Not your average PTA; not your average cup of soup

Annyong!

Lindsay here. We had yet another interesting weekend in Korea as we are starting to see our time slip away here and are trying to pack in as much as humanly possible on the weekends. It seems every Monday we both breathe a collective sigh as we finally get a little rest.

Last weekend was no different. It started on Friday. No Thursday, when I got three phone calls (I ignored the first two because I have a very prolific sense of bad omens) from my co-teacher about the “formal” dinner we were to attend Friday night for our school’s “Parent Association.” I put all this in quotation marks because it just wasn’t your typical American PTA meeting.

So Whit and I donned our most grown-up clothes (our tailored-made Vietnamese clothing), Whit borrowed some dress shoes, and I dug some high heels out of the closet.

The evening started out boring enough. The English teachers were all separated and Whit and I ended up at different tables, eyeing each other with inside laughs when the people started introducing themselves with loud music blaring…or rather bumping…when they bowed and then cutting off as they spoke.

We introduced ourselves in Korean to rousing applause. And after an hour of introductions of parent representatives, we began to eat our buffet-style meal: everything from raw fish to octopus (it’s in season..more on this later) to Chinese-style fried chicken and rice and more. It was delicious. But, sadly, my dress was too tight to support too much gorging so I had to eat like a normal person.

The evening quickly turned more lively as beers poured at every table, glasses toasted to who only knows, and the faces of the Korean men at every table started getting redder and redder as soju started flowing in every small shot glass. Soju, for those of you who don’t know, is the Korean everyman’s drink–a clear, chemically liquid most commonly compared to vodka. At $1 a bottle, it’s cheap and quick.

It wasn’t long before I saw a man with a gold saxophone enter the stage. Wow, live music I thought. Now this is good. But no, there was more. Our red-faced principal stood up, bowed, and began to sing karaoke with the live sax. Whit and I looked at each other. Smiled from across the room. He and I both knew at that moment this was going to be an interesting evening.

An hour or two later, Whit found himself on stage singing ‘Country Roads’ by John Denver to the applause of a hotel ballroom full of Korean parents.

We stayed long past our Korean English co-teachers, who make it a mission to never have fun at such events. But we stayed on, chatted with parents, toasted with co-teachers and our principal and vice-principal, and endeared ourselves to quite a few sets of parents.

On to Saturday… we had a weekend of summer temperatures and spent the day outdoors walking through our neighborhood and through fields of tulips recently planted near our reservoir. And Saturday night we headed out for the monthly Korean/foreigner dinner. It was a small crowd but our co-teachers are now regular attendees, which usually makes the evening much more fun.

On Sunday we woke up at the crack of dawn to join another co-teacher on the monthly Gwangju amateur photographers club trip. We headed to an island on the southern coast of Korea, Imjae-do, home to the annual tulip festival.

We spent the day out in the sun strolling through tulips (taking our co-teachers’ photos–see below) and sitting on a beautiful beach. We would love to go back there and camp we thought to ourselves, but that was before we waited three hours to catch a ferry back off the island. By the time we got back, we were swearing up and down we would never return to that island it doesn’t matter how beautiful it was.

For lunch on the photo trip we had an amazing soup with loads of greens. It looked scrumptious. But, then, to top it off, the waitress brought by a very large live wriggling octopus, opened the steaming top of the soup cooking in front of us and threw it in. The octopus squirmed for at least 10 minutes (it takes a long time for the tentacles to stop moving, even when they have been chopped, though this one had not.)

The soup was delicious–definitely one of my favorite dishes we’ve had. Who knew octopus could be soooo good?!?

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