Ok so I was going to post this together with my last post but that would have been SUPER LONG so I'll just tell you about Monday now! I was too embarrassed to take pics during the evening with my coworkers, so my essay will just have to suffice!
As I might have mentioned (?) the VP of the school retired the second week I was there, so they had a dinner to say goodbye. Well, since the new VP just arrived, we had to have another dinner celebrating her arrival. This time, instead of a buffet, we went and had Kalbe, which is a traditional dinner of grilled short ribs. You do it right in front of you at the table, and there are of course like 10 different (free!) side dishes. We even had a discussion at dinner about how strange it must be for me to see all of the free food, as I told them in America, your meal may come with 1 or two sides but it costs like twice or three times as much as a Korean meal, which is often around 5-6 dollars and almost always less than $10. They laughed when I asked where my coteachers put it all, even though I'm not joking, they're all TINY!!!! This also led to a discussion about how bad American food is for you, which was great since I was sitting next to the nutritionist.
Yeah, Andrea would probably like that fact. Every school here has a meal planner/nutritionist person that plans the meals so that they are balanced and varied. If you take some of everything, you can be pretty sure you've covered all the bases a meal is supposed to (and yes, there is ALWAYS kimchi). The meals are free for the students, teachers pay a little to have them, but it's less than $3 a day. I just really like this system. It's healthier and cheaper for the students.
Anywho, I also got to try cold noodles at the dinner, which were a DISASTER (even tho they were delicious). First of all, I can't eat noodles with chopsticks. Second of all, nobody told me you were supposed to CUT THEM BEFORE YOU ATE THEM. So yeah, I ordered the non-spicy kind and I was trying to eat them but it didn't turn out so well as it was like endless noodles and I tried to bite them off, but of course they were chewy, so it turned into a big mess that had my coteachers slightly horrified, slightly embarrassed on my behalf and mostly trying to hid their laughter at my ineptitude as I tried to just get the damn noodles in my mouth or back in the bowl. I'd also like to point out that the server cut the noodles when she served the spicy noodles. WAMP.
Anyway, my noodle faux pas aside, we moved on to the drinking portion of the evening. The VP had the obligation to go and pour everyone drinks, and my coteachers were impressed that I knew the two hands on the cup custom, or when someone is pouring you a drink you either hold it with two hands or hold it with one hand and place your other hand someone on your other arm, like near your wrist or elbow. One of the other subject teachers was like "where did you learn that gesture!?!?!?" So I guess that impressed them. You also don't look at the person who poured you the drink if they're your superior. It's polite to take it and turn away and drink it. You don't really have to do that with friends. though, just the big, important people. But since drinking and respect are both a huge part of the culture here, informing yourself about the customs is a good step in ensuring a good start to your relationships here.
And so we get through dinner, which was ROUND AFTER ROUND of bbq and crazy amounts of side dishes (seriously, I wasn't even hungry for breakfast), and of course there are shouts of Norebang! Norebang!!! and one of the head teachers announces we are leaving for a norebang in 10 minutes. My coteachers told me it was ok if I wanted to go home, but some of the other teachers started asking if I was going to go. So I decided, what the heck, it beat sitting at home alone! Plus, the best advice I have received and utilized here in Korea is that when your coteachers invite you to a dinner or norebang, GO WITH THEM. Not only does it expose you to a new culture, but it shows them you are willing to try new things and learn about them, and you aren't just here to accept a paycheck.
So to the norebang we go. Once the principal found out I was coming, she was grinning madly and I kept hearing my name as we walked there. One of my coteachers turned and said "Our mood is getting better now that you are here!" Seriously, ways to impress people- learn Korean- even just a bit farther than Hello, nice to meet you will do WONDERS for the perception of you, give gifts in the beginning to your higher ups, and go to a norebang with the teachers. Sing one song. Just one. And they will be over the moon that you're willing to participate.
Honestly, it was a blast. Norebang means singing room or karaoke room. Unlike karaoke in the states, here in Korea, you and your friends (or you and your coworkers) rent out a private Karaoke room. Beer, soju and water are provided, as are tambourines and a song book the size of the Les Mis novel. And if the principal offers you a drink that she made, you take that sucker (soju and beer mixed together. An interesting combination that's growing on me, which is probably not a good thing!!!)
Look, I can't sing worth a damn, but simply by going and banging the tambourine with your coteachers, clapping and dancing along, and yes, even getting up there and signing yourself, you solidify your relationship with these people. It's a huge bonding experience, and it was really, really fun. I don't know the Korean songs that were sung, I doubt I did a great job with Lady Marmalade (though I did score a 97, HA), and my throat hurt from all the cheering, but man, did I love it. The previous co teacher was an older guy who didn't really join in on the group things here, and so I think the teachers are happy to have someone willing to participate, even if I only catch about .01% of the conversation at dinner.
My 4th/5th grade teacher even told me that she was very happy I accepted the invitation to both dinner and karaoke, since it shows I'm willing to try and learn about her culture. I told her that I came here to teach, but also to learn, and so I was really, really happy they all wanted to include this stranger. I sometimes feel like a baby (not a crybaby, just literally a small person with know real understanding of things)- everything is so new to me and people have to explain things simply, but the world here is full of new and wonderful things and I am happy to get out and explore!
Since staff dinners aren't SUPER often, I'm hoping that I can improve my Korean language and cultural knowledge enough to sing a Korean song next time (even if I have to find a super simple song and play it on repeat for days on end so I can memorize it). That might blow their minds!!! I'm definitely looking forward to hanging out with my coteachers and the school staff more during the year!!!
Whew this was a lot to update about! Hope everyone at home is having a good week!!!