During orientation, we (the brand-spanking new English teachers) were told that our schools will have a large social outing from time to time, the amount varying on the school we work with. In these outing, which would start right after the school day was over, we are to expect a massive quantity of food and drink. By drink, meaning soju and beer, sometime liquor. In addition, there will be multiple rounds of this, going from restaurant to noraebang (karoke in a private room) to bar.
I was wondering when my school would have this; most of the other teachers were regaling me with their stories within the first week of starting teaching. So I figured that my middle school was breaking the mold and not having these raucous affairs.
Not a chance. Yesterday was Buheung Middle School’s social night, specially to welcome the twenty or so new teachers, including me. The other English teachers warned me that the principal is a very social fellow, and loves these kind of things. Add to this with drinking culture, where if someone (higher in rank) pours you a drink you have to drink it and then you’re supposed to pour them back a drink… well.. it can get messy.
Round 1 was at a very good seafood restaurant in the Bupyeong market area. There were massive quantities of seafood and ban-cheon, which are the little side dishes that come with every meal. And I thought I had eaten most everything, but there were definitely some unrecognizable things in the seafood dish. Still not really sure what I ate, but I think one of them was fish intestine. Not bad.
After the people started digging into the food, the principal, head Physical Education teacher, and the vice principal all started the rounds of drinking.
This is my vice principal toasting with the new teachers. He wanted to know what you say when you toast in English… I told him “bottoms up!” or “Cheers!”
They went to every table, and drank with all the new teachers. That’s about 20 shots of soju, which is 13% alcohol by volume. Oh boy…
One of the oddest things in the evening was the principal wanting to act as a match matchmaker! I was talking to him, and he asked me if I was single. When I said yes, he got this look on his face that all but screamed “plotting” and said, “there’s this guy, very smart, I know his mother, do you want to meet him?”
To which I replied, “Um…well, I am going to go back to the US.” Keep in mind, that this is my BOSS… can’t really offend him.
He replied, “Oh, that’s OK, he lives in NY, works for Daewoo engineering. Do you want to meet him?”
Thinking, OH CRAP, I replied, “Er… I don’t know…umm… can I tell you on Monday??”
He replied, “Don’t you want to get married? How old are you?”
I know I had a bit of a panicked look on my face as I replied, “Err… 28 in the US and I’m not sure if I want to get married.”
He laughed and let the subject drop. Of course, this conversation is in Korean, so all the other teachers and admins were either howling in laughter or turning red because they were trying not to howl in laughter. I know the expression on my face was very comical, and so was the convo. Ay-ya…
Round 2 was at the noraebang across the street. At this point, three off my co-teachers had left and about 20 teachers were left. A noraebang is like karaoke, but in private rooms. You rent the use of the room and equipment (which is the karaoke machine, song books, video projector and screen) by the hour. It’s very popular here, you’ll see them on every block.
It was totally great to see the teachers and VP (the principal had gone home) in a much different light then the professional setting that I am used to seeing them in. People were dancing and singing (and drinking) and having a pretty good time.
Yes, I was “encouraged” to sing, but that’s not something I’ve ever had an issue with. 🙂
Round 3 (and last one of the night!) was at the beer hall next to the noraebang. At this point, we had been going for 5 hours! Even with the marathon party session, I was very glad that I came, because I got to talk to my fellow teachers, many who I had never spoke to at all. (the middle school is pretty huge) Some of them spoke pretty good English, but were just too shy to try it out. At the beer hall, (with encouragement of the VP) we were playing drinking games. Yes, middle school teachers playing drinking games, with beer soju, and boilermakers. Needless to say, everyone was a bit tipsy and then some.
But it was a very fun night, and I’m glad I made it through all the Rounds, as people did open up and were less reserved as the night went on. I wonder how the dynamic will be on Monday.