Cross Country

Trip Start Oct 29, 2012
Trip End Oct 31, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , South Chungcheong,
Monday, October 29, 2012

A few weeks ago my Co-teacher asked me if I wanted to go on a field trip with the school. I said that I would. I mean, why not? Most of my friends had told stories about going to places like Everland with their schools and that sounded fun. After I had agreed my Co-teacher started filling in a few of the details (but not nearly enough to make me actually comfortable with my commitment). This would be a three day field trip to a mountain. Okay, still sounds alright to me. The major catch? None of the English teachers would be in attendance. In fact, none of the teachers who would be going on this field trip would speak any English. Except for me, of course. Oh...

Monday rolls around and I pack my backpack up with minimal supplies. I don't really know what to expect, and I don't want to be caught lugging around a huge suitcase on this field trip. I arrived at school to see the bus getting packed up and students appearing out of the fog, ready for their trip. I honestly probably could have packed a bit more seeing as I was almost the only person getting on the bus with less than a rolling suitcase. Oh well, too late now. 
I am put on a bus filled with second grade, middle school boys and a science teacher and the special education teacher. The science teacher speaks the most English of anyone on the trip so he can say simple things like "Lunch soon" and "Sit here". I settled into my seat at the front of our chartered bus and broke out my Kindle, reading as we left the city behind and drove out into the country side. Most of the morning was spent on the bus and it was rather relaxing to watch the landscape roll by. 
We stopped for lunch at a beach front restaurant where we ate salty, bean and sea food soup. It was filling enough and I can eat almost anything so, whatever. Some of my co-workers took a moment to snap pictures of me with my phone, posing me in various places on the beach. But, soon it was time to move on and we were back on the bus.
We drove a while longer and soon we started to weave our way up into the mountains. It was beautiful, the leaves still in the process of turning and the air was crisp and cool. We tumbled out of the bus and into a parking lot of sorts where we were organized before our hike. We took off in a winding line down a slowly sloping trail. Our path followed a river that was crystal clear and gathered in blue tinted pools along our route. I gazed at the rust colored leaves as I tried to keep up the fast pace of the students. We hiked for about an hour and I enjoyed the exercise and beautiful scenery. 
Too soon we were back onto the bus and moving on to our next destination. We arrived at a glass-fronted building that was labeled at Yangyang Energy World. We went inside and were immediately led into a theater and handed 3D glasses. The screen swirled with animated images of wind mills and water turbines. The speakers rattled and occasionally a gust of air would blast the backs of our necks, making the girls squeal in the dark. Before long the movie was over and we were turning in our glasses and moving into the activity area. 
We were greeted with a number of displays that depict various energy sources. Along the walls there was information about famous people in the history of Energy. Unfortunately all of it was in Korean, so I simply wandered around, watching the students generating wind power or working water pumps. 
At this point in the day the sun was starting to set and things were winding to a close. We got back on the bus one last time and made our way to the hotel we would be staying at. The "resort" was obviously meant to host gatherings of schools or other big groups. We checked into our rooms and went down to the cafeteria to eat dinner. We were greeted by a meal almost identical to the meals we have at our school's cafeteria, served on the little metal tray and everything.
After eating we were allowed to go back to our rooms, but the teachers were all gathering in the room next to mine and they invited me to join. I entered the room and was instructed to sit on the floor in front of the coffee table across from the principle. They ordered chicken wings and mecju (soju mixed with beer) and they chatted in Korean while I picked at my chicken and sipped at my drink. It was obvious that they weren't going to be going to bed for hours yet, but it wasn't really all that late. I sat, staring blankly at the TV as it flickered some Korean show and tried to appear entertained. I counted down the minutes until I could excuse myself. At what point can I leave without it seeming strange that I am going. I didn't want to cause a stir or seem ungrateful. I was thinking about planning my escape when they ordered sushi and more soju.
I couldn't really leave just as the food arrived so I resigned myself to staying for another hour. 
Now, when I say sushi, what I really mean is styrafoam containers of raw fish. Unfortunately some of the fish still had slivers of bones in it and it wasn't as delicious as I had wanted it to be. Bone in fish is pretty common in Korea and people don't seem to mind that much, but it isn't a texture that I am used to yet.
Finally I got up the nerve to get up and leave, excusing myself in simple English and bowing deeply to my drunk co-workers.  
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Carlo on

This was a challenging trip! The emotional highs and lows mirrored the landscape, it sounds like.

Excusing oneself from revelry without appearing ungrateful can be challenging. It sounds like you handled it well, Babe. :)

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