▲ Jessie Dishaw, a Canadian from Regina, Saskatchewan, has called Jeju home for nearly a decade and has no plans of leaving in the near future. Photo by Darryl Coote
Canada, the land of hockey, poutine and long, cold winters may not seem to have much in common with Korea — and even less with Jeju — but in recent years scores of Canucks have relocated to the isle, many staying longer than they had expected.
Jeff Carey, a London, Ontario native, described a situation familiar to many Canadian university graduates who eventually migrate this way. “I was in my off year,” he said via Skype, “and it was during a recession too. I was doing crap jobs out of university.”
A university friend of his was considering coming here to teach English and asked if Carey wanted to come along, “So I was like ‘you know what, I need a year away anyways,’” and decided to apply for a job in Korea.
Being from Canada, they picked Jeju as their future home because, “We really wanted warmer climates,” he said, continuing that in the Great White North “you don’t often spend time on beaches other than in the summer maybe.”
It was not long after moving to Seogwipo City that he realized Jeju was going to be his home for longer than his one year EPIK contract. “I decided maybe two months in,” said Carey. As to why he made this decision, “it was the most stress-free year of my life.” One of the reasons why his first year here was so comfortable had to do with the foreign community in Jeju’s southern city.
“Seogwipo is its own tight group,” he said, elaborating that most of the EPIK teachers live in either one of two buildings, Metro or Hyorim Sky, an arrangement which creates a strong bond. “We have such tight relationships down south. I find there is a lot of Canadians in Seogwipo, always Canadians down there.”
Why so many Canadians? He joked, “I don’t know why. The waterfalls?”
Concerning longings for home, Carey remarked “When I’m in Seogwipo it feels like home, and I don’t miss Canada that much,” and that it is more often traveling through East Asia and staying in hotel rooms that he misses his family.
▲ Jeff Carey. Photo courtesy Jeff Carey
Carey has no regrets about leaving his native land for Jeju, stating, “It’s a very good situation. I understand why people stay here for five, six years or longer.”
How about 10? Such is the case of Regina, Saskatchewan native Jessie Dishaw, who found herself in Korea due to peculiar circumstances in 2001. “It was actually an ironic thing that I came to Korea … I had an Asian growth mutual account that was to pay for my last year of university and then the IMF crashed and I lost all of that money, so I had to do student loans my last year. So I came to Korea to pay back my student loan for the money I lost in Asia. It was kind of weird,” she said animatedly and laughing.
Her first foray in teaching English in Korea was in Busan, but while taking a vacation to Jeju “I was like ‘I’m going to move here,’ obviously it is so gorgeous,” said Dishaw, and she never looked back. In fact she’s planning on staying here with her husband for at least another five years.
“We’re from the same home town,” she said about her husband, who was convinced by a mutual friend to move to Jeju. He and Jessie met here through that friend, and the couple have such an interest in the island and its culture that they decided to have a Jeju-style wedding.
“That was so fun. That was just like a comedy of errors,” she said, because the Koreans who were instructing them on what to do, where to stand, had not organized a Jeju wedding in a while and were unsure of the specific actions to be conducted by the bride and groom. “I wanted to do it because I’d never seen one, and the funny thing is the majority of our Korean friends who came had never seen one either,” which only added to the humor of the event. Dishaw continued, “the men [who were instructing] were so worried about the mistakes they were making, but they could have told us to do anything because no one knew what was supposed to happen.”
Having been here longer than most foreigners, she has seen the gradual change of Jeju and worries about it losing its native culture. “I think it’s kind of sad. That’s why I try to show my students that I love Jeju saturi [dialect], and remember it, keep it, and learn it because I find it kind of sad that Jeju is losing its language.”
According to Jeju government statistics 108 Canadians live here (82 in Jeju and 26 in Seogwipo).
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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