Archive for the ‘Rural’ Category

My Daily Commute

Monday, May 20th, 2013

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.

Snow and Fuzzy Feelings

Friday, December 7th, 2012

There is an Emily Teacher-shaped imprint in the snow right outside my school where I fell this morning. Luckily it was right at the side of the building, so I doubt anyone saw me. In any case, nothing’s hurt except for my pride.

It’s finals week so I don’t have to be at school, but I had an appointment with some third grade students. They’re graduating in February, and the student government is asking ten teachers if they can film them saying “congratulations” and imparting wisdom to the graduating class. The third graders all received a list of teachers and had to choose the ten that they wanted. Somehow, I was chosen.

This means the world to me. I only taught the current third graders for one semester, when I first started at the school. Because we start in August, and the academic year ends in December, our contract starts and ends halfway through the academic year. I had a very rocky first semester, as I was really intimidated by the previous teacher. She had been there for two years and was an extremely competent teacher with teaching experience prior to F*lbright, and I was still (and am still) figuring out how to teach. It was better than my first semester at SG HS, but I’m not sure how much the current third graders got out of my classes.

Though I only taught them for one semester over a year ago, though at that time I only taught them once a week, though I was not at my best and I was still adjusting to the school, they chose me as one of ten teachers to videotape. I am so, so thrilled. Full of warm fuzzy feelings, even as the snow melts into a disgusting slush outside.

Speaking of snow, I wandered around the village at 5 pm yesterday after the snow had settled and the sun was low in the sky, and took pictures of the outskirts of town. Enjoy!


The houses behind my apartment are covered in snow.

The dogs play in the fields on the outskirts of town.

The road out of town.

Our school.

The Tailors

Friday, December 7th, 2012

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.


Monday, June 4th, 2012

Currently lesson planning in Sloth’s Coffee, which is my favorite place in CP other than CPHS. I can see the school building from where I’m sitting, so I’m practically there anyway. I tend to come here either late at night, or on Sundays, because it’s open until 11 pm. I just filled up my frequent customer card today, and I finally asked the main barista for her name.

That's a sloth pillow, btw.

The rest of the cafe.

Spring Cleaning

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to go on an after-midnight cleaning spree.  After sweeping I had a lot of fine dust particles that were seemingly stuck to the dustpan and after trying to get the dust off with the brush into the trashcan for what seemed like forever, I decided to shake the dustpan out the window.

Well. Apparently the bin and the handle are detachable, so while enjoying the cool night breeze and shaking my dustpan I freaking CHUCKED MY DUSTPAN OUT OF THE WINDOW. I live on the second floor. It fell 2 stories and landed on the ground with a thump

 A dog started to bark but other than that I didn’t hear any sounds, so then I stealthily snuck out with my hood over my head, grabbed it, and hurried back inside. Thank goodness I live in the countryside, and my apartment is full of people that sleep at normal times, this  would’ve been difficult to explain.

Ed vs Ing

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Korean learners of English as a foreign language tend to have trouble with the distinction between “ed” and “ing.”

“Oh teacher, I am interesting!”
“Yes, yes you are.”

Changpyeong is pretty rural. In fact, though geographically I’m pretty close to Gwangju, I can’t go out late at night because the last bus leaves from Gwangju at around 10:15, which means that if I’m downtown with friends like I was last Saturday, I have to leave around 9:30 if I want to make it back home. If I miss that bus, it’s actually cheaper to spend the night in Gwangju than to take a cab.

I didn’t particularly want to leave, but I hadn’t been feeling too well and I knew that I wouldn’t want to stay out as late as everyone else, nor did I have a place to stay, so I decided to call it quits and leave downtown right as everyone was getting in. I took the bus to 서방 시장 (Seobang Market – the transfer point that is closest to downtown) to wait for my Changpyeong bus, and then I hear-


Turns out it was one of my students, who apparently goes to Gwangju every Saturday. After she finishes supplemental classes at school she buses into the city and goes to an art academy where she paints all day, and then takes the last bus back to Changpyeong.

“Teacher, what are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m going home. I went to a birthday party but I must take the last bus back to Changpyeong, so I had to leave early.”
“Oh,” she pauses, “I think you must be very boring.”

No I’m not talking about “Atlanta”

Monday, April 25th, 2011

It took the Sapgyo post office 15 minutes to figure out where “Georgia” the country was, but I sent off all 59 letters! Thanks to everyone who volunteered and who recruited volunteers for me, you should be getting letters in 1 – 3 weeks.

Also because it’s the day after Easter I keep getting hardboiled eggs as presents. What a delicious and nutritious teacher’s office snack! If only I was going straight home after school… I’m a little scared that these hardboiled eggs are going to explode in my bag.

My Life in Bullet Points

Friday, November 19th, 2010

A LOT has happened so I’ll update you in bullet form and expand in blog entries later.

