|By Bonnie Jo Dopp on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 1:02 pm: Edit Post|
I enjoyed reading that by 1975, "Okcheon, . . . was on the regional road that went from Seoul to Busan, so they were used to having travelers all the time. It was a rocking town."
When I was stationed alone there as a Korea I PCV ESOL teacher in 1966, it was a three-tabang village with no public bathhouse. I was given to understand that I was the first Western women ever to spend a night in Okcheon, and I was certainly an object of curiosity. In my mid-twenties, single, a smoker who also enjoyed beer, I was a hit with the grandmothers, who also smoked and loved having me squat among them and hand out American cigarettes occasionally. When people asked why I wasn't married, I explained that I was born in the Year of the Horse and they all nodded in complete understanding. My favorite memories of Korean country life are of picnics in the high mountains surrounding the town and of strawberry fields in May. The most enduring effect my service in Korea had on me was on my musical taste -- I love Korean music and musicality, and when I pursued a graduate degree in musicology many years later, I did a bit more research on the subject for a fine course in Asian music I took.
The finest souvenir I brought home from Korea was a series of children's drawings of daily life in 1968, presented to me by their art teacher, a young woman who was in my "adult English conversation" class, taught in the evenings. This class was a kind of safe meeting place for young professionals, popular not only for the practice in English it afforded, but for its social benefits. Back then, Ockcheon was certainly not a "rocking town," but we managed to mingle a bit. I showed the drawings to some young Koreans recently and they were astonished to see women pounding clothes on rocks by the river -- they'd heard that people used to do that, but could not imagine actually seeing such a sight.