Some of you may be aware that I have moved to South Korea with my partner to teach English for a year. We are living in a small city (for Korea) of 1 million people called Changwon (we live in the Masan area of the city), on the southern coast of South Korea. We have been here for a good 3 months now. We teach Korean kids in the afternoons Monday to Friday in a private language institute nearby. We have a little 2-bedroom apartment on the 8th floor of a large apartment building nestled between the hills and the sea. When I’m not at school teaching English, I am either writing, reading, going to the gym, getting acupuncture or going for random walks around the area. We will be here for the another 9 months before probably heading back to Thailand to continue our work with yoga and Oriental medicine.
As a new post I thought it appropriate to talk about South Korea and what I have come to like about living here thus far.
1. Herbal drinks and health tonics are everywhere. Every supermarket and convenience store is stocked with over 10 different herbal tonics and drinks. By far the most common herb utilized and sold here is Korean Ginseng. It is part of their national pride to grow, harvest and prepare this root into all sorts of drinks, teas, and meals. Korean Ginseng root is known for its replenishing and boosting qualities of kidney energy. Having healthy kidneys means having a good reservoir of energy, having a good memory, living a long life and having strong sexual vigor. There is even a soju drink (bek soju) which is an alcoholic wine loaded with ginseng and other oriental herbs. Bek soju literally means 100 years old wine which suggests if you drink it, you will live to 100 years old. I’m yet to meet a 100 year old who has drank bek soju every day but will let you know when I do!
2. Acupuncture and the health system is cheap, accessible and of high quality. I don’t know if there is an over abundance of doctors here but it seems that you can get in to see any health professional pretty quickly, without an appointment or much waiting time. The country has an integrated western and eastern medical system and acupuncture is definitely an accepted treatment form. The acupuncture treatments I have received cost me about $5 per session, yes, $5! So cheap! This is also because my job provides medical insurance. Without medical insurance I believe it would cost about $20. I intend to have a good look into all the preventative and complementary medical services on offer here such as tui na (massage), physio, Osteopathy and herbal medicine.
3. Everything is condensed, meaning everything is just a 5 min walk away. Because the South Korean landscape is littered with mountains and steep hilly areas, the urbanized areas contain a high density of people. The advantage of this is that everything to live a simple day-to-day existence is within 5 minutes walk away. It is a refreshing change not to be driving a car around.
4. I feel safer here than I do in Australia. Other than immanent threats of war from North Korea (just blowing smoke…we hope), South Korea is an incredibly safe place to live. Crime is very low and aggressive behavior is very rare to see. Stealing is a rarity also, so much so that if you leave your wallet or phone behind in a taxi or in a restaurant, it’s very likely you’ll get it all back with all the money still in it.
5. Traditional South Korean food is one of the healthiest foods in the world. South Koreans are said to be one of the slimmest nations on earth. I think it is largely due to their obsession with kimchi, a national delicacy that involves fermented cabbage marinated in chilli, garlic, etc that is eaten with every meal. Fermented foods like kimchi provide good bacteria for the digestive track and the love of chilli in this country provides extra digestive fire. Korean traditional food is also high in protein.
6. South Korea has 4 distinct seasons. South Korea’s landscape changes dramatically as each season comes into play. The change in season seems to dramatically shift exactly according to the 1st day of the new season, which is remarkable to see. We are nearing the end of spring and about to step into Summer which is set to be blistering hot and monsoonal.
7. The parks have cool exercise machines designed for stimulating Qi. I love the fact that in Korean society there are traditional oriental medicine themes incorporated into everything. Parks are equipped with a series of gentle exercise machines. They range from twisters to acupressure rollers for your back. The other cool thing about this is that you can be doing these funny looking exercises in public and no one batters an eyelid (well, sometimes they do, only because they are amazed at a tall white guy doing them). In the Gyms they also have “wobble” machines that you can step on and they wobble and shake you all about, like a crazy massage. Definitely gets the Qi buzzing.
I’m sure there are more to be discovered as we have only been here for 3 months. We have signed a contract to teach for 12 months in our current location. During this time I will continue to write. I am planning a to run a series of restorative style yoga workshops in Seoul and Busan in the coming months.
I appreciate your support! Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below.
Keep in touch and may the force be with you!