Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

The Coffee Fairy

April3

I should probably preface this story by saying that in South Korea we (students, teachers, professionals, old people, young people, you name it) drink a whole lot of instant coffee. You can buy it in many forms, in individually portioned and easily portable sticks that contain sugar, cream, and coffee, in big bags of just powder, in individual cups filled with strange flavor combinations (vanilla cappuchino drip mocha coffee) at convenience stores, and most notably in vending machines.

Our school, like every other (high) school I’ve been to, has at least two coffee vending machines. You put in 200 – 400 won (20 to 40 US cents – I’ve found that the more rural you are, the cheaper the coffee – in CPHS it’s 200, SGHS it was 300, Seoul it was 400) and choose what flavor you want. A dixie cup drops down and spurts out powder and hot water, and voila! Instant cheap caffeine fix.

Now I normally don’t use the vending machine – I’m a teacher and have my own desk and mug, so I tend to just buy my coffee sticks in bulk and mix there, or have tea like a classy person, but sometimes I want to take a short walk, or I’ve run out of coffee, so I pay the coffee vending machine a visit. 200 won is very cheap but also an awkward amount, so normally I pay with a 1,000 won bill, or a 500 won coin. I like to leave the rest of my change in the machine, so that way when students are on their break and about to put in money to buy coffee it’s like a magical coffee fairy visited and granted them access to the magical world of height-stunting, tongue-scalding, sugary-yet-not-quite-delicious hot beverages. I always make sure to do this when students are in their classes, so no one can chase after me with the change.

Today on my way back from my one class I met two first grade boys by the vending machine. They called me over (Boy A: PODOLSKI!!!! Boy B: Ya! Are you crazy? Call her Teacher! Emily: Guys. It’s Potosky. Pah-tah-ski) and we chatted for a bit about the trip they’re taking tomorrow. They then finished getting their coffee and using the leftover change bought me some as well.

What goes around comes around.

posted under Cute Stories, School
2 Comments to

“The Coffee Fairy”

  1. Avatar April 3rd, 2012 at 10:03 pm Amy Iversen Says:

    I love reading your blog posts, Emily. I haven’t been able to respond lately. I’m hoping this one goes through. My son is teaching on a Fulbright in Chenogju now. We visit him later this month.


  2. Avatar April 4th, 2012 at 10:28 am epotosky Says:

    Actually I hung out with your son at the Jeju conference! He’s a very nice guy, and it seems like he’s enjoying his time in Korea. I’m happy that you are able to come visit and experience firsthand what it’s like to be a F*lbright ETA :).


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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.