Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

My Daily Commute


Let me paint you a picture of my daily commute. I leave my two story apartment when the sun is already in the sky, and run down the stairs as fast as I can without making excessive noise. Failing to arrest my forward momentum, I burst out the front door like water over a seawall, nearly pulling my arm out of its socket as I fail to let go of the handle. The taekwondo building directly across from my apartment building’s entrance is closed and padlocked, and there’s no movement in the small alleyway.

I take a left turn, walk a few steps, and then make a right turn at the creepy convenience store I’ve avoided going into ever since the man inside yelled at me for buying his products two years ago. This street is busier, with one or two cars coming every few minutes, and it’s lined with stores that are still closed or preparing to open. CP doesn’t have any sidewalks, so amidst the muffled noises coming from inside the barred and locked storefronts I walk in the street dodging parked cars, moving cars, and the odd person or two shuffling along. I pass by two chicken restaurants, a bank, a small grocery store, a coffee shop, a shoe shop that hasn’t received a new shipment in what seems to be years, and a barber shop whose only patrons seem to be  my students.

After a few minutes I arrive at an intersection where I can continue going straight, or turn right. I look straight at the road leading out of town, and marvel at how the trees that mark the boundary between my town and country road it look so different now that they have leaves again. I turn right.

I pass by the marketplace, so deserted most days that trash and dust roll down the street the way a tumbleweed does in every western movie you’ve ever seen. Today it’s filled with people from the five day market selling every agricultural product you could possibly imagine, ranging from potted herbs to potted trees, tomatoes to pumpkins, and live chickens, dogs, cats, ducks, and even rabbits. They cover the whole plaza and spill out onto the street in an effort to make the most of their selling space. They pay me no attention as I sidestep their wares, trying my best not to get hit by one of the cars with an ill-tempered driver who would probably not think twice about running over a squash, let alone me.

I make it out of the marketplace, and pass by the butcher shop on the right, which during the day has an unfortunate tendency to blast Lady Gaga but is currently closed and silent, and then I pass by Sloth’s Coffee. A little further to the left is the entrance to CP High School’s campus and after my morning adventures, I am quite content to cross the street, leave the rest of CP behind, and begin my day at work.

When I leave my school in the afternoon, before I start my morning commute in reverse and hurt my already sore throat by screaming “GOODBYE” at the students milling around the soccer field, I like to pause at the main building’s entrance and stare out at CP. The mountains look so large,  the sky so wide, and CP so small, that it’s easy to forget that there are people who exist outside of the mountains that encase us and embrace us. I breathe in, breathe out, then walk down the stairs.

posted under Rural

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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.