Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Never Again

Remember last summer and the summer before that, when I had awesome field trips with my staff - great bonding, lots of drinking, singing and food.  Well, its' that time of year again err kind of, except this time it's winter not summer, anyway you get the idea.  A few weeks ago, we had our end of the year teachers field trip, 1박 2일 [1 night, 2 days].  I really think I got spoiled the first year because we had an awesome trip, almost everyone participated, we saw some sights, ate good food, sang, danced, drank and even swam;  on top of all that I even avoided having a hangover the next day.  Last winter our trip was snowed out so I'm not sure what exactly I missed out on, then this past summer we had a mediocre trip, food, drinking and signing but not quite like the year before.  All of this combined I wasn't really sure what was in store for me this winter but I was still looking forward to it regardless, until I found out half the teachers would either be driving themselves and leaving early, or simply not attending. 

The workshop was schedule to take place after our midterm testing last week so I had to show up for a half day of desk warming before we made our departure.  While sitting there I had some time to read over the itinerary for our trip and my spirits began to fade, it appeared we'd be spending the entire afternoon/evening in the Gyeongju K hotel banquet hall.  As our bus departed I was a little annoyed as Anna and Jin sat laughing in the back of the bus with the fun math teachers and I was stuck somewhere in the middle trying to hold a conversation with my other, not so favorite, co-teacher 김수경.  All of this after Anna explained to me that they had to sit together because this might be Jin's last trip with our school (when in fact i'm leaving in 3 months), "but we can sit near each other on the bus". This only annoyed me because Anna and Jin can tend to act like the 'mean girls' of our school and seeing as I'd be sharing a room with them that night I was hoping this wasn't going to continue for the entire trip.  

Once we got to the hotel we got our room assignments and had a few minutes to put away our belongings before being herded back to the banquet room.  There was a good hour and a half of discussion about the previous year and plans for the future, which as you may have guess, was really boring. Anna even turned around at one point and took pity on me explaining that even she was bored so I must be miserable (not being able to understand it all).  Honestly, if I was a real teacher and had something to contribute/could understand them, I actually may have enjoyed this portion.  Following the discussion they assembled a panel of volunteers  lucky teachers to answer questions about...actually i'm not really sure....but it was kind of amusing.  

By the end of the conference everyone at our table was ready to eat, well at least my stomach was growling, and it didn't help that they were preparing the buffet at the back of the room - such a tease.  Finally it was time to eat and oh boy did we eat - so much food! Then the beer came out, and this is where the trip took a turn for the better? Well at least until I went crashing down the hill the next day.  Beer was flowing with conversation to follow, amazing how a few drinks get the English flowing, even from math teachers. It's kind of ironic to me that my favorite subject in high school was math because that is by far my favorite department of teachers at my school.  Before long I noticed the DJ making preparations and then saw the karaoke book come out, oh no - too soon.  I somehow got out of the "The oldest and youngest (ME) should be the first to sing" proposal and was able to fly under the radar for a while.  Eventually 강병권  (Mr. Gang) waved me over to his table and I knew the night had just begun. I love talking with him because he makes a valiant effort to speak English and praises my baby Korean, even if he sometimes struggles to understand what personal space means.  After a few cheers we decided it was time for our tradition of singing 'Country Roads' together; easing in with a duet is definitely one of my noraebang tactics, but also a way to ensure i'll be forced to sing a solo.
이재덕 ~ charming, kind, and handsome BUT extremely shy (with me) ~
math department for the win
정은경 took me by surprise 

Of course as the beer flows the signing gets easier, even jumping up on stage to do some backup dancing sounds like a great idea. I need to hunt down whoever took pictures of me because I know they're floating around somewhere. I actually really enjoy noraebanging with friends, when we can obnoxiously sing Spice Girls, Backstreet boys, or any other random 90's hit, but with my staff it's a bit harder.  This year I opted for The Beetles I wanna hold your hand, and it seemed to be a hit.  In between my performances I squeezed in a few heart to hearts with my staff, trying to express how much I've enjoyed my time here and that I can't believe it's so quickly coming to an end.

The staff started dropping like flies (some driving home and others retreating to their room) around 9 o'clock, granted that sounds super early but we did start drinking 3 hours prior.  Eventually all that was left was one table to stragglers which just happened to congregate at my table, coincidence? I think not - I'm the life of the party, duh. We talked, me trying to speak Korean, them finally using their English, drank, ate and even threw in some late night yoga because, why not? But then eventually the hotel staff called it a night and sent us packing, back to our rooms. I remember seeing the principal off at his room and thinking, this is it, now what? 

