Two Ways to Enjoy Eating

I sometimes try to connect the photos in a post in some way. Sometimes it’s a stretch. These two photos are from a walk downtown earlier in the month.

Mom’s Touch menu and delivery scooter, downtown Gangneung.

When Mom’s Touch first opened up, I’m sure I read that they were somehow affiliated with Popeye’s Chicken. They had Cajun fries, fried chicken, and chicken sandwiches. Maybe I dreamed that? I didn’t see any mention of it on their website when I checked yesterday. Maybe someone said “Mom’s Touch is the Popeye’s of Korea.” It’s a common phrase here. “Ahn Cheolsu is the Bill Gates of Korea”, “Mureung Valley is the Grand Canyon of Korea” (it’s lovely, but they are completely different), “Lee Jeonghyeon is the Lady Gaga of Korea”, and so on. Another delivery scooter, by the way. You’re welcome.

CU convenience store patio, downtown Gangneung.

This is a non-smoking street and there are no-smoking signs up outside the convenience store, but as sure as there’s shit in a cat, some arsehole will show up to have a fag just as soon as you sit down to enjoy a tin of coffee or something. However, when there are no smokers about, the patio of the convenience store is a decent place to take a rest while out making photos.

Emart 24

Emart convenience store, Wolhwa Park

Emart 24 is not open twenty-four hours a day. Emart 24 is the convenience store version of the hypermart Emart, which is owned by Shinsegye Department Stores. Shinsegye is owned by the daughter of Samsung’s founder. She is the younger sister of the president of Samsung Electronics. All in the family, what?

Stay Here

Or else . . . ?

The name would suggest this is a hotel, but it’s a coffee shop that’s just opened next to Wolhwa Park in downtown Gangneung. I made this photo before the interior was completely finished, which is why the curtains are drawn. The sign, the curtains, and the colour of the wall reminds me of something you might see in a Fred Herzog photo of 1960s’ Vancouver.

Gate and Window

Red Gate in Alley, Gangneung
Shinyeong Cinema, Gangneung

I was fortunate enough to pass the red gate at a time of day when the two lions’ heads were framed neatly in sunlight. There was an element of luck in the second photo as well. The open window makes the photo and it’s probably not open all the time.


Cars are expensive and it’s difficult to get around the crowded areas of the city. And parking is a nightmare everywhere. So many people who need to be mobile for their work use scooters. The most common models by Daerim have automatic transmissions, are cheap to run, only weigh 100 kilogrammes, and you don’t need a special motorcycle license to drive them. Parking bad? Park on the sidewalk! Roads congested? Drive on the sidewalk! The postmen do! If you’ve got a bit of extra money and you like colours other than red, you could buy a Honda Super Cub, which comes in a number of different colours. And looks cool.

Most restaurant delivery is done with these scooters. Lotteria is a Korean/Japanese version of McDonalds and they have home delivery service. So does McDonalds, if you order quite a lot of food.
This scooter was parked under the outdoor stairwell of Shinyeong Cinema.
Honda Super Cub with a delivery box on the back. Parked in a bus lane pointing the wrong way.

Every now and then the police put up banners around the city saying that they are going to crack down on scooter traffic violations. But the banners must take up their whole scooter-busting budget because you never see anyone pulled over and the scooters drive where they like as normal. Maybe the police need scooters to chase these guys down . . . .

Drying Bamboo Mats

Downtown Gangneung

I think these drying mats were in the same alley as yesterday’s bicycle, but at the entrance. They look like placemats, but Koreans don’t usually use placemats. Maybe they are blinds, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to hang them up in a window. Whatever they are, I was glad to notice them and their shadows.

Bicycle in Chains

Downtown Gangneung

Gangneung’s Department of Tourism puts up a pretty colourful and neat front at tourism sites (though there is no defeating the litterers and smokers), but if you slip between newly renovated shop fronts into the alleys you will find grey pavement, miserable walls, unpainted breeze block, and spillover from private yards. But the things that make the alleys depressing for the casual passerby can provide interesting subjects for the photographer tired of photo-zones and coffee shops.

Construction Site

Outside Lotte Cinema Construction Site

Empty jugs like these can be found on the sides of streets all over the country. People use them to reserve parking spaces for themselves when they are away. I would like to collect some to put on the sidewalks of my apartment complex. Maybe it will stop people from parking on them.

Classrooms, 1995

I came to Korea in the spring of 1995 to try my hand at teaching EFL for a year. I had no teaching qualifications and no teaching experience except for a semester at university of helping a Malaysian engineering student with culture and language questions. He failed out of university the next semester, but I don’t think that was anything to do with me . . . .

I can still remember my first English class at the English language institute in Daegu that hired me. I helped a group of very young students with their pronunciation of the ABCs and a few simple phrases. It wasn’t much, but helping people develop a skill gave me a sense of accomplishment. Not all of my classes were as successful, of course. I taught an adult class for a month and none of them signed up for the next session. I was still very shy and reserved around people I didn’t know at the time. Not much good in a conversation classroom. I was much better at teaching primary school children because it was a performance of sorts and I could clown around with them. I became better at teaching adults later, but it took a few months to overcome my timidity.

I don’t know if the following photos were all made on the same day or if I brought the camera to school a number of times. I didn’t make many photos at that time in my life. I usually only brought the camera somewhere when I thought that something should be preserved for future memories. So it’s possible I made these photos near the end of my first year teaching.

Even though it’s been twenty-five(!) years since I’ve seen them, I remember a few names and their characters. The handsome boy in front was called Paul. Doesn’t sound very Korean, does it? The institute insisted that we give all new students English names to create a more immersive classroom environment. I was pretty boring about giving names. Paul, Tom, Mary, etc. Just names of people I knew back in Canada. One of my coworkers named all this students after CNN reporters and the royal family. The girl near the back with her cheeks puffed out was called Lily or Lori or something similar. Kind of an odd girl, but likeable. The girl in green was a model student. I think the girl on the far left was named Susan. Another model student.

I don’t remember any of these students’ names, but I remember the two girls in front were very diligent. I also remember the boy on the left. He didn’t do much in the way of English but he was funny and good-natured. Only eight students in this class. There was a maximum of twelve students per class, and that made the institute quite expensive.

This was one of my favourite classes. Kim Jieun on the right (can’t remember her English name), Mary with the red hat, the wonderful student in the denim vest (Jennifer?), the pleasant fellow behind her, and the children of Satan against the wall. Those two were just rotten. No class is perfect, I guess.

I had plenty of complaints about the job at the time, but it wasn’t that bad in hindsight. The nice thing about teaching is that no matter how awful management is, you’ll always meet some great students as a consolation.
Somewhat amazingly, I’m still in touch with one of the students from that year. She was in grade five at the time and just before I left the school she asked me for my address in Canada. So we exchanged some letters and when I returned to Korea I visited her and her family now and then. Now we mostly communicate by text because she lives in Hawaii. My oldest friend in Korea!