Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Korea - The first shabu shabu

Hello everyone!

I didn't realise it was Easter until my mum told me about it on Skype a couple of days before. Easter isn't a big deal out here, which is surprising as a lot of the population are Christian. No two week vacation out here, oh no. I initially took a degree of pleasure in telling my students that British teenagers weren't in school, until someone pointed out that I wouldn't be in school either. Fair point.

Due to cancelled lessons and other scheduling mix-ups, some of my 14 classes are way behind the others. Most are on the music lesson. I walked into one of my classes early, to find all the girls practising their dance moves to Korean music. Most of them got a bit sheepish when they saw me watching them, but suddenly a group of them asked me if I wanted to see their routine. Co-teacher Kang wasn't around, so why not? Nine of them went and stood in formation at the back. Bit of finger clicking to the music, then BANG. People moving, spinning, bobbing all over the place. All perfectly choreographed. Whether they understand what some of the more provocative moves - for example, all thrusting out their chests with a smile - suggest is questionable. It helps that, even though they are 16-17, they look about 12 years old to me. I just saw it as innocent dancing, though obviously when explained to Westerners they may be a bit concerned!

The ones that have had all their lessons this week got to learn about Easter, and what we do for it in Britain. The first time teaching it was an unmitigated disaster, as I ran out of material with over FIFTEEN minutes of the lesson left. I played hangman for as long as I felt ethical, and then gave them the option of watching the Simpsons or trying to beat the other classes at the Scream-Katy-Perry-Very-Loud game. They chose the latter, and are in the lead. Deafening.

I soon got the Easter thing sorted, mainly by showing them Youtube videos of bizarre Easter stuff. A load of rabbits attacking a guy who dared to chomp on a chocolate Easter Bunny, for example. I only needed it until Friday, anyway. This week is field trip week, so Monday morning the first graders left for Pochang, and won't return until Wednesday evening. I did enquire about going, but was told no. It seems like the school is empty, as the second graders have gone to Jeju for the week. So that means I have had three days of bliss, which I will talk about in my next blog.

I did have the privates, of course. I have acquired another class on Tuesdays, taking me to three each week, and around 400,000W extra to play with each month. That's over 200 British, folks. The new group is four middle school kids. I found out that Ellen teaches one of them, and immediately asked him what he thought of her. Very good teacher and always has a smile, he said. Good stuff. This is already the cleverest of the three private classes. We were talking about that big tower in Dubai, and I asked them if they wanted to go there on holiday. Yes, said one. No, said another. Why? 'Because it's in the Middle East' Erm, go on? 'There's Bin Laden', he says. Wow. Not quite, kiddo. But still, it's rare that Korean students show that much initiative, so we went with that as a topic for a while. They all agree that Bin Laden is a bad man. Clever kids.

Thanks to certain teachers at my school, I had actually been drinking when I turned up to this class. And turned up late. I have a one hour window between my two privates, 6.30 to 7.30. All the English teachers from school were going for dinner at 6, and wanted me there. I figured I had time, so finished up my first lesson early and popped into a taxi to the restaurant.

We ate something called shabu shabu. I don't find it particularly easy to explain, but you are given a large broth with mushrooms, noodles and other stuff in it, lettuce leaves, and very thin strips of beef. Beef and lettuce both go into the broth and cook, then you pull out the result and eat it. It's very good, though I was always thinking that I wanted a bit more time to appreciate it, rather than wolfing it down in the knowledge that I had to leave soon. The picture is probably the Japanese version, and acquired off Google.

As I've explained before, almost every Korean meal is accompanied by soju. Mr. Kim pretty much forced me to have a shot, and then Mr. Kang followed suit. How was I supposed to keep this not-drinking sacrifice alive when even my colleagues are forcing me to drink? Didn't have a prayer. I wasn't drunk, though. Unlike the weekend.

Shabu shabu - the Korean version of London buses? I had it again on Friday, but this time we had a vegetarian version. I also got to see the whole meal, which I didn't on Tuesday. After having the broth and it's contents, they empty the wok and pour in a load of rice, salad and a raw egg, and you stir it up into a risotto. Both courses we left it alone for too long, and loads of the food got stuck to the pan. We could tell the woman was not particularly happy.

I wasn't particularly happy either, as my knee had given out whilst running earlier that evening, so I was in the mood to go out and drink away the fear of it getting worse and stopping me from doing the race in 2 weeks time. A large group of us went to jail bar. I've talked about this place before. Soju started to flow, and soon I was on a table of two Korean girls pouring away. They left soon after, obviously realising that their night couldn't be topped after I talked to them. Or they got scared. Choose wisely.

We soon moved over to our bigger table. A Korean guy who had tried to talk to me earlier followed us, and kept on talking to me. And then holding my hand. The only way I could escape his admittedly limp and rather camp grip was by picking up my drink. I've been accused of 'leading him on' and 'not telling him to ', but I was in a sociable, chatty mood. It explains why I probably drank soju with half of jail bar's Korean population that night. Seriously, the guy was a freak. Look at him!

Apart from birthdays, when anything goes, I can't remember a time when I have drank quite so much of a spirit in such a short space of time. It was reckless, and was always going to end in the obvious way. Bin - led to a taxi - home. I've missed out a bit there, in case you're eating. I could blame it on tiredness - the most sleep I'd had on any day in the week was 5 hours - or on any number of excuses, but not this time. Was stupid, and paid the price. Ha, I'm finally growing up!

I caught up on sleep, and arose 13 hours after hitting the hay. And then back out again, naturally. Remember that all-you-can-drink place from a few weeks ago? Well, the cards they had given us at the door gave us free entry on any Saturday in April. With hindsight, it was always very naive and optimistic of us to think that the place held all-you-can-drink nights EVERY Saturday, and perhaps even more naive to believe that going once will get you all-you-can-drink for free next time out. After Tom had scared me by asking if I remembered crying the night before - well I've been known to do that once in a while - before laughing in my face (good one), we located the place, Hana, to find a civilised set of tables laid out. Language exchange, they told me. Maybe later, I replied.

Kelly said she knew a bar nearby that had live music, so we headed across. Down the stairs...and silence. Not only was there no band, there were no people either, save for two behind the bar. Oh, and a dog trotting across the floor. Adorable little thing. We directed the others over, thinking that we just wanted to get some liquid gold in us. Was a nice place, but when they turned the music on (no band in sight) it was a bit loud, and I ended up shouting at people to make myself audible. I haven't found my voice since.

Naturally, a few drinks perks us up, and we end up in Hongdae. Eventually. No taxis would take us. Well, silly me, of course every taxi driving around Seoul at midnight on a Saturday night is taking people to Incheon?! Very strange, and it took us over 15 minutes to actually get in a taxi. The place we ventured to next gave a shot of tequila on arrival. I needed that like a hole in the head. Points of interest were the girls' interesting dance moves, the number of Koreans who seemed to be in Alice in Wonderland attire, and the fact that someone from the bar took my camera because I had left it on the table. Right in front of where I was sitting. Genius.

As with the last time I went to Hongdae, we ended up in Mansion. Only after Jon led us on a slightly merry dance trying to find some of his mates and then calling one of them a 'complete and utter twit'. Such an underrated word, twit. It was good fun, some hip-hop guy performing. More strange dancing, white russians that were topped up with vodka rather than milk, and lots of other shinanegans. Bizarrely, I felt fine on Sunday.

Just another normal weekend in the Far East!

Love you all


No comments:

Post a Comment