A few months ago, the Frouple changed schools and moved together, from the countryside town of Cheongyang to the bustling city of Suwon. Although we’re in different parts of Suwon, we were so happy to make it to the same city. Korea has really provided so many different experiences to us, all in this one small country. We lived in Cheongyang together for a year, and Kelly lived there for another year before that. We really love Cheongyang, and especially the people we’ve met and befriended there. We want to explore some of our fondest memories, as well as talk about our moving experiences, and how we feel now that we’ve moved to the city.
Kelly’s memories: The first city I spent any time in when I arrived in Korea was the metropolitan city of Daejeon. But…the place I would end up calling home for two years couldn’t have been more different. On my drive to Cheongyang, the landscape of towering buildings and crowded signs gave way to winding roads up mountains and fields of rice. A pit of anxiety filled my stomach at the thought of living in a farm town, but that little town of only a few traffic lights, would be the first place that felt like home since leaving from under my parent’s roof. There were only a handful of foreign teachers in that town, so we came together often. Maybe it was out of desperation, but I met more than one person that I could share a cup of coffee and my soul with. I remember riding the bus back to town from Seoul, and through the foggy windows I saw the red pepper streetlights, a feeling of relief washing over me. I was home…
Rachel’s memories: While I was in Cheongyang, I had so many new adventures, and I know I will never live in quite the same place again. I’m so very grateful for all my good times there, and especially the people in this quiet, unassuming town.
- Kelly’s house: In Cheongyang, there aren’t many places to go out to have fun. There’s about one bar (where we went for my birthday in town), and several noraebangs (singing rooms). If we weren’t in the mood for either of these, we ended up hanging out at each other’s houses. I have so many fond memories just chilling in Kelly’s house, whether it be only us eating Lotteria and watching Steven Universe and Game of Thrones, or having a party with friends in town. Kelly’s house had the most space, since she actually lived in the second story of a home, as opposed to a studio apartment. We usually ended up having events there, and I had a blast at every one of them. Our first Thanksgiving in Korea, as well as Christmas the next year stick out to me as great times spent together in Kelly’s home. I might end up missing that house more than any other in Korea!
- Festivals: Just like everywhere else in Korea, Cheongyang loves to host festivals. Because it’s famous for its hot peppers, every year there’s a pepper festival. This might be the most well-known festival in Cheongyang, and I love it, mainly because of all the Korean fair food! It’s really fun to wander down the line of booths, grabbing a tornado potato (my favorite fair treat) with cheese or chili flavor sprinkled in, along the way.
- There’s also a totem festival, which is hilarious. We loved looking at all the interesting totems, and posing with the derpier-looking ones. There were even totems from America, and one from Florida! While in this area, we also enjoyed walking up the base of Chilgapsan (the most famous mountain around), visiting the Buddhist temple, then coming back down to eat pajeon (green onion pancake) or bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables) with makgeolli (rice wine)! It’s so refreshing to eat these things after a little hike.
- During winter time, there’s an ice festival at Chilgapsan as well. This is so beautiful, especially the towering frozen fountains one can see upon entering. There are igloos, snow sculptures of animals and characters, and cutouts in the snow to pose with. My favorite part was probably the snow slide, especially because Kelly and I were some of the only adults to actually go on it (the attendant seemed highly amused). When it started to get dark, colored lights illuminated the ice and snow, making a nighttime wonderland which was truly a sight to behold.
- Topresso: There were a few landmarks in Cheongyang we always frequented. These were often restaurants, where we got food such as dak galbi (stir-fried chicken), gamjatang (pork bone soup), and shabu shabu (thinly-sliced meat and vegetables dipped in a hot broth). Topresso is a coffee shop that is notably near and dear to our hearts. We made friends with Ivy, a wonderful woman who works there, and we often used Topresso as a meeting place. We planned trips and plotted many a scheme at Topresso, while sipping on caramel cappuccinos. We even had stamp cards that they kept near the register! At Topresso, we also made “friends” with some of the more outgoing people in town. They usually had had a few drinks already, and approached us with a lot of courage (and not always a lot of English). Sometimes it was weird, but we made real friends out of it as well, so in all I have fond memories of our favorite local coffee shop.
- Amazing local restaurant: There is a tantalizing farm-to-table restaurant in Cheongyang as well. I had to mention it because it was very delicious gourmet local food, and I took a lot of pictures when we went! Anna (my boss and friend in Cheongyang), Kelly and I really enjoyed every course, and it was probably the fanciest local meal we had while living there. Especially memorable was the chestnut mousse; it was certainly Kelly’s favorite part of the meal! Get ready for some Cheongyang food porn!
Last Nights in Cheongyang: As Kelly and I were preparing to move, our replacements (and other new teachers) were just moving into Cheongyang. Even at the end of our time there, we made a lot of new friends! We introduced them to some local people to help them get engaged with the community, and now they are super involved! It’s so nice to see the torch passed down to some great people. Before Kelly and I left, we had dinner and sang at a noraebang, as a dual hello for them and goodbye for us. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to spend too much time with them, but I think Cheongyang is in good hands!
Rachel’s Moving Day: The process of moving from Cheongyang to Suwon was actually quite smooth for me. I hired a moving truck online, and I’d definitely recommend it! Shipping boxes of your things might be cheaper, but it was definitely worth it to us, because it saved us that hassle, and the driver was able to transport us to Suwon as well. To prepare, I packed my things in suitcases and boxes. Kelly and I were tired and loopy the morning that the moving truck came, and he was early! I helped him as much as I could as he lugged my heavy items down to his truck from the third floor (I’m so happy I had asked him to help with that). Kelly and I goofed off and sang along with the car radio on our way to Suwon. Thankfully, our driver was amused, and we had a pleasant drive. At least, I hope he enjoyed the ride as well. By the way, one tip when using this service: have cash ready when it’s time to pay. I didn’t understand that I couldn’t use my card, so my driver had to help me find an ATM. I felt bad to put him through the hassle, but on the bright side, I learned where the nearest bank was to my new place!
