Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vote for me as a Columbia Ski Bum!


Well, it's that time of the year where finals, presentations, and my Master's thesis is taking over my life. So I took a break to enter myself into a fun competition. There are literally only 2 days left in the voting rounds, so you can vote 3 times all at once or throughout the day for my video! The link is below to vote for me! Marie W is the name above the movie. If I win, I will go to Colorado for 90 days for free to become a ski bum, or if I am a finalist I will receive $200 to Columbia Sports Wear! I deserve a break after this crazy semester of work and school, so send me on the graduation trip of a lifetime! : )

To Vote click this link!!! You need to be logged in Facebook

You can view the video below  : )   But make sure you vote!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crossing the border from Aranyapathet to Poipet: a sketchy bus journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap

Crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia can seem like a harrowing experience for first timers.

If you read nothing else, here are the top 5 things to remember when taking a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap over the border of Aranyapathet to Poipet. 

1. Don't freak out. You're relatively safe. 
2. Give yourself one full day to travel over the border.
3. Expect long waits and many delays. (AKA you are being held hostage at restaurants, gas stations, and fake immigration offices and embassies)
4. Every stop is planned by the Thai bus company so they make more money.
5. Enjoy the ride, because you know everything that will happen in advance if you read this article and did your homework. Make some friends too!

Our packed mini bus.
      Lets face it, walking across the boarder in any 2nd or 3rd world country can seem a little sketchy but if you do it enough times it will seem like any other day. I grew up crossing the border between San Diego and Mexico several times a year over many different locations. As a young girl going on volunteer trips to Tijuana  the crossing didn't particularly phase me as we drove over in a car with a big group that knew the drill well. As a teenager, we were so hammered we had liquid courage of fear that had us literally dancing over the border past U.S. customs. And as an adult, I don't mind walking over and hopping in a cab to save a few hundred dollars on a plane ticket out of the Tijuana Airport.
      Now, as a person that has walked over the border several different times and some of them on my own, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about my journey from Bangkok, Thailand into Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can get to Siem Reap from Bangkok by bus, plane, or train. A plane ride will cost you upwards of $400-$500 one way; a pricey ticket for most of us backpackers. So we end up  taking the train, or going the Khao San Road  mini bus scam route because of its low cost. A measly $10 or 350 Thai Baht at the nearest travel stand seems like a good idea for a one way ticket when your wallet is looking empty. Others head over to Mo Chit bus station to pay a little more money for a government run bus that leaves every morning. The government bus is just as sketchy as the mini bus scams as you will still have to hire your own tuk tuk from Aranyapathet to the border crossing. Although I have heard the government bus will not harrass foreigners too much about their visas trying to make a quick buck. See Jason Stearns article about taking the government bus. But I'm going to share with you my journey of taking the scam artist mini bus straight from Khoa San Road to Siem Reap.

The process

The Thai countryside on the journey to the Cambodian border.

1. Head to any travel company located in or around Khoa San Road for the cheapest mini bus ticket. Don't give into their crappy hotel deal and stay strong about a hotel or hostel that you have already pre-booked. They will take you to their hotel anyway off of one of the main streets in Siem Reap, and from there you can get a short tuk tuk ride to your destination.

Our bumpy journey to the Poipet border.
2. Hop on the mini bus and get ready for the journey! Its going to take you ALL DAY. No matter what the tour company has told you, you will be leaving around 7:30am and arriving by 5-6pm at night or even later. I arrived at around 8pm. The bus driver will most likely be a terrible driver as he drives on the opposite side of the road to pass people just in the nick of time before you get hit by a semi truck. But he's done this every day for the past week, so don't worry too much! : ) Expect a bumpy ride on the bus and a full passenger load. I tried to sleep most of the ride to save up energy, and alot of people read books or talked about places to see in Siem Reap. 

3. You are going to stop at a gas station before the border. If you want anything to eat or drink there is a giant convenient store comparable to 7 eleven on both legs of the trip. 

