After the first temple, we loaded back onto the bus and drove to dinner. It took a couple more hours, during which time we did more karaoke. At this point, I had to pop in my headphones and tune it out. Many of them are excellent singers, but it wasn’t my type of music (or my language).
I was surprised when we got to the restaurant, because I thought it was just a house. The downstairs had been converted into a restaurant. As usual, we sat on the floor and ate family style from a large spread of side dishes. We ate pork barbecue called 산겹살 (San-Gyop-Sal). This is my least favorite Korean meat because it is mostly fat. On the bright side, the company was great!
As is customary at teacher dinners, there were several bottles of beer and soju on the table as well. The staff didn’t waste any time sinking a few shots of soju. I stuck to beer – a lesson I learned the hard way…twice. I managed to only drink two beers during the meal, which is always a challenge as my colleagues love to make me drink. I should have had more, because of what came next. Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint:
Truth be told – I had a blast. I didn’t do any singing, because there were no good American karaoke songs available, so I just hung out with the teachers and got to know them a bit better. One of my favorite guys at school is a math teacher named Mun. His English isn’t very strong, but he does a very good job of communicating with me, which seems to be a rare quality in Korea.
After dinner and karaoke, we got back on the bus and started driving again. I was tired, so I didn’t really care where we were going. I sat back and relaxed. Thirty minutes later, we turned onto what felt like a very uneven dirt road. It was too dark to see out, but it was obvious we were off the beaten path. The bus stopped and people started to get off. I followed them.
I got about twenty feet from the bus before one of the teachers ran up to me and said something in Korean. After a brief one-way conversation that I didn’t understand, she grabbed my hand and walked me back onto the bus. Apparently that wasn’t my stop. We rode for a little longer and parked again. This time all of the teachers waved for me to get off, so I did.
We walked into a large building that was half-cabin and half-hotel. Mr. Kim and our two other roommates found ourselves in a space that was obviously meant for two people. There were no beds, but in the closet I found two heavy blankets meant to be used as mattresses. I dropped them on the floor. Before I could grab the pillows, Mr. Kim was on the floor and asleep.
I didn’t get much sleep that night – sharing two sleeping pads with three other (drunk) men. Fortunately, one of them got up and left. I found out the next morning that he had spent the entire night drinking with the other teachers in another room. I also found out the next morning that we were in some sort of wilderness retreat. I got up early and went for a hike, which felt surprisingly like home with the mountains and pine trees all around.
After a bit of hiking, during which I saw two teachers blow groceries, we loaded up and headed to the next stop. I am seriously excited about the next two posts. I have some incredible pictures to show you.
Until next time.