I eat lunch with various faculty members everyday in the school cafeteria. When I first arrived at the school, I wanted to impress them, to hold my own at the lunch table, and to be adventurous with the new foods on my tray. I soon realized that I can’t eat like a Korean because 1) I gain weight and 2) I still don’t like vegetables. Haha. As a result, I have stopped trying to impress them and have started filling my tray the way I want: a small portion of rice, whatever the meat side dish(es) are, and occasionally the soup. I have aroused concern from teachers (“oh, you eat too little…Korean food has very low calories”—-RIGHT…) and I have amused the lunch ladies (I can see them smiling/laughing when I pull back my tray if they’re holding vegetables in their gloved hands).
My First Faculty Dinner (Way Back When)
The first or second week of school in August or September (on a Thursday night), all the faculty got together to eat dinner at a restaurant to eat duck. (When they first said duck, I thought they said dog…lol) I wasn’t sure where to sit, but I got motioned down by the principal to sit diagonally in front of him. Mind you, this was only my 2nd or 3rd week of using chopsticks AND I was nervous and doubly fumbling with them. It got to the point where my principal handed me to the tongs—HAHAHA. Along with the food, was the soju and whiskey—but mainly soju. Being the non-alcoholic that I am, I had never actually taken a shot—as in the swallow it all in one shot kind of thing. So needless to say, I was very intimidated by this new alcohol in front of me (that I had never tasted before) and being told “one shot”—apparently Koreans know this phrase if no others. LOL. Well, I explained that I wasn’t used to it, but I was a sport, and took sips—maybe one or two shot glasses total. I also poured soju for my Principal and I basically enjoyed the food and watched two people become extraordinarily drunk: my male co-teacher (who kept reiterating to me that we were friends) and a female teacher (a woman old enough to be my grandmother who learned how to tell me “I love you” and she kept stroking my face and hers to emphasize how narrow/small my face is—my most common ‘compliment’ in Korea). At the end of the night, I had to help her walk out of the building—literally—I had to help her stand up…it was crazy. And of course, everyone (except her) showed up to work on time the following day (though some with obvious hang-overs).
A Pity Party (Almost Literally)
So not too long ago, on the week of Thanksgiving, I got hit with a wave of homesickness in a most unexpected way. It wasn’t about family or America per se—but about wrestling; cheesy I know and I highly doubt anyone could really understand (much less my co-teachers). So when my head co-teacher told me I looked tired/sick, I told her I was sad and that I was homesick. Well, she didn’t have much to say after that and we continued to class. Only after class, about an hour later, did I find out she had something on her mind. She invited me and two of my other co-teachers out to lunch. The idea was basically to eat away my sorrows—“eat too much”—it’s the literal translation of basically how Americans would say “enjoy your meal” before eating. However, on this occasion, she really meant “eat too much”. As we were eating, I was pressed for more information about why I was sad, and so I told them the quasi truth—1) that I was sad that my dog had died (she had just passed away 3 days prior) and 2) that I missed America. Even though neither statements were really the truth, (although I had been sad when I learned Lacy had passed away), I knew that wrestling would make no sense whereas those two reasons would. Anyway, it was very kind and generous of her to take me out and treat all of us to a soju-free lunch.
A Somewhat Sad Goodbye
My male co-teacher (the drunk one mentioned earlier in this blog) really did turn into one of my friends at school. At times he was lazy when it came to teaching, but I think we did some excellent co-teaching together—supplementing each others topics. He was also quite hilarious—with his saying that he puts money in his bank and that his bank is his belly and the money is the food and beer. LOL. He’s quite the character, but he was on a contract for teaching—meaning that he isn’t a permanent teacher at my school. He was just substituting for the 6 months the permanent male teacher was gone on personal leave. His last day was November 30 and the principal, 2 of my female co-teachers, and 2 other male teachers, went out for lunch in honor of him. This time I sat next to the Principal (on his right) and again poured soju. However, this time, much to his surprise (and my co-teachers), I actually took shots of soju (after weekends of practice LOL). The lunch was pretty uneventful and not very good (it was some kind of soup); it was nice to see that I wasn’t the only one not enjoying it (my youngest co-teacher didn’t finish her soup either). I didn’t realize how much I would miss my male co-teacher at that meal or during the last class we taught together. Fortunately, he lives in a somewhat nearby city and so maybe I will actually hang out with him again on a weekend.