The fake Cambodia Consulate General on the Thailand side.
4. At Aranyapathet they will take you to a small restaurant. Here is where they will start hounding you about your tourist visa. DON'T GIVE THEM YOUR PASSPORT OR ANY MONEY. THIS IS A SCAM SO THAT THE THAI BUS DRIVERS MAKE AN EXTRA $20 OFF EACH PASSENGER THEY BRING TO THE BORDER. Also, would you ever give your passport to a stranger anyway? I wouldn't. So as they make up every single lie in the world about how long its going to take for you to get your visa if you do it on your own, or how the border ran out of visas, or how you had to get it before you came to the border, just say no thank you I already have it and do not give them your passport or even take it out of your bag. If you really don't want to face the attacks, hand it over and pay the money like the other 80% of the passengers on your bus that didn't do their homework, but you really don't have too. 

Strange posters inside the immigration buildings.
5. If you don't hand over your passport they are going to load you into another mini bus and tell you that they are taking you to the visa office at the embassy. They will take you to a fake building with a fake sign at the gate and ask you to come inside to pay. We didn't get out of the bus because we already knew the scam, so I don't have any pictures of the fake officers with their fake outfits on : )
Just hang out in the bus for a while and watch as the bus drivers smoke their cigarettes and hang out too. They are just dragging out the time as long as they possibly can to piss you off and make you pay the fee. But regardless of how long it takes, you will still get to the border at the same time as your other bus group members. They are just sitting in the restaurant waiting to get to the border as well, pretty much being held hostage. 

Inside the Thai immigration office.

6. When you get to the real border you will know. Duh! There is a line people, you walk down a street and eventually reach a line where you can visibly see the Thai border crossing. After you clear Thai customs you will walk over to the Poipet side. The bus drivers will take your official ticket and give you a little blue sticker while telling you that they will meet you on the other side. It took my group about 1 hour to get through the Thai clearance.

7. Once in Poipet, this was the weirdest part. You would normally expect another line of some sort to cross directly over the Cambodia side. However, it is just open land and roads filled with people selling things. There are several hotels and a casino is there for all of the Thai to go gambling. You can literally hang out in-between the Thai and Cambodia borders without actually crossing into Cambodia through their customs office. But yes, you are in Cambodia. Poipet is a dirty little gambling town where alot of Thai people venture to win some money and where Cambodia makes some extra cash. I'd compare Poipet to Sin City without the luxurious part.

8. Your bus drivers will direct those of you that need a tourist visa to the visa office on the right hand side of the road. It seems very sketchy, but it is indeed where you buy your tourist visa. The visa will cost $25. Bringing American currency is easiest because the immigration officers won't scam you for Thai baht. I literally had an immigration officer that refused to put my passport through the window to get my visa until I paid him a 100 Baht charge. This is also a stupid scam. Alot of people give in, but I refuse to give my money to dirty government officials that are making a buck. How much money do they make a day ripping off people at the border? I refused to directly give money over to such a corrupt government and after 3 minutes the pissed off immigration officer threw my passport under the window for my visa. Then after ten minutes he gave my passport back without my $25 change as I had given them a $50. I demanded the change with a strong voice and he hesitantly returned the money. 

The Cambodian customs office.
9. Now you will walk from the visa office to the extremely sketchy and almost non apparent line through Cambodian customs. This took my group another 2 hours as we made our way toward a measly little customs office with 3 windows and plenty of confused Japanese tourists that didn't know they were supposed to stop in the visa office and get their tourist visa.

10. You will now take a giant free government bus from the Poipet border to the bus station. Hop on and relax for a 15-20 minute ride and debrief before the final harassment and waiting period takes place.

Boarding the bus at Poipet bus station.
11. Yay! You made it to the bus station! This is the last leg of the journey. If there is not a large group of mini bus passengers to board the luxury bus, you will be waiting anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2-3 hours until the full VIP bus is loaded for the final leg of the journey into Siem Reap. So, the bus drivers will try and convince you to get a taxi, which at this point I was ok with spending the extra money. But if you feel more comfortable sticking with a group of people, hang out until the luxury bus gets loaded. At least you know that this is a normal situation. They will look for your colored sticker at this point, and if you lost it they will try and charge you a fee because that sticker became your ticket. They take your ticket away so that you can't report the bus company scam online or to the Thai government. A man will board the bus telling you all about the scams and how his company is a good one in Siem Reap. He will make alot of recommendations about staying at his hotel and using his safe and reliable tuk tuk drivers and give a full history on how corrupt the Cambodian and Thai border is. This guy is nice and alot of people are attracted to his spiel, but its just another way for them to make money. 

