Read From the Beginning

Posted by Marisa
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"Cleaning time is too short" Ms Park said this afternoon as we came out of the English room when the time was up. I pondered this for a minute or two, gave it a good consideration, but what I really think is that we should get rid of the twenty minutes and go home earlier, not add more time to our lallygagging schedule. Of course, I don't think I would actually get to go home early, and then the school would just be really dirty. Although if we never let the students come to begin with, the school might stay decently clean.

All the public schools in Korea have giant TV screens in every classroom (whether they work or not is another subject, but they are there). And every middle school in Korea with more than 100 students seems to have a gotten a brand-spanking new English room with giant flat, touch TV screen and many other fancy things ("tell us what materials you want, we will get them"). How did the Korean government pay for this? I recently realized it's because the schools have no janitors; the kids do all the cleaning. At first, I thought they just made the kids do the cleaning as some sort of "be responsible" lesson. But as the weeks have turned to months I've realized that the only marginally clean school could only be the work of the students. It explains why the bathroom floor is more dirty after being mopped than it was before.

I have joined the ranks of the other Korean teachers who spend the twenty minutes chasing and cajoling the students into cleaning, since I have to monitor the new English room. Although, I was just told to make sure the students don't touch the computers or destroy the desks, so that's what I do, while surfing the internet and thinking of amusing things to write on the blog. The four girls who do the cleaning in my room can be a bit lax at times, but then Ms Park will show up and boss them around and make them get out the vacuum and smelly spray for the desks. I don't feel bad when this happens because I have done my job of watching the equipment, and in Korea doing your job, and only and exactly that, is what it's all about. Just try and get someone to scoop a fish for you at Lotte Mart. After talking to five people over twenty minutes, all of whom claim,"I can't get the fish" the one person who can will show up, dragged out of their dinner break because they are the only one who was hired to scoop fish.

Posted by Marisa
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This last weekend we ventured up to Matthew's town for a visit.  Spring is coming, it feels very slowly, to Korea and so the countryside was filled with blooming flowers.  Matthew took us on a nice walk to a temple, and then a hike through the brush and straight up the side of a mountain.  When I finally arrived to a bench at the top I was greeted by a lady laughing and yelling at me in Korean (I was not properly dressed for hiking).  She was so shocked at my feet in sandals and the fact that I was wearing a skirt, she talked to me for about 5 minutes.  It was most amusing.




Koreans who know how to dress appropriately.

At the Top...Korean Style

Follow this link for more pictures.

Charmed I'm Sure

16 Apr 2009
Posted by Marisa
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Jordan's new co-teacher tells the story that she moved to Gunsan because "the lake charmed her." Previously a dweller of the capital city Jeonju, she packed it all in the reside beside (or somewhere near) Eunpa Lake. Before the spring, I thought the lake was nice, but having seen it in the spring I have to confess that I too have been charmed by the lake, and now may have to stay here forever.

In all the places I've been and seen, I haven't experienced anything quite like the tunnel of cherry blossoms that covers the road next to the lake. Trees that look like they're covered in snow, when actually they're covered in small flowers. I like to call it "spring snow" and it's infinitely better than the stuff that comes in the winter.

Cherry Blossoms Tunnel

On Tuesday, as we were leaving class, Ms Park asked me if I had class during fourth period. When I said no, she said, "ok, we will go see my mom." It turned out that her mom lives right at the base of Wolmeyong Mountain (mountain in this case is like calling me a giant). She lives in an old, Korean style house that Jordan wouldn't be able to stand up in. The road was so narrow, that Ms Park had to fold in the mirrors on her SUV. The park had many stunning views and was being enjoyed by many people apparently also out on lunch break. We had an ice cream, and had our picture taken several times. After the walk, we went back to the house for lunch. The table was set with enough food for an army. There were various ladies hanging around the house, so I thought they were eating. In the end, once we all got settled, it was just me and Ms Park eating, not even her mom, although she made sure that we ate enough. This however seems like a sweet deal to me, so I plan someday to work near my mom so I can sneak out and she can make me lunch.

Cherry Blossoms

Doug and Patti also visited us this weekend. They were very lucky to come on perhaps the best weekend of the whole year. We had a great time showing them around our town, although Jordan decided this was also the best time to get sick with some terrible coughing thing, still to be diagnosed by the doctors. They are worried about him though, so he get's to see the doctors everyday.

On the Street

Luckily the rain yesterday wasn't hard enough to knock the flowers off the trees, so hopefully we'll be able to enjoy them again this weekend.


Posted by Marisa
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As we were walking around the lake today, we saw Jordan's co-teacher Mr. Song.  He invited us to his famous Secret Garden as this weekend his popular gardening internet group was having an exhibition.  The spring flowers were in full glory.  Click on the picture to see more.


Shellfish Heaven

26 Apr 2009
Posted by Jordan
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So Gunsan is a nice place to live if you like seafood, like Marisa does. Yesterday Matt and Mihye took us to a sweet shellfish restaurant where we grilled our own food (one of the shellfish was as big as my head). Check out more pictures here.

Posted by Marisa
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Today's title comes from this morning's "English Possible" on the radio.

I'm at school finishing up the end of a busy week. I spent almost the entire week at my desk uploading an organizing old pictures on flickr. Yesterday offered a brief change of scenery when I had to go into the classroom to help monitor exams. The Koreans have a big cheating problem. Mostly because when they catch cheaters, they don't do anything. This becomes a problem for me in class because I acutally want the students to do their own crossword puzzle, not wait for the one smart kid to do it and then have 35 students copy the answers down. I want to explain to them how this makes the whole thing pointless, as I've only made the crossword puzzle for their own enjoyment, so if they're going to copy it they might as well just sit there. However, I think that doing things for enjoyment in school is completely beyond the comprehension of my middle school students.

