Okpo-Dong

January 23, 2013
















We made it to Korea! 

Note: as some of you may know, I am uncomfortable with digital photography. However, as I'm waiting on a roll of film from the lab, here are some shots of where we live that I took on my Nikon D70 earlier today during a rainy, late morning walk.

Last August, Ryan and I began applying for English teaching jobs in South Korea. The conversation of teaching and living abroad spanned years; last April, our planning began. After eight months of research, background checks, a stack of passport photos, and a handful of interviews, we accepted a position at a hogwan (after-school academy) in Okpo, a neighborhood/township located on Geoje Island, the second largest island in Korea. We accepted our positions on December 9th; we got on a plane exactly one month later. I celebrated the arrival of my 28th birthday in the sky.

Okpo is heavily populated by employees of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), one of the largest shipbuilders in the world (Samsung's shipyard is nearby in Gohyeon). My favorite part of Okpo (so far) is the boardwalk that runs along the edge of the shipyard and leads to a mountain trail. To gaze upon ships and mountains each day fills me with both peace and ambition. Geoje is very foreigner-friendly due to its large population of foreign residents. In many ways, it is an ideal location for new transplants without Korean language skills. We're surviving on basic expressions - "annyeong haseyo!" "kamsahamnida" - until we can begin to study and practice our Korean. Okpo has a small town sensibility. Though it is littered with bars and restaurants, street vendors and shops, the pace is more relaxed than neighboring Gohyeon (where the movie theater and the North Face store are!). We've enjoyed delicious Korean food as well as more familiar tastes of home - sandwiches, salads, and vegetarian burritos at El Gitano, a local Mexican restaurant. Foreigner food is expensive, but the Korean food is cheap, plentiful, and soul-satisfying. I am dying to tell you about the amazing meals we've eaten since we arrived two weeks ago, but that awaits another day.

As for the kiddos, they are hilarious and energizing (and - at times - exhausting!); a handful of them are intensely clever and charming. We teach 1st grade through high school as well as two beginner adult classes (a very wide range, which we like). It's not perfect. We've had a few frustrating days. But it's fulfilling and it's fun.

I am happy to report that we are happy. I don't know what the future holds but I know that we made the right decision when we moved here. We have been welcomed with open arms and giving spirits, and the generosity and kindness we've experienced during the past two weeks is nothing short of humbling. I miss my friends and my family. I miss some comforts of home - brewed coffee; a dryer for our laundry; warm bathrooms - but I know that it's right that we are here, discovering happiness.

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16 comments

  1. Love love LOVE the photos--it's so exciting to get to see some of what you see!

    I'm so thrilled you two are happy with your experience thus far and can't wait to read a post about the FOOD ;)

    Why no brewed coffee? :(

    Sending love and hugs your way--am thrilled to virtually share in your adventure!

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  2. Love the pictures, Mallory! Seeing things through your eyes is always a treat.
    Hope you're enjoying the experience so far!
    Love you both!

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  3. Thanks, Sam! What a great compliment, coming from you. :) Regarding the coffee thing, hmm. I think probably I meant to say, I miss our french press and I miss drip coffee. At most of the coffee shops we've been to, coffee = Americanos. Coffee is an increasingly popular market in Korea; I'm just not sure about whether this is true on Geoje Island. I accept and return your love and hugs!!

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  4. Thanks for sharing the pictures! (Still as beautiful as film!) I love hearing about this grand adventure, but even with your shots, it's just so hard to imagine. You inspire me, lady!

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  5. Great photos Mal! I am a sucker for urban skyline photos, and especially interesting alignments/juxtapositions... especially #7, 8, & 9. I also really dig the composition of the Taxi Stop one, especially with that little bit of tree sticking out.
    Nice stuff, can't wait to see more!

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  6. Love, love, love these pictures! I especially like the ones that juxtapose modern buildings with conifers. So beautiful. I'm glad that you have determined that this was a really good choice. Never doubted it, dear girl.

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  7. Lovely photos. How is the Dominoes pizza?

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  8. Ha! I see that my comments very closely mirror those of previous comments! Art apparently evokes similar responses, at least from people of a shared culture! Nathan, I had to go back and count to see if my favorites were the same as yours. Yup! I also really liked the taxi stand one.
    New images to capture with your impeccable sense of composition and color, Mallory! I know you are jonesing for your film, but these are beautiful and they give us all an idea of your new home.

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  9. Oh, and I LOVE the clock with the yellow building in the background.

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  10. Jen - thank you! You have always fueled my adventurous spirit! Nate - I'm humbled by such praise from a highly talented, professional photographer. Mom - right on. I am indeed missing film but I was pleased with these photos. Alex - haven't tried the Dominoes yet but it looks like you can get it with some crazy, fun toppings!

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  11. Also, I'm almost happy it was rainy yesterday. I love the way the buildings look in that light and how some of the amazingly bright ones pop more than they might in sunshine.

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  12. Hooray! It's so exciting to see photos of your new country. Let us know what you need in care packages! :)

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  13. Haha, not ready for the Dominoes yet! Crystal - I will definitely let you know!

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  14. So happy to see this post! I love the mountains in the background of the buildings and trees. Photos from film are always so special, but these are just lovely. Thanks for documenting your journey for us!

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  15. Thanks for sharing your experience through this blog. Love the pics! So glad your job is "fun" an exhilarating. Occassional frustration is a part of most jobs, so don't let that bother you. I'm happy to hear that you still believe you made the right choice to move. Enjoy your adventure ... I look forward to seeing more pics/blogs and experiencing South Korea through you. Take care!

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