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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A Birthday Celebration and Going Away Party in Korea

Did someone mention a birthday celebration/going away party? Well, you've come to the right place because on the last Friday before we finished our contract, our work held a joint birthday celebration for Devante and going away party for us and two other teachers!

One of the things you'll have to get used to in hagwon (academy) life is the turnover rate of both teachers and counsellors. Of course, there are people who will always finish their signed contracts, but there are always things that come up for some which prevents them from continuing on. At our branch, I've seen various teachers and counselors come and go--it's a part of life here in Korea.

Well, since HC, ATL, Devante, and myself made it through our one year teaching stint alive and well, we were expecting a big going away party (because once I depart the entire place will crumble to the ground, hehe). So after work on Friday we all went to this Gamjatang restaurant to feast--on pig spine stew! Yep, and it was some of the most delicious and tender pig spine I've ever had (it was my first time!).

This magical dish is called Gamjatang (감자탕) and is a spicy soup that has vegetables, pork bones (the spine), hot peppers, green onions, potatoes, and other assorted veggies. These ingredients are put together and stewed for a few minutes to cook the vegetables:

Fast forward about 15 minutes or so and this is what you get--a spicy soup with cooked veggies and the some amazing pig spine ready to eat!

I'm familiar with "the other" cuts of meat out there, as my grandma makes some of the best homemade Chinese soups you'll ever taste. So I've eaten the meat off random beef and pork bones/parts, but never the meat around the spinal area of a pig. This picture shows the delicate meat that was so incredibly tasty--the meat fell right off the bone. It was like eating ribs, but in this case, pig spine:

...and here's the other side! This is the picture that will turn you off, maybe. Eating gamjatang can be a challenge because it's difficult to grip the huge bones...but if there's a will, there's a way they say...

...and that way to hold a piece like a friend chicken drumstick and just give 'er! You'll get meat stuck in your teeth so be sure to floss before you go to bed (or once in a few weeks, whatever floats your boat). Here's yours truly posing for the camera...look at that flock of hair on my head. Mom's gonna be happy to see her son with a hideous mop when he gets home I tell ya!

Hey, I told you it was Devante's birthday! Our work has been awesome with buying cakes and having a celebration whenever it was someone's birthday. These little gestures keep teachers happy and create a pleasant work atmosphere. Anyways, this cake was from this new bakery near our work, and their cakes are freakn' delicious!

So after scarfing down my pig spine (there were leftovers as some people did not eat as much and there was a lot of food) I ate my slice of cake. We sang happy birthday to Devante and then slowly let the night unwind a bit--with some pictures! Here, we have one English teacher with the thumbs up the rest of the Korean staff. Thanks for dealing with psycho mothers so I don't have to! ;)

Looky, looky...what do we have here? I smell some fresh blood! Here are a few of the new and energetic teachers that will be taking over our spots (or currently part of the "I love summer intensives because we teach for nine hours" club) once we depart Korea.

...and of course, the best for last, Gdog & Co. ballin' it up with our pig spine dinner...let's all wish Devante a big happy birthday! This was her second birthday in Korea. How you ask? We arrived in Korea a week early for the training session...so we will technically be in Korea for more than one year!

Right now, as I type this back home it is hard to believe that I'm here. But I'm happy to be home to visit and I must say I never realized how many seniors reside in Victoria--until you've left and come back. I'm off to bed, hope you enjoyed the pig spine as much as I did!


Catherine June said...

Where is your next stint?

Anonymous said...

gdog, i stumbled on your blog a couple of months back and love it! i have been considering moving to korea and teaching if you have some spare time do you mind emailing me at mleeice@gmail.com? i have a couple of questions that i think you would be able to answer....thanks eitherway! :)

Anonymous said...

awww i loved reading about your stay in S. korea! well i hope you had a super time. i'm hoping to visit korea soon and eat that country out of all their food. hahaha but anyways. quick question...where is that cake from? paris baguette? thanks!

imoet said...

I tried gamjatang once. And I LOVED it!!!! Too bad now I have a baby that we could only dine out at non-spicy restaurant. But for sure, I'd like to eat Gamjatang at least once more before I left Korea.
Oh...and Happy belated birthdat for Devante (^___^)

eliza bennet said...

Happy Birthday D!

Gdog said...

Catherine: right now, we don't know...hopefully the UAE, if not we are also considering returning to Korea!

Anonymous: I'd be happy to offer some help, but I have been very busy lately. Email me your questions at teachenglishseoul @ gmail.com to remind me! ;)

Anonymous: I forgot the name of the cake shop, but it's an independent store that opened near our work. Not one of the major cake/bakery stores.

imoet: I'm glad that I tried gamjatang before we left Korea...it was actually very good! Devante says thanks for the birthday wishes!

eliza b: Thanks! :)

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