Tuesday, March 10, 2009

English Dept Faculty Meeting II

Before I come to the event of the day, I have to talk about the other event of the day. Mr Hwang and I both forgot he couldn't go to lunch with me during 4th period, so I ended up going alone. Well, I looked at the offering provided by Dongwon, our new food service, and decided it sucked. I've mentioned before my ambivalence about their menu. The main dish today (well, other than rice) was tofu cubes cooked in doenjang with veg. I'll admit the new potatoes fried in oil and seasoning looked edible. The only meat was the same bony stewed fish we get four days out of five.

Now here's a question I've been longing to ask: Can someone explain to me why Koreans, with their deep love of seafood, including incredibly bony fish, as well as their lauded historical ingenuity, have not managed to devise a means of mechanically boning their fish? What is up wi' dat?

Anyway ...

Knowing there is a Hansot (quickie diner) a block from school, I literally turned around and walked out of the cafeteria--something I'd never done before. As I arrived at the crosswalk, who should be next to me but Yi Cheonggi, my friend the art teacher. He asked me if I have had lunch yet. I said I hadn't. He said, "Come with me, we will lunch-ee together." I said, "Okay."

Five minutes later I was sitting with Cheonggi and his friend in a tiny--I mean tiny--restaurant whose name I sussed out from the menu board was Gwangju Guk Bap 광주국밥, Gwangju-style soup and rice. I'm kicking myself I did not bring my cellphone along for the camera, because what we ate deserved recording.

It is called sun-dae guk bap 순대국밥, a soup or stew made of pig's intestines and brains, served with rice. It was peppery, savory, slightly salty and very tasty. I ate up every single bit of it--the adjumma even brought us extra sun-dae, and we polished that off, too. Like most peasant folk cuisine, the Korean version doesn't let any nutritive part of the animal go to waste, and serves it up filling, delicious and cheap.

The meal was 5,000 W--not that I had any chance of paying, since I was with two Korean men older than myself. In fact, Cheonggi grumbled throughout the coffee-drinking that his friend was "berry trickery" for sneaking off to pay the bill without letting on. He is endearing as hell.

After lunch, I taught two sections of 2nd grade our first lesson on "the future"--utopia, dystopia, Zager & Evans, what is your life like in 2025, etc--then went to the post office to mail in my US bills. After I returned to school, Mr Lee #5 took me to his car, we drove 1 minute 45 seconds and got to the restaurant where the English Dept was having its meeting to welcome the new faculty. I underwent this initiation my first week at Young-il and it remains one my fondest memories here. I felt truly welcomed, and I wanted to make sure the new faculty got the same treatment.

In place of samgyupsal, we ate galbi and other beef at a restaurant called Bloomhanwoo--literally, flowering Korean beef. It was really good, as it always is at these places. We drank beer and soju but not very much, so I was quite pleased when a move to second round was announced.

Once more, I kick myself that I didn't take any photos, for the atmosphere was really cool. We gathered at two long, split-trunk tables in a subterranean room whose joists and beams were clearly recycled from a much older building. It had an atmosphere a bit like the Sam-il patriots or the Leninist crowd must have experienced as they plotted the downfall of the Imperialists.

"So, we must determine how we are going to begin the revolution," I said in my best bad Russian accent, looking around conspiratorially.

Mr Oh caught on. "First, we must dispose of the Principal," he said.

"No more haircuts!" I said. That got a big laugh. The first week of school, students were rounded up each morning and made to do push ups and squats and so forth for, among other things, long hair.

The revolutionary meme was vogue for the rest of the evening. Around 8:30, things seemed to be winding down, and we left the cute little bar (which I must find again). Ostensibly to go home. But I reminded the old-time faculty that when *I* was a newbie, we went to noraebang for third round! Well, Mr Lee #5 and Mr Oh seemed game, so we took the three new faculty--Mr Hu and Miss Lee (both my co-teachers who you will probably hear more about) and Miss Kim, whose English name is Cherie--about three doors down to a singing room.

I wowed them with a few songs (of course) but then sat back and watched as they overcame their shyness, spread their wings and sang like, like, well, Koreans singing in a noraebang or larks or something.

By the time we left, nearly 10 PM, we had definitely bonded. I hope the experience of their first Eng Dept Mtg was as good for them as mine was for me!


Kelsey said...

I envy the fact that more than one person in your school can speak English...

Tuttle said...

The longer I am here, the more I realize what a fortunate position I am in.

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