Monday, October 31, 2011

Homemade Halloween costumes: Bethany Hamilton costume, shark costume, hippy costume

Making your own Bethany Hamilton/shark victim costume is easier than it seems. Be a Seoul Surfer for Halloween!

You can also do a less scary version by tucking your arm in your shirt.

After a few thousand searches for "3 blind mice costumes" which was on my Halloween in Korea post in 2010, I've decided to publish another post about homemade Halloween costumes. This year I celebrated Halloween in Los Angeles and made two Halloween costumes. 

Trace your hand for a perfect fake bloody arm for the shark.
The second costume I made was for Bethany Hamilton. Bethany, if you are reading this you are amazing! I grew up surfing in San Diego, California and you are an inspiration. To make a Bethany Hamilton costume or a shark victim costume you will need to find an old surfboard. I had an abandoned one laying around. To cut the shark bite into the surfboard you need to find old gardening shears. I found that jabbing them into the board made cool shark-like indents. Next you need to make a mangled arm. I made a full-sized arm that went into my boyfriend’s shark costume’s mouth which he bought online. I also made a small “nub” for my arm which was bitten off. First trace your arm on cardboard. Cut out the arm shape, and then apply cardboard and paper to make it 3 dimensional. Once it looks like a real arm you must cover it with paper mache. To make paper mache just use a bunch of glue mixed with water and dip the newspaper into the liquid before covering the cardboard arm. After it dries, you may paint the arm and “nub” with acrylic paint and use watercolors to make a dripping blood effect!

Next paper mache the hand.
The Bethany Hamilton/Shark costume is great for couples. The boyfriend can be the shark and the girlfriend can be the victim. Since Korea loves couples outfits, you will fit right in while stealing the show. My costume won 1st place for the scariest costume contest at a Halloween party we attended in Los Angeles! This year Seoul Surfer came out and touched the hearts of everyone. Many people didn’t know that I was trying to be Bethany Hamilton and just referred to me as the Soul Surfer girl.
Good luck with your costume! If you replicate one of these please send me pictures and I will post them!

Paint the arm and nub with acrylic paint.

Cut a shark bit into a surfboard using giant sheers.

Other members at the costume party.

Take old white shirts and paint a peace sign!
The first night my boyfriend and I went out in a homemade hippy costume. If you want to keep your Halloween very cheap this is an easy option. I took two old white t-shirts and painted giant peace signs on the front using acrylic paint. You can use any colors you want, but I found that smearing neon pink, yellow, and blue together made the best effect. Then find an old vest that you have and throw it on over the shirt. Take any fabric and wrap it around your head covering the middle of your forehead. And finally find some weird jewelry lying around and throw it all on. If you have white pants or linen pants they will also add to the “hippy effect.” Seoul will love your hippy costume when you complete it by raising your hand and giving a big piece sign. 

  If you have any questions or comments about "Homemade Halloween costumes: Bethany Hamilton costume, shark costume, hippy costume" please leave them in the comment box below or email

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Seoul Subway Song has changed but will always be remembered thanks to 마익흘

Michael Aronson won the 10 magazine contest with his hit video.
   Michael 마익흘 Aronson is the latest You Tube sensation with over 2,458,660 hits on his music videos. Some of his videos are parody's based on famous songs such as Hanson's "MMMBop" and creating some of his own unique raps incorporating famous places and activities in Korea.
   The Korean subway song above is one of my personal favorites! Days before I left Korea, they had changed the subway song on Line 1 in Jongno. So watching this video brings back good memories of riding the Seoul subway system. I'm sure many Koreans and expats alike will appreciate this video to keep the old subway song alive.
   The Korea Joongang Daily says that Aronson created the videos to submit in a contest for promoting Korea through 10 magazine. Aronson won first place out of 42 entries submitted to the contest and his You Tube videos have spread across Korea and are a favorite among the expat community in Korea.
   The well known subway tune in Aronson's hit video The Korean Subway Song has sadly been replaced.  Seoul Sounds has a clip of the New ‘fanfare’ announcement that is currently being used on all Seoul Metro subway lines (Lines 1,2,3,4). 
    Another one of Aronson's hits is in the clip below. His parody on Hanson's "MMBop" will make you die of laughter if you are familiar with the Korean treat Kimbap. In Korean, bap means rice and so there are many dishes that end in "bap" which is perfect for Michael Aronson's song. If you have left Korea already like myself, his songs are a great way to stay in tough with your Korean side!

