Saturday, November 2, 2013

Teacher Bonding Time!

Stuff from this week! Teaching about Halloween!

6th grade

ready to teach about Halloween 23 times

Me and some of my 4th graders!

went and got my hair done. Apparently this
is a moisturizer?

On Friday, our breaks between classes were shorter so that we could leave school early for a teacher bonding trip! It was actually supposed to be a workshop (more on that later), and it included games on the bus that Christina didn't understand (though I almost won the Rock Paper Scissors relay, and my team won  a balloon relay!) Apparently there is no open container law in Korea, because about half an hour into the ride, beer was being passed around. Yup. I don't even know what to say about that one.

and then a tree branch got stuck on the bus

We had a pit stop at a Buddhist temple

the fall foliage is so pretty in the mountains!!

So after that stopover we took the bus to the base of Naejangsan or Naejang mountain, which is famous for being a great place to view the fall leaves. At the hotel, we were supposed to have dinner and then have a 2 hour discussion about the curriculum for the school. Now, whoever made that schedule MUST have been drunk when they thought of that, because there is no way Koreans get anything done after a teacher dinner. Why? Because of Korea's drinking culture. It certainly makes for an entertaining night, although my liver is probably still cursing me. Beer and Soju are the most popular drinks, and as a foreigner, watch out, because once they found out you like soju (read: will tolerate soju. It's not my drink of choice, but I also don't mind it), they will be pouring it left and right for you. I swear our table went through at least 10 bottles of beer and a dozen bottles of soju (for 16 people). Soju sneaks up on you, man, cause it goes down easier than most hard liquors. I think I got a soju shot from the Principle twice, VP, head teacher twice, and a few others from teachers at the table.

Don't worry though, Koreans are respectful of your decision to drink, so you can just accept the shots and take a sip. An empty cup signals that you're ready for more, but if you still have some left, they'll either skip you or you can just pour it in a different cup and accept the new one. A lot of the teachers do this because it's easy to lose track when there's like 4 or 5 people making the rounds with soju. A lot of it is just tradition and respect, but you won't offend anyone if you don't down shot after shot like they can. If you can, however, keep up like me (relatively speaking), they will definitely let you get closer to their inner circle.

At the teacher dinner, I discovered that my horrifically bad Korean can actually be used to generate quite a lot of laughter. Mostly because anytime I say anything in Korean everyone laughs and says how great I sound (EGO BOOST). One of the 5th grade homeroom teachers (5-2) was across the table from me, and she kept asking our group "Do you like...?" if she wanted us to give her group the extra side dishes, like "Do you like kimchi!?" and over to their group went the kimchi. Deciding to try and impress them, and also deciding I wanted more bulgogi, I turned and said  불고기 좋아해요 (bulgogi chuahaeyo)?, which means do you like bulgogi? Well, that was a riot and they couldn't stop laughing as they handed it over. 5-2's teacher kept saying how much she liked me, especially after I drank a couple of rounds of soju with them.

Now, family, friends and misc readers, I'm not telling you all this alcohol stuff to be impressive. I'm merely trying to inform you about a culture that highly values drinking with your co workers as a way to bond and relax. Plus, if you've ever seen a Korean dinner spread, you know there's enough food to feed the army, so that definitely helps tame the effects (though some of these older teachers, MAN I don't know how they all woke up the next day perfectly fine. I think Korean livers are superior).

Anyway, in true Korean fashion, we decided that after drinks we were going to head to the noraebang (karaoke room), of course! Who cares about writing the curriculum! This one was set up more like Karaoke that I'm used to, so it was in a bigger room with a stage, rather than the smaller, private rooms normal noraebangs have. And again, in true Korean fashion, it's fun to make the foreigner sing. This time, I picked Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, which most of them didn't know, but hey, the fact that I got up and sang endeared me even more to some of my co workers.

After a good few hours of clapping, dancing and playing the tambourine to Korean classics that all sound similar and completely unfamiliar, we headed back to the hotel (during the walk to and from the hotel, my co teacher kept asking me to read signs and was impressed that I could sound out the syllables. Again, any small step in your language studies fills them with pride and wonder. It's still really encouraging and fun that I can impress them with something that doesn't seem that impressive to me. Like I still can't make full sentences, but they're like "YOU HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH!" I love their enthusiasm for my studies!)

 We had a super early start the next day (7 am wake up call, UGH) and Hae In (who was largely responsible for me for the entire trip) told me about the day. We started with a 3 hour hike 'up' Naejangsan, which I had been worried about because my last trek up a mountain was INCREDIBLY difficult and I really didn't want to embarrass myself. Thankfully, with the limited time, we would never be able to reach the peak and get back down, and since Hae In was decidedly against actually climbing up any part of the mountain, we took it slow and just enjoyed what was essentially a nice walk. There was lots of beautiful scenery, and the air was so fresh!!!

throw a coin in the bowl and your wish will
come true. Harder than it looks!

A temple or something on top of the mountain

Entrance to the trail

I will never understand why Koreans use
those walking sticks on FLAT, FINISHED roads

inside a temple

Koreans love takin pics with the fall foliage


Even Hae In commented on how many people were staring at me while we hiked. Koreans aren't subtle about their curiousity, and I heard the word waygookin at least a dozen times. On the way out of the park, I shared a knowing nod with a couple of foreigners heading in, because we both know how awkward the stares are. I've gotten more used to it in Seoul, but down South, where foreigners are less common, the stares are a bit more obvious, though it is funny to see the wonder, awe, confusion, and fascination clearly etched on the majority of Koreans we passed.

Next, we headed back to the bus (where more beer was served, hair of the dog and all that, I guess), and then we headed off to Jeonju for lunch. The bus ride was an hour and a half, and clearly the night before and the hike had taken it's toll, because everyone almost immediately fell asleep, myself included.

Hae In curled up all cute on the way to Jeonju

In Jeonju, we wandered around a bit (by wandered I mean the group got split and about half of the group got lost) before settling down to a nice lunch of bibimbap, for which Jeonju is famous. It was really delicious, but I'm gonna be honest, I don't know if it's my lack of Korean palate or what, but it didn't taste all that different from bibimbap in Seoul. I hope that's not sacrilegious to say!

Next we headed off to a palace, I think.... Whatever it was, it was a Joseon Dynasty reconstruction.

little kid walkin' on God's Road.

A famous painting of the first king of the Joseon
Dynasty,  Taejo Yi Seong-gye. The dynasty
lasted 5 generations. It was the last dynasty in Korean
history and the longest- ruling Confucian dynasty

Bamboo forest
 Jeonju is famous for having a big hanock village, full of traditional Korean buildings and crafts. It was fun to look around!

After a 4 hour bus ride, we finally arrived back in Seoul. I had a great time on the trip, and am really happy they included me, but after 2 days of being surrounded by 45 other koreans and only having a vague, rough translation of what was happening, I am ready for a day of just relaxing! I think my participation helped give the teachers I hadn't spent a lot of time with a more favorable impression of me, so I hope I can get closer with more of them as the year goes by!

That's all for now, Sunday is definitely going to be a day of rest for me before heading back to the grind! Ciao everyone!

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