Napo Festival, Hosik, and Karaoke Extreme

07 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Fall Festival

I don't even know where to start describing my day of craziness. Okay, so yesterday I learn that Napo Middle School is having a festival today (Friday), and so there won't be any classes... so if I want I can stay at home. Stay home? Heck, here's a chance for me to experience the culture and demonstrate my school spirit at the same time. "No way!" I say. "I'm coming!" I don't know if it was a test, but I think I earned major points for not staying home. The festival basically went all day, and was a Spectacular Spectacular in its own right, considering there are only thirty-two students at this school--I think all but five of them are in one of the school's three bands. We had lunch, pizza break, plays, singing, elimination quiz games and more: Mr. Sam said that had they been a bigger school they would have rented out a venue.

I think I used up all of my good luck for the year, because I was the last one standing in the elimination quiz game. And they had invited me to play as a joke. Because all the questions were in Korean, and I couldn't understand a word. I roughly calculated my odds of winning afterward to be about 1 in 1000 - 10,000. I'm not kidding. Anyway, I'll stop talking now; here's the highlight reel (sadly my battery ran out towards the end and I didn't capture the best show of the day: the school's most talented and flamboyant band):


So after the festival the school faculty invites me to join them for some Hosik: "food together," in the Korean tradition. The experience was simply amazing: all the food I've had here has been good, but the duck feast that we had at this traditional Korean restaurant blew everything else away.

Okay, first of all, traditional Korean restaurants work like this: every group of diners has their own individual room in the restaurant off of a main hall, with a sliding door; you leave your shoes at the sliding door (as you always do when entering any place of dining or habitation in Korea), and then proceed to sit cross-legged on a small cushion at a very low table. The way the food works is you've got many small dishes all around the table filled with things like garlic, fresh jalapenos, green onions, sprouts, hot sauce, soybean sauce, etc. The servers then bring in huge platters of duck, prepared in an incredibly delicious hot sauce with onions, mushrooms, and other vegetables. You put these platters over burners at the table, and cook them there while you snack on peanuts and talk.Once the duck cooks you proceed to take bits of it with your chopsticks and put them in a lettuce leaf with any combination of sides you desire: usually at least a huge chunk of garlic (they cut the cloves in half and expect you to eat them that way) and some jalapeno; roll up the lettuce leaf and pop it in your mouth: it's to die for. After the duck is finished, they bring rice out and mix it with what's left of the sauce from the duck, and you then eat that (also incredibly good).

I'm sick that my camera battery died, because I really can't do the meal justice with my description. The picture below is the closest thing I was able to find on the internet; it gives you some idea of how things work, but the dishes are a bit different, the table is much smaller (we were eating with 20 people at one long table), and you've got to imagine the huge cooking duck platters for yourself.

You also drink Soju during all of this (watered down vodka, remember?), and if you really like someone you give them your Soju glass to drink from (kind of like the peace pipe or something). Anyway, after I had proven once again that I really could eat ever spicy thing in Korea (they tested me incrementally throughout the meal), the top man at the table--the Napo principal--gave me his glass, so I figure I'm in... or something.

Karaoke Extreme

Hm... so I think this is the second time in one week of being in Korea that I've said "Karaoke Extreme." Well, you don't know Karaoke until you go with your boss and all your colleagues to a Korean "Singing Room." The Koreans like to sing. I mean, they really like to sing. Once again I am thoroughly bummed that I didn't have my camera; picture the scene below, but with 15 people in business suits (and they do this all the time). I have to say, though, singing "Dancing Queen" with all my coworkers dancing and clapping around me gave me a bigger high than I expected--I passed my final test of the day with flying colors.

quiz master & dancing queen

Well, we all just read and watched today's blog. Fabulous. I get more jealous every blog. Now I want to visit your school, meet your co-workers & students. I'm wondering if they treat visiting parents (or at least fathers?) to some of the Korean Spectacular Spectacular? I am particularly interested in the eating and drinking events (my "anthropology of eating" interest).

So what were your prizes / presents for winning the quizzing? And how did you guess, if it was all in Korean? And do your students look at you with new awe, having won?

And we are anxiously awaiting news of the weekend, especially to see whether Marisa gets a cool new Korean haircut... :-)



The prizes turned out to be a fancy pen, three tubes of toothpaste, a bunch of soap, and three boxes of tissues. I guess they are encouraging good habits and hygiene among the middle schoolers :)

As far as how I guessed, your guess is as good as mine: I just went with my intuition. Just another example to support my theory that odds are nothing more than a useful tool (i.e. they help us think about reality, but don't actually correspond directly with anything in reality).

Fun fun fun

Your school festival definitely looks great---bigger productions do not mean better events. I was shocked to see so little cross-dressing in your movie... there were definitely a lot of kids in their own gender's clothing, which hardly ever happened at my festival.

So your school told you that you didn't have to come in just because there were no classes? Man, Napo really is fantastic!

Finally, don't worry about missing chance for hosik pictures: you'll get another. I get out to eat with co-teachers/staff at my schools at least once a week (a few Fridays ago I did it twice!) so just keep your camera handy and watch out for the potato cakes, they look weird but they're totally delicious.

who pays?

Oh, and when you go out for these extravaganzas, who pays? How does that work?


I have no idea. I never saw

I have no idea. I never saw anyone pay, and when we finished eating we all just got up and walked out.

I've been told that it's

I've been told that it's generally the school's money, and that they pay ahead of time when they make their reservations. (Prices are not based on the quantity you consume at meals like this---they just keep on giving you food until you stop eating.)

that's my kind of culture!

That's the kind of culture for me. All you can eat and you never have to pay?! (Or maybe they take it out of your paycheck? :-)

Actually, they do take our

Actually, they do take our school lunches out of our paychecks. (That's one reason why I think that it's a silly idea to bring your own lunch to school.) But yeah, eating out is gratis, which is really pretty nice.