It started with the weekend before.
On Saturday, I went on a teacher's "field trip" with the other staff at my school. We met at 7 or 8 in the morning and took a rented bus to various locations throughout in the neighboring cities. Of course, I think we wouldn't have been able to take this trip without it being a little educational, so the first stop was an elementary school. At this elementary school, there was a lot of greetings and our teachers "inspecting"... (oggling) the hallways and classrooms of this other school. Let me say now that nothing during this part of the trip was explained to me, so my point of view may lack a lot of real information.
I assume we met the principal and vice principal of this other school. He took our group into a room not far from the main entrance and we all sat down facing a projector screen. We were served drinks, and then a short lecture began. Now, I have overheard a phrase, "economic education" .. or some such thing. I'm guessing that's what the lecture was about. A chance for both schools to share ideas. Some books were passed around. I spent the entire lecture looking at a tourist map of the city. After the lecture, words were exchanged, and my group was dismissed from the room. We took a picture in front of the school before getting back on the bus.
After that, there was a short hiking trip (I'd forgotten how much I miss hiking :D) which left so many of us sweating. At least the view was worth it. On the bus ride from place to place, the teachers played games (like a game show on a bus, it was hilarious), and ate snacks. ... Oh, they'd brought beer and fried chicken too (because those things are a must in Korea). The penalty for the games was that one person from the losing team had to sing a song. Let me inform you that all travelling (charter?) buses in Korea come equipped with karaoke systems. The speakers are incredibly powerful, and there's even a song book like the ones in noraebangs. It's a noraebang on a bus! Anyways, all the games were done in Korean so I didn't get to participate, but it was fun to watch.
Wait. I did sorta kinda participate in one game. Although I didn't know what was happening. I can only say I'm so glad it was one number system and not the other. You see, as the "game show host" fifth grade teacher was making everyone on the bus count from 1-30 (again, I don't know why. I didn't understand the rules of the game), he decided to hold the mic in front of me and let me say a few numbers. "...18, 19..." I said in Korean after thinking way too long. He nodded, and went to the next teacher. I passed! ...Or I thought I did. One teacher wiggled her finger at me in mock shame as the 5th grade teacher moved on. I looked confusingly at her. My mentor teacher, sitting next to me, explained. "You said 'ship-pal' (18).... In Korean that has two meanings. It sounds like 18 and it sounds like 'f*** you'." My jaw dropped. She and the other teachers had a nice quick laugh together. I thought to myself, I don't want to play anymore.
***Note: "I'm so glad it was one number system and not the other." Korea uses two names for numbers. One is Chinese-based. The other is Korean-based. I still can't remember which is which, and I keep mixing 5-8 of one system. The other system, I know perfectly well, so I was really happy to discover them counting with it.***
After hiking, we rode down the hill a bit, had an excitingly small adventure in a corn field where the bus tried to drive out of a deep dip in the road, and finally made it to the river that we'd seen up at the hiking point. We got on a "traditional boat"... uh, more like a really huge raft... and were taken a short ways down the river and back. After that, there was lunch at a restaurant a bit further away. After lunch (and this is still a bit shocking), we went to an African art museum. I just have to say that it's really hard representing the U.S. when people think I might be from Africa. It's bad enough being stared at because I'm a foreigner. Yeah, the experience there was mixed. I love art, have nothing against Africa, but have so much against stereotypes and dangerous assumptions. Most of all, I wonder why the teachers wanted to go there. I wonder and I haven't asked. Don't know if I will. On a lighter note: What the heck's an African art museum doing in the countrysides of Korea!? LOL, I expected to only find this sort of thing in/near Seoul or other large cities in Korea.
Luckily, my mentor teacher sensed something of my mood and walked me quickly through the exhibit so that I didn't have to listen to the tour guide explain things in Korean while the other teachers and staff snuck glances at me. I should also mention that the tour guide seemed a bit saddened to hear that I was from the U.S. when he asked me (in English) where I was from. Oh well.
After the museum, we went to an aquarium (one that I'd recently visited with my foreigner friends during the paragliding trip), and visited another famous riverside. At this riverside was a famous view, which one of the kindergarten teachers tried her best to explain to me. I don't think I could do a retelling of the story any justice right now, so I wont. We walked around a bit and saw a swing set that was designed like the ones from ages ago. There's just one seat, the bars are wooden and about 3 times the height of regular swing sets, and you have to stand on the seat and swing rather than sit. I tried it. It was fun, but super difficult.
Ah, then, we headed back to Jecheon for dinner. There was more crazy singing on the bus, but many people were so wiped out from the sun and travelling that they just slept or talked quietly amongst themselves. At dinner, I had the rare occasion of sitting at the same table as the vice principal, so I did my best to talk to him in Korea. I had to drink more soju... (this may be the one thing I hold against Korea, regardless of my final impression of this country after the year's over). Then there were farewells, and everyone split off to go home. All in all, and despite any uncomfortable feelings, I really enjoyed the day. I was glad to spend time with the other teachers. Doing so is such a rare thing. I'd rather have gone with them than missed out. These bonding moments are hard to come by, so I have to cherish them.
This has gotten long, so I'll have to write parts 2, 3, and however many more come along.
'Til next time,