Marisa's blog

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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.


September in the Hub

12 Oct 2009
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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.

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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...

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"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."

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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.

To Busan and Back

06 Aug 2009
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Jordan and I spent the last week traveling in and around Busan, Korea's second largest city (with a population of about three million).  We spent the first day visiting Jordan's old friend Ben in Ulsan, a town about an hour away from Busan (home to Hyundai) and his wife Na-Young and their son.  They were nice enough to show us around the city and take us to a temple out in the country.  We had a very enoyable day with them. 


In Busan highlights included pointing to things in the fish market I would not eat:


Watching the other tourists enthusiastially point at the things they wanted to eat:


We also went to famous Haeundae beach and swam with thousands of our friends. 


The big aquarium on the beach was also great, it was more impressive than our guide book led us to believe and some of the tanks had creative embellishments.


We also enjoyed lots of great shopping in the neighborhood around our hotel.


In the end I didn't want to leave Busan as it reminded me of Hong Kong with the large ships sailing in the distance, the lush, forested mountains coming down to meet the beach and the busy streets filled with people and market stalls.  Back home in the Dream Hub things are quiet and hot.  Jordan has finally gotten a video game to work after a month of trying, but hopefully he'll pull himself away to post video of the hip hop festival we saw one evening at the beach in the rain.  And I'll spend the next week or so working on a scrapbook of our trip.  You can see the rest of our pictures here


Bus 58

29 Jun 2009
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This morning I needed to stop at the hospital to pick up the results of some tests I had for renewing my contract.  So I thought I would ride a new bus there.  I had noticed on my previous trips that bus 58 stopped outside the hospital.  So I got on, but soon realized that it was going the wrong direction, out towards the country.  Since at some point I needed to get to school this morning, I gestured to the bus driver that I wanted to go the other way and he gestured the way he was going.  So I got off and got on another bus which included a short walk to the hospital.  As I was walking, who should drive by and wave at me than bus #58, which I guess goes the other way to get to the hospital.  But then, after I finished my business and took a short taxi ride to school, who should wave to me as I got out of the cab than the driver of bus #58! He must think I am quite crazy to ever haven gotten off his bus in the first place...But at least I have one more Korean friend who will wave at me now whenever he sees me. 


Word just in while I was looking for a photo.  Tomorrow when I get to school I get to pose for a picture with the English teachers who were supposed to have started an English club (with me as their teacher), but didn't have time, but have to take the picture anyway.  I <3 Korea.

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So the week has come to a close.  I just watched the beginning of High School Musical for the sixth time.  Next week I'll get to watch the middle six times and then the end six times.  And then I might show it at my other school.  I guess it doesn't matter what country you're in, middle schoolers everywhere love it.  And why not?  There's singing, there's dancing and there's high school romance.  And I'm showing it to them during school.  What more could they want?

High School Musical

After watching some Wallace and Gromit the past couple of weeks, I'm settling into a nice routine out here in the country of basing all my lessons around movies.  Thanks to the fancy new English rooms, I can keep my students blissfully entertained while perhaps learning a little English.  But  now the questions becomes, what movie should I watch next?  What else will the Middle Schoolers love?  I'm trying to remember what movies I loved in Middle School.  What movies did you love?

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So this weekend we celebrated my birthday by taking a trip to Jeonju, the capital city of our province which is about an hour bus ride away.  The main attraction was the TGIFriday's, but they also have some nice neighborhoods to walk around in.


For more pictures, click here.

Thank You

09 Jun 2009
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Thank you to everyone who bought me a scoop of ice cream!  I am still enjoying them!

Ice Cream!

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A few weeks ago, my country school had its Sports Day.  It was very thrilling and I got to go home early.

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So last week we got to skip two days of school to go to Korea's largest festival.  The festival, as I understand it, centers around an ancient shamanistic tradition of celebrating 3 deities. We took part in welcoming the deity to the festival.  It comes in the form of a tree, where it lives, which the people cut down and parade through the city.  We were behind the tree, with out lanterns, dressed in our Korean hanboks.  And unlike most places I have been, the Koreans really love when foreigners take part in their culture (ie: wear their clothes, eat their food, celebrate their festivals) and everyone was very happy to see us and wanted to take our picture.  I posed for several during the parade.  It is nice to know that I will be in some random person's scrapbook of the festival.  Please enjoy these pictures of random people that we took:

Making Wishes

Jordan working on his wishes.



This lady wanted to take a picture with me, even though she didn't have a camera.


Take a Rest!

Jordan and Matt enjoying the time off from school, perhaps a little too much?

More pictures here.

Flickr: How I Use It

25 May 2009
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There are a few people amongst our readership who use us as their technology advisors.  If you are such a person, this entry might be of interest to you.  If you are interested in our goings and comings, then this may not be so thrilling.

I recently uploaded all our digital pictures to  You may have noticed that we use Flickr to host our Korea pictures, and you may be wondering why we have put them all there, as if you really wanted to look at that many pictures.

The truth is we did not upload them so you could look at them, but as a means of storage for ourselves.  Unlike sites like Facebook, which compress your photos when you upload them, Flickr saves the actual photo, giant size and all.  For $25 a year, Flickr gives us as much space as we can use (if you were to ask Jordan about this he would say, "it's a good deal").  So we no longer have to backup our photos on our external harddrive.  They are in fact safer on Flickr, since they are about triple backed up on Flickr's servers (and Flickr is owned by Yahoo!) and you can't drop the internet or spill water on it. 

The other main reason we put them on Flickr was to organize them.  Think about how many pictures you have.  Now think about how many pictures you'll have in 20 years.  How will you find that one picture of me eating ice cream in San Francisco?  The answer is: Flickr.  Flickr gives you the best options for organizing and searching your pictures.  There are a few offline programs that give similar options, but these can be frustrating to use because they utilize so much memory that they slow your computer down.  And if your computer crashes, or you get a new one, you might lose all the organization you've done, if not the actual pictures. 

So that's why we use Flickr.  If you want to know how we use Flickr, you can watch this movie.  I made it, and apparently I had a lot to say because it's really long.  I found Flickr tricky to use when I was starting out, and so perhaps explain more than you need to know.  I have made friends with it though, and once you go through the initial work of loading your old pictures, it will take very little work to maintain as long as you add your pictures as you take them. 

Needless to say, we highly recommend this solution if you take more than 100 pictures a year.  Because 100 pictures times 20 years is 2000 pictures.  And who only takes 100 pictures a year?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Charmed I'm Sure

16 Apr 2009
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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.


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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.

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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.