We’re back from Thailand. It was a great trip, and I have tons of pictures and lots to talk about. Look for updates soon. Also, we had a great time in Korea with my parents. Again, pictures and updates to come.
I hate to rant on my first post back, but there’s something I have to get off my chest. I hate dinner meetings.
Here’s the background: We got back to Gangneung on Friday and had to go to school on Monday. No classes, so we’re sitting at our desks and planning. We’re told sometime in the morning that we have a dinner meeting for the teachers that are moving to new schools. As far as I can gather, this happens about every semester. Teachers have to go to a new school at least every five years, to avoid stagnation and corruption, I guess.
Dinner meetings are pretty common; we have them for all sorts of reasons. This is maybe the 6th or 7th such meeting that we’ve had thus far. Here’s the scenario: Erin and I catch a cab to the beach. We sit down in a big room with all of the teachers from school, maybe 50 total. There’s no formal order to seating, but all the women sit on one side, and the men on the other. (Side note #1: the male teachers at school speak very little English and tend to ignore me.) I have the option of sitting awkwardly with the men, or sitting awkwardly with the women. I opt for the women, because I can sit with Erin, and because they speak English. I side as close too the men’s table as possible though. Regardless, this seems to be some sort of testosterone-related faux pas. Nobody wants to talk to me.
Side dishes come, then raw fish. (Side note #2: I can’t stand raw fish.) At some point, soju is brought out. The drinking begins. The men start drinking heavily, or at least pretending to. Same with the women. They pour water into shot glasses if they don’t want to drink soju. After a few drinks, both the women and the men are getting red-faced and giggly. I’m sitting awkwardly at a table.
A few more drinks, and the third course is served. Some kind of fish soup. Soju is still flowing. At this point, I get flagged over to a different table, where Erin is pounding beers with some of the younger female teachers. I join in, because company is nice. We have a couple drinks, but my head really isn’t in it.
Then the real fun starts. My co-teacher is one of the older male teachers, and seems to be the de-facto MC. He stands up and starts asking teachers to sing. Last time this happened, Erin and I got called up and performed a horrendous rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” for the teachers that were leaving. Thankfully, we were not called on. It should be noted that I have a terrible voice. I’d prefer not to demonstrate that fact publicly. I’m also not much of a drinker. Even if I were, no amount of rot-gut soju could make public singing a comfortable experience. NOT being called up was the best part of the evening.
After 20 or 30 minutes of singing, the group decides to move on…to a norebang. This translates to “singing room.” You guessed it…more singing! (A norebang is a building full of little rooms with screens and kareokee machines. Drinks and food are often served. It’s part of Korean culture that I do not understand at all.) At this point, Erin and I made our excuses and left with another teacher. Thankfully, this didn’t seem to be TOO much of a big deal.
As I’ve made clear, I really hate these meetings. It was better last semester, because one of the temp English teachers was a male who spoke excellent English. He made the whole situation a lot easier. It’s frustrating for me, because I’m pretty sure that if I drank a half-gallon of soju and generally acted foolish, I’d fit in much better. I’m certainly not saying that every teacher does this, but plenty do, and it drinking is a pretty big part of male bonding in Korea. It’s just really not my style.
Enough of my whining. We were able to escape the meeting after 2 and a half hours, which isn’t too bad. At least we avoided the norebang.