How to Eat Pork Spine Stew

Haejangguk, or pork spine stew, is one of the top 3 Korean dishes you’ll want to try if you visit Korea. It’s known in Korea as the best hang-over cure, and restaurants specializing in the dish are often open until the early morning hours.

The tenderness of the meat combined with the spicy red-pepper spices and vegetables make this dishes one of the standards that I eat in Korea. It’s never hard to find a haejang-guk (pronounced hay’-chong-gook) restaurant in any town in Korea. Just act drunk and tell any passing Korean “pay go pah yo” which means “I’m hungry.” They’re bound to direct you to a haejang-guk restaurant.

Now, there’s a subtle art to eating the dish. It’s brought to you in a steaming hot pot usually with some spinach draped over the pork bones boiling in the broth. Don’t be alarmed by the bones – you’ll be eating the meat and tossing the bones aside.

Here’s how I eat it – and my recommendation for how you should eat haejang-guk.

Step 1: Remove meat from bone. Do this by holding a bone still with your spoon (or fingers) and scraping the meat down into the broth with your chopsticks. Some will fall easily, others will resist.

Step 2: Remove bone from soup. Pick the mostly meat-bare bone from the soup and place it in the empty white bowl. While picking at the other bones, this one will cool, allowing you to pick it up with your chopsticks (or fingers) and gnawing off the last bits of meaty goodness. Yes, it’s worth it.

Step 3: Enjoy. Wait a second for the soup to cool. Eat the kimchi’s sides while you wait. Try each of them and figure out which ones you like the most. Then, grab your spoon and dig into the haejang-guk.

Hint: Spoon a little rice before dipping into the broth. “Mah-she-tah” – “delicious!”

Enjoy the video below of us eating two different types of haejang-guk, the traditional pork dish, and a seafood version with clams and crab.

How I Accidently Participated in a 15K Mountain Biking Race

Well, it was half on accident, half on purpose. Obviously I could’ve taken a different route. But, when you accidentally ride your brand new 24-speed mountain bike to the beginning of a mountain biking race that’s going up the same routes you were planning to ride, why wouldn’t you ride along?

I woke up this morning with the intention to ride up the mountain. The only difference today was that I decided to ride by the nearby soccer field to see if anybody was out playing. I wanted a little outdoor activity and I was willing to jump in a pick-up soccer game, basketball game, or even a game a catch. What I got was a 15 kilometer mountain biking race!

I didn’t jump in the front of course. I waited until the slackers were making their way around the start of the track before I headed off in the same direction. We started along the road in front my University, and took a right up the road that runs along the reservoir. When the cherry blossoms are in bloom, this is one of the most beautiful roads in the world on which I’ve been.

The reservoir road runs up the mountain and gets real steep real quick. Pumping away in my lowest gear, most of us were crawling up the mountain. Yes, many of us hopped off our bikes and pushed them up until the path leveled out a bit. But, man, once we got to the top and it started downhill – I quickly flipped to my highest gear and FLEW down the mountain. I’ve ridden this trail a few times, so I knew when to slow down and when to let it go, and I was able to blow past a few of the race participants.

All-in-all, I rode for about an hour and a half up and down the mountains behind where I live. After the race, I stopped to chat with one of the more serious competitors and he informed me that it was a 15 km race. He was from a city about an hour away and had driven here just for the race.

Check out the video below for a taste of the views. What a beautiful day!

How Mixto Got His Name

If he didn’t deserve the name, it wouldn’t be his name. This is how he got the name.

Setting: Earthquake-ravaged Pisco, Peru circa July 2008.

The mission: To build earthquake-resistant sanitation units which included a toilet, shower, and large sink for the less-fortunate residents of Pisco. The unit had been designed, and prototypes had been built. However, documentation containing information on how to construct such units was scarce. The deadline for completion was approaching and plumbing needed to occur on a fast and efficient basis.

Enter: one British and one American voluntario. Mike (aka Mixto) and I had been given the task of organizing a list of all of the materials needed to plumb a sanitation unit. We had a drawing of the unit with no parts labeled, a list in Spanish that may or may not be parts that were bought for previous units, and no experience plumbing.

Read moreHow Mixto Got His Name

How to Do a White Elephant Gift Exchange

*Bring a gift if you want to play!

