Read From the Beginning

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

I  love vacation school because I love to make my students write.  Then I get to read the pearls that they've writtten.  They use English so differently that everything they write sounds like magical poetry to me. 


You can see I've tried to make some corrections to this, but to speak honestly, what can I really say to this?  And this student also told me after class that she would pay better attention tomorrow. 

Today we watched Star Wars IV.  Everyone loved R2D2.  They thought he was so cute, so loyal and the star of the movie.  C3PO was not so impressive, but "unnatural."  Luke was "handsome", Leia was "ugly", Luke's uncle was "wisdom".  Everyone said, "this movie is famous" and one student wrote about its effect on America: "for example, American children have had dream that they will grow great scientists after they watched the movie." 

To sum up the first half of Star Wars we have this summary:

"I have never seen the movie Star Wars.  I saw star wars for the first time first.  The Star Wars is very funny movie.  R2D2 is apperance the movie so he is character.  He has a memory from the princess Leia.  Then he is give this memory to Obi won Kenobi.  At that time, One man his name Luke Skywalker is help them too.  but enemy Darth vader afflict them and will catch the robbot R2D2 and C3PO.  indeed they protect the peace or they obey the evil...??   I feel wonder at the result."

I feel wonder too.

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

"Yesterday, I watched half of star wars.  And I waited watching movie time all day!  Today's movie contents were very exciting.  Luke and Solo save Princess Leia and Ben died.  Finally Princess Leia's team started to attack.  Also they won the war.  I was little bored about light sword.  He didn't use the light sword.  But it's okay.  He defeat Darth Vader!  He is our hero!!!! And R2D2 is very cute ><!!!!"

"The movie was really thrilling.  Because, yesterday then computer graphic very natural.  And thrill very very good. Tomorrow more thrill more.  Do you think so too? Oh! I was so amazing to hear that movie was made in 1977.  Very good!!  These movie showed teacher thank you ~~ I love teacher!! >_<"


"The movie is interesting, specially gun fight a merry time of it."

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

So last week I had vacation school here at Seoheung.  We watched Star Wars and Ratatouille and made posters and played some games.  The Koreans love to document things, and so my coteacher took lots of pictures, which you can view.  I think this is good since a few of you seem to have the impression that I am just a big slacker who does nothing.  These photos I think prove that I do in fact teach some students some of the time.  

Checking It Out

I would check out the rest of the photos, as my students made some very exciting aliens...with interesting names...

Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Take 1:

Obi met luke. Obi is friend of Luke's father and he was warrier. R2-D2 showed Leia's message to him. Then he has to go Altaran. He suggest Luke to go with him. At first Luke regjected. They went back home. But empire's army ruined Luke's home. And Luke's uncle and aunt were dead. So Luke determined to go with Obi. So they went to city to find pilot.

Take 2:

Luke's uncle and aunt dead because bad people fire Luke house so, Luke want to be like his father, so he went to pilot in the bar he learn art.

Take 3:

Ruke get lightsword and he's uncle and aunt died. He went somewhere because he need a pilot and he get a pilot.

Take 4:

Um... robot cut leg (because sand jock) once day. Obi and Luke father Jack. Obi is Luke.

Take 5:

He is go learn force he mother father uncle die he is angry. He want to go learn to force in Jedie.

Take 6:


Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Most of you guessed 2nd, which would have been extremely surprising given that Korea's economy is only ranks 11th in the world, but still, you weren't far off (and the Koreans often do extremely surprising things).

Source: Michael Breen's The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies.

September in the Hub

12 Oct 2009
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

My Dad mentioned the other day how we hadn't posted on the blog for a while, and I said, "you know, it's same old, same old here in the Dream Hub."  The Gunsan mayor and his people have bestowed the motto "Dream Hub" on our little town, and I think if you were to interview anyone who lived here we'd all agree that it's fitting.  As I've signed on for another year of teaching in Korea, I'll highlight some of the reasons why Gunsan is our Dream Hub:

1.  Our internet is about one hundred times faster than yours.  

2.  We have a really cute bunny.

Farah Says Hello

3. Working is often about the same as not working.  I've been keeping track of classes I've actually taught so far and it's come out to about 60%.  Keep in mind that my regular schedule is 20 hours a week.

4.  It's beautiful.  Whether we're walking around the lake in our neighborhood (the park that surrounds it just got new, free excercise equipment) or admiring the rice fields from school, it may be flat, but it has a charm all it's own.

The 'Hood

5.  It hasn't snowed yet.  In fact fall has just come with a bit of a coolness noticeable in the air.

6.  My students are filled with endless enthusiasm despite the fact that everywhere they turn someone is trying to beat it out of them (in fact, you can whack your students if you'd like in Korea, sometimes I whack mine with the textbook.)

