Posted by Jordan
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The first match of the 2010 World Cup not to end in a draw goes to Korea. We had a lot of fun watching on a giant portable TV from the entrance of a Korean bar, surrounded by a lot of hollering Koreans with drums and trumpets, who kept buying us beer and cheese sticks. 

Go Red Devils! 

Hip Hop Nation

09 Aug 2009
Posted by Jordan
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Korea is fairly new to the world hip hop scene. But when Koreans started b-boying they did it in typical Korean fashion: without reserve, determined to become the best. And now they are. The best. "Battle of the Year," a tournament often called the World Cup of break dancing, takes place annually in Germany. Out of the past seven years Korea has won four times. The other three years they were runner up. America, the mother of hip hop, has by contrast won the tournament twice in nineteen years.

This is all a lead in to say that while we were in Busan this last week we stumbled upon an international hip hop competition taken place on the beach. At one point it was raining pretty hard, so it was like seeing Step Up 2 live; the Koreans were ready with ponchos for everyone, so the show went on unfazed. One thing that  surprised me about the competition was the number of girls involved, including an all-female Korean crew, which I thought was great (hopefully their parents think the same). Here's a little highlights video:

Does anyone know where Croacia is? For the life of me I couldn't find it on the map...

For more about break dancing, hip-hop, and Korea's dominance, I would highly recommend the film Planet B-Boy.

Posted by Marisa
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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.

Danoje Festival

31 May 2009
Posted by Jordan
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This last week we went up to the far north-eastern province of Gangwon-do to take party in the largest and longest-held Korean cultural festival, Danoje. We spent the night and were taken on tour as part of the special week-long foreigner program (the festival itself is a month-long afair). 

Here's a little video of the experience (pictures will be up shortly):

The Things People Say

19 Mar 2009
Posted by Marisa
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My Mom always says that if she had a nickel for all the funny things her students said, she'd be rich. Well, I say if I had a nickel for all the funny things Koreans say to me, I'd be rich, and I've only been here for five months. Here are some highlights from this week:

1. We were doing an activity in class that involved the word 'pickle.' One of my students was confused by this word until she said, "Pickle...Pizza?!" Of course, if you are a normal person, pickles and pizza don't really go together, but in Korea you always get a side dish of pickles with your pizza.

2. Speaking of side dishes, one of the teachers in my conversation class asked what side dishes we ate at home. I then received horrified looks when it was discovered that we don't eat side dishes at home.

3. When I get a ride to my country school on Thursday and Friday, we always listen to the Korean radio and every morning they have an English expression that the teach all the listeners (which I think is most of Korea). Last week it was "get off your butt," this week it was "speechless." Now I know why all the Koreans seem to know some strange expression (like Campus Couple, everyone gets really excited when they learn that Jordan and I are a "campus couple." I've never heard this expression before, but all the Koreans use it and are excited about it.)

4. The principal came to observe the new English room at my city school this week. Or course this meant that I had to have an alternate lesson plan which involved using the new and fancy touch screen/tv screen/electronic white board. At the end he said I was the "number 1 teacher," I guess because I smiled through the whole lesson.

5. Yesterday after my students asked me the usual question "do you have babies?" Ms Park started telling me how Korea was a good place to have babies. To try and raise my maternal status after claiming I wasn't having babies for a long time I told her how we were getting a bunny this weekend. This did not impress Ms Park and she explained that "babies and better than bunnies."


Party in Jeonju

30 Nov 2008
Posted by Marisa
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Yesterday, Jordan and I had the pleasure of being invited by my co-teacher Ms Park to her home in Jeonju. We met her and her carpool at my school around 12:30 (since all the Korean have school on Saturday for some reason, apparently they just have clubs on Saturday). Jeonju is about an hour drive from Gunsan and there are three teachers, including Ms Park, who share the commute everyday. We got dropped off at Ms Park's new apartment (very large) and then left with her daughter for lunch. Her daughter is currently in the midst of applying to Seoul National University (the Harvard of Korea) and if she gets in, Ms Park is going to have a big party. I have it on good authority that the daughter (her name was never disclosed) is very smart, always at the top of her class, so I guess she has a good shot.

We went to lunch in the downtown at a Vietnamese restaurant. At first we thought she was taking us to a "vitamin house," but eventually figured out that she meant Vietnamese. I guess foreigners like Vietnamese food (we like it quite a lot) so she took us there. Jeonju is about twice the size of Gunsan, and so has luxuries like Vietnamese food. We had some very tasty noodles and dim sum (although dim sum is Chinese....) and then took a little walk around the downtown. We have become very curious since visiting Matthew and now Jeonju to find our downtown because everywhere we have visited has had very nice pedestrian only shopping districts with lots of exciting things. So one of these days we must venture out and see if we can find the Gunsan downtown.

Eating Out

The day was completely freezing despite having started out as a warm day, so we hustled through our next tour of the traditional village in Jeonju. It was a very cute place with lots of traditional houses filled with shops, restaurants and museums, as well as some really old buildings that were once the spiritual capital of the Joseon dynasty. The first king of this dynasty came from Jeonju, so it has a bit of fame. It was really cold though, so we hurried back after a little tour to Ms Park's house.

