I went on a teachers retreat Monday and Tuesday. It was an exciting mix of weird and fun. Every step of the trip was a total surprise, because I didn’t have any idea where we were going on what we were doing. A few of the teachers tried to explain the nature of the trip, but I never quite understood what they were telling me. Case in point, I spent the entire trip expecting to attend some sort of teaching seminar. There wasn’t anything remotely close to a seminar the entire time.
On Monday morning, after the students last exam, all of the teachers at my school boarded buses. Often referred to as “limousines” (a misnomer), they are buses meant to be more comfortable than the normal tour bus. Instead of four seats per row, there are three large reclining chairs with adjustable footrests. For the first time in Korea, I was able to fit in a space designed for a single person.
Because I had no idea where we were going, I didn’t have a clue how long the trip would take. I sat back and relaxed as we began our journey northward. I know what you’re thinking: “Taft, didn’t you get super bored?” Nope – not possible on a karaoke limousine/bus!
About an hour into the trip, after our first break at a rest stop, the principal fired up the bus’s built-in karaoke machine. It felt like we were in a rolling 노래방 (no-re-bang or Korean “singing room”), complete with two big binders full of song choices and two wireless microphones (for the inevitable duet). The teachers weren’t shy – they stepped up to the front of the bus and gave us show after show. Much to my surprise, the majority of the teachers were decent singers.
Around 3pm, we made a second stop. It was time to start drinking, and they couldn’t have picked a better spot. It was part gas station, part scenic overlook about halfway between Daegu and the DMZ. Per Korean rainy-day tradition, the principal and vice principal busted out the makgeolli (Korean rice wine). Like a sweet, effervescent version of sake, this stuff goes down easy and can sneak up on you. I was careful to limit myself to two drinks, but the other teachers weren’t so concerned.
After working up a healthy buzz, we loaded back onto the bus to continue north. Still not sure where we were going, I settled in for what could be a long drive. The teachers fired the karaoke machine up again and the mic made its way around the bus a second time. They wanted me to sing, but the song books didn’t have any good English karaoke songs. I couldn’t find any Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffet, or Skynard. I don’t know what they expected – but I can’t make magic happen without the right tunes.
About two hours after the first round of drinks, we pulled into a parking lot in the middle of the woods. At first I thought we were taking a stretch break, but then two empty tour buses followed us in. Teachers filed out of our buses and into the new ones. Now I was really curious.
I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of the trip. For the sake of brevity (too late, I know), I’m going to break this trip down into a few posts. Tune in later this week for Part 2. I can assure you that the pictures alone make it worth your while.
Until next time.