Our last bus of the journey to Siem Reap.
12. After you board the VIP bus you will have another 2 hours to relax on board. You will also stop at another restaurant for 30 minutes to an hour for a break. All of these stops are pre-arranged by the tour companies. Don't be surprised. Once in Siem Reap, take a tuk tuk or taxi from the bus company's hotel directly to your hotel.

Overall, this experience is one that I will remember for the rest of my life. The Mexican border now seems like a joke to me. I remember being afraid at some times while dealing with the pretty aggressive Thai bus drivers about the visa, but my friend and I as well as 5 other people refused to give into the scam. Lets face it, if the bus companies just charged a little more for the ticket over there then we would all probably pay. Its just the fact that they are ripping you off and treating you so poorly that I refuse to let happen to me. Also, my rule about never handing over my passport to anyone unless I cross over a "real" border and can see the line and officers in windows with a crowd of people. I believe if enough foreigners begin standing up to them, then the corrupt companies will eventually give up with the visa scam. Or, they will just realize they can charge more for a ticket by providing a reliable and enjoyable service with no hassling involved. Good luck on your trip and enjoy lovely Cambodia! The people are extremely nice at all of the hotels and restaurants. Make sure to stop buy the restaurants and massage studios that give their money to a good cause. There are several blind massage schools as well as a delicious restaurant called Butterflies Garden Restaurant that provides advanced restaurant training to disadvantaged youth. 

At Butterflies Garden Restaurant celebrating our first night in Cambodia all for a good cause.

If you have any questions or comments about "Crossing the border from Aranyapathet to Poipet: a sketchy bus journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gangnam Style Halloween Costumes to take over this 2012 Halloween

Rent or buy a yellow suit for the car scene!
     Every year I do a post about home-made Halloween costumes as I was inspired by all of the creative costumes during my first Halloween in Seoul. This year nothing seems more fitting than a group Gangnam style Halloween costume. Many men will be dressed up as PSY himself, but a group costume is even more fitting for the crazy Korean song lyrics about old rich men in Gangnam hitting on young girls and one shoting their coffees to rack up the bill and seem cool. There are so many stores that quickly capitalized on the gangnam style offering different versions of the main characters many costume changes. Of the most popular is his blue suit and round sun glasses.

    For my group Halloween costume 4 people are needed including 2 girls and 2 guys. One man will be the yellow suit guy while the other is Gangnam himself. And the two girls will of course be the two sexy Korean girls.

    Korean girls: short sequined silver shorts, a long white backless top, white sandals, aviators, and silver cuffs or bracelets.

   Yellow suit guy: yellow suit, black wig, a toy red car.

See through blouse and silver sequined shorts.
   Gangnam: a bowtie, any kind of suit jacket and pants, dark round sunglasses, swag.

To make this group costume even better, carry around a portable music player so that you can bust our your gangnam style dance wherever you may be partying this Halloween. To learn the dance, there are several good tutorials on Youtube. Check out the latest article in the L.A. times about "Cashing in Gangnam Style: Halloween costumes, fashion...fries? Since this is a pre-halloween post, check back after the 31st to see our full group costume!

If you have any questions or comments about "Gangnam Style Halloween Costumes" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teacher rapper: my research on music in ESL

A group of students during my research study inspired me to rap. If they can learn English by rapping I can rap too!