If you have any questions or comments about "The Seoul Subway Song has changed but will always be remembered thanks to 마익흘 " please leave them in the comment box below or email

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Take the Wine Train in Korea for the journey, not the wine

Two women on the Korean wine train enjoy playing games on board the train headed from Seoul to Koreans only winery in Yeongdong.

   Wine Korea offers an amazing cultural tour of the Korean countryside through wine. Hop on the Wine Train for an all day adventure with your friends or lover. Whether or not you are setting out on a romantic date or a booze train, guests of all backgrounds will truly enjoy their day being immersed into Korean culture.
    My man Paulo flew in from Los Angeles during the coldest Korean winter in history to join me on the tour. We arrived at Seoul Station on a Saturday morning in January completely exhausted because of the early departure. The train boards its passengers at 8:55am. You may choose between 2 cars on board: Red/White Wine Passenger Car: KRW 85,000 or Ginseng/Medicinal Herb Passenger Car: KRW 80,000. We went for the more expensive car the Red/White car which seemed to be more VIP in overall nature of the tour. The 5,000 won increase in comparison to the Ginseng car is a small price to pay when you see the comfortable interior of the train.

    So what are you going to do on a 12 hour wine train tour? 

A strange platter of Western food on board the train.
First you will enjoy a fun and wine filled journey to Yeongdong. The DJ/host in your train will provide a variety of games for entertainment during the train ride. Several of the games involved popping balloons, using smiley face stickers to attach your table members and the Korean version of rock,paper,scissors. Prizes are awarded for the game winners. The games were fun, however they were all conducted in Korean. Nothing was in English the entire trip, which resulted in a lot of laughing, staring and use of the word waygooken (foreigner). I actually recommend going without a foreigner group because the experience of dancing, drunk, adjumas (old women) was so enjoyable! Most of the wine was unbearable, so we stuck to the white wine which was kind of like a bitter version of Chardonnay.

The all you can drink wine doesn't have the best quality.
Once you get to Yeongdong and have a good buzz, you will board a short bus ride to Wine Korea for lunch. The food is a buffet set up of average Korean/fusion food. Overall, I would give the lunch rating a C. Pasta, Korean food, salad and cake are not my favorite combinations.You can have access to giant barrels of wine and drink as much as you want before re-boarding the bus for your next stop.
    After lunch there are a few stops at several cultural attractions. I really enjoyed this portion of the tour and my man Paulo loved learning how to play traditional Korean music. This took place at the Nangye Educational Center for Korean Classical Music Instruments. We heard professionals play music first and then all guests were provided with their own drums and were given a 30 minute music lesson.

Learning how to play Korean drums was awesome.

  From the educational center we walked across the street to see a colossus drum and spend time in a small museum. There were also bows and arrows for those to shoot that were less interested in the museum.
The next stop takes you to an amazing underground tunnel which serves as an old wine cellar for Wine Korea. Because all of the signs were in Korean and the guides only spoke Korean, I was unable to learn the exact details of the tunnel.

A group enjoying the wine foot bath.

Finally, you will get the chance to sit back and relax as you stick your feet into boiling hot baths of wine water. The water was too hot for me and took a while to ease into! You will also make wine soap during this portion of the tour. This all takes black back at the Wine Korea location where it will end with a tour of the private wine cellar and gift shop.
Don't worry the party isn't over yet. You will head back to Seoul playing plenty of games and relaxing as a sweet Korean guy plays music on his guitar and sings to you. During this time, my train was getting wild with the DJ and all of the adjumas and adjoosis (old women and men) were out of their seats dancing.