So anyway, I caught a cheater in my first exam period, although then I didn't know what to do because the other teacher in the class didn't speak English and I didn't want to disturb the students taking the exam by making a big hubub. What to do? I eventually had to go have a big point and say, "this student is looking at this student's answer card." All the students laughed, the teacher gave the boys a stern talking to, and all went back to normal. With this kind of reaction I don't know why all the students aren't cheating.

Luckily the three exam periods kept getting shorter, the first was 45 minutes, then 40 minutes, then 35 minutes, because it really was one of the most dull things I've ever done.

In the evening we had a meeting at the City Hall with the other English teachers. When word comes down about these kind of meetings, it's always shrouded in mystery. First we hear about it from one of our friends, who somehow found out because someone has a very organized co-teacher. Then word will slowly come to you from your own coteacher. Although, what the meeting entails is never disclosed. Yesterday my co-teacher found out she had to go too, at the last minute, and was quite unenthused about the prospect. She had no idea what was going on either.

When we finally arrived at the City Hall, we found a big, fancy meeting with all the foreign English teachers and the mayor. How thrilling! We watched the most fantastic movie about Gunsan, in which the used the most words I've ever heard to say absolutely nothing. It was really quite a feat. I'm going to have to see if they've put the movie online because it really as stellar. Then we watched a movie which demonstrated the skills of the foreign teachers; Jordan and I were big stars in this one. I'm not sure about using this as a example though because the lesson of me they taped was the first lesson I ever made and thus not particularily good. After some question and answer with the mayor, we all trooped off for a fancy Korean dinner where we got gift bags with rice (grown in Gunsan) and a fancy Gunsan pin (and something in a box I haven't opened yet). Dinners like these are always amusing as the alcohol is free flowing and everyone gets rather "relaxed" as they say.

Posted by Marisa
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So, as you may or may not have realized from our twitter activity, Jordan and I spent the weekend in Seoul.  We had a long weekend, or I should say Jordan had a long weekend, Thursday and Friday off for exams, Monday off as a gap day between the weekend and Children's Day (a national holiday in Korea).  I had school on both Friday and Monday, but thanks to the crazy hours of the American Embassy, got to skip both for an extended weekend. 

Friday saw the failure of performing our tasks at the embassy since it decided to close for Korean Labor Day (as far as we can tell, the only place that did, our students remember had  exams).  We then had a tasty Mexican lunch in Itaewon and stuffed ourselves so full that we couldn't do anything for the rest of the day.

Saturday we enjoyed a rainy day visiting Changgyeonggun Palace:



In the afternoon we visited Insadong for some shopping:



And got to see Anika and Jon, friends of mine from Bethel, who currently teach in Seoul:



On Sunday, the sun came out and we visited Changdeokgung Palace:



Which had a Secret Garden:


And in the afternoon we attended yeouido Full Gospel Church, the largest church in the world.  Monday morning saw us successful at the Embassy (which miraculously decided to open) and a brief shopping trip to Namdaemun Market before we got back on the train for Gunsan.  The trip ended wonderfully with a stop for schwarma from an Iraqui man which was luckily just by the subway station. 

Today we had a great picnic on the roof with many English teachers friends, complete with a quiz game.  Tomorrow it is back to school, which may be a little rough after such a lovely holiday.

To see more picture from Seoul, click here.

Posted by Jordan
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Posted by Jordan
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While we were up in Seoul last weekend to get our certificates of residency from the American embassy, we decided to stop in for a service at Yoido Full Gospel Church. Yoido has the largest congregation of any church in the world, with over 850,000 members--it will probably be the first true "Gigachurch." They have around eight services on Sunday (we went to the 3pm one), and have live translation into 8 languages via headsets. For those of you who are interested, here's a look inside the church:

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

At least for me, May has been the month of incredible relaxedness (see I even have time to make up words).  It started with preparation for midterms, which meant that I didn't have to teach.  Then we had midterms, which meant I still didn't have to teach.  Then we went on a somewhat wild goose chase in Seoul to get a document from the American Embassy and I missed two days of school.  Then we had a day off for Children's Day.  This week, my first graders were gone for "training," then my second graders left for a trip.  So by Wedensday I had no students to teach.  Today was rough, I had to teach four classes.  But tomorrow is Teacher's Day, so we have no school, and I don't have school on Monday either.  Then my country school is having Sports Day next Friday and Thursday is practice day, so I don't have to teach again.  Then the last week of May is the festival for foreigners, for which I get to miss another two days of school. 

I will now count all the classes I've taught this month...In the last three weeks I have taught 19 classes.  Normally I teach 21 every week.  And May isn't even over.

Other small May benefits have been cropping up too, like getting grape soda for Sports Day and a pile of rice cakes for Teacher's Day.  I have also started digital scrapbooking since I spend hours sitting at my desk staring at my screen.  This, it turns out, is quite fun, so I'm hoping that May turns into a never ending month of happiness.  In fact, I've been having such a good time being a slacker at school I haven't started celebrating the month of my birthday, which I could start celebrating anytime, but I've just been busy celebrating May Slacker Days.

To celebrate Teacher's Day tomorrow we are going "camping" with some friends.  We're going to barbeque and hope it doesn't rain.  We're going to bring the Wii in case.  This is camping Korean style.