You may already know that I’m not a fan of teacher dinners. It makes sense, then, that I’m not exactly sold on teacher trips either.
This is where all of the teachers are asked (i.e., required) to join in an excursion to a ‘famous’ Korean landmark. It is typically capped off with a dinner.
In two years, I’ve only had one of these, and it was actually pretty fun. We went on a mini-hike/caving expedition to Danyang, about 40 minutes away by bus. After a dinner of samgyeopsal (3-layered fat, a.k.a. Korean barbecue), I was back home by eight p.m.
Then I heard whispers of an event to commemorate the end of the first semester. There was talk of an overnight trip.
Oh, hell no.
My ugly American side reared its head. I’m not riding a bus for hours so my every move can be determined by the principal – when & what I eat, when I use the bathroom, when I go to bed, and when I go home. I’m definitely not spending the night on the floor with eight other teachers in the same room. NO. I’m not going.
Sometimes I’m kind of a party pooper.
When the Cool Message (inter-office IM) eventually came, I was relieved that the trip had been scaled back to a one-dayer.
After several sessions with Google Translate, this is what I came up with:
12:00 p.m. : Depart Yeongwol
4:00 p.m. : Arrival at a random elementary school for 1 obscure hour of ‘training.’
6:00 p.m. : Arrival at ‘Morning Calm‘ botanical gardens. Look at trees for 1 hour.
8:00 p.m. : Dinner at ‘famous’ samgyeopsal restaurant.
9:30 p.m. : Depart restaurant.
11:59 p.m. : Arrive in Yeongwol.
Total drive time: 7 hours 53 minutes.
Total non-bus time: 3 hours 30 minutes, including 1 hour of ‘training’ that will be in Korean, 1 hour of looking at plants, and 1.5 hours eating a meal that is widely available in our own town.
Add in the fact that we start our 3-day English camp the next day, and the whole thing wasn’t exactly appealing. I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening until my co-teacher mentioned it.
“Lauren teacher,” she said. “On school vacation day we have a teacher trip. We will go to a, how can you say, plant place. It is very famous in Korea.”
“It will come back very late, right?” I asked.
“And there is training?”
“No training. Just fun time for teachers.”
“I’m not sure if we can go because it comes back so late.”
“Maybe 10 or 11 p.m.,” she said.
“I’ll have to talk to Jared, but I don’t think so. Especially with camp the next day.”
“Lauren teacher, I wish for you to go. It will be a very good opportunity and maybe the last chance before you leave to see this part of Korea. You can let me know by 2 p.m.”
I knew what she was really saying: you are expected to go.
Saying ‘No’ is very complicated in Korea. You have to weigh up the costs and benefits to decide if it’s really worth it. If we said no, it would rock the boat and possibly throw a very faint shadow on our excellent relationship with the school. It’s seen as rejecting an offer of kindness, even though it’s paid for from a kitty that we contribute to.
If we say yes, we’d give up 12 hours of our time, barely be noticed, but earn a lot of goodwill. And it is a very good opportunity to see some plants.
In the afternoon, I asked her to clarify some things from the Cool Message.
“This,” I said, pointing at the ‘training’ part. “What is this?”
“Um. Just tour the elementary school for 1 hour.”
“Right. And it takes four hours to get there?”
The school is closer than Seoul, which is only 2 hours away.
“Three hours,” she said. “It takes three hours.”
“But we leave at 12 and arrive at 4?”
Jared and I held a hushed conference in the corner of the office and begrudgingly reached a decision.
“We can go, I guess,” I said, like a petulant teenager.
My co-teacher didn’t have to add our names to the list because they were already there. As we suspected, the ‘choice’ wasn’t really optional in the end.
Korea. I’m going to miss this place.