Dinner # 2
The 'type' of restaurant we went to for the welcome meal was a samgyupsal one. Samgyupsal is basically really fatty pork, similar to strips of bacon but way chunkier, and fattier. At this restaurant we were served both marinated pork and plain pork. Every table has it's own bbq grill and is served trays of raw meat, and then, well, Bob's your uncle. There are both pork and beef (galbi) restaurants here (and probably some that do both). The beef ones are one of my favorite things in Korea, but because the pork is so fatty, I am not the biggest fan. But luckily, with all the banchal, I still walked away from this meal full to the brim. The selection was not as extensive as at the raw fish restaurant, but still delicious. We had spring rolls, vegetable patties, kimchi, onions, garlic, sweet potato, green salad, and lots of sauces for dipping. The traditional way to eat both galbi and samgyupsal is to take a leaf of lettuce and wrap it up with onions, kimchi or any sauce and just pop it down the hatch in one bite (the strips of meat are cut with scissors into bite size pieces after they're cooked). Going to a Korean BBQ restaurant is such a fun meal, especially with lots of people.
So what set this dinner apart from the goodbye dinner was the noriebang element (noriebang literally translates to singing room = karaoke, OUCH!). At the front of all the tables was a discreet little stage, and as the evening progressed and the soju flowed, that's where all the action was.
Towards the end of the meal I could see a little commotion going on (this was before I even noticed the karaoke). I asked my co-teachers what all the fuss was about and she said the singing starts soon and pretty much from that point forward, I knew I was doomed. I have heard stories from my friends that the english teachers are always picked on and zeroed in on to come up and sing under the spotlight and in front of curious eyes. My school is so big so I don't have any interaction with the majority of the teachers on a day to day basis, so what better way to examine and check out the foreigner, than on stage? Ouch, ouch, ouch! I think I started blushing before anyone even entertained the notion of me going up. I was quick to beg my co-teacher not to make me go and she lovingly reassured me I wouldn't have to. Ha!
First off, there is always lots of soju at these events. My vice principal, who speaks no english was making the rounds talking to people and was hovering ever so close to me. I heard my name being called and down he squats about 3 inches from my face to have a full on conversation with me, in Korean. There are so many rules regarding soju drinking etiquette, especially with someone older than you. How you sit, where you face, how you pour, how many hands you hold the bottle or glass with.... it goes on. Needless to say I was nervous. But he was a happy camper and with some coaching from my co-teacher, the ritual was done. Unfortunately I didn't get off that easily. By this time the karaoke was in full swing and people were dancing on the stage and my VP took me up ON STAGE to dance with him (scroll down to the series of 4 photos illustrating this). Fun times, hahaha. It was actually really amazing, because both the pricipal and vice principal of my school are nice guys but very proper and pretty intimidating men. But this evening, they had let their hair down! It was so great to see the flip side of them, especially when I was being swung and twirled on the stage, boogying to Korean tunes.
Does the embarrassment stop there? I think not. Before I even had time to get off the stage and scurry back to my seat I was swarmed by other teachers throwing the song book at me to choose my song. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I hate singing. Let me rephrase, I hate MY singing. Honestly, you have never heard anything so bad. Karaoke has never caught my interest for this reason. I like watching other people, but have avoided it most of my life, so I didn't have to look like the spoil sport who wouldn't join in. And actually, in Korea, I have overcome my phobia of singing a little bit. I have been pretty much forced to cause I have to sing songs with the kids in class, and a lot of them I have to teach them the lyrics. It is painful but it must be done, just like my 5 minutes of fame at the staff dinner. Oh ya, karaoke when I am really intoxicated isn't that bad either. But I was sober here, obviously. So I picked Kokomo, by The Beach Boys, not only cause I have always had a soft spot for that song, but I know all the words and how it is supposed to sound. Anyways..... thank god the lights were dimmed because I was giggling the whole time I was so nervous, and my face MUST have been a beautiful 10 shades of red. I sang, I danced a little, I conquered. And of course, for 5 full minutes all the teachers got to unabashedly stare at me, but it was all in good fun. The following are my photos to prove it (the first photo I had to include, take notice of the painful look on my face when being introduced).
And on one final note, the highlight of the evening for me was watching my VP drag the Principal of my school up on stage for a good old fashioned dance. It was awesome. Korea = Fun!