Sunday, July 12, 2009

Teachers' Retreat

What a weekend! Friday was uneventful -- students were on a field trip to Icheon to go swimming, so it was awful quiet around the school. Mrs. Kim brought in a bunch of kimbap for lunch, and Mi Sun and I finished watching the first Lord of the Rings movie and started on the second. With no students coming to the Global Center, we've had quite a bit of free time... and the Icheon Experience classroom has a laptop connected to a projector with a giant screen, so we've pulled a bunch of cushions in there and set up our own private movie theatre. Good times!

At 4:30, we boarded a bus with the rest of the teachers, bound for ... well, I knew not what. But as I boarded the bus, in the school parking lot mind you, I was handed a warm can of beer and a bag of dried squid. It was gonna be that kind of party, it turned out. All the teachers were already crackin open the beers, so I happily joined in. Not two minutes out of the parking lot, Mr. Kim (no relation to Mrs. Kim from earlier -- Kim is a really common last name here) handed me another beer, so I threw down the first one and popped open number 2. Number 3 would follow soon after, as there seemed to be no shortage of booze on the school bus. Yep -- school bus. And yes, drinking in a moving vehicle is perfectly legal here, and actually somewhat of a tradition, I'm told. Beer number 3 carried us to the tomb of King Sejong, but most of us (including me, actually) had been there before, so we walked around for a bit (it was on a free day to celebrate the designation as a UNESCO Heritage Site) and then got back on the bus.

We drove for a bit longer before stopping for dinner. The "restaurant" was on side of the street, but they didn't actually sell food, I don't think. Well, side dishes and stuff, but the main dish, the beef, was sold at little butcher shops across the street. So we purchased an ass-load of beef to cook at the restaurant to accompany the massive amounts of soju we ordered. Now, this beef was supposed to be something special -- all Korean-grown, very exclusive. I mean, it tasted great, don't get me wrong, but I saw the price tags on this stuff and Jesus H Tapdancing Christ! Probably... um, not worth it, is all I'm gonna say. Delicious, yes... but $30/pound delicious? I don't think so... Also -- I tried raw beef liver for the first time. Some of the other teachers were wolfing it down, but Mi Sun and I were both looking at kinda warily. So we decided to "kawi-bawi-bo!" for it... that's Korean for rock-paper-scissors. I lost. It wasn't bad -- honestly, it had a silky smooth texture and not much flavor... I made her try some too, and we both agreed it was pretty inoffensive. Of course, dessert mostly consisted of liquor, and then...

After dinner we headed to the hotel and got settled in. The men-folk hunkered down for a night of gambling and drinking, but the card game was way too complex for me to learn quickly, especially in my already-nearly-inebriated state. Luckily, Bo Il and several of the girls were headed to the noraebang, so that was my new destination. At the noraebang I was forced to choose from the usual lame selection of English songs so I fell back on my standard Aerosmith, Oasis, and the Beatles... but Mi Sun was on fire! This girl was jumping around, headbanging, dancing her little Korean ass off! Never seen that before -- it was a nice change of pace, I gotta say. I think the fact that she wasn't driving anywhere was a big factor. I need to hang out with her when there's no driving involved more often. After a couple hours of singing, we headed back to the hotel.

The boys were still playing cards, so I grabbed a beer, some soju and some watermelon and started trying to figure out the game. Well, I got the basics of it but the simple fact that the cards have only pictures (no words, no numbers, nothing else) was too much for me. However, I realized I could pretty much play the game blind... just like poker. Get a feel for each guys behavior's and you could start to see patterns, who had a hand, who was bluffing. I even got to the point where I was ready to join in, but they wouldn't let me! I got kinda pissed off, but there were two reasons for it: 1) one of the teachers was down like 200 bucks and didn't want the dynamic of the game to change (although I woulda thought he'd be all for it! haha) and 2) they didn't want me to lose all my money and 3) racism? ha... whatever... I was pretty lit up and it probably would have been a bad idea anyway.

Woke up at 7am Saturday morning, still wearing all my clothes but in a different room than I remember being in. Well, I slowly inched the door open and there were like 8 people passed out in the main room, so maybe it was just as well. I stumbled to the bathroom and got cleaned up. Brushed teeth, washed, clean clothes. Then, thanks to my oversized and angry head, I realized the extent of my hangover, so I headed to the kitchen for something to make me feel better. We had, of course, no food on hand... but there was a whole lotta booze left, so I did the only thing I could think of to make myself feel better -- breakfast beer! Hair of the dog, breakfast of champions, whatever you wanna call it, I'm just sayin... it works. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so: 3 other guys made the fridge and the beer their first stop in the morning upon waking up. So, an hour and a half or so later we were ready to bounce, and I was 4 beers into a promising day!

Breakfast: sadly, Koreans have no concept of breakfast as we know it. Breakfast, to them, is just a meal eaten in the morning. But, it pretty much contains the same foods as lunch and dinner. So, "breakfast" was some kind of seafood soup: little shellfish critters (maybe a centimeter long) were boiled with seaweed and served to us in their broth. For breakfast. Actually tasted pretty good, except sometimes you'd get one that was a little more attached to his shell or something (at least, I hope that's what it was) and they were pretty crunchy. Some of the men sat at a separate table from all of us, and I noticed some soju bottles at their table. For breakfast. I was feeling pretty loose though and abstained. Anyway... then we were off to the river.

We arrived about an hour early for our little river cruise, so we ended up snacking on ice cream and corn on the cob (which absolutely, positively blows here, might I add -- they have no idea what they're missing), along with iced coffee. We played another Korean card game (no gambling this time), and after watching one game, I jumped in and I dominated. The strategy was really simple -- not sure what they were missing, but anyway...

The cruise -- meh. It was nice, I suppose. Just a little sight-seeing jaunt up the river and back. It was pretty hot up on the top deck but the lack of wind below made the heat worse there. I got sunburned, but not terribly bad. I'm just a little pink around the edges, is all. After the cruise one of the school maintenance workers ordered a jug of makeolli (different kind of Korean liquor) from the snack shop... no one wanted to sit down with him, and I felt bad for the poor guy. He's always really nice to me, and very chatty, so I went over and joined him to drink a bowl of makeolli. He had also ordered a Korean pancake (which is like a really light batter mixed with lots of veggies and hot peppers, then lightly fried), which turned out to be freakin awesome, especially when dipped in the sesame soy sauce they provided. Soon though, we were back on the bus, and off for lunch. Lunch was two things: Some of us ordered spicy chicken stew, which I've had before actually, remember? Mi Jin's was way better, it turns out, but this was still yummy. The rest had catfish boiled in a spicy soup. Whole catfish. Yeah, I tried it... and no, it wasn't great. I mean, catfish doesn't have a whole lot of flavor anyway, and this was really overpowered by the soup it was used in. But, on the plus side, I did get to pluck meat out of a catfish head -- can't say I've ever done that before. Whoo-ee!

Finally, back on the bus and headed home. I got in late yesterday afternoon, and I've done approximately nothing since. Relaxed, went to bed early, and today has been the epitome of monsoon season -- nothing but rain, wind, thunder, rain, wind, more rain... I did make it out to the store for some cereal, milk, and tomato sauce earlier, so my needs are met. English camp starts tomorrow, so I think it's time to hit the sack and rest up for my exciting first week of camp. Peace ya'll.

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