Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

The Tailors


There’s only one laundry and clothing repair shop in town. It’s a small family-run place owned by a grandmother and grandfather who also sleep in the back of their store. They get a fair amount of business from the high school students who always rip and stain their uniforms. One day as I was walking home a student ran past me wearing his full winter uniform on top, and only gym shorts on the bottom. I wasn’t going to comment, but he yelled out “TEACHER I HAVE NO PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANTS” so of course I had to ask why. It turns out he ripped his last pair, which explains why he was only wearing shorts in late November. Anyway, I digress.

I’ve never actually been inside this place, because I’ve never needed to go to a tailor shop. My mother, the amazingly skilled yet thrifty woman that she is, taught me how to sew on buttons and hem pants (though, I can’t do that in Korea as I would have to sew them by hand and that’s a nightmare waiting to happen), and I rarely buy dry clean only clothes. Add to this, that tailor shops terrify me. They’re full of buttons, and clothing covered in big black bags, and sewing machines… I just don’t like them.

The zipper on my winter jacket broke, and that’s beyond my repair. The teeth refuse to come together, leaving me with a jacket that is loosely zipped at the bottom and held together at the top by the slider, but completely open in the middle. My jacket has three exterior snaps, so I’ve been putting off getting the zipper fixed and just snapping the zipper closed, but I decided it was time to be a grownup and face my fear of tailor shops. I really had nothing to be worried about.

I walked in and chatted with the couple. I explained that the zipper was broken. I was expecting that they would take my jacket and replace the zipper entirely, so I had dug my old musty winter coat out of storage (i.e., my suitcase), and I was expecting to have to come back later to pick it up, but instead the old grandfather told me to sit down. He then took out a stick of beeswax, and rubbed it up and down the zipper a few times, then took some pliers and adjusted the slider so that it gripped the teeth better. He then tested it multiple times, and it worked. The entire thing took less than five minutes. When I asked how much it was, he chuckled and shook his head. I then asked again, looking back and forth between the two shop owners, and the grandmother told me that it was free, and to have a nice day. I weakly protested, then thanked them and left.

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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.