Sunday, October 4, 2009


This weekend brought Chusok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving. It is a three day holiday which started on Friday. It was nice to have Friday off work! The first day people are supposed to visit their mother's side of the family, the second day is for rest, and the third day you should visit your father's side of the family. A lot of food is eaten and traditional games are played. It is also customary to bring gift sets with you when you visit others.

On Thursday we were called to a staff meeting at work before classes started. We brought paper and pens to take notes. Once everyone had filed in, our boss came in to lead the meeting. It lasted thirty minutes and was completely in Korean. We sat there completely clueless. Every now and then everyone would burst in to laughter, sometimes looking at us. I wasn't sure if we should pretend to laugh along, or continue our blank stares.

After the meeting had finished Howard came up to us and gave us a three minute briefing on what the meeting was about. Part of it was that he was worried that Chusok was a time to spend with families, and he was worried we would feel lonely or left out so he wanted to take us to dinner after work. Howard was designated to come along as a translator, as our boss speaks about as much English as we speak Korean.

We were also informed that often your employer will give you a bonus for Chusok. However, LangCon Academy is a new school and struggling for money, so he told us we would be getting a ham gift set instead.

They let us end our work day an hour early and took us out to dinner. But before doing so, they came running out with our gift sets. A lovely ham gift set, how wonderful! It was actually Spam. Even better, Andrew and I each got a lovely Spam gift set. I had never had Spam before... I guess there is a first for everything. We looked kind of funny each walking out with a gift bag that said "SPAM" across the bag. Imagine coming across 15 or so people all carrying Spam bags. We felt a little silly.

Dinner was really delicious. Our boss gave us the option of Korean food, or American food if we were homesick. We decided to go Korean and they took us to a wonderful Tofu restaurant. It was the boss, his wife, their daughter (who Andrew and I both teach), the two secretaries, Howard, the Teaching Assistant, and the three foreign teachers. It was absolutely delicious!

As I've mentioned before Korean meals consist of tons and tons of food, several side dishes in addition to the main meal. One of the side dishes was an individual sized black pot. We were told it was extremely hot and we shouldn't touch it. Inside was a purple-ish rice with random vegetable chunks in it. We saw everyone scooping out the rice in to a bowl. We followed suit. There was a thin layer of rice that stuck to the bowl. It is the burnt stuff that usually takes scrubbing to get off. They came around and poured boiling water in to it and put a lid on it.

Later our boss took Andrew's top off and took a spoon and got all the rice off the edges. He did the same to his and then said, "special Korean soup," and started eating it. We didn't want to be rude and are willing to try just about anything once... so we did the same. It tasted like burned popcorn in water. I thought they had to be kidding, but everyone was really enjoying it. If you would like to try your own version follow my instructions below:

1. Boil water
2. Burn a bag of popcorn.
3. Put burned popcorn in the water. Let sit 10-15 minutes.
4. Enjoy!

It's just like Christmas!

Luckily we now have 12 cans of Spam and two bottles of Canola Oil.

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