A Day in the Life of an Expat in Bugu, South Korea

February 1, 2011

8:30 AM

I wake up in my apartment, whose floors are still slightly warmed by the ondol (온돌; heated water pipes running under the floor) the night before. Breakfast consists of imported Honey Nut Cheerios, courtesy of EZ Shop Korea, or perhaps bacon and eggs. I’ve never been able to get used to an Asian breakfast. Rice and seaweed in the morning is just unnatural to my stomach.

9:30 AM

Seven-kilometer run through the fields west of town. I’m guaranteed to draw stares and shouts as I pass Bugu Middle School. On occasion, I’ll catch my boss’ father coming out of his home to drive the school’s yellow van. Other than him, the roads are pretty deserted. I finish by ascending a steep hill, on top of which lies a Buddhist temple.

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11:00 AM

Assuming the date ends with a 1 or a 6, check out the local sijang (시장, market) for cheap fruit and clothes. Most of South Korean cities and towns have five-day markets, filled with ajumma hocking their wares.

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11:40 AM

Work. My schedule changes a bit every few months. At the moment, during winter break, I’m working from 11:40 AM – 6:20 PM Monday through Friday, with private kindergarten classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6:30-7:00. From next week, I’ll get back on a 1:00-7:40 schedule.

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I work at ECY Language School, a very small hagwon (학원, private school) a mere two-minute walk from my apartment. Run by Chan and I in the classroom, his mother on the books and phones, and his father shuttling students from their homes, ECY is tiny yet professional. It’s one of the few EFL teaching jobs I’ve had in which I’ve felt genuinely respected (with such a small staff, it’s not like they can afford to alienate me). My schedule is tight, but I like it that way; there’s little wasted time.

1:00 – 1:20 PM

Mad dash back to my apartment for a quick lunch between classes. I could probably just bring something to the office, but I like moving my legs as often as I can.

6:30 PM

Back at home. Head to the gym if I need to, or fix up a home-cooked meal of brown rice, veggies, and meat. One of my hurdles in getting settled in Bugu was buying from the butcher; I never learned how to indicate the mass and type of meat so quickly in Japan.

With the winter schedule, I’m able to enjoy a nice soak at Deokgu Hot Springs. Nothing better than settling into a 45-degree bath after a long day of less than stimulating work.

8:30 PM

Get my Daily Show and Colbert Report fix for the day. Write new blogs. Plan weekend travels. Study Korean.

On occasion, I get invited by fellow Couchsurfers Brendan and Kate, an Aussie couple, to their home in Jukbyeon (죽변) for drinks and movies. This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in rural areas; although contact with other foreigners is limited, you know everyone, and aren’t torn apart with options for a fun night out.

Just another day in Bugu, South Korea.

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