In the States, I was somewhat decent* at using chopsticks because, well, I frequently visited sushi restaurants. [*somewhat decent=I could successfully pick up sushi and put into mouth.]
In South Korea, I have the chopsticks skill level of a five year old. Did you know they make training chopsticks for kids? Yeah, me neither. But I guess one doesn’t come out of the womb knowing how to use them. Silly, Jamie.
Although my chopsticks skills have slightly improved over the past month, I am still quite insecure eating in front of the kids. It’s no surprise that I’m even more insecure when eating in front of my Korean co-workers. Am I even holding these correctly?! Is leaving my spoon in the soup frowned upon? Can I use my hands to eat grapes? At least in front of kids, it might be acceptable to pick up certain foods with my hands. (After all, they are just learning too!) Everything seems to be eaten either with a spoon or chopsticks (except pizza, maybe?) When we celebrated one of the student’s birthday, chicken wings were served. I couldn’t wait to eat them until I looked around and realized everyone was using chopsticks. How the hell am I going to manage this?! Eating noodles is difficult enough! But chicken wings?!?!!!!? I somehow managed to eat five.
On Monday through Friday at 12:05 p.m., I eat lunch with my students. Ages ranging between five and six years old. I sit at their size table in their size chairs.
My lunch, which is provided by the school, consists of five different things. The three things which can be found on every lunch tray: rice, soup, and some sort of kimchi. Kimchi is the national dish after all. I suppose it’s the french fries of America. (Granted, I don’t eat french fries with every meal.) Kimchi, by the way, is some fermented type of vegetable.
I enjoy eating. No, like, really enjoy it. Naturally, eating lunch at school is my favorite part of the day because it is one of the very few instances where I get to eat Korean food. Normally dinner at home is the typical pasta and burritos (we don’t have an oven) while the restaurants we dine at are geared toward the waygooks (foreigners) where we get to eat not-so-tasty-overpriced burgers. At lunch time, however, I get to try all different sorts of things. There are many instances where I haven’t the slightest idea what I am eating. Huh. This looks like a tentacle. Om, nom. But isn’t this all part of the adventure? Yes.
After eating lunch, an unusual thing occurs–everyone brushes their teeth. I read many things about Korea before moving here: kimchi, couples having matching outfits, the weather and so on. But not once did I ever read about Koreans fascination with brushing their teeth after every meal.
Jamie Teacher, why you no (motions brushing teeth)?
Errm, uh, I forgot my toothbrush! Silly Jamie Teacher.
I knew I couldn’t have the excuse of forgetting my toothbrush every day. Nor did I not want to get weird looks if I didn’t brush my teeth after lunch. The next day I brought my own toothbrush and toothpaste.
I now brush my teeth after lunch time, just like everyone else.