Thursday, 11 February 2010

Welcome to Korea!


Jess and I would like to give a warm welcome to all of the new Guest English Teachers who will be arriving from all corners of the globe next week. Good luck with your orientation!

Remember, if you travel with an open mind, a positive attitude, and a little spontaneity, adventure will find you…

Now for the bad news…

A few weeks ago, Jess and I were asked by the Gyeongbuk EPIK Coordinator for the Provincial Office of Education to act as ambassadors. We were to help escort you from Jeonju University to the designated meeting point to be paired with your co-teachers. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to help out in this regard as we will be out of the country during that time.

Now back to good news…

Did I say out of the country? Oh ya, I forgot to tell you…


Our trip is booked from February 14th – 26th, so please come back and visit for all of our exciting updates when we get back!

See you in a few weeks!

With lots and lots of love,

- Ken & Jess


I woke up this morning to the second snowstorm of the year. Memories of the last snowstorm (refer to “My Painful First Day of English Camp” on Jan 4th 2010) flashed through my mind as a shiver rippled down my spine…

Mrs. Jeon called and told me that I didn’t have to come to school. She was well aware of the dangerous conditions in the mountains, potential bus cancellations (again), and severe cold.

I have to admit, the first thing that went through my mind was, “YESSSSSSS!!!”

I couldn’t remember the last time I had a snow day, and considering I had just survived five weeks of English camps, I deserved the break. But my excitement was short lived...

Somewhere in a tiny corner of my mind, I heard a voice tell me, “But Ken! It’s your students’ graduation today. You promised them you’d be there…”

Damn promises…

So I donned my long underwear, dress pants, dress shirt, and tie, and headed out into the white abyss.

The trip to school was slow, but safe (the first of its kind in six months). The ceremony itself lasted a mere thirty minutes, and almost all of my twenty-three middle school students received awards of some kind (the presentations were in Korean, so I wasn’t able to understand what they were for). Mrs. Jeon informed me that they had far surpassed the provincial academic average for English class (the average for Gyeongsangbuk was 80.5%, and my students scored an average of 96.7%!), and that the Principal was highly pleased with their performance. I beamed with pride as I stared at them lined up in the front of the auditorium, preparing for their next big adventure in life (the dreaded “HIGH SCHOOL”)…

Once the ceremony was done, I had the chance to meet their parents, take a few pictures, and shake some hands before they were all whisked away by their homeroom teachers. Everyone left the auditorium, jumped into their cars, and disappeared into the mountains…

- Ken

"About Page" Update...

The "About Page" has been updated with Facebook "badges" for contact information and access to our photo albums.

- Ken & Jess

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Ulleungdo…Not Quite


This weekend, Ken and I had planned a visit to the island of Ulleungdo, just off the east coast of Pohang city. Alongside Corey and Ilana (the Andong English teachers), we were going to spend Friday night meandering about on the beach, venturing out the next morning, to the infamous island.


After stuffing ourselves with a full seafood buffet (at our favourite restaurant beside the Pohang Bus Terminal), we headed straight for the coast, looking for a motel where we could waste the night away. Our taxi driver insisted that Pohang’s reasonably-priced, coast-side motels were the best in all of Korea. Having over twenty motels to choose from – lined up along the coast – we took a stab at the one closest to the water, presenting a glorious view of the morning sunrise.

Believe it or not, we couldn’t have picked a better motel. Spacious rooms, equipped with a glass-paneled indoor balcony, we found ourselves, minutes later, gazing out into the vast black darkness of the sea. We couldn’t wait to see Nature’s glowing sunrise the next morning.



Waking up at seven-o’-clock in the morning (too early for the weekend), we all stood on our balconies, admiring Pohang’s magnificent sunrise spilling across its mountains and sea. It was the perfect start to our day…

Making sure to be at the ferry on time, we quickly split from our motel and set off towards the harbour.


We were antsy waiting in the main building to purchase our ferry tickets, but our excitement quickly waned after we saw what our wallets were in for. Regular class was a whopping $140 round trip – for one person. That meant that, for the four of us – Ken, Corey, Ilana, and I – we would be settling for a $560 boat ride to Ulleungdo (before having any actual fun on the island). It wasn’t the 24-hour trip we had imagined.

After a moment of careful deliberation, we kindly returned our tickets for a full refund and walked towards the inner city to settle our starved stomachs.


The highlight for this day turned out to be much more memorable than we had expected. After showing Ilana and Corey around the Jukdo Market and downtown area (shinae), we searched for more Pohang excursions on the internet in a PC bang (our first experience in one).

Without any luck, we taxied to the outskirts of Pohang and looked for a mountain to hike. We arrived at small hill riddled with thousands of bits of garbage. Unsatisfied, we took the driver’s suggestion to head back downtown to the Tapsan Mountain which was walking distance from the downtown district. We endured the driver’s abrupt-break-release-break-release-break-release driving for ten more minutes before arriving at our final destination.

At the base of the mountain, there was a small building, which we assumed was an information center. Going inside to investigate (well…to have a drink of water), we found that the building was actually a memorial museum dedicated to the 1950 Korean War. Pohang was the last stand against North Korean soldiers invading southwards into South Korea, where many brave high school students volunteered to fight alongside their South Korean brothers.