Wrap a gift worth $10 or LESS! You can buy something, or simply bring something from your house. It can be a good gift, a horrible gift, for a girl, a boy, funny, or whatever you want. Funny and ridiculous gifts make the game fun!

All the gifts are placed together on the floor (in “the gift pool”).

Each person playing gets a random number.

#1 chooses any gift, unwraps it, and shows it to everyone.

#2 chooses any new gift, OR can STEAL the gift from #1

If #2 STEALS the gift from #1, then #1 chooses a new gift from the gift pool.

#3 chooses a new gift, OR can STEAL the gift from #1, or #2!

If a gift is stolen from you, you can then STEAL a gift from one other person, but NOT the gift that was just stolen from you, OR you can choose a new gift.

This continues until all the gifts have been distributed to each person playing.

SPECIAL RULE: A gift can only be STOLEN 3 times, and then it cannot be stolen anymore!

How to Do Vegas Right: 3 Simple Rules

Gambling, hookers, booze, and staying up all night. That’s the stereotype of Vegas that the Tourism board wants you to live out. Hence the endorsed motto: What happens here, stays here. Well, if you want to know how to do Vegas right, follow these 3 simple rules!

Best way to do Las Vegas - ParisRule #1: Two nights max.

Never stay in Vegas more than 3 days, and 2 nights.

A) Your body can’t handle
B) Your mind can’t handle it
C) Your wallet (or purse) definitely can’t handle it.

The first day and night are fun. Soak up all the lights, the action, the excitement, and gamble a little. The second day and night are either a crazy blur, or a chance to see what you missed the first day. The third day you’re either hungover, or simply over it. Go home. Another night and you’ll wish you hadn’t come to Vegas at all!

Read moreHow to Do Vegas Right: 3 Simple Rules

West to east coast road trip across the US

In the summer of 2009, I decided to do a west to east coast road trip across the US. Long story short, my brother, and our girlfriends left for one of the most memorable cross country trips across the States. If you get a chance in your lifetime, you should definitely do a cross country road trip. There are a million paths. Here’s the path we chose on our Left to Right Road Trip 2k9:

Left to Right 2k9 – Yellowstone, Mt Rushmore, Niagara

Wed Aug 12th – OC to Vegas, 5 hrs, 1:00pm – 6:00 pm, gamble a little, stay night.

Shawn pointing at Grand CanyonThurs Aug 13th – Vegas to Grand Canyon, 6 hrs, 9:00am – 3:00pm, hike around canyon, take pictures, see sunset, stay night

Read moreWest to east coast road trip across the US

Volunteer in Peru for Your Next Vacation

Jimmy Tug-o-war PeruAll of the ECP stories are from my unforgettable time spent volunteering in Pisco, Peru with the organization Burners Without Borders. I received an e-mail from one of the main organizers updating us past volunteers on Pisco.  If you’re looking for future vacation ideas, I can tell you the 6 weeks I spent volunteering in Peru were 6 weeks that changed my life significantly.

Below is the message from our organizer, Jimmy and the accompanying letter from Harold, the new Director of Pisco Sin Fronteras. Harold is a local tour guide turned community volunteer after the earthquake of 2007. He’s an amazing person not afraid to give completely of himself for the benefit of others.

Hello Pisco Volunteers,

Burners without Borders is off to a great start in 2009. We are confident our impact this year will surpass the amazing accomplishments of 2008.

With all the wonderful accomplishments of last year, the formation of Pisco Sin Fronteras (PSF) is allowing volunteerism to continue in Pisco.  One of the largest voids seen in disaster assistance is local long-term reconstruction assistance.  PSF was formed from our energy and our efforts.  Let’s show our support and keep that Burner energy alive in Pisco!

Harold and the PSF crew have been busy, Harold’s written a letter that we have to pass along.  Efforts like this just prove this community is unstoppable.

Read moreVolunteer in Peru for Your Next Vacation

Bringing Baseball to Pisco, Peru

It was a Wednesday night, and I was getting nervous about leading the “Intercambio” cultural exchange with the local kids. Earlier in the day, at the 8 AM organizational meeting, I had raised my hand to volunteer to PM (project manage) Intercambio that night. Now, 5 minutes before I was supposed to be out there, I realized that I knew so little Spanish and was so unprepared that I was about to make a fool of myself in front of genuinely good kids.

