My week 7 adventure turned out a bit differently than I expected. We are at the end of the Korean school year which runs March to February with a 5 week summer break and a 5 week winter break. My 6th graders graduate today and then we’ll have a 10 day break for the Lunar New Year and what they call “Spring Vacation” before coming back to start a new school year March 2nd.
Last week we had our end of the year teacher’s dinner. I intended to write about this as my adventure because last year’s end-of-the-year dinner was so eventful. Last year the dinner was held at a big wedding hall (you can read about my experience with Korean weddings here) where there was a huge buffet in a ballroom-sized room with a bunch of smaller private rooms off on the sides. So my school had a private room and after the meal there were farewell speeches where they had a champagne toast to teachers who were leaving and did a weird ceremony where they cut what looked like a wedding cake together with this giant knife. Afterwards, they brought in a karaoke machine and we had obligatory norebang time. Norebang is the Korean style of karaoke and it is wildly popular here, especially for “professional development” kind of events. Last year I had to sing “Call Me Maybe” as a duet with the 50 year old music teacher, Mr. Kim, and was treated to my barely five-foot-tall vice principal singing something in Korean while jumping up and down the whole time. It was a riot.
Needless to say, I had high expectations for this year. I was a little let down. Instead of the wedding hall we went to a small hole-in-the-wall traditional Korean restaurant where we sat on the floor (always tough on the knees and tailbone, etc after a while). There was only a brief good-bye speech for the teachers who were leaving. Then we ate a traditional Korean meal together, after which we all left and went home. It was anti-climactic, but it was my only adventure planned for the week, so it will have to do.
The most adventurous part of it was probably some of the food itself. A traditional Korean meal is 30 or more small courses or side dishes called “banchan.” The servers bring out dish after dish and everyone shares them (like, you just reach over with your chopsticks and grab whatever your want. You don’t get your own plate). I tried to get a few pictures of this, but my phone camera is awful and it was difficult because the teachers didn’t want to be in the pictures.
Among the more exotic dishes were the jellyfish salad (which I actually kind of enjoy) and a dish with stingray and bean sprouts in a red pepper sauce. Stingray is very stringy and kind of sweet, just fyi. There were whole cooked fish, which were delicious, but didn’t look appetizing what with their eyeballs staring at you, along with the little dried anchovies that look like nothing but eyes. There was yukhwe, a raw beef dish, and japchae (glass noodles with beef) and of course, kimchi.
People often ask me if I like Korean food and I never really know how to answer. I’m not an especially picky eater, though I don’t like my meat to be super fatty and I only like the octopus tentacles and not the whole baby ones with the heads attached, so maybe that makes me picky. There are some Korean dishes that I really love – bulgogi and jjimdak and dumplings and galbi (bbq). And there are others that I really don’t care for – makjang (pig colon) and raw liver and chicken hearts. Overall I would describe my relationship to Korean food this way – I like a lot of things, but only in small amounts. I enjoy them, but I only want one or two bites of each thing, not a whole plateful. Which is why these big shared meals work out well for me. I can get away with one or two bites of everything without seeming rude. Unforunately, in spite of eating it a few hundred times at this point, I still really don’t like kimchi which means I could never be fully accepted into Korean society.
We are headed to Seoul tomorrow for the Lunar New Year (a huge holiday here in Korea) and I have some bigger adventures planned for this week, so stay tuned!
If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.