tank we were in was in the center of the museum, everyone visiting that exhibit could see us and they were quite fascinated by a bunch of humans bouncing around along with the sea creatures! At one point, we went right up to the glass and waved at them. We felt like celebrities!

Shark!

Waving at our viewers.

After the dive was done.

Exiting the tank.

After our shark dive, we went out to eat a delicious meal of grilled and stewed clams. It was nice to spend time with the other TaLK scholars, many of whom I hadn’t seen since orientation since they were in other provinces. After dinner, we fit nine people into a Korean friend’s tiny car and drove up the side of a mountain where we got an amazing view of the city lights at night. There was snow left over from the week before and it was a really beautiful place to be.

Shark divers, ready for dinner!

Grilled clams for dinner.

A beautiful nighttime view of Busan.

All the shark divers, close together for warmth!

The next Saturday most of the other TaLK scholars and I went to a boys orphanage in the southern part of the city and spent a few hours with the younger kids. We played games, did some Christmas crafts, and gave them candy and treats. It was definitely a worthwhile experience. Later that day some of us went bowling and did karaoke. That Sunday we celebrated a TaLK scholar’s birthday and walked around Gwangalli Beach where there were many Christmas lights set up. It actually felt a little like the holidays back home!

Celebrating a birthday.

Christmas lights at Gwangalli.

The whole gang, together again (probably for the last time)!

The next week was my last week of classes before winter vacation. I still have winter camp in January but my actual classes are now finished. On the last day of class, we had a party/market day for the students. My co-teacher and I bought little toys and stationary from the Korean dollar store and then gave our students fake money to buy what they wanted. We also played party games like musical chairs, pin the star on the Christmas tree, and hide and seek. It was a lot of fun and the students enjoyed it.

One of my students with cute winter clothes.

Another student with a stylish winter hat!

Christmas decorations that my students made.

Market day!

That’s all from Korea for now. I will spending an exciting Christmas in Cambodia, so look for a blog post on my adventures there in a few weeks!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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