     Over 10 months ago the idea of music in ESL began stirring up a whirlwind of ideas, questions, and confusion in my head. As my graduate thesis proposal approached last spring, I finally settled on the idea of researching student and teacher perceptions on the use of music to enhance second language acquisition in adult ESL classrooms. My research question is directly related to my omoi and I have been a musician all of my life. My major was in ethomusicology, specifically piano performance and world music cultures. I played in a gamelan for 2 years during undergrad, and traveled to Ubud in central Bali to experience Balinese gamelan at the heart. As an educator, I have always wondered about the power of music in ESL, and what music's place is in the field of education and more specifically ESL. Never having the flexibility in my previous work places to use music freely in my lessons made me wonder how other teachers are currently using music in ESL. I want to learn from them and see how they are using music, why, the effects, and what the students think. 
     The exact whereabouts about the first implementations of music within academic subjects is unknown. However, integration of music with academic subjects is by no means a new notion in the field of education (Sporborg 1998). Teachers have been using music to teach academic subjects in science, mathematics, geography, history, and language arts throughout the 19th century. Of the most famous examples and one that remains famous today, is introducing the alphabet to young children by singing the letters to the tune “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (Sporborg 1998).
    There is an abundance of theory and research that supports the use of music in educational contexts. Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence's shows how musical intelligence could explain the ease that some learners have in perceiving and producing the intonation patterns of a language (Brown, 2007).  A current empirical study shows the effectiveness of using music to teach math concepts in San Bruno, California. (Esch, 2012) Music has been shown to improve communicative skills among middle school ESL students (Kennedy & Scott 2005). 
 However the overall phenomenon of music in ESL has not been deeply studied. The teacher perceptions have not been recorded in detail and most research focuses on the students. 
      As I’m in the final stages of collecting my data, I was inspired by a group of students that I was researching. While observing one particular class that was using music as a means of discussion and a writing activity, a group of students openly talked about their enjoyment of listening to music to improve their English skills. Several students began rapping to their partners and their groups egged them on as they busted out the lyrics. The student really sounded American while he was rapping, and I’m sure that he influenced his fellow students to start singing in English to improve their pronunciation, vocabulary skills, and overall fluency. I’m sure this particular student didn't know, but he inspired me, and as I drove home that day I turned on my I pod to some of the only rap that I had and started learning the lyrics. So my “teacher rapper” video is dedicated to all of the students out there learning English through music.

If you have any questions or comments about "Teacher rapper: my research on music in ESL" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seoul Food Girl in Japan: How to make Takoyaki in true Osaka fashion

Forget spending a fortune in America or taking a trip to Japan, making your own takoyaki is easier than you think.
 This post can also be read at
 How to make Takoyaki live video:

A takoyaki grill is needed.
      Bubbly balls of goodness shimmering with moving flakes and green sparkles is the best way to describe the famous Japanese dish takoyaki (γŸγ“η„Όγ). During my first trip ever to Japan, my friend and I stopped by the famous takoyaki restaurant in Dotonbori in Osaka. Osaka is the best place in Japan to try takoyaki as the delicious octopus fried balls originated in the coastal city in 1935. To be honest, I was very skeptical about trying takoyaki for the first time because of the crazy hype fellow travelers and friends expressed as they lost their minds telling me about it. Speaking from past experience trying popular food items in tourist locations usually turns out to be a let down and more of a tourist trap or experience rather than being popular for the actual taste and quality of the food. But all of my premonitions were wrong about takoyaki as I bit into a flaky and crunchy yet gooey ball of absolute joy and decided it was by far on the top 5 list of things I had eaten in Japan. Returning back to Tokyo to work 10 months after my short trip to Osaka, I found myself with a Japanese family making my own takoyaki for the first time. 

My great takoyaki teachers.
Takoyaki Ingredients:

-Fish flakes
-Pickled ginger
-Green onion
-Seaweed flakes (kim)

Simply add all of the ingredients to the inside of the balls and turn them with a toothpick. Then season as shown in the video.

