Monday, November 3, 2008

Korean Adventure: Wednesday at Bukhansan

This is a fairly long post as it was a busy day. One of the reasons it took me so long to get to. I apologize for the delay.

So Wednesday was the grade sixes. They were much the same as the fives. Their English was noticeably better however and they were more able to ask me questions beyond the standard ones. They were also impressed by my "Pro Gamer" status. Many wanted to know what my favourite games were, however I don't think there's much crossover between what I like to play and what they do. I don't play Starcraft, or WoW, or really many of the overly popular games here.

Anyhow, after classes, the teachers left the school early for a staff trip and I was invited along. The destination, Bukhansan, a mountain not too far from Seoul. It was a fairly difficult hike; parts of it were simply 40 degree rock faces that we had to climb up. We didn't take the usual path you see, we'd have to pay to get into the park to do that. Nope, the buses parked just outside the park and we hiked in along a service road and then up some back path. It actually seemed fairly dangerous and I'm glad I had travel insurance.

Now, I have to say, Koreans are hardcore when it comes to hiking. I can't think of any workplaces in Canada that would even think of having a staff trip of a mountain hike, let alone one where 100% of the employees go and finish. Also, while some of the teachers had a few problems on the hike, others could seriously put me to shame in a hiking race.

It was awesome though. Quite the view and an awesome bonding experience, not only for me but for the teachers too I think. Anyhow, I took a lot of pictures and also have those taken by one teacher and my fiancee, so despite culling them down, there are quite a few to post.

The Way Up:

Old fortress wall in the mountains and the rock trail we climbed

The Mountain

Buddha shrine

Us and the teachers

Her Co-teachers

The Way down was pretty steep at times

After the hike, we were taken to a nice Korean restaurant in the countryside. We had BBQ there and I had my first taste of Makkoli (a Korean rice wine drink). Also, most of the male teachers migrated to a side table to drink Soju, and my fiancee thought that they'd be impressed / amused if I went over there, asked to have a drink with them, and then told them "0ne shot". So, I did, and they were very welcoming. In fact, they didn't want me to leave and asked me to stay and drink with them. The principal came over, poured me another shot of soju and told me, "one shot". So, there I was doing shots of soju with the principal. We talked for a bit and they were surprised that I had had soju in Toronto and actually liked it. In truth, I can't say I love it, but it's certainly more drinkable than some other things I've had, and in Korea it's the tastiest cheapest way to drink (seriously, it's 20% and the bottles are a couple of dollars). They taught me some of the drinking etiquette, which is somewhat complicated. First, never pour yourself a drink, you'll look like an alcoholic. Always let someone else pour for you. Similarly, if you see someone's glass empty, pour a drink for them (because we are all alcoholics). When someone older pours you a drink, take it with both hands and turn away slightly while drinking it. There's more, and I don't really understand it all but anyhow, they're very forgiving of foreigners.

So, dinner ended and we started the drive back to the city. The bus was equipped with Karaoke, and the VP, who had had maybe a little too much makkoli started the singing. Apparently bus karaoke was made illegal a year or two ago for safety reasons, but it didn't seem to stop the teachers. They were singing and dancing in the bus aisle and really wanted me to sing. Rather than disappoint, I picked a song.

The highs, and the lows.

Bus party!

My Fiancee being awesome

The tip was so successful that when we hit Seoul, we drove off to norae bang ("Singing Room" - Korean karaoke term). We got a very large room that fit all of the teachers (norae bang is big here) and continued to sing and drank beer. The machine rates you on how accurate you are at the lyrics, and anyone who gets 100% is supposed to stick a 10,000 won bill (~$10) to the screen and help contribute to the cost for the night. My fiancee and I scored 100 with our duet, and I pulled out a bill.

When the time was up, we packed up and the group dispersed. However, roughly 10 of us decided to go to a nearby bar for some food and continued drinking. The food was very good, and they kept ordering the soju as the one teaching assistant had started the drinking games. The first is called "Baskin Robbins 31", and the second is "The Game of Death". I'll gladly explain the rules sometime if you ask, but suffice to say, we all got more drunk. The one assistant was impressed enough at my not being utterly wasted that he told me the he loved me. In truth, I think the reason I wasn't wasted was that I had had less than he did, but whatever, I'll take the compliment. It was also quite amusing that the staff had to tell us to quiet down. After a while, we decided to call it a night.

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