May is holiday month in Korea. Last week brought Children's Day and Parent's Day. Buddha's Birthday was right before that. Next week is a day celebrating marriage. Yesterday was Teacher's Day. Teacher's Day begins with the students (sometimes reluctantly) giving their teacher's carnations and reading them letters. Then the teacher's all go to a predetermined location for a volleyball tournament with all the schools in the city. (Dongbu lost in the first round, but they put up a damn good fight!)
My staff went to a restaurant up in the mountains. After an (accidental, hour long) detour through the mountains north of Andong, HB and I arrived at the restaurant. During our adventure finding the place, several members of our staff called us to make sure we were OK. When we got to the restaurant, shots of soju were immediately poured and glasses of beer consumed. The main course was yumsogoki (barbecued goat meat) which was a little tough and very fatty, but still delicious.
After several shots of soju and a few glasses of beer, I began speaking Korean, which quickly gained the attention of the staff. Immediately, I was being handed bottles and slips of paper to read, with each oration being followed by rousing applause and chattering about how great my language is. Nevermind that I had no idea what I was saying most of the time...
There was another school at the same restaurant with a TaLK scholar in tow. TaLK is like EPIK but for college students or people with 2 year degrees. The other school's staff marched Kinny over to me, so I approached. What ensued was akin to parents in the park putting their babies in front of each other to see what they'll do. Kinny told me he was from San Antonio. I told Kinny that my Aunt Julie and Uncle John live in Boerne. Kinny told me about his school. etc. etc. (Did I mention he was absolutely sloshed?) All the while, both schools watched in quiet awe as we spoke rapidly in English and shook hands.
When Kinny left I turned to Hyeun-bum and asked how to say "He's very drunk" in Korean. He told me, and I turned and announced the now-forgotten phrase to my co-workers, who immediately burst into literal fits of laughter.
From there we went to a bar called Saxophone Live which was a Karaoke Bar (nari-bang in Korean), but with a man playing saxophone with each performance. It was a lot of fun, as you can see below.
That's Mr. Kim, our special ed teacher, singing. Our school bus driver (who was also emcee) on the left. You can see the saxophonist on the far left. (I took this with my cell phone, sorry!)
After some prompting, I got up to sing a well received rendition of The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. After I finished singing, Hyeun-bum told me that he got a call that police were out in full force to pick up the hundreds of drunken teachers if they dared get behind the wheel of a car. I joked with HB that if you get caught, they send you to the North.
After more soju and more beer, we were all up cheering on the current singer. At one point Mr. Kwan, our 3rd grade teacher, turned to me and said, "Sikotchie!" (my name butchered in Korean) "You sing--again--Village People!" I courteously abstained from the Village People, but HB and I did do a fun duet of Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door together.
As if 5 hours of drinking weren't enough, I then joined Sara's school downtown for a few more shots of soju and some more beer, followed by bar-hopping with the foreigners. We went to a foreigner favorite called Woodstock, a cheesy but character-filled attempt at an American western bar. We then went to WABAR, which has a great selection of imported beers and cocktails, as long as you want to pay $6-9 a drink. We then flipped over to Okdong (the new downtown) to go to another western bar called Indy, but not before meeting our friend's adorable new shitzu puppy. All in all, it was a great day, a great night, and somehow Sara and I ended up at home with a can of BBQ Pringles that I picked up somewhere along the way.
Teacher's Day, in Andong, was an absolute riot. What's more, I finally feel like I'm not just "the foreigner," but a bonafide teacher and resident. Andong is starting to feel more and more like a suitable home, thanks in no small part to a great cohort of colleagues and friends.