If you have any questions or comments about "Seoul Food Girl in Japan:How to make Takoyaki in true Osaka fashion" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Seoul Food Girl: Mappo BBQ is the Korean BBQ restaurant in San Diego that never sleeps

Mappo BQQ in San Diego stays true to Korean night life every day of the week.
   This article can also be read at

The traditional round tables are just like in Korea piled with goodies.
    Six bottles of soju later, a free bill, and Korean Karaoke marked a wonderfully Korean night out on Convoy St. in San Diego. The small round tables at stools at Mapo BBQ Korean Cuisine keep the traditional Korean BBQ alive as many local California Korean BBQ's take a modern take Korean dining with Western style tables and chairs. Mapo offers both a traditional Korean experience with charcoal grills outside and a modern American experience with electric grills inside. Whatever you are looking for, the Korean cuisine will be delightful.
    After 2 kimchi jjigaes, bi bim bap, samgyupsal, gal bi sal, thin sliced beef brisket, shrimp, 2 steamed eggs, several bottles of soju and hite, my table was stuffed. We went a little overboard having a great Korean BBQ experience with my friends and their Korean students studying in California. One of our group members was also vegetarian so we ordered her the shrimp and vegetable bi bim bap. We ordered the set menu A which lets you choose 4 kinds of meat, 1 steamed egg, and 1 kimichi or tofu jjigae. We also ordered extras such as the shrimp and more jjigaes and rice to satisfy our appetite.
The grills outside in the traditional Korean section have charcoal.
     After a good two and a half hours of eating and playing Korean drinking games one of the Korean students got up to use the restroom. After a long departure, another one of our group members went to check on him only to discover that he had been sucked over to his Uncle's business meeting (drinking meeting in Korea) at another table. Our large bill over $200 was comped by the boys Uncle who explained that it was tradition for the oldest family member to pay the bill! The uncle had also encountered my blonde friend near the restroom which could have been another contributing factor to the free meal. Even funnier, we never saw our friend again as he was initiated into the business table and was stuck there until everyone had finished!

After Mapo head over to a local Korean karaoke room for some fun.

Price- Certain things on the menu seem outrageously priced for those of us that have lived in Korea. To see bi bim bap priced at $8-12 seems ridiculous when you can get a giant sizzling bowl with free side dishes in Korea for just $3. However, if you are going for BBQ the all you can eat is the best route to go. For $20 you get everything included. The set menus are also

Service- The service takes much longer than in traditional Korean restaurants. They serve you your side dishes first and the meat comes out much later. The trick is to not get so hungry that you eat all of your side dishes before grilling your meat as you should mix and match them along with the meat for extra flavor.

Atmosphere- At about 10 pm on a Thursday night Mapo will start to get really crowded. Interestingly enough my group was there at about 8:30 and the traditional BBQ tables were empty in the inner room. But the later it got, the entire room and outside portion with the charcoal grills were completely full. Mapo BBQ is like Korea at its best as it lives up to the night life in Seoul and every other Korean city. If you go to any big city in Korea the BBQ restaurants are at their full capacity at around 10 pm to midnight and even into the earlier hours of the morning. I'd say that Mapo is one of the most authentic Korean restaurants in San Diego.

Food- Once again, for those of you that have lived in Korea the quality of American beef versus Korean beef is non comparable. You can taste the difference in quality and the flavors are quite different. However, Mapo BBQ does a great job keeping all of its side dishes including its kimchi extremely traditional. The dipping sauces for the meat are perfectly made and if you are lucky enough to get a charcoal grill outside your meat will taste even more Korean. Cut those long pieces of kimchi up and throw them on the grill along with the garlic and mushrooms for added flavor.

Reviews- Most of the reviews agree that Mapo Korean BBQ can be quite expensive but well worth it for the quality of food and atmosphere. In relation to the well known Korean chain, Manna Korean BBQ, Mapo stays true to its Korean heritage without becoming too Americanized or mainstreamed.

Check out Mapo BBQ Korean Cusine's Facebook Page

If you have any questions or comments about "Seoul Food Girl: Mappo BBQ is the Korean BBQ restaurant in San Diego that never sleeps" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What does it mean to be well educated?: A response to Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn came to USD last January to talk about what it means to be truly well educated.

     What does it mean to be well educated? My first experience with Alfie Kohn's simple yet complex question was last spring when he came as a guest speaker to the University of San Diego. At that time, my research fellowship required me to organize and plan for the Department of Learning and Teachings special events. My faculty advisor gushed about Kohn and made it clear to me that he was one of the biggest and most important names in the field of education today. After plenty of research and extensive readings, I found myself fascinated with his work and agree that he is one of the most knowledgeable and approachable writer and speaker in the field. Taking a look at his article titled "What does it mean to be well educated" (2003) answers many questions about education in a clear and precise manner.