A quaint but historic gem in Pohang, we were amazed to be in the city that was once a battleground for Korean soldiers only sixty years ago. Photos and detailed models decorated the museum’s walls, as well as cases that held real samples of the monstrous guns that were used during the war.

As we were slowly exiting the exhibition, we were greeted by the museum’s curious curator. Clearly, many foreigners hadn’t stumbled upon this place, and he was quite excited that we had made a presence in his museum. He quickly ushered us into his office and began showing us prized photos of him with American and Korean generals. A tall, but weathered man, he still had an exuberant proud light emanating from his speech and stance.

After we signed and dated his guestbook, he gestured us towards the showroom’s main entrance. Along the main wall, there were large portrait photos of the volunteer male high school students who had fought North Korean soldiers atop of their own school’s soil. The curator pointed towards one particular photo and told us that it was his picture. He was one of the volunteers who had fought in Pohang and had even received a Purple Heart after taking a bullet through his pelvis during the fight. We were honoured to have met him. He was a walking and talking memory of the Korean War.


Climbing further up the mountain, we managed to make it to the top, where there was a tall stone marker engraved in Old Korean. The view was sensational, for we could see a 360-degree view of all of Pohang, its waters and the epic steel factory, Posco.

I think that we should just leave our trips unplanned. Who knows what we’ll encounter next weekend…

- Jess

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Adventure Map for KenandJess2go (version 2)

*Added "Yeongdeok" and "Yeongyang"!

[caption id="attachment_706" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Adventure Map for KenandJess2go (version 2)"][/caption]


Today, I fell in love (again)... Her name is Yeongdeok, and her specialty is snow crab.

After my classes were over, Mr. Young offered to drive Jess and I out for lunch in a small coastal city we’ve heard of, but not yet had the chance to visit. We gladly accepted, and took off on a forty-five minute road trip to the coast. Were we in for a treat…

A lot of people ask me about my favourite places in Korea. Well, this one has earned its place at the top of my chart. Let me explain why.

1) Yeongdeok is in a prime location for travel in Korea. It’s connected to several major highways; therefore every corner of Korea is easily accessible from here.
2) It’s the perfect size. It’s definitely not a village like our own, but it’s also not a metropolis. It has a “small town” feel, with some of the comforts of a major city (grocery stores, bars, shopping, entertainment etc…).
3) It’s absolutely beautiful.
4) Their local specialty is crab. I love crab.

We arrived at a restaurant that Mr. Young has been to before with his wife (it’s apparently the best crab restaurant in the area). A very friendly old woman greeted us at the entrance and escorted us to our private dining room on the far end of the restaurant. My jaw almost hit the floor as I walked inside. I’m no Shakespeare, but I’ll try my best to do the scene justice…

The first thing that I noticed was the far wall (or lack there-of). In its place was a huge window, overlooking the East Sea as if it were an animated painting. Huge waves crashed into the rocks below, and in the distance, several fishing ships dotted the horizon. On one side of the restaurant was a small fishing port with old buoys, nets, and rusted barrels strewn all over the ground. On the other side was a picturesque wave barrier and a couple of fisherman braving the cold ocean spray at the end of a jetty. This was the first of two moments that day in which my breath was taken from me...

We sat down, and the waitress immediately entered the room with three giant snow crabs on a platter. She proceeded to cut them up for us (so that we could eat them without making a mess) as another waitress served us our many side dishes (seaweed, mussels, clams, salad, kimchi, sardines, peppers, radishes, and eggs) and a nice glass of pumpkin soup.

After we had finished with the crab legs, all of the shells were quickly whisked away, and in their place were three “bowls” of greenish-coloured mixed rice. The “bowls” were the giant crab heads, and the mixed rice contained a variety of spices, vegetables, and all of the crab innards (the “guts” as you may say). Needless to say, we feasted like royalty.

Mr. Young has extended his generosity to Jessica and I on countless occasions. He’s constantly trying to spark up conversations, he’s always in a happy mood, and he doesn’t hesitate to go out of his way to show Jessica and I something (or somewhere) new to expand our “repertoire” of Korean experiences. Clearly, lunch was on me. Well, this was the second moment that day in which my breath was taken from me…

At the cash register, I misunderstood the lady regarding the cost of our meal. I initially heard $46, which was quite the bargain considering what we had eaten.

Sadly, I was wrong. The total cost of our little lunch date: $146.


Mr. Young (and his son “Little Ben”) were very thankful for the meal, and decided that we should take a quick walk down to the crab museum to digest.

The museum was small, but like everything else in the town, still very pleasant. There were a lot of little models depicting fishing techniques, some historic pictures of what the town looked like before/after the Korean War, and some interactive displays (which Little Ben took a liking to).

After our museum tour, we walked along the coast to take some pictures as the sun set in the distance. At the end of our walk, we took a quick trip to the famous crab market for some “window shopping”.

I’ve never seen so many crabs in my life. There were hundreds of tanks filled with thousands of crabs from all over the world. The most popular were from South Korea, North Korea, Russia, and Japan, but if you wanted crab from somewhere else, this was certainly the best place to find it. We zigzagged our way through the market under constant assault from the stand-owners to buy their crabs (which were all deemed as “the best in South Korea”).

It didn’t take very long before the assault completely tired us out. We decided to call it a night, and headed back home.

- Ken