A new series here on the blog? Well, I’ll be damned. 

So, I haven’t drafted a ‘Notable Normalcies’ {the one and only other series on Rachel en Route} in quite some time. The reason being, there has been absolutely nothing normal about the last three months of my life.

That being said, I will soon settle into a routine here in South Korea. ‘Notable Normalcies’ will return {and with a new K-Beauty section, of which I know we are all excited for}.

This new series, ‘Recollections en Route’ is an entirely different concept altogether. There are so many humorous moments in my life, whilst traveling or not, that I wish I could recall years down the road. At times, I throw them into a random blog post here or there. But more often than not, they are short stories deserving of their very own 15 seconds of fame.

Not because I believe my life to be that entertaining. But because I usually forget the moments, and only recall them while sifting through old blog posts. I want a space to collect these hilarious, embarrassing, ridiculous, unforgettable moments. And I don’t want the pressure of feeling like I have to draft an entire blog post in order to include a single short story.


You can expect these short{ish} snippets of my life more frequently here on the blog. Most likely with a picture of two thrown into the mix. Again, not always beaming of high quality. And possibly not pertaining to the recollection at all.

But when I have moments {like the one I had tonight}, I want to quickly jot it down before I forget. And of course, share it with you all.

Got it? Got it.

Upon arrival to Bukdong Elementary School, I was informed that attendance was mandatory for an upcoming ‘Welcome Dinner’ to welcome new teachers to the Bukdong Elementary School family. I was told I would need to prepare a noraebang (노래방) song {the Korean version of karaoke} to sing as an initiation. Fine. I was also told I would be drinking. Even better. And finally, I was told it would be fun. Fun, they said. And it was. But it was so much more than that.

I encountered my first of many ‘Korean Surprises’ {a well known term within the ESL teacher community} tonight. And it’s nothing sexual, so stop.

First, I was brought up in front of the entire school staff {alongside the rest of the newbies}. I had absolutely no idea what the administrator was saying {as per usual}, but suddenly she handed the microphone to the first newbie. She said a bunch of words in Korean {again I caught nothing}. The microphone was passed to the next newbie. And the next. And the next. Each obviously saying something in Korean to the rest of the group. Then the microphone was handed to me. I desperately looked out into the crowd and made ‘help me’ eyes to my Korean co-teacher {my usual translator for moments like this}. He smiled cheekily.

I started with a simple ‘Annyeonghaseyo (안녕하세요)’ and the crowd erupted in applause. From there I just stared at the crowd and eventually started speaking English. I thanked the strange man that had gifted me with a rose {I hope it was for me?} and then handed the microphone to the next victim. I still have absolutely no idea what I was supposed to say. Communication is not Korea’s strong point.

Secondly, dinner itself happened. Again, I had absolutely no idea what I was consuming. But this circumstance is where I thrive {or so I thought}. I love tasting new dishes, and Korean cuisine is scrumptious. However, this time around, one of my kind, warm, harmless co-workers {or so I thought} dared me to try some kind of fish. Honestly, it looked like a beautiful slice of fresh tuna, and yet my fellow co-teachers were shaking their heads and doing their best to divert me. They failed. I was intrigued.

Gena and I

They showed me the correct way to eat it {stuff the entire thing in your mouth with some kimchi}. ‘What do I do if I don’t like it?’ I asked myself {never to them}. Stupid question in Korea. You eat it, Rachel.

I popped it in my mouth, and I kid you not, it took 4-6 minutes to chew the tiny piece of fish. And tasted rank. My {kind, warm, harmless} co-worker burst into a fit of joy upon watching me struggle to swallow. To be fair, she did supply me with a shit ton of rice wine beforehand in order to have me sip between breaths while chewing. This was the real deal. So while I lost my appetite for the remainder of the meal, I earned a few brownie points in the office. Success?

And finally, my “toast”. Prior to starting our meal, and after I already embarrassed myself in front of every staff member employed at Bukdong Elementary School, I was once again motioned to stand {alone I might add} after we all poured our drinks. The expectation placed upon me was that I would say a simple, ‘Cheers!’ and we would all drink. They were holding their glasses up, smiling, anticipating a new English word to add to their vocabulary. The job couldn’t be more clear.

And yet.

I panicked. And suddenly I started to say, ‘Hip Hip Hooray!’ which is a phrase I have never uttered in my life. Not knowing any better {other than my co-teachers who now must think I am a complete nut job}, 40 + Korean’s began chanting ‘Hip Hip Hooray!’ and clinking their glasses together before chugging their soju. This continued throughout the night every time we poured drinks.

My friends have been warned, and now know who to blame should they hear a Korean man or woman saying, ‘Hip Hip Hooray’ at a bar in Daegu. It comes as no surprise to me that my principal insisted the special education teacher drive me home tonight… Just another day in the life.

Up next: my first vlog here in South Korea!


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