Recent wins:

  • Woke up at 5 am yesterday to go with underclassmen to cheer for the 3rd graders (high school seniors) taking the 수능 (Suneung), which is a test that students start preparing for in elementary school. If you don’t do well on this test you can’t go to the college you want (or even college at all in some cases). Most of my students in the academic track stay at school until 10 pm or later every day doing self-study… pretty much just for the Suneung, and even the kids that are not in the academic track stay late and study. I was there before any of the teachers (got there at 6, most teachers got there at 7:30/8) and got to hang out with my students in the freezing cold. Apparently foreign teachers never go and cheer for the suneung so my school was really shocked (and very happy) that I went, and since I went with my host sister and not a teacher apparently they didn’t even know I was coming.
  • Almost finished with book 2 of piano, going on to book 3 in a few days.
  • FINALLY figured out how to do a dora chaugi kick in hapkido (watch the video, he does one at 0:24).
  • Went to the hapkido night class one day instead of my usual afternoon class and saw one of my trouble maker students. This kid is about 6’4″ and has to weigh at least 250 pounds, he’s massive. We had to practice blocking practice and I was paired with him and I completely took him out. I can now say I beat up one of my students.
  • I’ve been practicing with a core group of 7 students for the English competition (we have to sing a pop song) that’s coming up and today we finally nailed the difficult harmonies in the chorus. My students were so happy!
  • I taught a lesson on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog to my advanced kids.
  • I bought some sweaters so I won’t die!
  • Discovered a duck pond in my “downtown”
  • Went to Daegu/Busan with friends last weekend and built a sand-castle.
  • Tomorrow I’m going to the United States ambassador to Korea’s house for a Thanksgiving dinner with most of the first-year F*bright English Teaching Assistants.


  • I’ve been sick.
  • I lost my VOICE which is absolutely awful if you’re an English conversation teacher.
  • Korean vocabulary has recently been stagnating and grammar is definitely getting worse.
  • I STILL don’t know what I’m doing for Winter Break.
  • I feel like I’ve hit a wall in my relationship with teachers at school due to the language barrier and I really want to build deeper relationships but I don’t know how/I’m too tired to keep trying.
  • I have had 5 times as many spam comments as actual comments on my blog. Hint hint.

More later, I promise. As well as actual pictures eventually.

Lack of Ice Cream Anonymity

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I went to the Baskin Robbins in Yesan yesterday with my host sister. The woman working there told my host sister that she recognized me, not just from living in Yesan and because I walk around a lot, but specifically because I had gone to Baskin Robbins “a lot.” I haven’t gone to Baskin Robbins in 2 months. So either this means that I ate a ton of ice cream in August/early September, or what I had suspected is true and everytime I get ice cream everybody knows and remembers.

If Baskin Robbins remembers me I would hate to think what the GS 24 near my apartment thinks of my ice cream eating habits o.O


Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Compared to many of the other ETAs I’m relatively isolated, or at the very least it feels that way. I’m definitely not as isolated as Megan up in North Korea (just kidding parents, she’s just relatively close), nor as isolated as some of the ETAs that are further south, but relatively speaking I’m isolated. I’m the only F*lbrighter in my county, there’s Joelle who is one county over and 20 minutes away by bus but after that it’s Sam who’s 40 minutes, Katie who’s… something, I’m not sure (she’s more rural than I am and her bus system’s a little wonky – haven’t attempted that trip yet) and everyone else is an hour away or more. I try to keep it in perspective by reasoning that for many of the city ETAs who are technically near each other it can take up to an hour for them to meet because they’re on opposite ends of the city. However the city ETAs seem to have a “crew” if you will, and seem hang out together rather frequently, or at least once during the week. Maybe it’s because I’m in a rural location but we here in Chungnam don’t seem to a crew. Even though I’m only an hour from Cheonan, which again is about the same amount of time it takes many city ETAs to meet, we don’t have weekly Cheonan meetings. I’m not bringing this up to complain, just to state a fact that during the week I don’t see people. Joelle and I are trying to change that and make a once a week coffee sanity date, but thus far it hasn’t worked too well. I do end up seeing people on the weekends a fair amount because I travel, but it’s these long weekdays that are difficult. I’m really lucky in that I really like everyone that’s placed close to me, however they’re a little difficult to get to. When I have a really rough day at school due to either students misbehaving, or a cultural misunderstanding, it’s sometimes difficult coming back to my apartment and knowing that I don’t really have a “crew” that knows what I’m dealing with in terms of students, or understands my American perspective, that I can call to meet up and decompress. I just have to either be content with videochat/email/gchat etc, theoretically (I haven’t done this yet – too long of a trip to make on impulse) check and see if Joelle or Sam are free and navigate the rural bus system (i.e. sometimes the buses don’t. freaking. come. I hate the 7:20 Yesan-Hongseong bus. Also buses don’t run very late… I’d have to leave Sam’s place at 9 at the latest, and Joelle’s at just after 10) or just suck it up. I’ve never been good at isolation, I’ve always been a people-person, so this is a very good experience for me. A difficult one, but a good one.

What this does mean is that I value my time with people more, and I see people I probably wouldn’t otherwise. If I had a crew I’d probably stick with them at least a little bit (it’s easier to stay within your city than to go to another one, right)? As practically everyone is an hour away from me that means that it’s almost as easy to go meet people across the country as it is to go to Cheonan (the largest city near me).

So what am I doing this Friday night? I’m going to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with Joelle the rural way – Instead of partying under big city lights, or meeting up with my crew, I made chocolate chip cookies and we’re going to pop “V for Vendetta” into Joelle’s laptop and chill. And honestly? I’m really, really excited.