Alright so once I got through customs I was confronted with my first real possible conundrum. I had to get on a bus, which would take me to another, more domestic airport, where I would fly to Ulsan, my home city. I just barely made the check-in time because the bus had been late. Now to add to the growing anxiety of being late for a plane in a country where I do not speak the language, the security officers found scissors in one of my carry-ons. Unknowingly I had left them in my computer bag. Even with the wonderfully intricate security of the infallible TSA I was now in a foreign country seemingly trying to smuggle a weapon on a plane. Fortunately, the security officer was nice to this stupid foreigner and let me continue on, as long as I relinquish the scissors on the spot.
The rest of the trip to Ulsan was relatively uneventful, until dinner. I arrived in Ulsan on time and met the Principle of my new school. She took me to the school and showed me around and I was able to met all of the teachers there. Now onto the more interesting story, Dinner. Dinner or at least when you go out to eat, is fraught by seeming simple cultural intricacies. However, the are far from simple. First, no one orders their own meal, the group decides what main course they want and then order. Usually, the eldest or the one with the highest social standing will order. Now, my first cultural faux pas was pouring my own drink. Drinks are always poured by the one with the lowest social standing which apparently was not me. The mistake was explained to me and then my drink was poured for me for the rest of the night.
When the food arrived, it is placed on the table buffet style and one can partake in what ever the please. The principle had taken the rest of the teachers and myself out for dinner to celebrate my first night in Korea so I was the honored guest and had every food thrust upon me with the phrase "hear try this." To my coworkers shock I was not bothered by the spiciness of the food or the necessity of using chop sticks. Dinner consisted of a lot of meats, mainly pork, and vegetables, heavy on the spices. My chop stick skills were praised by the entire table and then came the oddest question.
One of the teachers asked me what my Blood Type was. I was taken aback and asked why did she want to know. She then proceeded to tell me that the entire table had taken a bet on what blood type I had. Now for a few minutes earlier all the teachers were talking in Korean and looking at me, it is my assumption that they were negotiating the bet. I decided to play along and figure out this new custom and professed that I'm B+. One teacher cursed and one teacher cheered. Once she was paid, I asked them to explain this. In Korean culture your blood type can be linked to your personality. To my dismay the stereotype for B+ is that they are "players" as described by the principle. However, she was very diplomatic in explaining that it is merely a betting game now and no stock was placed in the outcome. The night was topped off by a barrage of questions about North Carolina and the States.
More to come . . .