By the end of the tour my car had plenty of wine for the day as they danced wildly on the train!
A peek inside of the Korea wine cellar cave.
The tour takes 12 hours round trip from Seoul Station and is well worth the price for transportation, all you can drink wine, and food throughout the entire day. Play the foreigner card, and you will probably end up with a free bottle of wine to take home with you at the end of the day!  Depending on the weather and time of year the Wine Train has different versions of its tours. It may subsitute the music and underground tunnel portions of 4 and 5 above for a stop at the Geumsan Ginseng Town.
Foreigners do not have to pay in advance, but they must call Tel: 02-3149-3333 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese) to book their tickets! Use the Korea Tourism Org's Website for more help in booking your trip!

Graphics on the outside of one of the Wine Train cars.

Excited passengers on the Korea Wine Train!
Outside of the winery on a snowy day. 
Inside the soap making room. My group failed so I won't show our soap!
A massive Korean drum outside of the music center.

If you have any questions or comments about "Take the Wine Train in Korea for the journey, not the wine" please leave them in the comment box below or email

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Friday, October 21, 2011

The truth about teaching English at YBM in South Korea

Fellow YBM teachers in an ad!
Wow, first off I haven't posted blogs in over 3 months. I'd like to explain to all of my readers that this is mainly because of my crazy schedule teaching English at YBM and a combination of moving back to the U.S. to get my Master Degree!  Yes, I am now back home in beautiful San Diego, California attending The University of San Diego to get my M.Ed. in Education: TESOL, Culture, and Literacy. I'm really excited for the program and I will have the opportunity to do some teaching here and advance my skills as an ESL teacher.

I'd like to take some time to personally address my experience working with YBM. I loved my experience teaching English in Korea. This article has been on my mind ever since moving to Korea, and now that my 1 year contract has ended I can finally inform my readers.  I will be as honest as possible in my evaluation noting the benefits and negatives of working for the company. This is not written to harm any employee, corporation, coworker,student, etc. affiliated with YBM. This is my own personal account which is not meant to be taken as an overall assumption of the company. I would suggest doing further research to gauge an assessment other other companies as well before forming your opinion. If you are a former employee of YBM, or wish to share your personal experience on my blog about teaching at a particular school or company in Korea please send me an e-mail. I would love to post valuable experiences and create a database/network of companies with personal accounts to share with future ESL teachers in Korea.

2009, LMU students after our tour.
My Personal History with YBM
My history with YBM started in the summer of 2009 when I was in Korea with The Father P. Daly Summer Scholarship in Korea program. The program was built for 4 Loyola Marymount Students to go over to Korea for 2 weeks and learn about Korean culture, industries, and politics. In the program we had a private tour of YBM in which we learned about the booming English Language Economy. First we met with the National Academic Director, Greg Stapleton, who gave us a short overview of the company and its perks. He walked us through each floor of the Jongno Headquarters and then took us to Greg Dawson who was the current academic supervisor for all the teachers in the Jongno office at the time. Dawson paired us up with another teacher and we were able to sit in on different classes being taught that day. Afterwards we went to lunch with Dawson and several teachers to get to know what its like to work at YBM and live in Korea. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the company and held on to Dawsons business card as a valuable resource for my future.

After finishing my Undergraduate Degree at Loyola Marymount in May of 2010 I was hired by YBM. I contacted Greg Dawson from the Jongno office in Seoul and had a phone interview. He was very accomodating and I was formally hired by the company in Mid-April and started my 1 year contract in September. There was a one week training program before the contract so I arrived in Korea on August 15th 2010. I taught for YBM full time M-F which consisted of 30 teacher hours per week unless otherwise mandated 40 hours during busy seasons. I also taught (optional but I will explain problems with this later) Saturday classes for 3 hours a day during one month of my position, and 6 hour Saturday classes during 9 months of my contract. 2 months of my contract I worked overtime at 40 teaching hours per week and 35 teaching hours per week. Yes, I worked overtime and Saturdays for 11 months out of my 12 months. I really enjoyed the extra pay to fund my travels and savings account!

