As I sit to write my first legitimate update from Korea, I am a little overwhelmed by how much I could be writing about. The school, the kids, the food, the apartment, the co-workers, etc. For now, I'll hit upon last night as it was an excellent exposure to parts of the Korean culture (possibly more of the Americans-in-Korea culture).
Last night SLP (the school where I work) took us to a Korean BBQ restaurant for a welcome and good bye dinner. When I walked into our reserved room, I too of my shoes and left them on shelves by the door. Walking to the table, I saw that there were cushion mats on the floor around the low tables. In the center of the tables were sunken grills where the meat is cooked. The servers come by every once in a while to flip and to cut the meat, then they set the done pieces on a ledge attached to the grill.
Once the meat was ready, we take it and add flavor, onions, kimchi, salad, egg souffle garlic, or what have you, and we wrap it in sesame leaves or lettuce leaves. My favorite combo was the soy/sesame/sweet sauce soaked onions with the egg souffle and the meat wrapped in the lettuce. There was savory, sweet, salty, and just amazing flavors all together. I can't wait to go back!
The dinner was a great place for me to get to talk with the other co-workers. Jeremy has said that everyone hangs together. Essentially, he said, this group of 16-18 people are going to be my social life for the next year. I foresee a lot of ludicrous behavior in my future.
My new found friends drink at any occasion. In the name of gathering experiences, I have tasted soju (lower alcohol percentage than vodka, more than beer) and maehwasoo which is a light, sweet plum wine. (I've never liked what I've tasted of alcohol, and I still don't love it. Let it be noted, I am perfectly okay with that.) Because dinner was free, everyone ordered much, much alcohol. Near the end of our time at the restaurant, there was plenty of ridiculous behavior. I couldn't help but laugh, but I also was glad that I was going to remember the evening the next morning.
After dinner, we all headed to a nearby norebong. This is the Korean equivalent of karaoke. I've never been to karaoke in America, so my comparison will be lacking, but here's what it was like. We walked down stairs to a small room with disco lights, a small table, couches around the edges, a large tv, and two microphones. We selected what songs we wanted and they popped up on the screen, then the microphones were passed around and everyone started dancing, singing, and yelling. The norebongs don't serve alcohol, and my friends snuck plenty in with them. The booze was flowing, and the cigarettes were lighted. Even without drinking, I enjoyed goofing off with them and making a fool of myself. The whole thing was just a crazy, silly dance party.
I didn't take any pictures, so may I direct you to Sarah's pictures which give a pretty good depiction of my own experience. We just had one tv, though, and ten more people. And I'm pretty sure our room was smaller.
|via International Sarah|
I don't know this girl, by the way. Just found her pictures through Google.
Last thing for now: I got lost on my way home. I mean lost-lost.
I thought I knew my way back, I was pretty sure I remembered where to turn, but after about 7 minutes of walking, I couldn't recognize where I was. I went back to where I started and tried again, but it still didn't work. I kept ending up on a street near a park that I knew, a church that I didn't, and a police station that I really wanted to trust. I've always had a steady sense of direction, and I couldn't understand why this sense told me I was in the right place because I definitely wasn't. I didn't know how to get to where I was, it was 1:30 in the morning, and I had no cell phone and no way of contacting my friends.
I tried to remember what I had read about the Korean police force. Nothing. I have read nothing. I was pretty sure I was safe on the streets, my roommate told me that she has never had to worry about her safety here, but going up and initiating a "I'm lost and vulnerable" conversation with a man was a big deal.
I walked up to the police man on the steps of the building. "Bootakhamneedah... SLP... school?" The man told me to wait a second, and he called over another policeman while explaining, "English... English." Another man came out, and we tried to get my meaning across. We got as far as "English school," and the first man finally exclaimed "Hagwon!" (private school) "Yes! Yes! Ne!" I answered. He led me inside to a map and gave me directions.
Passing the park on the way to where he had indicated, I thought about how I'd never slept in a park before. It couldn't be that bad, right? I'd just find someone who could speak English tomorrow morning if I had to. After 2 minutes, though, I recognized where I was, I came to the school, and I was home free! I ran into my roommate on the way, and I yelled her name and caught up with her. "Guess what, Sarah!! I got lost! I got lost-lost!" The poor girl got nervous for me right there, but I was fine, I took care of myself, and Jesus was totally there with me the whole time.
So, that's the first chapter of my adventure. Pretty crazy, right?