The Next Dubai

08 May 2010
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

 This is where we live. Yes, it's awesome.

Spring is Here

21 Apr 2010
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

 So after being delayed for several weeks, spring finally came, and with it the world's most beautiful sight (site? which one is it?): cherry blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms

There is nothing prettier in the world than a street filled with cherry blossoms, except perhaps if that street is next to a lake called Eunpa.  Luckily we live next to such a lake.  Everyday after school I get off the bus a little early and walk down this little piece of heaven.  Jordan meets me and we eat snacks as we go.  It's the prime holiday week for Eunpa, so all the street snacks are out.  Our favorites include chicken on a stick, waffle, and lately we've found ice cream sandwiches at the GSMart across from the lake.  The other day we had chestnuts and sometimes we have cotton candy.  Jordan eats hot dogs occasionally and once in a while I have a corn dog.  We never eat the stinky silk worm larvae (well, Jordan ate it once).  

Spring not only means the blossoming of the trees and the ability to wear only half my closet to school instead of everything to stay warm, but also the fact that I get to chillax at school.  If this year is anything like last year (and it looks like it might be) I hardly taught at all once we got to the last weeks of April.  The first month and a half is hard work, but from here on out it's coasting time.

Luckily I am very busy running a new digital scrapbooking website:  Pixeled Memories.  Jordan is also very busy helping me to get it up and going.  We are both very excited about it and are hoping to take over the entire digital scrapbooking community soon.  We seem to have just the perfect skills to make this website and I can hardly believe that the nicest website on the internet is mine.  Jordan also recently finished a game related to the 10 Days board games, although it's not posted online yet, so we'll let you know when that's up.  

And that is a brief update of life in the Dream Hub, even dreamier now that we have our very own Subway and Coldstone.  

If you want to take a peek at lots of pictures of the beautiful cherry blossoms, go here.

P1080956 copy

Jordan looking cute.

Let it Snow

20 Dec 2009
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

It's been snowing for so long here in Gunsan that I no longer remember it not snowing.  Yesterday we took a walk out to the park to enjoy the fresh snow, please enjoy some of the pictures we took.


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

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.


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.


19 Jun 2009
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

So here's a little quiz: if Carmen Sandiego were to hide out by world's longest man-made dike, where would you find her? I'll give you a hint: she wouldn't be in the IJsselmeer, the Netherlands. Because the dike located there, the Afsluitdijk, is 500 meters short of the title.

The answer of course, is that Carmen would be sipping ice-cold Nesquik at our apartment in Gunsan. The Saemangeum Seawall, located just south of the city, was opened in 2006 and measures 33 kilometers in length. It's still under heavy construction at the moment, part of a government project to increase the arable land around Gunsan that is costing Korea nearly 7 trillion won (or $5.5 billion USD).

Anyway, Matthew came down for a visit this last weekend, and we determined that it was time to visit the landmark. You can see the pictures here.

Shellfish Heaven

26 Apr 2009
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

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
Marisa's picture

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
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

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 Jordan
Jordan's picture

We were invited Saturday, along with others from the Haven (our church), to a party at the Air Base, which turned out to be a day full of fun. We got a bit of a tour to start off, and learned some fun facts: the airbase is approximately 2000 acres in size, is home to around 2500 air force personnel (approx. one tenth of those being pilots), and maintains two squadrons of F-16 fighter jets (do the math and you discover that it takes approximately 40-50 people to support one fighter). The base was originally built in 1938 by the occupying Japanese forces; it was used by the United States from 1945 onwards.

The various amenities available on the base include a very large gym facility, a golf course, various fast-food restaurants (including Taco Bell and Burger King, which don't exist anywhere else in Gunsan), and the expected commissary, etc. The base is not considered to be "full fledged" because it lacks things like its own hospital, schools, etc. and so families are not allowed to accompany personell asigned here; consequently most (all, as far as I can tell) people are in and out in a year.

Gunsan Air Base

Anyway, after the tour we had lunch in the "Chief's Den" and played some Pit (with a WOW music video playing the background). Marisa and I were also tied together with rope and made to figure out how to untangle ourselves... we were uncessuful, but managed to amuse everyone nontheless (or perhaps consequently).

