After the badminton game, there was a teacher's dinner. I wrote this email to my mom about it. Below is a CNN article that further explains my experience.
On Wednesday all the teachers and staff played badminton together. Korean schools (teachers and staff) like playing sports games together, and many schools like competing with each other! I don't know if we'll compete with any schools. After the game, we all went out to dinner. This dinner was just like the first one at the beginning of the school year, but a little different. Besides it being a school dinner, we were also welcoming one teacher and saying goodbye to another. The current second grade teacher was a substitute (which I hadn't known until the day before this dinner), and had been hired from the first day of school. The original 2nd grade teacher was on maternal leave from having a baby. In Korean culture, drinking is a big part of these dinners. In the past, man or woman, people couldn't refuse drinks/toasts, etc. from superiors during these dinners. However, today, it's become more acceptable to turn down a drink (although men still get pressured to do so). Foreigners are not completely held to these rules (especially if their religion forbids drinking), but they are still encouraged to share in this culture. A lot of the Korean-American male TaLK scholars are treated as locals in this case. This drink that I'm talking about is usually soju in a shot glass, and there's a ceremonial way of sharing it. The youngest pours for the oldest first, and the oldest drinks. Then the oldest pours for the youngest (into the same cup) and the youngest drinks it. There's even a special way to drink and pour, which makes it "a korean thing." So anyway, I feel like I have to explain the whole culture thing to you, but I will just continue with the story. In the past, I've been able to avoid these "drinking encounters" with superior staff and other people at dinner by simply avoiding eye contact, or talking to people whenever it looks like someone might come over and ask to share the drink. Oh, but this time, the vice principal called my name when I didn't make eye contact with him. I ended up having to do this ceremony with him, with guidance from my mentor teacher. He reluctantly only filled the bottom of the glass because I kept asking him if he could pour water instead. In an effort to not be completely rude, I poured for him and drank when he poured for me (it's only done once between people). Ah, but now I know that if I go to another dinner, he will try and get me to do the ceremony toast again and drink a little more than last time. I can't help but think " this is war!" and i have to battle against or negotiate with this part of Korean culture. Well! That was the biggest bit of news. After the dinner, we went to a noraebang (no-reh-bahng....literally "singing room") (a building with many different sized rooms for people to rent and sing karaoke). I embarrassed myself singing in front of everyone with a squeaky voice because I was really nervous and the song was a little too high hahahah. They didn't seem to care. Everyone took turns singing.
'Til Next Time,