1. Kohn's wife- After 29 years of schooling not including medical residency, Kohn's wife still cannot do basic arithmetic or use good grammar. Yet, what she is lacking is not preventing her from her professional success. Kohn's wife is a great example of the question of whether or not our schooling is flawed. If someone can go through such extensive schooling and still have trouble with the basics does that mean we have failed as educators? I believe the answer to this question is no and Kohn follows up by providing many great examples.

2. smart or book smart?- Kohn states that he has realized how many truly brilliant people cannot spell or punctuate. Does this diminish their value as a professional? Absolutely not. I agree with Kohn when he says that their insights and discoveries change the shape of their fields. Who cares if they can't use an apostrophe correctly to save their lives? As a journalist and writer myself, I admit that I am not the best at grammar. Every great writer still has an editor that focuses in on the minute mistakes that harm our writing but not our ideas. As an ESL teacher, I am still reluctant to say that I know all of the rules of grammar even though I teach many grammar points on a daily basis. Yes, I know more than most of my peers about grammar terminology, but that is just because of using it on a daily basis not because I'm smart. Of course knowing the foundations of any subject will help you to succeed, however if you still have the will to learn and challenge yourself every day towards learning something new you are on the pathway towards being well educated. We can pick up a dictionary and check our spelling and use a calculator to correct our math. Does that mean that we are dumb or just using our minds to focus on more meaningful things than the basics?

3. What is well educated?- How many times have you encountered someone that you think is smart because they know alot of names, ideas, and facts about a particular topic? In my personal history in life this person was an ex boyfriend. We would often talk together about his ability to recall a ton of random information and today I still wish I could recall names and cool facts like he can. Yet, he stated to me that I was smarter because I could talk in depth about the few topics I knew and could write about them better than he could. So who is smarter? One of my favorite quotes from Kohn's article on this topic states that familiarity with a list of words, names, books, and ideas is a uniquely poor way to judge who is well-educated. He says "to be well educated then is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure that learning never ends." We have to have the desire to keep learning in any context and to have the means or ability to do so. Thus in my opinion someone that is not well educated doesn't care or take the time to learn themselves or they do not know about or have access to resources that would make learning possible. With the internet I find it hard to believe that people in my generation don't know how to take control of their own learning and I believe they are easily distracted by the plethora of information available to them.

This article has brought me back to my latest post about whether or not getting a Master's of in Education in TESOL is worth the effort in our failing economy. To work at in the university setting I am required to have a Master's degree, however I strongly feel that the reason I have developed good skills as a teacher is because of my past work experience and observations of teachers in the field. My jobs in Korea and Japan are what have allowed me to make the connections and skills I have today. My future diploma has contributed to much of my background knowledge in the field and will allow me to begin applying to higher end jobs. But just because I have a Master's degree does not make me well educated. The program and many life experiences have inspired and equipped me to continue learning which is what makes me "well educated."

If you have any questions or comments about "What does it mean to be well educated?:A response to Alfie Kohn  " please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting a Master's of Education in TESOL: is it really worth it?

My first job as an ESL teacher in Korea has helped me to secure more job employment than my Master's degree.