7.  We have a giant TV.

8.  Really Fancy Coffee Shops.  Sometimes they have swings.

9.  Our neighborhood is the best.  We were a bit nervous when we moved into an apartment building in the middle of a giant apartment building complex, but now that we've joined the hustle and bustle it is certainly home.  The neighborhood kids all yell hello at us still.  The corner pizza places delivers with such entusiasm that you'd think we were royalty.  The bakery makes sure that we don't buy too much bread and the vegetable stand gives us free onions.  The stationary shop gives us freebies and every bus in in Gunsan stops at our house.

10.  To jump off the last point, despite the fact that we've been here a year, we're still celebrities.  Jordan recently caused a hallway jam when he showed up at the end of my class causing all my students to stop and stare at him like he was Jesus returned.

To see more recent pics check out our new flickr album.

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

On Wednesday Jordan's teachers took us out for a farewell dinner (perhaps more like a "see you again" dinner).  They took us to a fancy "Western" restaurant and we got to talking about how the food they serve at places like these is in fact nothing like you could find anywhere in America.  What exactly it is that makes it different eluded me at the time, but I have since come up with this list:

5 Ways to Know Your Food Was Made in Korea

1.  There are about 20 little plates on the table.

2.  On these 20 little plates are various vegetables that have been pickled and/or fermented.

3.  The main course has between 5-10 different kinds of meat, one of which is a hot dog.

4.  3 tatertots accompany the main course as a festive garnish (3 tatertots for 5 people).

5.  There's octopus in the noodles.

Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Today is my last day of teaching English to Korean middle schoolers. At least for the foreseeable future. To be honest, it has been a bit anticlimactic, considering that I ever only teach one class on Fridays, which just so happens to be the most subdued (read "asleep") of all my classes. I wasn't really feeling up to pumping them with energy today, and as they have already finished their textbook for the semester I gave in to their request to be allowed to finish Disney Channel's High School Musical 2, before the chance escaped them forever. So I took a few last pictures, and mainly sat and watched them, as they sat and watched a depiction of the glories that await them in high school. I sat looking into my past, and they into their futures (or at least, into the futures of upper class American middle schoolers who become teen sensations).

The last few weeks have been busy ones for me. On the one hand I have been preparing to leave my schools, saying goodbyes to students and teachers (my co-teachers took Marisa and I out to a nice restaurant for dinner on Wednesday), principals and vice principals, throwing pizza parties for the worthy--and on the other hand I've been attempting to ease into what will be my focus in the coming months: the study and creation of video games. I've also been spending a decent amount of time with my new physical therapist friend at Gunsan hospital, attempting to recover from a golf-related shoulder injury, a sleeping-related back injury, and a history of chronic back pain (which I'm convinced dates back to my years of washing dishes over a too-short counter: for the record, I will only ever make my short children wash the dishes).


The Nam Cup

To understand what I've been up to with my students of late, you will have to get your mind around the intricacies and inner workings of The Nam Cup, which I don't think I've yet mentioned in more than passing on this site. Basically, a couple of months into my teaching career, faced with four hundred students divided between twelve classes at two schools, some rowdy, some lackadaisical in the extreme, none of them relying on me for their grades, I determined that I had to do something: to come up with some sort of system that would give me power and control--ultimate power would be best, but I would settle for, say, a little tiny bit of power.

The wheels in my head spun and chugged, and out came the inspiration for The Nam Cup. Basically, I divided all of my classes into six groups of approximately six students each, and made a giant list of 9 classes and 54 "teams" of six (this is at Nam, where I had 9 of my 11 classes), which I kept track of permanently on one of my four whiteboards. This dividing was made incredibly easy thanks to my ginormous "English Zone" classroom and puzzle-piece tables which I was easily able to arrange as desired. Students had to pick teams and stay with them for the rest of the year.

Then came the fun part, handing out and taking away points. It turns out that middle schoolers (at least the ones I've had the pleasure to teach) are incredibly competitive. Not only this, but the idea of a "point," to my Korean students, seems to signify something enormously important. Even before I declared what the end-of-year prizes would be, my students exuded a kind of religious zeal for earning points, and expressed a deep, deep sadness when they were taken away. Students would come into class before it started to examine the whiteboard, take notes, and whisper sub rosa to each other. Then they would come back up at the end of class to get another look, apparently unsatisfied by the more distant view they got during class, though the whiteboard remained visible the whole time. "Teacher," they would say, "you are so handsome," "Teacher, we love you"--but their intentions were clear.

In any case, I did eventually announce the prizes, to more excitement than I could take without putting a finger in each ear. There would be two prizes at the end of the year: one for the class with the most points accumulated, six teams together, 36 persons--and another for the individual team of six individuals (out of the 54 teams) with the best score. The top class would get a pizza party at the English Zone, and the top team a chance to party at Sweet Home (that's mine and Marisa's house). I though the idea of inviting middle schoolers over unaccompanied to an adult's home might be a bit weird, but my co-teachers assured me that it was a wonderful idea, and the students seemed unable to imagine anything better.


