For any of you that read this blog regularly you’ll know that there is never a dull moment in my life in Korea. This week, yet again, has so far proved to be eventful…and it’s only Tuesday!! So yesterday evening my boss came bursting into the staff room and asked me and my colleagues if we would like to have a free traditional Korean meal in return for starring in a Korean TV programme. Of course we agreed immediately, without knowing any further details! Who are we to turn down a free meal.
An hour later we were informed it would be filmed the following evening in a 5 star restaurant in Incheon and that ideally they wanted 7 other foreigners to join us. Within an hour I had rounded up 7 friends who also work as English teachers in Paju, and we were all excited about our mini adventure the following evening.
Now, having just returned from Incheon minutes ago, I shall fill you in on what it’s like to be a “real life” actor! We all gathered outside my school at 8pm, and after some last-minute panic about not having a Korean translator with us, my boss managed to persuade 3 of my higher level students to join us. The fact that they would not have to attend their maths class that evening, would have an excuse not to do their homework, and would potentially get home after midnight was enough incentive for them to be our translators for the night!
After a 40 minute ride to Incheon we arrived at the restaurant and I must say we were all VERY impressed at the sight of it. It looked more like a traditional Korean temple than a restaurant and we were all very excited to go inside. We were greeted by lots of traditionally dressed servers and from the MINUTE we entered the restaurant, the cameras were pointed at us, the fake smiles were put on standby and nervous laughter filled the air. This was a first for everyone and we really had no idea what was going on!!
We were led upstairs into a really beautiful traditional Honuk building where we were seated on the floor around beautifully laid tables of 4. Within minutes plate after plate of carefully prepared dishes arrived ranging from salads, spicy vegetable appetizers to whole fried fish, steak, grilled galbi meat, raw fish salad, seafood soup, noodles, flavoured rice, sweet rice cakes, and everything in between. It was a meal fit for royalty and as we were all starving we tucked in without delay. As we picked at and tried out all the various delicious spread out before us, a staff member approached us and put beautiful wooden necklaces around our necks as a “welcome gift”.
There wasn’t much time for relaxing though because soon we had an oversized camera shoved in our face, as the producer asked us to perform various tasks in front of the camera including; eat large chunks of meat and telling him how delicious it was; picking up over-sized portions of noodles with our chopsticks and making various sounds conveying pleasure; laughing and smiling at each other like we were having the time of our lives and repeatedly saying how delicious the food was and beautiful the restaurant was!
He interviewed each of us individually asking what we thought of the restaurant, what we thought of the staff, if we liked the food, what was our favourite dish and much MUCH more…all of which had to be translated by our poor students as the producer didn’t speak a word of English!
The food really was some of the tastiest traditional Korean food I have ever tasted and I was proud of myself for trying everything even though I would not normally go near fish or seafood soup. We even tried dishes that were totally new to us and were oblivious to what on earth was inside them.
Once the meal was over we were ushered downstairs where the group was dressed up in traditional Korean Hanbok, asked to parade around in a mini fashion show, while the producer recorded us taking pictures of each other, laughing hysterically, jumping and prancing around like idiots and again saying how wonderful the experience was and how we LOVED Korea so much. Don’t get me wrong…it was an amazing experience but it was SO tiring having to keep repeating things for the camera and to keep a smile on our faces for over 2 hours!
It really was one of the most bizarre Tuesday nights I have had in quite some time. The TV programme will be aired on KBS at 6pm this Friday, and I personally am going to be mortified to see my face on camera. Oh well, no regrets eh?!