Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Juwangsan National Park with the Andeok Teachers

Today was just like yesterday. The Andeok students had their midterm exams, so both the students and the teachers could take an early leave after lunch. However, this glorious day, all of us Andeok teachers would set forth towards Juwangsan National Park to hike around the splendiferous Cheongsong mountains.

When I entered the teacher’s lounge this morning, all of the teachers were decked out in sweatpants, plaid-patterned clothing, and North Face gear. I guess my work clothes – my grey dress pants, crimson dress shirt, and black high-heeled shoes – weren’t appropriate for the workplace today. I quickly got permission during my break to sprint home and change into some more suitable clothes.

The 2:00pm ‘the period is over!’ tune rang throughout the bare hallways. The energy-drained students suddenly shot out of their classrooms with enough adrenaline to revive the dead. It was the implicit signal for the Andeok teachers - it was time to leave.

All of the teachers split into five organized groups to carpool. Of course, organized meaning ‘according to age’. I was put into the young female teachers’ car, and we headed out to Cheongsong. The following forty-five minutes were wholly filled with questions about Ken, school gossip, and a short teachers’ English lesson.

Once we arrived at the park, the male and female teachers immediately split up. The male teachers set off before the female teachers, speed-walking on one of the dirt paths. Within a few minutes, they were out of sight.

Us female teachers, however, took a much slower, snail-paced approach to our “hike”, stopping to take over a hundred photos of us posing in modelesque lines with hands over our hips (I guess the stereotype of Asian tourists taking a billion photos is partly true :)). I felt like I was thirteen, giddily laughing and making jokes with the other teachers. Candids were extremely popular, as three-quarters of the photos had us talking in mid-sentence, curled over laughing, or making some ridiculous juvenile face.


At the third waterfall (there are three of them), we finally met up with the brawny male teachers. The Vice Principal, alongside the Principal, and other male teachers at his side, were relaxing on the lookout of the third waterfall. It had rained the day before, and the water wasn’t trickling this time around, but it was gushing crystalline water over the small edge of the mossy rocky cliff.

Once we took a fair amount of teacher photos, the male teachers decided that it was time to eat dinner. Dynamic Korea…I had only learned right then of the dinner, and had to call Ken to tell him to fend for supper all by himself (thank-goodness he’s an excellent cook :)).


(At the restaurant)

We arrived at one of Cheongsong’s famous restaurants, where the food was made with the natural mineral spring water pumped from the mountain scenically backdropping it. The teachers and I exited the car and hungrily went into the restaurant. I apprehensively entered the dining room…unsure of how much soju awaited me… Right away, the Vice Principal handed me a glass and said, “You must be thirsty! Take this, and be refreshed!”

I didn’t drink it right away, because all of a sudden, the room became eerily silent. All of the teachers were looking at me as if I was just offered poison, and the Vice Principal had a sly smile on his face. Oh well…bottoms up.

What went in my mouth tasted like liquid iron. “Mmmm….” I said, trying to sound like I enjoyed it. The Vice Principal laughed huskily and then, all of the teachers laughed furiously. This must’ve been a precontrived joke he had set up. Young-hee (my co-teacher) said, “You know, even though he is the Vice Principal, you don’t have to do everything he says.

Turns out that the unknown tonic I had voluntarily drunk was the mineral spring water that was so famous around here, claimed to be ‘good for your health’. I think I’ll pass next time.

Before we received our first bit of food, the Vice Principal and other male teachers, once again, offered me soju. I guess my composure while drinking gave them a challenge, so they kept on pouring the clear, vile liquid.

What we had next was spectacular. It was another of Cheongsong’s famous foods, which was a plate of little pieces of chicken, fried in a spiced, red-hot glaze that was so delicious. We ate that with the numerous side dishes, sesame leaves, and leaves of lettuce. What came after that was, again, another of Cheongsong’s favourites. The ginseng-chicken stew. It was glutenous white rice and dried jujubes, stuffed into a chicken and cooked into a broth with vegetables and ginger. Quite amazing, but I was stuffed, and so were the other teachers.


Again, I rode in the car, designated, ‘the young teachers’ car’. It was pretty dark…almost like a midnight dark, and our driver, a young teacher herself, sped around the roads wrapping the mountains, only turning on her headlights seconds before turning a corner. I feared for my life amidst the cheerful talk and laughter given off by the teachers. My fear evolved into terror after hearing, “Hey, she’s doing pretty well after only two months with her license!”

I arrived safely home, making sure to double-check that all my body parts were intact. Despite drinking down metal, and almost being killed on the road, it was simply another divine experience with the Andeok teachers.

- Jess


  1. I don't know if I want to hear any more about you and Ken in vehicles with these drivers! The food sounds quite interesting though.

  2. Wow I think I have a similar story to that! It was really nice of them to let you go home and change! Sam Gae Tang (chicken soup) is amazing! So is the Chicken Bulgogi! There really is no dull moment when it comes to school! I love reading your guy's blog. It makes me laugh cause I went through some of the same thing! Have fun with Dynamic Korea!