Let me set the scene for you: Friday, 20 minutes before quitting time. I had plans for dinner. In fact, I had plans for the entire weekend set to commence in 20 minutes. My head co-teacher interrupted my looking busy:
HC-T: [Korean mispronunciation of my name], can you play table tennis?
Me: [Appearing to think carefully] Maybe. I haven't played for 15 years.
HC-T: Can you try? There is a tournament. Many teachers are playing. We should go there now.
And so began my participation in the school's ping-pong tournament. The twenty-odd participants were divided into three teams further subdivided into pairs for doubles. This was all conducted in Korean and I haven't a clue how it worked. I was paired with Stealth Korean, probably because we're the same age and she boasts the best English. (In Korea people of disparate ages can't be friends, so it would've been weird to pair me and a middle-aged teacher.)
While waiting for my chance to shine, I solicited some details from Stealth Korean. She told me the school does this sort of thing twice yearly. Each member of the winning team is awarded a small cash prize, allocated by the school budget for this purpose.
The competition was tame; only two of the twenty-odd participants displayed any skill or grace at the table. Neither Stealth Korean nor I was one of these. We were terrible. Towards the end I thought it was going well and, unable to follow the score-tallying in Korean, asked Stealth Korean if we were winning. She told me we were losing. Badly.
The school cafeteria hosted a sort of banquet after the tourney, serving fried chicken, Chinese fried chicken, green pepper japchae, mandu and jokbal (pig's hooves). I know what you're thinking: isn't jokbal drinking food? Indeed! The school also provided beer and soju! I didn't stick around to see how far into drunkenness the staff descended but I did try some jokbal, which is kind of revolting. Imagine a pig's hoof, with all the skin still on it, steamed/boiled or whatever until said skin is all rubbery. I will say, in its defense, that it at least has the decency to taste like nothing. A science teacher sitting across the table from me said jokbal contains lots of collagen and would therefore be good for my skin. Right, by the same mechanism that enables bald men to regrow hair by eating a bucket of it.