Saturday, March 5, 2011

Noraebang Insanity

Friday night was the first teacher dinner of the new semester. I've been to enough teacher dinners now that I know what to expect, and know how to navigate all of the little rituals that transpire. If you've never been to a traditional Korean restaurant, you might not know that you sit on the floor in front of a low table, and you usually cook your own food over a gas burner. This time we had pork and duck, the latter of which was really spicy and rich. There's also a lot of drinking, of course, and although everyone encourages you to drink a lot, if you're not in the mood to drink they'll understand if you refuse politely.

Friday night I was drinking beer. I was enjoying myself but not "going for it" like I did at the previous teacher dinner, when I was drinking both beer and soju, the local rice wine. That night was fun but I really paid for it the next day. This dinner, like the dinner before, ended early and most everyone headed to the noraebang after.

Noraebang means "sing room," and from that you can probably guess that it's karaoke. Noraebangs are extremely popular in Korea. They're everywhere. In fact, there are so many that often the owners will hire touts to drive around, looking for revelers, and offer to drive them to their noraebang. You get a private room with couches, food and drink, two microphones, plenty of tambourines, and of course ear-splitting music.

This semester, our school got 11 new teachers, most of whom are under 30. This has resulted in a fantastic influx of young energy into the school, which can be a little on the "mature" side (yours truly included, of course). At dinner they shouted when they clinked glasses, and at the noraebang they quickly took control, cramming into the small space in front of the video monitor that displays the song lyrics and going crazy.

Come on feel the norae.
This is not to say that the older teachers don't get into it. This is my third time going to a noraebang with my school and people get down every time. Last time, I was twisting with an English teacher while the other teachers were pretty much moshing down front. Case in point: that's our school principle right at the center of the mosh pit in the above picture. But these new teachers, well, they know how to party.

Having been to a few of these events before, I knew I was expected to sing a song. I chose "Girl" by The Beatles, not the best song for my (horrible) voice but the perfect song for the situation. I had noticed that the four new female teachers were all lined up against the wall, so when I grabbed the mic and took my place down front I essentially had four back-up singers at my side. So when I sang the chorus, "Ah girl..." I would motion to them with my hand, and they would sing harmony.

I hung around for another hour or so and then, tired of drinking and the loud music, I walked home. It was a 45-minute walk through the fields but the stars were out and it wasn't too cold. A very nice night here in rural Korea.

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