[Letter to the editor]Captivated by an island
It has been nearly a year since I left San Francisco for South Korea. I ultimately settled in on an historic, picturesque landmass that once housed prisoners during the Korean War. I will not deceive you with misleading comments about my initial feelings toward this island. Indeed, my initial reaction was fraught with negativity and remorse about having to live on an isolated island where food prices rival or surpass those of advanced Western nations. After weeks of self-inflicted despair, I gradually escaped this state of perpetual torpor and began to truly “live” in Geoje.
After months of exploration, which included journeys to the POW camp, DSME shipyards, and Oedo Island, I found myself captivated by the sheer beauty of this flawless tourist destination. In retrospect, Geoje has a lot to offer: pristine beaches, moderate temperatures and most essential of all ― loving residents who genuinely embrace foreigners in their midst.
After teaching at Gohuyn Middle School, Yeocho Elementary, and SuWol Elementary for nearly a year, I became an ardent believer in thisold adage: It’s not where you live but who you live with that fundamentally shapes your experience. In other words, my time in Geoje overflowed with smiling students, gregarious teachers and gentle and considerate administrative staff. There is no doubt that the innumerable outdoor excursions, birthday parties and volleyball games will retain a special place in my heart.
Korea, a nation of 48 million aspiring and educated citizens are, in general, full of compassion and devotion to work, family and let’s not forget to mention, soju with grilled beef. It’s a wired nation that has shown me nothing but endearment, tolerance and a real sense of respect for my country and personal background.
A reflection would not be complete without noting the exceptional performance of students at the three primary schools where I taught. In addition to an array of highly qualified and stellar faculty, students incessantly demonstrated a tireless will to learn and prepare themselves for a career that has yet to be determined. But my admiration and respect abound for these students, especially those from impoverished backgrounds who are able to muster the courage to learn and attend hagwon into the wee hours daily. That feat is remarkable and deserving of praise.
As summer vacation begins, I will head home to sunny California. However, memories of Geoje and its enchanting aroma, accentuated by the charisma of its citizens, will leave a profound and indelible imprint on my life for years to come. Dennis Yang,
a public school English teacher on Geoje Island