Today I was taken out to lunch by the Principle (and a few other distinguished guests) for a very *different* kind of meal. In the car on the way to the restaurant, I turned to one of my Korean co-workers and asked her what kind of food we would be eating. She turned to me and said what I thought was "Which do you prefer, chicken soup or duck?" to which I answered, "Both!". She looked rather surprised, but I thought nothing of it.
Off we drove and arrived at the entrance of a rather large, and very busy restaurant. While waiting for a table to open up, I asked my close sister ("sister" being the special name given to close female friends that are older than yourself) and asked her what we would be dining on. She said in a very quiet voice, "Dock"..."dock?", I looked questioningly at her, "No, dug"...still not quiet sure if I was hearing correctly, I asked one more time. And the answer I got back made my heart sink...we were at a 'dog' restaurant, and the 'dock' and 'dug' was in fact not duck, but rather the much larger and fluffy variety of mammal, namely canine.
Upon my realization, I was quickly informed that I had a choice, I could choose to eat Samgyeoptal (chicken soup) if I preferred, which of course, I politely informed the waiter, I would indeed prefer.
The biggest worry I had here was not whether I would be able to eat this new kind of meat, but rather, would it be a huge *train~smash* if I said no to the specialty of this restaurant that my Principle had chosen to take me to. Here is where all my previous bombardments of false cultural information came into play. Before arriving on Korean soil, I had been told by numerable (now unreliable) sources, that you NEVER EVER say no to your Principle. This was likened to social suicide, and so I was very careful about my choice of words when choosing chicken over dog. But this is where I was most pleasantly surprised....The ground did not open and swallow me whole, the Principle did not turn into a man (woman) eating dragon, and I was not made an outcast for the rest of the meal. In fact, no one said anything that made me feel even in the slightest uncomfortable. For the first time since being in Korea, I wasn't terrified of my Principle, I felt a bond forming between us, a bond of understanding. Being a foreigner in Korea is not easy. It's not easy for the foreigner themselves, and it's certainly not easy for the Koreans either. But it is a reality. As soon as we realize that at the end of the end of the day we are both human beings, (yes we come from different cultural backgrounds and hence have different likes and dislikes) but we have more similarities than differences.
Now i just have to get her to approve my 2 days of unpaid leave I hope to take next week :)
Food for Thought:
Again, Before arriving in Korea, everyone had bombarded FarmBoy and I with stories of how we would be eating puppies, and dogs for every meal. We have been in Korea for 6 months already, and this was the first mention of an actual dog restaurant, and the first time I (or my friends) had actually come close to real dog meat. I think it is a common misconception that Korea's traditional food is dog, it;s not. In fact, lots of Koreans don't actually like it. It is a very expensive delicacy, a bit like Ostrich in South Africa, or frog's legs in France. Who are we to judge what animals should and shouldn't be eaten, ( yes I realize this is a highly controversial topic, after all I can't really imagine eating my poor Xena~below~but for Indian people, they could not imagine eating beef, their cows are sacred)