So when I raised my hand to lead Intercambio, Jimmy (our de facto leader at the time), asked “what are you going to do?”

“Teach them how to play baseball hopefully.”

“Oh! You’re the baseball coach. I was wondering when you were going to get here! We should get a game organized at a field somewhere once you teach them how to play!”
“Yes? Okay.”

Read moreBringing Baseball to Pisco, Peru

How to Play Spades

Average hand in a game of Spades.
Average hand in a game of Spades.

How to play Spades (the card game)!


  • 1 Deck of playing cards
  • Pen
  • Paper

Players: 4 (only)

Time: 45 mins – as long as you want

Basics:  Two teams of two, with players on the same team sitting across from each other.  Deal out all the cards (each player has 13 cards).  Bet how many ‘books’ your TEAM will win.  Win books, add up score and first to 300 (or 500) wins.

Read moreHow to Play Spades

The First Story of Grumpy (aka Luis)

Professor Plumb, our teacher, and plumbing mentor. Why do you need a hammer for plumbing? Good question.

Just in case anyone was wondering, the ECP plumbed for a volunteer organization. Yes, the sink, showers, toilets, and pipes we installed were ‘por los ninos’ or ‘for the children’ as we liked to say. This being the case, our first day of on-the-job training consisted mostly of bargaining with shop owners to see who could give us the best price on all of the supplies we would need for each of 10 sanitation units.

Prof Plumb had already laid the groundwork, and had narrowed it down to two or three shops. One of the shops was where we would buy the sink and toilet, and the second would be where we would buy the necessary pipes, glue, sandpaper, etc. Well, this second shop with the best prices ended up being run by a guy that Prof Plumb humorously referred to as “Grumpy.”

Naming Luis, the shop owner, Grumpy is about as fair as naming any droopy-faced bulldog Grumpy. It was no assault on his character, or even his common disposition as Grumpy did not act grumpy, but simply an honest description of the man’s most common facial expression. If he was happy to see you, you’d have to look deep into his eyes to know, because his face sure did not show his pleasure. However grumpy Grumpy looked, he had the best prices around and thus became our go-to plumbing supply shop in Pisco.

While heading to the store, Prof Plumb had explained what to expect from Grumpy – no smiles, no crap, and no inflated prices. As soon as we turned the corner into the store, Mixto and I looked at each other as Prof Plumb commented “told you.”

To Mixto though, Grumpy wasn’t simply a plumbing supplier. He wasn’t just another shop owner in Pisco. No, to Mixto, Grumpy was a challenge. No sooner than Mixto had met the man, he laid out the challenge. If we were going to be developing a relationship with this man, returning to his store on what would be a daily basis, then Mixto was determined to be on good relations with him right from the beginning.

Mixto, Grumpy, and Tuvo in the plumbing shop where we bought mixtos and tuvos.

“I’m going to make him smile before I leave today, and I’m hugging him before I leave Peru.”

I laughed at Mixto’s British humor: as dead pan as they come. See, this was the first day Mixto and I plumbed together. This was the beginning of ECP. I hadn’t yet spent half a day with the guy. How was I supposed to know he was serious? I’ll tell you how – because he was in a plumbing supply store buying supplies for a sanitation unit he didn’t know how to build with an Irishman soon to be knighted “Professor Plumb” and an American who would soon wear a piece of plumbing pipe around his neck for a period time much longer than any normal person. I should’ve known he was serious, because I should’ve known he was a plumber. No, when he said he was going to make Grumpy smile before we left his shop that first day, he wasn’t lying. I don’t think Mixto has ever told a lie in his life, and if he has, it wasn’t to me.

Having read that last line, and with the knowledge that the author is both a) writing this story in the past tense, and b) a plumber himself, you know what happened before we left that shop, and yes – you know what happened before Mixto left Peru. I don’t know how he did it, but somehow Mixto got Grumpy to smile that first day, and had Grumpy wrapping his arms around him within a week. Why did Mixto take it upon him to achieve these seemingly unlikely, and unimportant goals? Maybe for the fun of it. Maybe it was for the challenge. Or maybe, he did it for the same reason Mixto did anything. It was for the children.