I’ve been waiting for this day since I first heard about it, the teacher field trip. One of the great differences in South Korean and US schools are the field trips. The students go on two field trips a year. A weekend long trip and a day trip. Most schools have teacher field trips. Our school went to Chan Gwan mountain last week. We started classes 10 minutes early and taught 4 classes back-to back, ate lunch, and at 12:30 we got on a tour bus for an hour+ drive to the base of a mountain.
Each person had a snack pack on our seats including a bottle of water, several oranges, dried squid, dried octopus, a few almonds, and korean sausages. The sausages look like a pink goo paste and are not on my list of things to try. My lead teacher kept offering me shots of soju and his unwrapped sausage, I declined the sausage. In explaining why, they made me homesick for Kramarczuk’s Polish sausage. The staff sang karaoke versions of traditional songs during the 1 1/2 hour long ride. Most of them were able to sing well. There was no ironically bad singing on this trip. Everyone was trying to impress the principal.
Okay, so we arrived at the base of the mountain a little bit tipsy. Each teacher was then given a can or two of beer, and sent up the mountain. (2:30 pm) We hiked up the very steep mountain. We stopped twice to rest along the way. Each time, we lost teachers who went down to rest and wait.
After hiking up the path we summited at a beautiful field of paintbrush grass and a lookout. We stopped for group photos and to drink the beers that were brought up, and then we rock hopped down the eastern ridge of the mountain. The mountain was seaside and the coast was dotted with islands. It took me quite a bit longer to get down than to get up since the eastern side so was so rocky/ muddy. It was a cool, sunny, beautiful day. I wish we could have lingered.
(Side note) There is a huge difference in how Americans and Koreans hike. Every hike I’ve taken here I’ve been startled by their style. As a rule of thumb, they dress to the nines in high tech gear and carry full, five course meals in the packs. They travel in large, quick paced groups, talk or sing loudly, and listen to music/ watch TV on handheld devices as they hike. At first I found it off putting, I like a little solace when I hike, but it is hard to find solace on a Korean mountain. Now, I just try to go with the flow. I avoid the popular hikes like Wolchulasn during peak hiking season.
When we got to the base we took off for dinner at a grilled beef restaurant. It was awesome. I love our teacher dinners. We sat with a few teacher friends, grilled beef, abalone, garlic and mushrooms. Of course, there was beer, soju, rice, a variety of kimchi’s, perilla and lettuce to wrap it in. It was delicious. We poured shots for our supervisors, who kindly returned the favor. (I take small shots, maybe .3 oz, that soju is 20 proof.)
I teased Eun Kyong, the special ed teacher, because she looked beautiful climbing the mountain, and fabulous after, while I looked harried, sweaty, and disheveled. She and Eul Ji, the 3rd grade teacher, always look good. Dinner was followed by rice soup, of course.
After our meal we hopped back on the bus for more karaoke. This is when things got serious. I particularly loved Benji, my fabulous co-teacher, and the principal singing and dancing on the bus. I wish you could be here to really appreciate a Korean party bus. Big screen televisions, light shows, speakers, frilly curtains, a sober bus driver, and noreabang, Korean karaoke. It is a thing unto itself. The bus took us home where Mike and Remi met me, at 8:30 pm, and walked me home.