Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mountain climbing and galbi!

The school staff and I went mountain hiking on Mt. Myeongseong Wednesday afternoon. Day II of mid-terms had finished and the principal wanted to celebrate...Had one hell of a good time talking to the teachers and enjoying the scenery. The meadow at the top looked gorgeous and the views couldn't be beat. These were snapped about 3/4 of the way up. The rocky and sometimes steep path turned into a rolling meadow. When I got to the top I cried out "YEAH!" because, well, sometimes you have to do something like that when it's your first time climbing a mountain. If you know the bit in Rocky where he climbs up those steps after a long workout--or if you've done some climbing yourself, you know the feeling.

More pics will come as I get them. For now, here's a few taken on the way up:

I didn't know this picture was being taken. I'd snapped a photo on the cell phone and was looking to see how it turned out when Ms. Kim (purple sweater) and Ms. Yeo decided to catch me in the act.

W/ Ms. Yeo (left) and Ms. Lee (right) on the way up the mountain. Lovely scenery!

w/ Ms. Kim and Ms. Yeo

w/ Ms. Yeo and Ms. Lee.
And then...

What happened after we got to the top? We walked back down and went to a large outdoor dinner and ate galbi (grilled beef that's been marinated overnight; simply delicious), drank soju, and sang karaoke. By now I've figured out the drinking rituals enough to move around on my own and do shots with people. It went down pretty well, I'd say. People seemed impressed. Again I ended up trading some more shots with the principal, or the gyojang seonsangnim, as they say in Korean. The dinner and drinks felt good after that strenuous hike.

A bit about drinking alcohol, Korean-style: in Korean culture, you never fill your own glass--someone else will do it for you in one of two ways. The first way involves asking "would you like more?" or not saying anything and filling the glass anyway. The second way has more intricacies: the first person offers the second person her glass, the second person takes it, then the first one fills it up. Person two drinks, then hands the glass back to person one so she can pour her a drink as well. Make sense?

In both instances drinks get accepted with both hands out of politeness. Older people can take one arm and put across the chest, pledge-style and accept the drink with the right hand, but most everyone does the two handed way. There's also a specific way of pouring the beer/soju/booze: basically, right hand grips the bottle and the left hand supports the neck. The bottle usually touches the glass, too.

This system took some getting used to, given the Western every-man-for-himself approach where we drink at will. The Korean way involves looking out for people and the drinking rituals show respect. They allow everyone to move around the table, too. The system does allow for people to gang up on each other, which sometimes happens with the male teachers offering drinks to the female teachers. Or it allows people to get each other drunk. Both things have happened. Now the system's second nature, but there are moments I'd frankly rather fill my own glass and not wait around. On the other hand, getting drinks offered to you means the other person likes you, so I'm okay with that.

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