Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Retirement Dinner in Korea

A thing I didn't know was a thing until I came to Korea is "the retirement dinner".

At the end of each semester, there is a big dinner, put on by the school, to recognize teachers who are changing schools, teachers who have joined the school, and teachers who are retiring. It's kind of a big deal, at least at my school. Weeks in advance people start talking about and planning for this dinner.

In the three dinners I've been to, the school rents a wedding hall (because finding a restaurant to host 70+ people would be tricky) and there is a program, a buffet dinner, and then--the Korean favorite--noraebong (or what most people know as karaoke). It's always this way. Every semester. Every year.

This year, I was asked to play guitar for "the special song time" which I gladly obliged because it got me out of paying thirty bucks for dinner. The program is all in Korean, so I just sit patiently and think about...oh, just about anything. I have a lot of time to sit quietly in Korea. 

Then, suddenly people stood up and I just followed. Apparently, it was go time. Here's our songs:


Then, the male teachers (greatly outnumbered by us women) got up and did a little dance, which kinda surprised me. It is not normal to see men or women dancing so sexy and shaking their hips. And it felt super awkward to be sitting among all these lady teachers hooting and hollering at the token males (other than the administration). I was sure someone was about to throw money their way...Needless to say the guys were a hit.

Then, comes beer and soju. The departing teachers travel in a pack with a bottle of soju and cups. They visit each table and offer a drink in order to say "goodbye." My co-workers say it's kind of awkward because you may or may not have even spoken to the departing teachers before.

And my goodbyes that night were hard. Jiyoung (left) and Mrs. Che (right, wearing the scarf I crocheted for her!) have been my co-teachers since I arrived at Nampyeong Elementary school and now they are being moved to new schools in other parts of the province.

I'm so sad as these women became my closest friends at school. It's not the same without them.