       Earning a master's degree program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) can open many doors to your future as an educator, but does all the hard work and student loan debt really pan out in our failing economy? This is the question that has been ringing in my mind as my last semester of graduate school begins. With such a tough job market that has proven tough for many graduates, the line between reality and our dreams can become easily blurred. Many students are now entering into master's programs simply because they couldn't find their desired job right out of undergrad. They are sucking their parents dry and taking on enormous student loan debts only to graduate and still be jobless because they have no valuable work experience.
       There are always jobs out there for ESL teachers at many local language academies anywhere in the U.S. They usually pay between $18-$25 per hour and will offer 25-35 hours per week.  Craigslist had a total of 4 job postings last week alone for ESL teachers at language academies in Downtown San Diego. These jobs will pay some of your bills and allow you to survive, but most of them offer no health insurance or benefits. In addition, most ESL teachers starting out in California are working at 2-3 different language academies because of the limited or varying hours. Working a split shift from 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm is not unexpected for any local language school.
     ESL teachers with a master's degree have gone through intensive training as educators and will be able to apply for jobs at local universities and community colleges. However, they need plenty of experience first and so many young educators have to start out at language academies and then work their way up. Getting a salaried job at a local university right after receiving your master's is not going to happen. Most teachers work a minimum of 1-8 years as part time adjuncts at several community colleges and language academies before they ever get offered a full time faculty position with benefits. This makes my road towards becoming a full time ESL professional in California extremely difficult.
     My advice to anyone that wants to work full time as an ESL teacher in the university setting is to start teaching immediately at any school that will offer you a job. No matter how low the pay is, your experience as a teacher is invaluable. A master's degree in our society means nothing anymore. Many universities such as Miramar Community College will offer part time Instructional Assistant (I.A.) positions that will allow you to work as a teachers aid for 5-12 hours a week. Working alongside a full time faculty member allows you to get to know the university and the university to get to know you. This is my second semester as an I.A. at Miramar. Faculty member and Department Chair, Sheryl Gobble stated "the position is like a semester long job interview." This allows new teachers the opportunity to get their foot in the door for a part time adjunct position.
      The problem with my generation is that they all believe they will get  amazing salaried positions right out of college which is when they need to get their heads out of the sky and face the real world which is our lagging economy. Even worse, its easier to move abroad to Japan where an ESL teacher that holds a Master's degree can make $50,000 with six weeks paid vacation and a housing allowance making those that wish to stay in California feel torn and invaluable. The best thing you can do to achieve any dream job in this market is to work; and by working that means even at Mc Donald's or your neighborhood grocery store. There is an old fashion saying "it takes money to make money" and I believe it should read "it takes a job to get a job."
       So yes, in the long run getting a master's in TESOL is worth all of the hard work and high tuition costs if you are committed towards working and establishing yourself as a teacher over several years before getting a salaried position here in California. After gaining more experience in language academies and international contexts dream jobs at UCSD and local community colleges will be someday be attainable.

If you have any questions or comments about "Getting a Master's of Education in TESOL: is it really worth it?" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bangkok: The 5 rule guide for hiring a tuk-tuk in Bangkok

Two blondes riding around Bangkok in a tuk-tuk, Thailands most exhilarating form of transportation.

 Long before there were taxis, scooters, buses, or trains, good old fashioned tuk-tuks ruled the streets of Bangkok. They are still the most exhilarating way to get around in Bangkok today and are a must on your to-do list while traveling or living in Thailand. With my camera in my right hand and my left hand gripped onto the safety strap dangling above, there was a giant grin across my face as my vehicle made its way from a hotel near Khaosan Road over to Chatuchak Weekend Market.  Prior to hopping in any old tuk-tuk there are a few guidelines you should follow to make your journey more memorable.

1. Go for the experience: When you take a tuk-tuk, make sure to relax and enjoy the scenery as you speed around with an up close view of many of Bangkok's famous sites. Riding in a tuk-tuk also gives you a good picture of how locals are living their every day life.

2. Be direct: Tell the tuk-tuk driver exactly where you want to go and how much you are willing to pay before hopping inside. A short trip of 5 minutes should cost you 30 baht which is about $1. Be weary of the high prices that all drivers will try and charge you in tourist areas. Always negotiate for a lower price. If you're really assertive you might go for 50% off the original price, but recommends getting at least 5-20 baht off the original fare price. Remember, every tuk-tuk will charge you an inflated price and don't get sucked into going to one of their commissioned jewelry stores.

3. Take a short trip: A 20 minute trip will cost you more money in a tuk-tuk than in a metered taxi; sometimes the prices are double. If you decide to take a taxi request the meter for longer trips of 15 minutes or more. Tuk-tuk's are no longer cheaper than metered taxis because of their popularity among tourist and the drivers ability to charge higher prices.

