This week, I had the privilege of dining as a guest at Witt dorm. A student from my journalism class invited me over to her dorm to share in the Wednesday night Korean meal. Since there is such a vast Korean population here at BFA, each of the dorms cater a Korean-style dinner once a week. The students always enjoy this special change in the menu. :)
After a long day of teaching and coaching, I piled into the “dinner van” with about 5 or 6 of the Witt girls who had stayed late after school. A 10-minute drive later, we arrived at doorstep of the dorm. I watched as the excited girls unloaded the two tubs of food from the back of the van and carried it eagerly towards the kitchen. My student was the perfect hostess, welcoming me into the dorm, taking my coat, showing me where I could leave my bag, and introducing me to all of her dorm sisters. After chatting for a few minutes in the living room, an announcement came over the loud speaker that it was time for dinner and “for all hungry girls to make their way to the dining room.”
My hostess led me into the dining area and we took a seat at one of the many tables. Since Witt used to be a hotel, there is a creative arrangement of seats and benches built right into the sides of the dining room wall. After taking a seat, my student was asked to introduce her guest to the rest of the dorm. I was greeted with cheers and loud banging on the tables—a Witt tradition used to welcome special guests.
At the conclusion of introductions, the dorm mom asked if one of the students would like to pray for the meal. My student immediately volunteered and even offered to pray in Korean. I love hearing people pray in other languages. Even though I can’t understand, it is so cool to know that God understands every word. With the guests introduced and the prayers said, it was now time to enjoy the food!
In the center of the dining room, there was a long table spread with the evening’s dinner selection. There was a huge pot of Korean white rice, two giant pans of Korean-style curry (yum!), and a large bowl of salad. At the end of the table, there was a tub of Korean pepper paste, which sort of looks like ground-up chili peppers. Normally, I would know better than to try anything that looks like ground-up chili peppers, but since my hostess insisted that I try it, I went ahead and put a dollop on the side of my plate.
About halfway through the meal, my student asked me if I was going to try the pepper paste. “Sure,” I responded somewhat tentatively, “can I just eat it plain?” She looked at me kind of funny and shook her head, “I don’t think you want to do that.” I decided to try my luck by dipping a curried potato in the paste. It was hot, but really not too hot. I have been working on building up my spice tolerance recently...so I guess my efforts must have paid off. However, I am sure that if you put a plate of traditional Korean kimchi before me, I probably wouldn’t have stood a chance.
After dinner, my student took me on a tour of the dorm. It was fun seeing the dorm from the “insider’s perspective.” It was so much more warm and inviting than from when I first visited the dorms back in August. Now that the girls have moved into Witt, there is laughter in the living room, typing in the computer room, and sounds of music in the practice rooms. There is even a tower of blankets and pillows in front of the big screen TV for Friday night movie parties.
One of my favorite parts of the tour was when my student began telling me about all the Witt traditions—like getting dropped in a bathtub of water on your birthday or lining the street and doing the “wave” to say farewell to departing guests. By just hearing these stories, I felt more connected to the culture and tradition of the dorm.
Regretfully, my visit was cut short as it was time for all dinner guests to return home. Student study hours were about to begin and these have to be kept a priority in a dorm of 24 high school students. Even though my visit wasn’t very long, I know that this will not be the last time that I spend an evening experiencing the dorm life here at BFA. :)