A week-long English camp at Gijang Cultural Centre. We arrived to the soundtrack from ‘Spirited Away’ tinkling out from bronze lampposts. They were more ornate than the ones lining Yangsan river and the music had been chosen with more soothing deliberation, but I felt at home nonetheless.

This city camp is funded by Yangsan Education Office. Twice a year they pick five foreigners from the pool of public school teachers to attend a residential camp for one hundred middle school students from across Yangsan. Although the method of selection can feel a little like foreign teacher hunger games, most people survive and get some extra pay to make up for it.


Plus, the camp is supposed to be fun, and even manages to be sometimes. My lessons were game-themed: Battleships, Scattergories, Apples to Apples and a World Quiz. One teacher taught fairytales, and another did science experiments making wish I was in his class, dissolving eggshells and exploding bags.

Gijang is a rural seaside town recently tagged on to Busan city, and during our three-hour midday break I would walk along the coast. These winter days are clear and bright and you can be warmed by the sun even while the wind whips red into your nose and ears.

Now as far as I can tell, everywhere in Korea is “famous” for something. Not wanting to be an exception, Gijang is famous for seaweed, and on these afternoon walks I would pause to watch the women divers, black and flippered, free dive into the winter ocean and return with green handfuls to their bobbing net baskets.

Once, at dusk, I saw an orange robed monk and a couple stood on a rock over the ocean. The monk chanted while the couple threw food and drink into the waves. A ceremony for the ancestors I was told.