Coming to Korea was the best decision to learn about who I am and what I like. Not only has Korea allowed me to travel to a new country but it has allowed me to live a life I never knew I would have let alone enjoy. I have always had a dream to travel the world, especially experiencing the sensations of Asian countries. Korea has allowed me to start that dream by starting a new life doing something I wasn’t sure I would enjoy - but being pleasantly surprised to enjoy it thoroughly.
I arrived in Korea with my boyfriend holding my hand to brave this new adventure we sought out together. Back home in South Africa, we lived in one of the biggest cities, Johannesburg, but arriving in Seoul we felt completely overwhelmed by the tall buildings and bustling roads. Seoul was so big and bright when we arrived in the night that we weren’t quite sure where to look or what to do with ourselves at first. Don’t get me wrong, Seoul is a beautiful city now that I’ve had the chance to explore it in a less stressful setting now that I have a phone that works with Korean networks. In addition, I feel a little more comfortable hearing a language that I can pick up and understand the odd word here and there. Having a group of friends wanting to explore Seoul on the odd occasion when the chance permits has also helped to feel a little less overwhelmed too. But after one of these weekends of enjoying a shopping spree, the nightlife or a simple coffee, it is always terrific to journey home to our city in the countryside, according to the locals.
Traveling from our quaint residence is one of the best things about our new life. We came to Korea searching for excitement and adventure. Having the opportunity to travel and experience Korean culture was a main contender in our efforts to move to Korea and find a perfect fit for a home. Gumi has provided us with a central position in the country where it is easy for us to travel to different areas and be able to party at festivals, let off fireworks on the beach and make and drink traditional green tea. Being in a city that doesn’t have the wide range of activities that other cities do has provided us with enough reason for us to travel as often as time permits. It is a wonder that we can spend between two and four hours to reach the east coast - and the same goes for the west coast. We have had the opportunity to see and experience far more than was planned for our initial pleasure while still being able to enjoy some of the commonalities we became accustomed to back home.
Our little corner of Korea is definitely a perfect fit for us. Gumi, is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. It is colorful in Spring with cherry blossom trees lining most streets. The overflowing blossoms line the walkways like snow. Winter time in Gumi was also a beautiful time. Being farther down south also helps with not experiencing the cold like those farther north. Although we did have the odd day that the snow hugged the ground we didn’t have the layers of snow that other cities can brag about in winter. We enjoyed our walks into work overlooking the beautiful river as the snow fell around us. The beauties of Gumi don’t stop there as the mountainous landscape offers up beautiful views every day. It is a wonder to be able to drive around the city and always see various hills and mountains that call for you to climb them. Gumi can boast about having one of the most gorgeous mountains I have seen, and I have seen my fair few of mountains coming from a country that brags for exhibiting the rolling Drakensberg mountains to the world. They are definitely more beautiful than the end scene of the movie ‘2012.’ But Geumosan mountain although not as tall as the Drackensberg, can definitely boast for its beauty!
We live in a small suburb of Gumi that requires us to travel in order to engage in various activities downtown. Catching a taxi is only a 15-minute drive to wherever it is that we desire to go. This is one of the wonders of living in a small city. Not only is the driving time short lived but the ease of catching up with friends is well lived. Gumi may not be able to brag the various assortment of restaurants that larger cities can, but the restaurants Gumi has on offer satisfies the need to fulfill hunger and quench thirst. Don’t worry if you ever come to Gumi you will definitely be able to eat traditional Kimbap, Bulgogi and my personal favorite Korean barbeque. The arrangement of restaurants we do have to enjoy allow for time for friends and colleagues to become well acquainted and catch up on the days gone by. Making friends in Gumi is incredibly easy as we have one of the best foreigner bars in my opinion, albeit a biased one at that. Meeting people at Corona is an odd delight. Exchanging different stories of our history and background and where in Gumi we are based allows us to make connections that are easy to keep intact. Living in a smaller city has allowed us to meet a good majority of the other foreigners also situated in Gumi. It is incredibly interesting to be able to chat with a teacher who teaches your students in their public school classroom compared to that of your academy classroom.
I came from one of the biggest cities in South Africa and I journeyed to a country where I didn’t understand the language or the culture. It was a terrifying moment in my life where I didn’t quite know or understand what was happening. I felt overwhelmed with the overbearing excitement of Seoul, but I was pleasantly surprised by the small and comforting attributes of Gumi, a place I can now comfortably call home. Yes, the larger cities have wonders that will make you never need or want to leave your city. Who would when all of your wants and dreams can be fulfilled without needing to leave the comfort of your city? Our small city in the countryside, however, has so much more to offer in the opportunities they present to all those who reside there. Not only do you experience culture, tradition and the friendliness of Gumi citizens, but you are encouraged to experience Korean life as a whole and engage in activities within the whole country and not just those in our smaller little paradise. And so as I have found my perfect fit in my city, I would have to agree with those that say “bigger is not always better.”
Michelle Cloete: Born and raised in Johannessburg, South Africa. Michelle followed her love of history from high school in pursuing a degree in Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Once she completed her Honors degree in Bioarchaeology, Michelle furthered her education by completing a Masters of Science in Medicine with a focus in Forensic Anthropology. While Michelle was completing her degrees she was fortunate enough to be able to work with children through outreach projects in Archaeology and through her own pursuits too. Michelle realised her enjoyment of working with children and so she pursued completing a Postgraduate Certificate of Education. Michelle ended up teaching for 6 months at a school as apart time teacher in History and Geography before pursuing a teaching career in South Korea. Michelle has tried to immerse herself in all that Gumi, her now residence, has to offer by engaging with other foreigners and locals, trying out new experiences and enjoying all that South Korea has to offer.