Cheorwon is famous for its rice, made evident by the beautiful rice fields surrounding Dongsong, and Geumhaksan, a large mountain whose enormous presence is felt no matter where you are.
I usually wake up around 7 in the morning and make a small breakfast of coffee with melon and blueberries. Sometimes I add yogurt to the mix, but I’m a bit lazy when it comes to breakfast. At 8:10 precisely, I walk to work. I’ll usually run into my students as they walk the same path to school.
Work starts at 8:30. It consists of creating lesson plans and teaching classes at the local Girls’ Middle and High School. My students are exceedingly lovely and always excited to see me, although the lack of access to hagwons (private academies) in the area means their English levels are a bit lower than what you would see in the cities.
The walk home
My workday ends promptly at 4:30, and I walk home around 4:40 alongside my students once more as we all take the same route. I usually meet up with my boyfriend, Sam, as he walks home from where he teaches at the Boys’ Middle School.
Market Day in Cheorwon
Our evenings vary. Every fifth day Dongsong has its market day, where you can find anything from fresh produce and seafood to knives and clothing. We often venture out to buy our groceries and will, of course, run into many students and their parents.
We usually cook dinner at home to save money and eat a bit healthier. About once a week we’ll eat out, either indulging in traditional Korean fare like jjigae (a spicy stew) or feasting on something deliciously unhealthy like tonkatsu (fried pork and various side dishes) or chimaek (fried chicken and beer). After eating we take a stroll around the side roads and alleys in Dongsong. If we run into older men and women sitting outside, we bow and say hello. Unlike other cities we’ve traveled to, we almost always get a big smile and hello in return (sometimes – surprisingly – in English!). I’m still amazed at how friendly the people in Dongsong are. Our walks often include a stop at the base of Geumhaksan, where we fill our plastic bottles with spring water for the next day.
Filling up water containers
During the weekends, we sometimes take the bus to Seoul if we’re pining for international food and microbrews, but there are many things to see in Cheorwon. Although the DMZ tours in Seoul will take you to well-known areas to the east, the tour offered in Cheorwon is incredibly cheap (at about $5.00 USD) and less touristy. Because there isn’t a method for bringing in English-speaking tourists, many of the old ruins of the Korean War, like the 2nd Tunnel and the ever-creepy Labor Party Building, have not been refurbished and maintain their original markings of the war. The only negative to this tour is that it is conducted only in Korean.
Other famous areas in Cheorwon include Goseokjeong Pavillion, a beautiful area overlooking the Hantan River that was a favored resting spot by many kings of the past, and a thousand-year old Buddha statue that rests 300 meters from the summit of Geumhaksan. Cheorwon is also well known for its adventure activities, from ATVs to white water rafting.
Buddha statue…do you see it?
Weekends are my favorite time to explore Cheorwon, and we often take the train in Baekmagoji (the last train stop before you hit North Korea!) until we see a cute little town to explore. Getting away from the big cities has let me really appreciate what Korea can offer. I’m convinced Cheorwon is a hidden jewel in Korea, and I can’t wait to explore it further.
You can read more about Claire’s life in Cheorwon at http://www.vegetatingearth.blogspot.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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