24th Jul 2012 - A South Korean Summer...
A Korean teahouse
Today is the final day of the first Semester in Korean elementary schools. FINALLY! School is over! The kids and I are all breathing a huge sigh of relief! The last week of school has been tedious and slow, I had a total of 336 final speaking tests to do with the students and then mark them and record them which took AGES! Plus I had to prepare the summer camp materials; 18 hours of fun packed yet educational lessons for next week! So I am tired and looking forward to a break. The kids only come back for a few days over summer vacation for either English/math’s/science camp and all the teachers are off either training or holidaying except for me and Jung hee (the contract English teacher who has the same shitty contract as I do) so us two are left sitting alone in the office ‘desk warming’ which for me translates as writing blogs, watching YouTube videos, sending emails and researching our holiday and upcoming travels!
So my lovely co teacher Dajung and slight control freak Amy (Seunghee) decided they wanted to take me out for dinner to say thank you which was really sweet. We roped in Seokwon who is a really nice 6th grade teacher and I get on well with him, he studied in Greenwich for a year so he is really cool to chat too as he likes anything English! So the 4 of us went for dinner after school, I was hoping for a strange meal of Korean delicacies I haven’t had the nerve to order without a Korean present but no they took me to this pretentious fake Italian restaurant instead! Seeing as I wasn’t paying I didn’t voice my disappointment! Young Koreans seem to really enjoy pasta, it is a new fad that has arrived in Korea although they put a twist on traditional pasta dishes that we would cook – examples being the sweet spaghetti laced with honey, seafood and kimchi which they insist is just how the Italians eat it! Ha-ha!
We had a really nice meal, sharing a large chicken and garlic spaghetti and a pork steak and salad. I love the Korean style of eating now, they share everything in the middle of the table and everyone just digs in there is no individual dish, I will have to remind myself of this when we come back to England and Ben is sticking his chopsticks into everyone’s dishes!!
After dinner Seokwon said he wanted to take us to a traditional tea house in the mountains as the three of them were driving so they couldn’t drink alcohol so I was quite pleased about this as it would be a really nice experience. We drove into Palgongsan, the national park bordering the north of Daegu, me and Ben had been here once in the winter so it was lovely to see the green trees and flowers in the summer it was a real contrast since the last time I went there.
I was started to worry about getting abducted at one point when Seokwon was driving up into the mountains down tiny roads and chuckling to himself whenever Dajung asked him if we were there yet! He pulled up to this quaint little wooden building perched on the side of a mountain, decorated with the traditional roof and paper lanterns, huge plants and clay pots; this is a traditional Korean teahouse, we have been to one before at a temple and they are very relaxing quiet places. You can sit in a private booth on the floor with sliding paper doors and we had a magnificent view of the mountains as the sunset which was lovely. We all ordered a different tea because they wanted to show me some new flavours I hadn’t had before so we had some sweet green tea, lotus flower tea, some sort of flower that I had never heard of before tea and finally a selection of forest root flavoured tea!! They all tasted fairly nice but the highlight was seeing how they were poured! I have heard the Japanese have ancient tea ceremonies and they told me its less formal in Korea, this place was more similar to Chinese tea pouring according to Seokwon.
We spent about 2 hours there which was a surprise to us all when we looked at the time! They are really sweet those 3 and always make a real effort to help me out and translate things for me which is hard work for them so I appreciate their effort and we have a nice friendship together now. I felt quite privileged to be sat in a traditional tea house on a mountain with 3 Korean friends drinking strange concoctions while the sun set – it is these rare moments that make our travel experience all the richer, as when will I ever get the opportunity to do this again?