Hold Back the Tears (but Pour the Soju)
by Rachel Lynn, Greenheart Travel Teacher in South Korea
Korean dinning and drinking is something I’m really going to miss when I go back to America. Surely I can find a place to grub on some Korean and without a doubt I will be drinking with my friends and family at home. However, it’s the WAY it’s done in Korea that I really love and it’s experiencing it with Korean people that I sincerely enjoy. Going out to a traditional Korean dinner and being the only foreigner there is a pretty special experience. Everyone wants to teach you something, whether it’s how to hold a shot glass when accepting soju from your elders, or how to wrap your galbi with radish peels. There is a way to eat everything and there is a way to accept and pour drinks.
As I sat at my table, surrounded by the people who have become my coworkers and friends over the past year, a sense of fondness and appreciation overwhelmed me. I brought myself to Korea but these people brought Korean culture to me. In that moment, I felt as though I was having an out of body experience. I saw everything going on around me, but the only thing I could hear were my thoughts. I looked around at everyone smiling and clanking their glasses while the green bottle got passed from person to person. Sadness crept into my lungs. I thought back to my first staff dinner and remembered this exact moment being one of my first big cultural experiences only 12 short months ago. “I am so lucky,” I thought to myself, and I meant it. I have been truly blessed to have been able to be a part of this culture, and what a wonderfully rich culture it is. I am so proud to have spent one year here. As my thoughts enveloped me, I masked my sadness, held tight to my appreciation, brought myself back into the moment, and shared another shot with my friends at the table.