Once upon a time in Nonsan 논산
Once a chance happened upon me to come to Korea, I only had the idea that Seoul is the capital of Korea and the other city would be much the same. However after getting that scholarship and packed my bags to live in Korea for a year, I’ve never thought that it would be in a desolated countryside town named Nonsan. My future plans way back then were daily visits to YG building, tour the hottest place in Korea and meet TOP no matter what. Little did I know that Nonsan, the hidden city in the heart of Korea would be too far from the city I would like to have spent my stay. But then I’ve learned that my days in Nonsan, the place became my home. And this is how I started living in one of the most rural areas in Korea.
In Korea, it’s very important among the people to know a person’s point of origin. It would be the same as the other countries in the world. A person’s 동네 “Dong Ne” (place where a person was born) can easily determine a person’s way of living. This is much same as the people in Korea. And while I spend my days in Korea, I spent most of it in this little city called Nonsan. Most city people, especially from the capital might not be familiar with this city. However once you say strawberries, automatically they would remember the name. Strawberries are the main crop of the region. With almost a lot of variety of its kind, we would always visit the main field, near the bridge of the river that welcomes you to the city, to enjoy free strawberries. Also the cheap price of the fruit among the others clearly states how bounty strawberries are produced in these land.
Other than strawberries, it is very much relevant to the 19-21 years old men of Korea, the name Nonsan. This city is apparently one of only three military training units in Korea. And, as one of the biggest, young boys before they serve the army, would spend a week in this facility before being positioned into their seats for the rest of their service. That is why on special days, it is not surprising to see young lads in uniform amongst the arms of their family or girlfriends, spending a few hours they only have around food stores in the area. The Nonsan Army Training Center also came out in a scene in Reply 1994 to identify how familiar such city is among the Koreans. This city is actually a vast valley surrounded by mountains and fields. The main city where the legislative power seats amongst all the region, is modernized with apartments and establishments. Though there are still the young whom you can see during the afternoon because of school. Young adults are rarely seen. Mostly group of ajummas and ahjussis would be seen around market areas, working fields and bus stops. Their greater number concludes that still the younger population prefers big cities to work and live. The city’s near small municipalities are drawn into an image of even smaller villages with lesser population, more fields and a majority of the older population. These smaller villages are growing with either livestock or crop outputs being tamed by an ajumma, whom if first see you would always have thought she has spent all her life on work and bending. Roads are as narrow as the ones in the main city of Nonsan, and Bus comes in an hourly schedule with almost an hour and half for the next to come. The people are quite welcoming and friendly. The first time I rode the public local bus, it was surprising to see how each folks that ride from a bus stop, that might be too far in distance with each other, would talk merrily in the bus. You might actually think that they are next door neighbors when actually they are from different villages.
대명-리, (Daemyeong-ri) the small village where my university can be found and where I lived, is totally a no man’s island. The wide fields, cows that are being raised in a big farm next to our university, a small Christian church and houses that are clustered together on the main hall and other houses that are scattered away from fields. This is a normal country side in Korea. Almost all day, it is a rare sight to see people outside their houses. Mostly in their fields, either farming by twos or harvesting. Also the bus stop, the landmark of that area. As our university stands out of the whole area because of its large buildings and the number of students that nearly capsizes the whole population of the area, this central piece where we stood for hours to wait for the local bus, is our magic carpet to modernity. Though Nonsan has its own Homeplus, Lotteria, PizzaMaru and other stores relevant to Seoul, it is not as same as Daejeon which is the major city of the Southern Chungcheong Province. Though it takes a hour ride to go to Daejeon from Nonsan. The big gap in environment and view describes how both rural and urban cities of Korea develop. One thing, that made me love our dear Nonsan, is not the rural situation which a city-born girl like me would actually answer but the peace and tranquility it gives. A year of living here actually made me deluged all the stress that has eaten me of my home city, Manila. This city made me learn Korean faster than in Seoul, where locals find the existence of foreigners common. And this city’s fresh air and green lands made me calm myself on my deepest days.
Nonsan, might not take pride in itself in terms of Kpop and Beauty products but it takes pride to what we need to know of Korea as foreigners, which is Culture.