After our lunch settled we headed over to the very nice gym, and played wallyball (essentially volleyball in a squash court where you're allowed to hit the ball off the walls). We had enough people for four three-on-three teams, and had a real blast playing (it felt great to be physically exhausted for perhaps the first time since coming to Korea). One guy on my team named Tony (a police officer in Miami who chose to take a year off duty to teach in Korea) had been a volleyball setter for several years in college and grad school.

After everyone was spent we got to go up in the air base control tower before heading home on the 6:20 bus (which stops directly outside of the air base). We're hoping to have more wallyball action soon.

Wallyball action

More air base photos.

Weather Update

11 Dec 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Last weekend: 10-12 inches of snow fall during a 24 hour period, temperature drops as low as 10 degrees F.

Yesterday: No snow anywhere, the temperature gets to a balmy 57 degrees F.

We're quite enjoying the contrast to Minnesota here: A good snowfall is really so much more enjoyable when you know it's going to be back up over 50 degrees in a couple of days, rather than six months down the road.

Turkey at the Haven

01 Dec 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Yesterday we went to the Haven Baptist Church, a small church started in the late 1960's to minister to the Gunsan Air Base personnel (currently numbering around 5000, though the number has shrunk continuously since the war); somewhere along the line English Teachers found out about the church, and the congregation seems to be dominated by them now.

The church has no website, but they've got "hit men," so they don't really need one: one day while Marisa was standing at her bus stop waiting for the bus home a Korean man stepped up and gave her a business card for the Church. We called the number, spoke to pastor Stewart (who has been in Korea for over 30 years), and bam! on Sunday a van came by and picked us up.

The church seemed surprisingly small considering the size of the base (somewhere around 50 people I would estimate), but a nice size considering that everyone was quite friendly. We met the air base chief, as well as a number of English teachers around our age (most of them teaching at private hagwans, rather than public schools), and were invited to an English teacher Christmas party this Friday.

One of the best things about our visit was the food: aparently the congregation eats together every Sunday, and they eat stuff besides Kimchi! Don't get me wrong: I like Korean food quite a bit, but considering that it's all we eat at school, and all we can make at home due to what's available at the supermarkets, a little change is nice. This Sunday we ate "left overs" from their Thanksgiving diner; I'm not sure how much food they had originally at the diner, but if they hadn't told us we were eating left overs I never would have guessed: turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with brown sugar... the works. After a month of kimchi, it was a bit like heaven.

Snowy Day!

19 Nov 2008
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

Yesterday afternoon everyone was really excited about the few snow flakes that fell from the sky.  But this morning we were shocked to wake up to about 6 inches of snow.  And it kept snowing all day.  Apparently the snow only lasts for a few days, so we'll see what happens.   click here to see more  photos

Marisa and Snow

Dinner With Landlords

16 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

Last night our landlords took us out to eat; a very nice family with two boys aged five and seven. They took us to Mr. Pizza in the new downtown area of Gunsan. The food was delicious: we had Kimchi and Seafood spaghetti, all-you-can-eat salad bar (which included crab), and a deluxe seafood pizza with crab and other goodies overflowing the crust.. All the waiters at Mr. Pizza wore headbands with crabs bouncing around on little springs, and the place's motto was interestingly "Love For Women"... we never figured out why. After the dinner we took a walk down Gunsan's beautifully-lit pedestrian bridge (crosses over the lake that is near our house). Check out the pictures of the bridge in our photo album.

Bridge Night Lights 01

PS: One of the interesting things in Korea is that you are expected to share, even at restaurants, which means that they've got no problem with two people sharing one all-you-can-eat salad bar dish, or a free-refills glass of Cola (they'll bring you two straws!). I'm sure my dad would think this was great; if he were here I could see him ordering one dish and one glass of Coke for our family of six to share.

Tour of the 'Hood

13 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

A couple of weeks ago we video-taped a little tour of our neighborhood here in Gunsan. It kind of went on the backburner, but here it is in all of its low-resolution glory (I appologize for the video quality: I didn't really know what I was doing with the camera settings at the time). I hope you enjoy the K-Pop.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Beautiful Gunsan

13 Nov 2008
Posted by Jordan
Jordan's picture

For any of you who believed all of Matthew's rhetoric about how ugly Gunsan is, here is proof to the contrary: this photo was taken a ten minute walk from our front door. Click on the image to see more pictures. 

Marisa and Jordan at Lakeside