4. Avoid peak hours: Avoid rush hour in a tuk-tuk because of the fumes you will directly inhale from the nearby rickshaws and vehicles. If you have asthma or any other kind of respiratory problems sitting behind clouds of black smoke during traffic might not be the most enjoyable way to enjoy your day.

5. Have fun with the drivers: If you have a good sense of humor with the drivers they will send laughter right back in your direction. When you're bargaining prices try exaggerating things to them and say something like  "100 baht!!??? You're going to make me broke! You make me so sad How about 60 Baht?!" Most drivers appreciate a fun personality and are more willing to lower their prices if they like you. Also take some time to get to know their personal story like information about their friends or family. They are pretty easy to talk to, and many of the drivers like to practice their English skills.

Our tuk-tuk was very friendly and chatted with us about life in Bangkok.

If you have any questions or comments about "Bangkok: The 5 rule guide for hiring a tuk-tuk in Bangkok" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Australia: Kangaroo and Koala photos lost forever

Photo courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald. But mine were better!
  Snapping photos all day long with kangaroos and koalas can really make you tired. After a great dinner and long day walking around the animal park here in Perth, Australia I absentmindedly left my camera sitting on the restaurant table alongside a pile of empty plates, platters, and beer samples. Wanting to review all of our amazing photos I dug through my canvas bag for my camera only to remember I left it sitting on the restaurant table. We made a call and luckily they had found my orange memory taker and attached a paper with my name and number to it before putting it in their lost and found box. Because we weren't very close to Fremantle and it was getting late, my friend let them know we would be picking it up the following day. So the next when my friend got off work he drove me over to pick up the camera however we were told that it wasn't there anymore. After a very unconvincing conversation with the manager I left feeling angry and upset that the staff had been so dumb as to put my camera somewhere where it might be stolen by one of their own staff members. I was told that maybe the manager had put it in a secret location, but that they couldn't get a hold of her. The next morning the manager on duty finally stated that one of their staff members had stolen the camera and that he felt embarrassed and terrible about the whole situation. My camera was gone. All of my lovely kangaroo, dingo, koala,wallaby, and goat photos were lost forever. And someone working for their restaurant had taken it.
     The restaurant decided to take $500 from each staff members tips and to hold a staff meeting that day encouraging the thief to return the camera to a secret location. The next morning I took a boat ride in the river from Perth to Fremantle only to be told that no one had returned the camera. The restaurant agreed to pay me $520 cash so that I could go buy a new camera and memory chip before leaving Australia and continuing my travels. They also agreed to ship my camera back to me if it was ever returned.
     It's unfortunate that I lost all of my precious memories at the animal park in Australia, but it was definitely a lesson learned. When you start traveling and spending long days walking around and get little sleep the nights before you can easily leave something behind. From this day on my camera will be attached to my body with the dorky neck camera strap. I was able to purchase the same camera from a store here in Perth. And then when I got home I was wiping off the lens and my anal eyes noticed a speck of dust trapped inside the lens of the camera. I went back to the camera store the next morning and showed them the small piece of dust. However, I really didn't want to exchange the camera for a new one because they didn't have anymore orange ones. The entire point of having this camera is so that I can take it in the water with me and the bright orange casing is great in the water. All of the photos appeared to be perfectly normal and there was clearly no problem with the camera. I am just such a perfectionist that I can see the tiny piece of dust and it drives me crazy!  The men at the store said it really was ok because the camera can't focus enough to ever catch the piece of dust in a photo. I walked around downtown Perth the rest of the morning taking photos and testing everything out to make sure there were no further problems.
    Finally, I settled and went home with my brand new camera, perfectly new but with a tiny piece of dust in the lens. At least I have a new camera  and didn't have to pay for a new one. I need to learn to not be such a perfectionist with everything in my life. And maybe this camera is the start of that!  So for those of you traveling, remember that when you are tired you are more likely to lose something. So triple check that you have all of your belongings before getting up from a restaurant, bus, plane, or wherever you were hanging out at.

Happy travels!

If you have any questions or comments about "Australia: Kangaroo and Koala photos lost forever" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to 
  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

Total Pageviews


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
Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More