I will not reveal my overall opinion of YBM because I want you to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. With that said, I worked there for one year and found that I was blessed to have the opportunity to teach Adults for 1 year. I taught college students, business men, house wives, professionals, and even Buddhist monks. My students were amazing! I miss you guys! I did not renew my contract the end of the year because I wanted to further develop my skills in Graduate school.

YBM Jongno teachers posing for their staff picture.
Pros of Working at YBM

YBM has many benefits that should be carefully taken into account for all interested in teaching ESL in Korea.

  1. YBM will always pay you on time and in full. A standard salary is 2.1 million won per month or about $2,000. This can be negotiated slightly with certain TESOL certificates. You are always paid on the 7th day of each month by direct deposit to your bank account.
  2. YBM will hire you without a TESOL certification. I was hired without one because of my connection to the school, but decided to do a short online course to get an extra $100 a month pay raise and prepare myself better for teaching ESL.
  3. YBM will always give you enough hours. If you want overtime Jongno (in Seoul) is a good location.
  4. YBM has a one week training program to immerse you in ESL and provide you with basic strategies for teaching. This training program is paid.
  5. YBM will place you in a motel for free during your first 15 days in Korea.
  6. YBM will provide you win a severance bonus after completing 1 year of your contract. However, this will still be taxed. The severance is equivalent of an extra months wages. (Severance Pay)
  7. Teachers are allows to have class outings with their students. One class per year teachers can go out do lunch/dinner/coffee/movies with their students. This is not funded by YBM and the class must unanimously agree. 
  8. Central Locations in Seoul and city centers. I loved working at the Jongno office because it is smack in the center of downtown Seoul and down the street from famous historical temples, parks and palaces.
  9. YBM will pay for your round trip airfare on completion of your contract.
  10.  Amazing students! Teaching adults is awesome!

Cons of working at YBM

The biggest flaw of YBM for me was their strict curriculum for teachers and the rigorous schedule.

  1. All teachers must follow a tight syllabus with the YBM coursebooks. Lesson plans are provided for each lesson that you teach down to the minute. I must say after doing these for 12 months I wonder if they should just hire robots, because sometimes I felt like one. As a new teacher, I found them very helpful in the beginning, but then I became bored out of my mind. The previous teachers never wanted to use the system in the first place and there was alot of tension in the office about it. There were a lot of secret activities and handouts being shared by teachers throughout the office. We were constantly being checked on to see if our Lesson Aims were on the board and that we were following each stage of the Lesson Plans at the exact point in time. Here is what a standard lesson plan looks like:

YBM Speaking Level 3

Unit 2                                                                                                            Lesson Aims

Page 9/listening                                                           Talking about skills and experience

Review/preview (5 minutes) 

Review:   1. Elicit the Lesson Aims of the previous lesson. "What did we study last time?"

                 2. Elicit content (Vocabulary, expressions, patterns,explanations, and examples.)

                 3. Outline the main points on the board as students produce them

Preview:   1. communicate the Lesson Aims, Refer students to the board and syllabus Tell students what will be covered in this lesson (unit/page/supplement)

 Warm Up (10 minutes)  

Presentation:  Q&A (Whole class) ask the students if they've ever had job interviews. As
them what kinds of question there were asked. Ask them about their work experience and skills.
Model some experience and skills questions and answers on the board.

Practice: Q&A (pairs) have the students ask and answer questions about skills and experience using the patterns modeled on the board. Monitor for accuracy.

Main Body (25 minutes) 

Activity 1: Listening 1. Elicit answers to the homework (Ex. A) Play the audio once to confirm answers or address any  questions. (If no one has done the homework, proceed
directly to Ex B.)

2. Listening Ex B (Pairs): Have the students discuss the questions Tell them they can ask any follow-on questions they like. Monitor and note common errors for the

Feedback stage.

Activity 2: Supplement (EC3U2-Job Skills and Experience) (New Pairs)
1. Distribute the supplement. Read the instructions. Confirm understanding by asking the students to explain what they'll do. Encourage the students to ask follow-on questions. Monitor and note common errors for the

Feedback stage.

