Worthwhile or Wasted?
I am writing to you, fresh off the bus from the Avalon School annual weekend workshop. I'm going to salvage what I can of the 21 hours I have left before I have to go into work tomorrow. Basically I'm going to lay in bed and watch movies.
This weekend I see-sawed between having a lot of fun and mourning my lost weekend. I knew that this retreat/ convention thing was coming up. It was written into my contract that I specifically had to attend this thing, and I've been dreading it ever since I came to this land. The thing is I'm not a retreat sort of guy. I think I would rather chew glass than role play and present in front of a group. Plus a weekend was sucked up by this thing. That's just torture.
So at the beginning of this shindig we had to listen to six hours of presentations. This is not what I would normally plan to do on a weekend. One presentation was on speaking tests, which we do with the kids every month, and we watched an hour of the kids performing the speaking tests on video. I have done so many speaking tests that I'm sick of them, but to drag me away on a Saturday and make me watch recorded speaking tests, that's a human rights abuse. Wait till the U.N. hears about this.
Just when I had written this event off as pure suck, we had dinner on the soccer field. It was kalbi (grill boneless pork ribs), all the side dishes with beer and soju for desert. I'll give the Koreans one thing, they know how to party. There was a bonfire and a big stage where karaoke took place. I spent my time wandering from soju toast to soju toast until it seemed like a good idea to grace these Koreans with my natural singing ability. Yes, I was that drunk. A couple of us requested Bohemian Rhapsody to karaoke to; however, the Korean karaoke Nazi shot down most of the waygooks karaoke songs and only allowed the natives to sign. As annoying as this may be I should probably write the guy and thank him for saving me from a what could have been a socially scarring event.
Morning exercises were slated for six a.m. What sort of cruel race provides liquor and beer for people and then schedules mandatory exercises for six in the morning? Luckily the Koreans were not as hardcore as I thought they might be and scrapped the sun-rise callesthetics as they felt the repercussions of the previous night's festivities as much as the waygooks did.
The challenge course was scheduled for the later part of the morning, and despite not feeling tip-top, I was excited to run around and do some outdoor activities. I should have curbed my enthusiasm. An hour and a half was eaten up by alternately standing up, sitting down (mostly sitting down), clapping and chanting to different speakers. The only problem is they all spoke in Korean. Now I know I'm in Korea, but Avalon is a big chain of English schools. Can't we speak in English. The guy could be telling us the meaning of life, but when you have the equivalent foreign language ability of a two year old (and a very dumb two year old at that) it doesn't really matter what he says. Once again I was pissed that I was wasting my weekend.
We finally got to the obstacle course, where upon we listened to the obstacle instructors shout more Korean at us. We performed some nominal tasks and then scurried off to the next community bonding experience. Funny thing though, once we started doing the obstacle course, I actually had some fun. We joked around, displayed team spirit and generally took everything in good stride. We moved onto the ropes challenge course, a high flying playground that's supposed to display one's ability to make an ass out of themselves. Undeniably the image that will be forever imprinted in my mind from this weekend is coworker Nick, suspended by ropes in midair above a bunch of the Koreans, with his harness tightly strapped around his pelvic area in a manner that accentuated his gonads, with him yelling, "Camel toe! Camel toe!" It's an image that makes me laugh and will haunt my nightmares for years.
At the end prizes were given out for the different campuses that performed the best at the workshop. I don't really know who won (once again the ceremony was in Korean) except that the bus drivers took second. Talk about crashing the party. The night before they were definitely the drunkest out of the drunk. I remember them stumbling over each other, leading one another by the hand from soju toast to soju toast. I had never seen these guys before and then they come out and grab second? That's great; honestly, it is.
And just when I thought I was having a good time, the bus (that took an hour and a half on arrival) took four hours to get back on account of the traffic. Really, retreats are like most things in life- you get what you put into them. At first I was really upset that I had to give up my weekend, but I'll be damned if I didn't meet a lot of new people, made some new friends and had a couple of laughs. However, what's the best thing about the Avalon retreat? The fact that it's over.