Hey everyone. I’ve been posting on my other blog (A broad abroad), but I figured I’d copy and paste this one:
It looks like I updated too soon. It is a bit different here, but in good ways. Definitely no complaints. The rest of the first day was cool–we had lunch, bbq for dinner with all of the teachers (and all of the new teachers), and we went to norebang (karaoke). I also think I connected with my co-teacher a bit more, which is good. I was nervous about that–at orientation, they really stress the #1 key to success here is having a good relationship with your co-teacher.
So it turns out that yesterday, I ate snail (in the school lunch, so this is apparently normal) and raw cow’s liver. You know what that taught me? Don’t ask “what is this?” I know I don’t have any dietary restrictions–there’s no need in asking questions to which I probably don’t want the answers. As long as it doesn’t give me a tummy ache,
down the hatch it goes.
At bbq, I faced the moment I was most dreading: the one where they offered me soju. I quit drinking in October, but I recently modified “quit” to “a little” mainly just to fit in. I don’t even want to drink anymore–it feels gross inside my body, but it’s just one of those things that makes you stand out in that “why doesn’t she drink?” way, not in that “oh she’s so cool and fashionable and witty” way. So I was prepared to drink a little soju just to fit in,
I had told my co-teacher before that I didn’t really want to drink before dinner. And this is just because…I am already nervous. There is already a lot going on that I can’t control or monitor, and so I want to be at my absolute sharpest (whatever that means in a place where I don’t know my address or telephone number or how to say/understand nearly anything). Even though I know that when I’m with my school I’m in a safe place and I’ll get home fine, still, I just didn’t want alcohol to dull anything, or make me suddenly burst into tears.
This is a real concern for me.
so my co-teacher stepped in and told the teachers that I would drink water only every time someone wanted to toast, which in Korean is something like 술 뭈 마사ㅛ (sul moot ma sai yo), or “I don’t drink alcohol). For the most part, people rolled with it–even the principal let me toast water, but this ooooonnnnnneeeeee guy was like “Why?! Why?!” Me: “religion…christian.” Him: “Not even a little???” Me: “water? yes, water.” Him: leaving in disgust.
And then I noticed that the teachers at my school weren’t drinking to get drunk anyway. Here is a slight, yet major, difference I’ve noticed in Korean/U.S. society. In the U.S., we finish our food and we finish our drinks. “waste not want not.” And especially among the..erm…partygoers…leaving an alcoholic drink unfinished is called “alcohol abuse.” You pour it, you finish it.
But in Korea, it’s not really like that. I think you finish your food here, but your drinks…finishing your drinks means you’re asking for more drink. I think it’s the same with cleaning your plate. The way to say you’re finished is by leaving a bit in your glass. This basically amounts to “I’ve lost interest in this drink,” I think. So I noticed the Korean teachers taking shots at first, but then very small sips. Or even taking a sip and dumping the rest into a cup or bowl. There was no pressure to drink everything, just the expectation of being congenial about the toasts.
I kind of wish I had known this beforehand–maybe I would have handled the drinking thing differently. But oh well. I like to do what everyone else is doing because I like to participate, and this includes drinking. I don’t want to be the only one not drinking for an entire year because it makes me feel left out. But maybe it’s time to get over that anyway. I still had a great night, and I still went to norebang (karaoke) and sang and jumped and banged the tambourine and had a really great time. And there really seemed to be no love lost, overall.
Tomorrow I teach for real.”