And so the students strove all year for points, and last week I formally announced the winners, after holding a final round of jeopardy for the top five teams. There were a lot of crying sounds to be heard from those who didn't triumph (not real tears, mind you, just crying sounds), and had I to do it over again I would probably give out a prize every quarter, rather than once a year... but the winners were ecstatic, and the parties a good time. (Even if there was a bit of miscommunication regarding the pizza: I had thought that the school was going to pay for it, but it ended up coming out of pocket. Not a big deal. The funny part was that one of my co-teachers, when she realized we had miscommunicated, said that maybe I should cancel the pizza party: after the students had been looking forward to it for a year!) A girl in the pizza party class gave a little speech about how they would "always remember this time" (it wasn't clear if they were speaking mainly about me, or the pizza), and the five students who came over to our house were incredibly cute and polite and happy to be there. We ordered pizza for them as well ("our parents do not like pizza" said one of the girls in a woebegone voice), and they spent most of the afternoon petting Farah and playing Wii. 

Physical Therapy Friend

I've been having back trouble for a long time (upper, lower, muscular, and skeletal, related to scoliosis), as I mentioned above, and after having a lot of pain at golf for several weeks running, and then pulling the muscles in my back one morning so that I couldn't get out of bed, I decided to take action. By asking Marisa to take action . The thing is, her co-teachers are better English speakers, so we thought they might be able to better understand the problem, and explain where to go. Well, it turns out that one of Marisa's co-teachers knows a young teacher at the school that has a boyfriend who "does something" that might help me. What exactly he does wasn't clear, but I figured I'd go see him anyway, and see where things went. 

It turns out that Marisa's co-teacher's co-teacher's boyfriend is a physical therapist in charge of the physical therapy department at a local clinic, and does both chiropractic and deep tissue therapy. Wow. So I have a session with him and get the full treatment: chiropractic, ultrasound, infrared light, massage, and interferential current therapy (the later four treatments being standard issue for deep tissue pain). It feels great, but how much will it cost? I figure health care tends to be pretty cheap here, and I do have an insurance card, so I should be okay for at least one treatment, and hopefully more.

"No pay" says the girlfriend.

"What?" I ask.

"No pay, no pay," repeats the therapist.

"I don't understand."

"NO PAY! And come back tomorrow."

Okay then. We decided to ask Marisa's co-teacher about it, since we have a better time communicating with her. Clearly there must be some kind of misunderstanding here. Well, Marisa's co-teacher tells me that, if I really, really want to pay, I can take the guy out for dinner. Which isn't exactly the clear and transparent explanation of the financial situation that I was hoping for, but what can you do? 

So I go back the next day, and the next, and the next. "Come until better," my therapist friend tells me: "maybe many weeks."

As if this wasn't enough, the guy insisted on driving me home Friday night. I tried futilely to resist, to say that I always take the bus, but in vain. Then I discovered that he was apparently going on a date with his girlfriend that night. And his car is a two-seater. And his girlfriend is already at the clinic. And his girlfriend insisted on riding in the back, without a seat. So there I am in the passenger seat of my physical therapist's car, with his girlfriend in the back, singing along to K-pop, being driven to my house as a pre-Friday-night-date favor, trying desperately to tell myself this is normal.



I mentioned my interest in video games at the start of this post, and I'll expand on that in the future. Essentially, for those of you who don't yet know, I'm interested in the potential of the interactive medium to create art (I've started a website where I review games for meaning and significance at I don't have time to go into this now, because it's just about time to go home. Another couple of minutes to feed on nostalgia, then off to Slovenia tomorrow morning to visit Marisa's parents for two weeks. Oh--it looks like it's time for me to give a speech and receive a parting gift...


For more related pictures see these albums.


The Birds Have Flown

16 Nov 2009
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

Yesterday I was witness to the giant migration of the Baikal Teal.  At least we think it was the baikal teal, as there was no English around to inform us and I had to look it up when we got home.  Huge groups of these birds meet at this one place in the river delta near Gunsan and then fly off.  From what I read on wikipedia it sounds like Korea could be the end of their trek, as they start from the Baikal region in Russia. 


I was invited out by our friends Jim and Carol.  Jordan was busy working on a game (to be released later today I think), and didn't join us.  We had an adventure on the bus, first missing our stop and worrying the bus driver, then walking in the frigid Gunsan air (sometime overnight it turned freezing, there's a chance of snow today).  There is a bird zoo and museums at the site of the bird's landing, and an observation tower.  Since this was the big weekend, there was also an exciting festival going around.  I think Carol and I will feature in next year's informational brochure because there was a photographer following us around for a while. 

carol, jim, marisa

We almost missed the birds whose party it was because unless you looked really closely they just looked like a sandbar out on the river, despite the sandbar being pointed out as a thing of interest by the men in charge of the binoculars. 


For more pictures click here.

Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

We hear the Korean version of this song almost every day here. It is much loved by our middle school girls. Now it is apparently much loved by American middle school girls as well. Notice how the beginning of this music video is obviously just a dubbed version of the Korean video--and yet the thing still managed to do well on MTV...