Feedback(5 minutes)

1. While students are working in pairs near the end of the Main Body, write three or four sentences containing errors (Or commonly mispronounced words) on the board.
2.Bring the class back together. "Let's look at some common mistakes."
3. Elicit corrections (or correct pronunciation), explanations of corrections, and further examples of similar usage (or pronunciation)

Review/Preview(5 minutes)

1. Elicit this lesson's Lesson Aims. "What was our Lesson Aim today?"
2. Elicit content (Vocabulary, expressions, patterns, explanations, and examples).
3. Outline the main points on the board as students produce them.

1. Communicate the next lesson's Lesson Aims. Refer students to syllabus.
2. Assign any homework and give instructions/modeling.
3. Tell students what will be covered in the next lesson (Unit/page/supplement)
Out at dinner with 2 of my students Level 2 and Level 4.

  1. (above)
  2. Teachers must be observed every 3 months. If they do not perform the syllabus exactly then they must be re-evaluated again. Some teachers are evaluated for over 4 months straight with random spot-checks. If you want creativity in designing your own classwork then YBM is not the place for you. In my case, the evaluations were not friendly. I like constructive criticism and I do well with it, but it was more like a do this or we will fire you and get someone new kind of attitude. My coworkers constantly stressed or only performed the required syllabus for the evaluations. (There were secret handouts and activities being shared throughout the office as a relief from the book and strict Lesson Plans like above)
  3. YBM did not tell me they tax my plane ticket both ways and deduct it from my pay check before arrival.
  4. YBM will help you find an apartment. But they did not tell me until 2 months after signing my rental agreement that there was a $450 real estate fee. There is also a $300 deposit. This is also taxed.
  5. The hours are not likely to be good during your first year. Many locations will tell you that you might have to work a split shift for only the first 3 months. This is not true and my coworkers and I were actually given triple shifts, even worse than a split shift. After your first year, you might have the opportunity to get a block schedule, but this depends on who is highest on the ranking sheet in your office. The office has a sheet with everyone's names on it from the date that they started their contract and this is how the schedules are made. The people that have been working at the company the longest are at the top, everyone new is at the bottom. The people at the top get the best schedules and classes according to their schedule request each month.The most requested schedule by them was the 7am-2pm block. The office has a hierarchy system based on length of contract time. If your family is coming into town or your boyfriend is visiting your schedule probably wont get any better either. In addition, the schedule changes each month so you cannot book any travel plans because you never know what your hours will be for the next month. They will tell you Sunday night before your Monday class starts in my experience. I was exhausted after working the entire day with breaks for 2-3 hours in between, not to mention getting up at 6:30am and finishing work at 10pm.
          Here were some of my schedules:

         January: 10am -12pm 421 TThF
                        10am -12pm 431 MWF
                        2pm - 4 pm   431 MWF
                        4pm - 6 pm   304 Everyday
                        6:30pm-8pm 432 MWF
                        8pm - 10 pm 432 MWF

        July:        7am - 8am     wot Everyday
                        9am - 9am     404 Everyday
                       6:30pm -  8pm 425 TThF
                       6:30pm - 8pm  431 MWF
                       8pm - 9 pm      TT2 MWF/TThF
                       9pm - 10pm     TT2 TThF

       August    10am - 12pm   421 TThF
                       10am - 12pm   432 MWF
                       2pm - 4pm       424 TThF
                       2pm - 4pm       433 MWF
                     6:30pm - 8pm    423 MWF
                     6:30pm - 8pm    431 TThF
                       8pm - 10pm     422 TThF
                       8pm - 10pm     432 MWF

This finishes my personal account of working with YBM. There are many things I am sure I forgot and I will be happy to answer any questions in detail if you leave me a message. If you are a coworker and think I left something out, let me know and I will add it in!

If you have any questions or comments about "The truth about teaching English at YBM in South Korea" please leave them in the comment box below or email

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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