Soju is a traditional alcoholic Korean drink made from rice. Its taste is similar to vodka without the burning sensation and it has a slight sweet tang to it. It is very rarely mixed and is usually consumed neat. It’s alcohol content averages out at around 20%. It is widely consumed at nearly every social gathering in Korea and there are certain rules and regulations (etiquette if you will) surrounding its consumption. For example, pouring to your superiors with two hands. When I first arrived in Korea, I took a swift disliking to the drink but after time it has grown on me and it goes down quite smoothly. Just don’t give me too much of it and I’ll be a happy chappy.
We had another school meal yesterday. I’ve become quite good at these social gatherings and always manage to score points with my co-workers when we go out. I pour soju for my superiors, I slyly pour cider for the teachers that don’t want to drink soju but don’t want the principle to know. I humour my co-workers with answers to their sometimes intrusive questions and I play along with the clapping and chanting. It’s all very structured, but it makes work that little bit easier.
What I have noticed is that seating arrangements seem to be a big deal. Nearly none of the teachers want to sit anywhere near the boss man. They run into the restaurants to get first dibs on the best seats (at the end of the tables the furthest away from the man himself). The man himself (my principle) always sits in the middle of the table with the other men from the school which often means I’ll be around him somewhere. It’s not a big deal, if I can stay on his good side then all the better.
I’ve also picked up enough Korean now to know when I’m being talked about. I’ll hear the Korean word for English, or English teacher or just flat out hear my name and it can be quite disconcerting. However, I do think I’m still held in high regard as lots of the teachers shake my hand and tell me I’m doing a good job, “I think you are good teacher.” Very humble.
School is still busy but I’m far more prepared for it this week. I planned nearly all of my classes on Monday and have just been going through the motions. 3rd Grade are still out of control, this week they ran around sticking things to the walls, chasing each other, and being generally naughty until I got my co-teacher to put them in their place. If it wasn’t for that class then every class would be going amazingly. They’ve all settled into a class routine and my lessons have some structure to them again.
I had a very lazy weekend in which much soju was consumed on Saturday night. We only planned to stop in on Ben and Russell who had gone to the bar but ended up staying with them until we had to pretty much carry Russell home. He seemed happy with himself. I guess that’s what too much soju does to a person. The trouble is, amongst Koreans, it’s really tough to say no to a glass. The weeks drift by quite casually and before I know it Natalie will be back, and then my parents will be here and then Kieran and Naoko will arrive. I’ve got a very exciting couple of months ahead. Let’s hope the spring weather gets here soon and we can all share some soju in the sun.