Monday, December 22, 2008

One Crazy Saturday

It began with a simple invitation to a FREE company lunch. As we are all poor teachers, trying to make our way in the world, without good reason (aka: being deathly ill) nearly no one dared turn the offer down. We were told to meet in the office at 11:30 am and we would walk down the hill three blocks to the restaurant. I had no idea what to expect, but I would never have in my wildest dreams guessed what actually happened that Saturday. It began with meeting some of the representatives of the company and a short tour of our facilities. We then were herded outside to wait for our transportation. After shivering in the cold for nearly 30 minutes, a short bus/van picked us up for the backbreaking trip of 3 blocks which we could have walked in less time than we had to wait.
Once we arrived we were instructed to take off our shoes, sit on the floor, on little green, square pads under miniature tables with burners in the middle of each. Our drink choices consisted of water, beer, soju (their national liquor), rice wine (which wasn't sweet enough for me), lemonade and coke. Also on the tables were mountains of unidentifiable nibbles. One dish for sure was kimchi, and then there was some type of cabbage in a stew, also lettuce with spicy stuff, along with crab that had to be sucked out of the shell, a lettuce pancake thingy which was delicious and other items that I just didn't try.

After everyone was seated including all of the Korean company members whom I had never met, speeches in Korea commenced. We clapped along with everyone else on cue even when we had no idea what was going on. Waiters came by to turn our burners on. Shortly afterwards, they brought out the meat. As it cooked, they came around with scissors to cut the meat into chunks, seeing as we were using metal chopsticks and had no knives at our disposal. The meat was nicely season and mouthwateringly delicious. I was full from my first helping, but evidently that was not to be our last, not even close. Waiters came by with more meat, cooking, and chopping with said scissors. They brought chunk after chunk of raw meat to be cooked in front of us for seemingly hours after we had finished our first gorge. We were brought at least 5-6 rounds of meat, which I am told is not uncommon in Korea. I looked around at the teeny tiny Koreans and wondered where it could all go. I have yet to see an overweight Korean since I have been here, and yet they seem to eat like gluttons. The food continued for a couple of hours and then the party began. We (the foreign teachers) were asked to stand up, introduce ourselves to the group, after which we were given a glass of Korean beer to chug! ( I am not really a fan of beer so I gave mine to my neighbor) Never in my life have I been to a company event that encouraged chugging of beer as part of the introduction.

The crab as I sucked it out (it also dripped on my skirt as I posed for this photo! Classy!)

Later, a jug measuring at least three gallons filled with rice wine was brought around to each table. A bowl was filled with the milky substance and passed around the table. This rice wine was much sweeter and more to my liking, however, the communal sharing made me weary, considering half of our staff is sick, but I tasted it anyways. An hour of mingling was followed with group singing of some classic English (language) hits. One Korean even stood up and did a dance with his rendition of a Big Bang song (the most popular pop band here in Korea which sings all of it's choruses in English).

But that wasn't enough singing for everyone, so we headed up stairs to their Karaoke room for some more fun. It began simply enough, with one or two people at a time going up to sing a song. (Christy, LD and I were actually the first volunteers to sing. We sang "All I want for Christmas is you" and I thought about Kyle the entire song) But after a few songs, our nice karaoke session turned into a rave of sorts, with the entire room crowding around the television which blared random pictures of Koreans acting out the different songs, to dance. Even the CEO was up and dancing with the rest of us. Albeit, he probably has no memory of the event, since he had had a few beers too many, and then some more, but it was great fun. Jumping, swinging our hips and swaying our hands we danced and sang the afternoon away, literally. When we were finally kicked out, we walked out into darkness, it was 6 pm. We started our lunch at noon and didn't leave until 6 in the evening. That was probably the longest lunch I have ever attended, but it was also the most entertaining I have ever been to as well! A cultural experience I shall never forget!
The nibbles
Sorry this pictures sucks, but I was trying to take it as others were taking off their shoes.
The begining of the Karaoke with only a couple of the Koreans dancing


Rachael said...

man... that's like the best company lunch, EVER. Fun.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Seriously! Wow! Again you are brave with the food trying. Me? Not so much.

That was one nice company lunch though! And it's so good everyone can have fun together!!