Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I am almost surviving...

Soup is a mainstay of the Korean diet, and it is usually served piping hot. There is a Korean expression, 시원하다 (shi-weon-ha-da), which means that something is very hot but makes you feel cool, or comfortable (Google translates the expression as "Oh that's good!"). Today during lunch I used the expression with one of my co-teachers. Another teacher made a comment at which everyone laughed - 살 것 같다 (sal geot gatda)! Mrs. Yoon said she would explain it after lunch, which I took as her tactful way of saying she was kind of embarassed by it.

Later, in the hall, she explained that exam day doesn't only mean a day of rest for me - the teachers' only responsibility during the day is to supervise the students while they take exams. Since today's exam a practice test, students don't take it very seriously (indeed, on my way to lunch I noticed about half of the students in each class fast asleep), and teachers aren't concerned about cheating. Because the teachers "can feel comfortable," says Mrs. Yoon, many of them go out drinking heavily the night before.

A hot soup is considered essential to recovery from a hangover, and, luckily for many male teachers, today that is exactly what we had (actually, there's a whole class of soups Koreans consider hangover cures - 해장국, he-jang-guk - one of which is made of blowfish and bean sprouts). The teacher's retort to my "시원하다" comment was a joke, not at my expense, but at that of all the teachers nursing a hangover today. 살 것 같다, Mrs. Yoon explained, is used when you begin to feel better; having taken the first several sips of a steaming soup after a long night of binge drinking, perhaps. It means "I am almost surviving!"

Side note: I have apparently reached 100 blog posts!

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