Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Smoked Eel and Scandalous Gossip

July11

Yesterday I had my final English teacher 회식 (hweishik – dinner meeting). There were seventeen of us, fifteen Korean English teachers, the principal, and myself. We met at a restaurant and grilled delicious slices of eel while we chatted. I sat next to the principal, who had actually left his principal training in Chungcheongbukdo to come to my final dinner. We talked together as the other English teachers ogled (as they don’t normally hear me speak in Korean), and I told the principal that the faculty had tried very hard to make me feel at home at CPHS, and it was difficult for me to leave. He also expressed regret that I was leaving.

Fast forward to halfway through the meal. Due to the smoke from the eel and the poor circulation in the room, it looks like I’m constantly crying. An English teacher makes a joke about how the smoke is attracted to beauty, as the only teachers affected by it were the female teachers. The female teachers and I spent the next few minutes pretending to cry about how I was leaving.

Later on in the meal after one of my coworkers had yelled out that I was SO Korean for being able to answer simple questions in Korean, and how I should just stay in Korea forever, the principal looked at me and asked very directly  “Are there no handsome men in Korea?” I stuttered and stammered for a bit, and answered hesitantly “있어요 (there are).” All of the men chortled as the same coworker (Mr. K) loudly proclaimed “You should date one! How about Mr. C? He’s young and single! He’s the only single one! He’s very handsome, yes?”

Now apart from being super awkward, it is true. He is the only single teacher, and he’s not unattractive. The thing is, I’m actually dating someone right now – a Korean guy, not that the nationality matters to me – but there was no way I was telling my entire English faculty this. Only two of the teachers know that he exists, and only one (my rockstar co-teacher) has met him. So, I was stuck between the rock of telling all of the teachers that Mr. C was indeed attractive, and the hard place of telling them that I was dating a Korean guy, like they had recommended. I chose an awkward middle ground and made a noncommittal sound that vaguely sounded like I was agreeing

“Eurghhhhh.”

After a moment’s hesitation, probably due to my weird intelligible response, Mr. K continues.

“You can have a case like Rockstar Co-teacher!”

“What do you mean?”

“She is married to an American! You are American! You can marry a Korean guy!”

“… hahaha. eurghhhhhh.”

Thankfully after that they started ragging on someone else.

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.



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