Honoured Veterans? EPIK reunion says so.

14 12 2009

That was a nice weekend. 3 days in Seoul. Can’t complain about that at all.

Why did we get a bonus long weekend? Why did we spend it all in Seoul? What is this EPIK thing of which I speak? Lets go backwards.

EPIK Logo.png EPIK is the name for the “English Program in Korea”, similar to Japan’s JET program. Basically they bring foreigners in to teach english to kids within the Korean school system. Here in Korea it gets a bit confusing. While it all sounds like we work for EPIK, we don’t. EPIK acts as a kind of umbrella, bringing us in, training us then passing us out to the provinces. Once out of their hands, we have very little to do with EPIK at a national level, its all provincial. Some provinces are good, some so-so and some pretty terrible. Gangwon-Do where I am? For the most part its good. Like most things it has issues, but what place doesn’t?

Back to the weekend. Having not heard a single thing out of the national EPIK crowd in a few years, it was a surprise to get invited to a reunion for honoured teachers. Seems we’ve been here quite a while and are now classified as veterans, and national EPIK wanted to do something nice. Even nicer was finding out that the reunion was a Friday/Saturday and in Seoul, meaning a bonus long weekend.

Honestly we didn’t expect much. Usually in Korea things get done with the best of intentions but the minimal of organisation. What a surprise we had. They put us up in a reasonable hotel (sure it was a bit 1980’s but it was ok), gave us steak and wine for dinner and then took us out to see a show. The show was a comic martial arts performance called Jump. Mostly non-verbal, it was great until I got dragged on stage to be part of the performance. I’m thinking I was picked because I was sitting on the aisle and had slightly “odd” hair. Oh well, nothing can prepare you for being on stage in front of a few hundred people better than a classroom of crazy students.

We had the obligatory presentation and handshake ceremony, but this time it wasn’t for certificates but for a plaque!

EPIK Award.jpg

Very nice of them to do something like this. Shame its soooo heavy. Lugging 2 of them through Seoul was a bit of hard work 🙂

The Saturday was a small amount of formalities and then back into tourist mode. We had lunch at a fantastic traditional restaurant, then up to Seoul tower for some more touristing. Fun fun fun.

Leaving the EPIK crowd, we had Saturday afternoon and then Sunday morning shopping in Seoul, then back to Taebaek and some sleep.

Overall, really nice to see that the national EPIK people are serious. They tried really really hard to make a great weekend and succeeded. They also spent a huge amount of cash on us. Can’t complain there. Just a shame as it really contrasts the differences between our local education office who really don’t seem interested in us, and the national people who really have put in the effort.

Short version : Went to Seoul, got award, came home.

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EPIK teachers trip to YoungIn MinSeok Cheon (Korean Folk Village)

15 07 2009

I hate early mornings. I hate even more the early mornings for no good reason, and 6.20am is just evil. Still, that was the assigned time to meet all the other foreigners, pile on a bus and drive 3 hours west to the YoungIn MinSeok Cheon, or Korean Folk Village for our day trip (aka, keep the foreigners happy time).

It all began bizzarely. At 6.30am most people want sleep, or failing that, coffee. Warm beer isn’t high on my list of desirables, but it is what we were given.

Beers on the bus, at 6.30am???

While some partook, others tried catching up on sleep.

Sleepy for some

Eventually we arrived, wasted some time waiting and headed into the village which was to be our next 8 hours.

Here we have a large stone mound covered in ropes with attached paper wishes. You write your wish on the slip of paper and attach it in order for it to come true.

Making a wish

(Just a note, some of these pics are a bit ghostly. I was playing with a new super dark camera filter so that should explain everything)

These totem-poles are decorated and placed in villages to protect the villagers and prevent bad spirits etc from attacking.

Korean totem-poles

A traditional Korean game where the aim is to throw the stick (maybe 60cm long) into the metal rings. I think the centre ring is best.

Ghostly games

Next were the performances. The traditional farmers twirling dance with gongs and drums was loud but spectacular. They have ropes or ribbons attached to their heads and spin around and around.

Whirling ghostly dancers

Whirling farmers dance

Bang that Gong

Ancient break dancing?

Then on to the tight-rope walker. I didn’t get an explanation of why but it certainly looked painful, bouncing down onto your crotch and then back up again. Oouch.

Tightrope walking

Sitting down on the job?

Believe it or not, but one of the highlights was the “haunted house”. Not a very good one but more giggles than not. Besides, its not everywhere you get a severed head out the front.

Severed head?

More scary things were to come, with Jessica determined to try to scare me after I scared her, making her fall backwards (sorry Jessica).

Monsters!!!

How can any trip anywhere be complete without cats? We found 3 wild kittens sleeping in the sun. Soooo cute. I think everyone wanted to take them home.

Sleepy sleepy.

Making a pot the traditional way was also included in our day.

Pottery monster

Some however let the warm beer and festivities get to them.

Take that!

While others just did the more modern traditional Korean things, cutey photo’s

The lovely couple

Overall a great place to visit to experience old Korea, but having been there almost 3 years ago (huge hangover an all), it wasn’t worth getting up at 6am for. Still, if you are only visiting Korea, its well worth the trip.





Death of a Video Game

9 06 2009

What do you get when you have a bunch of drunk people on a beach at night?

A big fire.

What happens when these people discover a video game cabinet close by?

An even bigger fire. And sadness in the hearts of retro gamers the world over.

Awaiting its fate

It all started so innocently. A birthday party held on the beach, with grand plans of bonfires, dancing and good times.

The arcade cabinet was sourced, readied and unceremoniously dumped into the flames. Within minutes it was consumed.

Death of a Video Game

Video Arcade Cabinet, comsumed by fire

Soon all that was left was a pile of burning scrap.

The burning remains

Strangely it wasn’t long after that when the army turned up. Apparently the beaches are supposed to be under lockdown after nightfall. Something to do with North Koreans invading.

Korean army party poopers

2 scared looking soldiers rocked up and was communicated to us, non-verbally, that we couldn’t continue. Oh well. What a night.

Just a real shame to see a decent condition cabinet burned just for fun. I know what these are worth to some people, but meh, the flames must be fed, the gods sated, and the army called.