Over the Hills, and Far Away

Live eel.
Squat toilets.
Taxi drivers.
New bank accounts.
Apartment heating from the floor.
Grumpy old women.
Bus schedules.

Where’s the grocery store?
How do I flush this toilet?
What’s the word for restroom?
Why does this fish on my plate still have eyes?

It goes without saying that living in a new country presents its fair share of difficulties valuable learning experiences.  It’s confusing. Disorienting. Some days I wanted to cry. Some days I wanted to snap at that crazy old man who wouldn’t stop yappin’ at me in Korean.  He meant well I’m sure….bless his heart. Maybe he was just trying to tell me that the bus that goes to Buseok Elementary School wasn’t running that day, and that anyone with even an ounce of common sense would have figured that out by now.  I suppose he saw me standing at the bus stop outside of his little shop for the past hour and a half.

I spent 15 months being a foreigner.  A 6 foot 6 inch, pale-white, red-bearded, American oddball in a small Korean town.  But now, I’m back….teaching English in my hometown.  No longer an oddball (relatively speaking).

Now, my students are far from home and family.
Now, my students are the socially awkward ones.
Now, my students need help finding the grocery store.
Now, my students must navigate the intricacies of a new toilet.
Now, my students can’t speak, and ask questions.
Now, my students must depend on the locals for help.

Now, I get to make this foreign land a little less foreign.
Now, I get to help someone who doesn’t speak the language learn to communicate.
Now, I get to be part of someone’s positive life-changing experience, like the one I had.

Teaching English is so much more than teaching English. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything.

About The Author


Jake Hollingsworth is a 2010 graduate of English For Life Academy. Find him at www.JakeHollingsworth.net