Kelly’s Moving Day: My new school in Suwon had decided to redo the wallpaper in my apartment on the very day I was to move out. This meant I had to travel to Suwon on the first of September but had no place to bring my belongings. My school set up for me to stay with the office manager for the night before my first day of work, but I sadly had to reschedule the moving company to come Saturday morning to actually lug all my stuff up to my new city. The same mover came to help me, and his eyes widened as he saw all that was left to move. Rachel’s old apartment was on the 3rd floor, and the building was so old there was no elevator, so this skinny man had to carry my heavy things on his back and down the stairs…needless to say, I gave him a hefty tip when we finally arrived.
Pros and cons – city vs. country: Every year in Korea, I (Rachel) have lived in a different location, and a different type of environment. My first year was in a “village”, somewhere between a suburb and a city. After moving to Cheongyang my second year, I experienced a small “city” in the countryside, which was much more isolated and quiet. This year, I feel complete in my journeys, by just living in a straight-up city. How do they compare, and what do we prefer? Here are some thoughts on living in the countryside versus the city.
- Cheongyang was most notable for its people, and the wonderful tight-knit community there. We made a lot of meaningful relationships, and I had the best boss ever! Also, a lot of the food is better, because many of the restaurants are family-owned, and they use local ingredients. Since there are so many farms nearby, produce is of an overall higher quality. Also, food like gamjatang comes to mind, since we’ve tried it in Suwon, and it’s just not as good. I think when it comes to people and food, it’s hard to beat a small countryside town like Cheongyang.
- Suwon, on the other hand, is beneficial in its own right. I would say that transportation is a definite plus, since I can take a much quicker bus and be in Seoul in no time. Suwon also has a train station and a subway station, which makes travelling all over Korea simpler and faster. In addition, there is a much larger variety of shops and restaurants nearby. I can walk a bit and arrive at a huge, Walmart-like store called Homeplus, as well as a movie theater and multiple restaurants. This might be good or bad, but we have such easier access to fast food now as well! When it comes to convenience and travelling, Suwon is the winner.
- Overall, there were definitely things we like and disliked about both locations. I think a great method, if staying in Korea multiple years, is to try a couple of drastically different areas. That way, you can enjoy multiple aspects of the country, and have a more well-rounded venture.
Above: some of our Suwon adventures
Rachel’s job change (hagwon -> public): For me, there was an added layer of newness when I moved to Suwon. Finally, I could try working at a public school! If you read my blog long ago (click here to read), you know that I’ve been working at Korean Hagwons, or private academies, for the past two years. There are definitely differences, and I’ll outline some of the major ones.
- First, the schedule is totally different. Hagwon hours usually start late (because the kids come to a Hagwon after their public school lets out) and end late. Public schools, on the other hand, have a more typical 9-5 type of schedule. I did enjoy waking up late in Cheongyang, but I’ve adjusted to my new schedule pretty well. This schedule also gives me more time after work, to meet up for dinner or other activities without being too late.
- Another big difference is the teaching style. At Hagwons, I was always the only teacher in the classroom, and taught all classes solo. After switching to a public school, I had to get used to working with co-teachers. This can be great, if I’m in synch with the other teacher, and we work well together. However, co-teachers can also have a bit of a sense of superiority, and pretty much stand back while you do everything. I think I’ve been through most of the possible relationships I could have with coworkers, and it really changes depending on the person. In Cheongyang, I had an amazing boss and friend, Anna. Thanks to our relationship, as well as my connection to her whole family, I really enjoyed this job. I was sad to leave, especially because of all the love and kindness I had received. I’m happy with my coworkers at my public school, but it just doesn’t quite compare. Be that as it may, I feel like I’ve been preparing to work with many different personalities, which has definitely helped my personal and professional growth!
- Finally, the students I taught at Hagwons are quite different from the ones I have now. Working at a Hagwon, I taught literally every age group, from kindergarteners to adults and grandmas. This was challenging because every class required a different type of lesson, and they all needed to learn at their own levels. I needed to make material that I felt was most relevant to each of them. Also, with my adults and high schoolers, I was practically a private tutor. I tailored classes to fit with what each of them wanted to learn most, be it preparing to move to Canada, or wanting to communicate better with an Australian son-in-law. It was highly rewarding, but also highly challenging, and required a lot of work. Now, I only teach Grades 3 to 6, elementary school. Every day, I teach the same lesson 4 or 5 times, depending on the number of classes that day. There is much less teaching time, and a lot more desk-warming time. It is certainly very different, and sometimes things still surprise me that I didn’t know about public schools in general. Thankfully, I can ask Kelly what’s going on, and I often learn new things about the public Korean school system.
Conclusion: Finally, we’d really like to thank all of the incredible people we’ve met in Cheongyang. Marley, Anna, Lily, and Jenny, just to name a few, have really made our time in the countryside wonderful. I will always remember the marvelous memories we had together, and I’ll never forget all you’ve done for us! I love you, people of Cheongyang!
- Although it was sad to go, I’m excited for the upcoming opportunities our new surroundings afford us. Moving forward, we’ll continue to make great memories, enjoy ourselves and experience all we can in this beautiful country! The Frouple is in the city now, watch out Suwon! Let’s see what the future has in store for us.
^ so many Cheongyang memories ~~ here are but a few ^^