Jeonju 20

She had just moved apartments about a week ago, but her home looked remarkably organized, and she gave us a pleased tour of her very large apartment. It makes our apartment look like tiny place. I also saw the kimchi fridge, where the family keeps their year's supply of kimchi. Apparently all Koreans have a kimchi fridge, I don't know where ours is, and since it's kimchi making time, they are all full to bursting. At dinner we were able to taste both fresh kimchi and fermented kimchi made by Ms Park's mother, which was much better than the stuff we're served at school. Apparently over 20 seasonings go into the kimchi when it's being prepared, so there's a big range in taste. Since Jordan liked the kimchi so much, we were sent home with a large quantity of our own to put in our normal fridge, since we don't have a kimchi fridge. The phenomena of kimchi is quite amazing. Who would think that there would be a whole race of people completely addicted to eating at every single meal spicy, fermented cabbage. If you told me I had to eat spicy, fermented cabbage at every meal for the rest of my life I would think it was a severe punishment. But to the Koreans, a day without kimchi is like a day without air, unthinkable.

Ms Park had determined that she would teach me how to cook like a Korean, so I helped her with dinner. Although many of the things seemed to have been premade by her mother and we just dumped them into a pot. So, I guess I have to convince my mom to come over and start making things so that I can cook like a Korean. We made a tasty chicken stew, and some beef bulgogi (which I think is a mushroom sauce). I also made a salad and we roasted some hot dogs (which I think were just there for me and Jordan, but there was so much food we could hardly eat it). The highlights of the dinner were probably either when I started flinging food around with my chopsticks (despite my normal ability to eat like a normal person with them) or when Jordan thought the teapot full of Soju (watered down vodka) was water. Jordan also proved his manliness to everyone at the table by eating the hot peppers that Mr Park was eating (we call him Mr Park because he was never introduced to us beyond being Ms Park's husband, and I don't actually think women change their name upon marriage here, but for want of something to call him we call him Mr Park). After eating the first spicy pepper, Ms Park had to find the even hotter peppers in the freezer, to give Jordan the ultimate test. Luckily for me, I think being a girl keeps me from having to partake in such manly contests, as no one but Jordan thought I should taste the pepper. And since Jordan puts on such a good show with his pepper eating, I didn't want to ruin it by having a panic when I ate one.

Ms Park had invited over her English teacher friend as well, so we passed a very pleasant evening discussing many different things, from Michael Jackson and Obama, to the phrase "who cut the cheese" (which apparently Jordan has never heard, please tell him this is weird). All the English teachers here like talking to us because we are very easy to understand (thanks to our Midwest upbringing I always tell them) unlike the newscasters on CNN whom they can't understand. It was a very nice, relaxing evening, aside from my flying food, and Ms Park has determined that next time we come we will spend the night in her extra bedroom and we will teach her to make pizza.

This is a secret video that Jordan took of the cooking excitement while loafing on the couch.

To see more picture from the trip, visit the album at flickr.

Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

My students this week were excited and thrilled to study "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson. This made for much amusement all around, whether from the enthusiastic whoops from the pop singer (imitated by the more daring in the class) or for me when I asked "who is the man in the mirror?" and received answers such as, "Michael Jackson!" or "poor people!" ("when you look in the mirror, do you see poor people?") When I was planning this lesson I didn't stop and spend much time on the choice of song, not fully realizing at the time that I would have to listen to the song about 300 times this week. The decision came mostly from a song that related to "how to change the world" and since everyone here knows Michael Jackson, I figured this was a good bonus (I don't think here in Korea they know much about his crazy side). Luckily for me, I have actually grown more fond of the song as I've listened to it. I hope to be so lucky next time I pick a song, as fill in the blank lyrics seems to be a big hit with the students. Even when the computer is broken and I must recite the lyrics, the class is still mesmerized into silence (in fact they are quieter when I read than when we listen). Perhaps I have a voice like my Intro to Bible prof, who no matter what he was talking about always put me to sleep instantly. I'm convinced it was the tone and cadence of his speaking, and the fact that is was at 8 in the morning. In any case, I felt a bit like the musician who tamed the wild beast when I read aloud, as the previously rowdy, obnoxious class became so quiet you could hear a pin drop (aside from my recitation).

The only other excitement of my week has been deciding that Gunsan must be the aberration of Korea because I believe we only have nice old people here. We have heard from various sources that the old women in Korea are something to be feared and avoided. Apparently they have no thought for the people around them and are quite ruthless when it comes to standing in line, walking on the street, or doing just about anything else. This being said, I have not experienced any of this mean old lady business. In fact I have only experienced very nice old ladies on the bus. One I met was quite worried that I get a seat on the bus and kept tugging on my shirt until I obliged and sat in a recently opened seat. And yesterday as I was standing at the bus stop in a little drizzle with only my raincoat, an old lady came up and shared her umbrella with me as we waited for the bus. There was also an old man on the bus who was determined to give me his seat, despite my deferrence (the buses in Korea are quite wild and it's all I can do to keep my balance as the bus jerks around, and I didn't want to be responsible for an old man falling over), he prevailed (and I think was more steady on his feet than I am) and proceeded to have a conversation with me in English. I'm not sure if a conversation is a good trade for a seat on the bus, but we both seemed pleased at the arrangement, so I guess in this case everyone was a winner. So I sit in wait of meeting my first mean old lady, but strongly believe that Gunsan is the land of nice old people.

ha ha!

12 Nov 2008
Posted by Marisa
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So I was walking back from lunch with Ms Park and she starts talking about bowing.  She says that some of the foreigners she's known have found bowing to be difficult.  I told her when I moved to Bolivia we had to kiss everyone hello.  Complete shock followed, then nervous laughter (is she serious? could such a place exist?), and agreement that bowing really couldn't be all the bad, could it?