Teaching 김홍섭 how to do flying Eagle, granted we couldn't fly
Drunk yoga ~ always a good idea
If I had any wits about me I would have stopped drinking at this point, accepted the early dismissal time and called it a night, but that's not what happened.  As I changed into leggings back in the room, Anna and Jin told me they actually had plans to go out with 이재덕, 박명쳘 and 조민재 and were wondering if i'd like to join, as if they really needed to ask? These three guys are in a tight competition for favorite male co-worker (principal and VP aside) so why would I pass up a few more hours of drinking with them.  I wouldn't. We made our way downstairs, met up with the boys and hopped in a cab headed for downtown. One quick side note/rant...the cab driver willingly allowed all 6 of us to squeeze into the cab which, if we were foreigners, never would have happened.  Anyway as I sat (basically on the floor) in the back of the cab, I decided to text my Gyeongju boys to find out where they were partying that night, but unfortunately we were headed to a different part of town.  We settled ourselves in a cozy little room, at some random bar downtown and continued just where we left off, with more drinks and food.  It was cool because I was with 3 English teachers and 박명쳘 the renaissance man (math teacher, artists and English pro) so I wasn't completely at a loss in the conversation.  After speaking English for a while and making 이재덕 try to keep up, 박명쳘 suggested we switch to Korean  for him (이재덕) to which I happily obliged, if you didn't know drunk Stephanie loves speaking Korean.

After breaking free ~ quality time 
Eventually we decided that we'd had enough but  we weren't exactly ready to call it a night, and thus we continued to round 3, noraebang.  The brisk morning air helped wake me up (after my brief nap at the bar) of which i'm not ashamed, I was tired. We rocked the noraebang for a good hour, plus the 20 minutes service-uh which I probably didn't need, but a good time was had by all.  I sang Spice Girls Wannabe for them but i'm not sure if they fully appreciated it in all it's glory. Eventually we did the responsible thing, put ourselves into taxis and called it a night, a really really fun night. 

Having too much fun at the noraebang
The next morning I woke up to Jin showering and realized that meant it was time to get out of bed, oh no. I was in no way ready to get this day started but knew that I didn't have a choice.  As I rose to shower my head pounded and I contemplated the need to throw up.  The cold shower felt amazing, but soon after I was dressed, I found myself back in a parallel position, flopped on the bed, passing on breakfast and relishing in a few extra minutes of sleep. Anna and Jin were  back in our room, all too soon, telling me to pack up as we had to be on the bus, we were already late. I somehow threw all of my shit together, put my damp hair in a bun and stumbled out the door, thank god for sunglasses.  The bus ride was one from hell as I contemplated what my exit strategy would be should I need to throw up, again. About an hour later we arrived at the Underwater tomb of King Munmu which I've been wanting to see but unfortunately didn't really appreciate; a) I was freezing b) I felt like dying c) I was concentrating on not throwing up. We took a group picture, which is also floating around somewhere, and got back on the bus, where I decided to stay for the next 3 hours, not moving a muscle.  I'll save you from the graphic details of the day and instead summarize it as thus:  I skipped lunch, embraced the fetal position on my bus seat for the next 6 hours, received worried looks from those around me, struggled to hold down water, and eventually, relished in the glory of my bed upon our arrival back to Buksam around 4pm.  In all honesty, this was hands down, the worst hangover I have ever experienced in my life, and to make matters even worse, no one else was feeling the same! WTH?! I actually stayed in my bed from 5pm until 9am the next day, with a few sips of powerade as my only nourishment.

The one picture I managed before my bus hibernation
Don't look for me ~ I'm on the bus
I'd like to say someone poisoned me and that's to blame for the feeling of death that swept my body for the next 36 hours, but I know that's not the case. Evidently I had one too many drinks the night before and no where near enough water.  Not only was I extremely hungover on Saturday (Sunday, too), but I was also dehydrated and thus I have only myself to blame, and my staff that kept feeding me drinks. I easily could have left this part of the story out, painting myself as a much more intelligent responsible person, but that's not fun, and a bit dishonest.  It's not often I write about my drinking escapades but we're all human and it's a part of life, a fun part, so why not share? I can only hope that no one judges my smart decisions.

Never again. Of course I first labeled this post as such with regards to drinking, but how many times have we all said that one before?  I was going to change the name when I came up with something more appropriate until I realized it didn't need changing.  Never again will I have the opportunity to participate in an overnight workshop filled with food, friends, singing, dancing and of course 소먹, with this amazing group of people.  After my weekend of death I quite honestly never want to drink again, but then I think of the fun we had  and I definitely don't regret it. Sure, I wanted to die for the rest of the weekend, and only started to feel human come Monday, but I guess that's the price you have to pay sometimes.  Despite the hangover, i'm happy to have this memory of  my last school trip as a staff member of Buksam High school; a night i'll never forget, well except the parts I can't remember....

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