Thursday, September 21, 2006

Am I getting paid for this...

The last two days have been hectic.

Yesterday I went to a grape farm with the grade four teachers. Once a month the head teacher of each grade gets some money from the Principal to take his/her teachers out on "teacher's conference." This title is somewhat inaccurate because they usually just go to a park, a movie, or out for some dinner.

I'm officially grouped with the grade six teachers but he head teacher of grade four, Mr. Kim, really wanted me to join his group so after much confusion, I was told to go with the fours.

Myself and seven or eight other teachers jumped in a couple of cars and headed towards a grape farm. I was told it would take about an hour to get there and we'd be back to Seoul by 4-4:30.

None of the teachers had been to this farm before so it took us over two hours just to find the place and we must have asked about ten people for directions.

Well, I didn't ask because believe it or not there's a minor barrier of communication between me and Koreans.

So we arrived at this place, walked around the grape farm, and then sat at a table and ate a ridiculous amount of grapes. While perusing the farm we ahd already eaten more grapes than I believe to be healthy, then they brought us out two giant plate fulls when we sat down.

In Korea, they don't eat the skin because its really thick and they are paranoid of the chemicals that are sprayed on the crops. They are a very health conscious-people and I will elaborate on this at a later date.

So they take the grapes and suck the insides out and throw the peel on a plate. The grapes all have seeds in them so this plate ends up covered with grapes peel and seeds, and your hands end up a sticky mess.

The grapes were huge and they were really, really good, if not somewhat inconvenient to eat for a Westerner like myself who is accustomed to what I would call "normal grapes."

We left that place and then headed to a traditional Korean restaurant. This place is known for making some food (I can't remember the name) that's made by putting a bunch of crap into a barrel-like container(which they call pots) and letting it ferment... for over a year!!

We placed our order and were then told to go walk around a take look around the premises. It quite nostalgic and had a vibe that made all of my coworkers talk about their childhood and how Seoul used to be when they were children.

It was only twenty years ago (probably less) that Seoul really became the modern nation that it is today and before this everyone was poor. My grade four co-teacher (the old one) translated what everyone was saying and it gave me a different perspective on the overall Korean culture.

The batteries in my camera died when I arrived here so I made sure the others took lots of pictures for me. I should have them tomorrow and I'll put them in a gallery.

The place had a really old feel, like something you'd see in an old kung-fu flick. There were 2000 of these pots outside arranged in nice orderly rows and a beautiful stone fountain where the water ran from a piece of bamboo. On the other side of the restaurant was a pond filled with a strange plant I'd never seen before with leaves that had a diameter of at least a foot. These plants were used in our meal, and some of the plants had this weird thing at the end of a stalk that, if torn open, contained some type of nut. I will post some pictures because its all too hard to explain.

The meal at this place was alright. I think I'm starting to get used to the food a little and I haven't had a Western meal (excluding breakfast) in two or three days. The only problem was that the meal had no meat. If there was some meat, I would maybe say this meal was great.

Well, actually, it would have been somewhere between alright and great, and I don't have that criteria in front of me right now so I don't know what word to use.

We had many side dishes as usual, lots of weird looking stuff that resembled different colored chewing tobaccos, slimes, and gelatin, some pancake-like things with grass inside, a soup that was just plain terrible (it smelled like it was gone sour), and finally, the stuff that was fermenting for over a year outside in those pots.

There was also rice and kimchi, of course.

We sat on the floor and our food was on a table that was about one foot high with our legs crossed. I think Mr. Kim was really proud of choosing this place and it canceled out his blunder of nearly getting us lost on the way to the grape farm.

We arrived back in Seoul at a little after eight o'clock (this is Korea, nothing is ever clear and times are never on time) and I got dropped off at my door with a big bag of grapes. I don't know if I ever wanna eat a grape again so I may just bring them to school and share them in my teacher's room.
Today I went down to the staff room to print a few things and when I walked in I saw half a dozen large pizzas sitting in boxes waiting to be opened. I sat at the computer and printed my stuff and the male VP told the office slave (I don't know what she does but to me she seems like a servant for the admin staff, and anyone else who tells her to do something) something in Korean, and the next thing I know I'm being handed a slice of pizza and a glass of Pepsi. It's hard for me to express myself here without saying "F*#$ING AWESOME!!!!" so I'll just say "totally friggin'' awesome!"

The male VP then came over and said something to me in Korean that I just couldn't understand so I decided to go by the old saying "When in Rome do as the Romans do" so I just shook my head in agreement. He then got a piece of paper and wrote "6-3" on it. I knew he wasn't referring to my height so I guessed he meant that classroom. I said "Now?" and he said "Ye Ye."

I scarfed back my pizza and went to see what the deal was.

To my delight, I walked in the classroom and all of the grade six teachers were sitting around eating, yes, pizza!!! They gave me a slice and I was in heaven once again (and I just realized I lied earlier when I said I didn't have a Western meal in two or three days).

I could've eaten at least nine pieces but I knew I had another meal to eat in just one hour with the Principals and all of the English teachers on staff. The polite side of me took over and I refused to eat anymore Italian goodness.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

After school I drove with the female VP, Principal, and my two fourth grade co-teachers to a kalbi restaurant that belonged to a former student of my Principal. He brought a really nice flower to give to the owner to congratulate him. On the way, the older co-teacher (I'd refer to her as Miss Kim but they are both Miss Kims... No that's wrong, the older one is Mrs. Kim and the other is Ms. Kim...) told me that the Principal has already told her he wants to resign me for next year.

I told you I was the best teacher in the world.

Anyway, she said he really likes me and he cannot believe how much the students love me (like is not a strong enough word), and he is impressed that I eat the Korean food at the school everyday.

To be honest, I'm probably more impressed with that more than he is.

The rest of the staff also have a thing for me as was proven at my little pizza party when one of the single teachers asked if I had a girlfriend. I said "No," and she said "You do now."

But seriously, I still don't have a girlfriend. She was just a tad too old.

We ate beef kalbi at this place and I must admit it wasn't as good as the pork kalbi. Once again, I sat on the floor at a little table and my legs are actually a bit sore from sitting like over the last two days. The Koreans found this quite funny. I wanted to say "You know what's really funny? I didn't grow up poor like you guys and my family could always afford a table" but that may not have been appropriate, and I would have lost a lot of love.

Well, this post was supposed to be short but the details were worth sharing I guess.

I'm not the one who's going to read this stuff...

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