Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

In which Em talks about Hiking and How She’s Bad At It


I hate hiking.

There. I said it. I’ll say it again: I hate hiking. Okay not really, but it can be incredibly frustrating at times. I love trekking, I love going downhill, I love looking at the scenery, and I love being outdoors with friends. I also love being at the tops of mountains and looking down and marveling at how from this height, I’m larger than the trees. I love the air, the sounds, and the smells, but I hate going up.

I tell everyone I like hiking because I want to like hiking. It’s a cool hobby to have, and everything about it speaks to me – except for the incline. I tell people that I like hiking (somewhat true) but I’m bad at it (very true) because I want to like hiking, all aspects of it.

This weekend a friend invited me to go hiking with her and some of her friends. This is only the second time we’ve hung out and, until the day of, I had no idea where we were going or who we were meeting, but I was very excited. It ended up being four of us, two guys and us two girls, going to Ma-i San National Park in Jeollabukdo, a province about two hours north of here.

As I partook in the Sisyphean task of pushing myself up peaks only to immediately come back down and prepare to go up again (only, unlike a boulder I didn’t roll down the mountain – I came down under my own power. However like in the myth, this trek seemed to go on for an eternity, and it was so unseasonably hot it could have been the Underworld) I marveled at how hiking is a terrible first way to meet someone. The three of them, all around thirty years of age and in way better shape than I was, were chatting as they strolled straight up at a normal pace as I huffed and puffed and turned bright red. You see, it’s not my legs that are the problem, it’s my lungs and my face. My legs don’t really ever get tired, it’s just that I don’t really sweat so I become overheated and then I can’t breathe. It’s frustrating because no matter how much I work out, or how in shape I get, this will always be a problem I have to work around. I tend to deal with this by dumping the contents of my water bottle on my head – also not something you do when you want to impress someone. At one point while we were going up a particularly steep part of the path and they were looking, walking and talking like actors in a Northface commercial, they turned to check on me and there I was, red-faced, water dripping from my hair onto my neck, probably looking like a bedraggled rat who lives in a sewer next to a factory that manufactures dyes. They all immediately burst out laughing, told me I was 씩씩하다 (brave/spirited/vivacious), and after I croaked out a response (probably some sort-of lie like “I’m fine, carry on”), we kept going.

Still, it was fun, the weather was beautiful, and I made new friends. We ate pears and ramen on the trail, took pictures, and chatted in Korean and in English. Afterwards we had dinner together and they didn’t  want me to walk from school to my apartment (a five minute walk) in the dark (it was 7 pm, the sun had just set) so they dropped me off at my apartment where I promptly crawled into bed. Other than the parts where I wanted to give up and lie on the ground, I had a great day. However, I’m rethinking going hiking with the teachers’ hiking club next weekend – I don’t know how much more of a beating my pride could take, especially if I end up being the worst hiker in the club which consists primarily of forty to sixty year-old men.

마이산: Ma-i san

posted under Travel

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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.