This week we feature an extraordinary lady who has been living an extraordinary life. She’s a teacher trainer, mother, and a doula. That’s right, if you’re planning on having children, why don’t you give her a call? She knows what she’s talking about! Here, in her own words, is Vanessa Reid…a person you should know in Gwangju.
How long have you been in Gwangju?
What do you do here in Gwangju?
Well, I wear 2 hats:
I’m a teacher trainer at the Jeollanamdo Educational Training Institute (JETI) in Damyang, but I’ve recently started working as a birth professional (doula and breastfeeding counselor) on the side.
What did you do before you took up your current job?
Before I came to work at JETI I spent a year teaching elementary school music in Hong Kong. Prior to that I worked for three years as an ESL teacher in public schools in Boseong and Damyang.
What has been your most rewarding achievement?
Hmmm, well, I’m proud of a lot of things I’ve done, but the most recent thing I high-fived myself for was giving birth to my 2nd daughter in the comfort of my own home. Not only is that ideal for mothers and babies, but I also feel like I got to “stick it to the man” for all the naysayers who tried to scare me back to the hospital.
What do you do for fun?
If I have a moment to myself, I like to read. Going to the movies with my husband is a rare treat as well.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
I suppose that depends on who you’re talking to. To my family of homebodies back in Canada, moving to Korea with zero travel or teaching experience at the fresh age of 22 probably seemed like an interesting life choice ^^. For me, emcee-ing the Opening Ceremonies for my university’s frosh week is right up at the top of my list. Picture this: an audience of 6000, my co-host and I singing a song we wrote and dancing across the stage to “Chariots of Fire” with rhythmic gymnastic ribbons swirling around us… that was one of the most exhilarating feelings I have experienced. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Any family? Pets?
Husband and 2 daughters, Ruby (2 years) and Luna (2 months). There will be a dog, as soon as we have the space and time to give it a good life.
What is something you wish you could do?
Study percussion instruments. I’m a clarinetist, but my heart is with the drums.
Any embarrassing tales for public consumption?
In the early days of my relationship with my husband, his father would often tell me to study Korean. I had just started taking a class at the GIC and to show him my progress, I decided to answer him in Korean that I WAS studying. Except in my nervousness, I chose the wrong verb form and ended up telling him that he should study Korean! Ooops.
Is there any person you admire?
As a relatively new mom, I often look to my older sister for advice and guidance. She has her own children, has studied child development and has a natural mom instinct that didn’t quite make it into my DNA. She will be the first to admit that often, with really young kids, life is a disaster, and sometimes that’s all I need to hear – that it’s ok to be a wreck. The joy of family more than makes up for living in a constant state of entropy.
Any personal code you live by?
I reject any idea of fate or destiny. While some people believe that things happens for the best, I think we have to make the best of things that happen.
What’s your “perfect” day in Gwangju?
Getting to sleep in until at least 7am, then going out for a family walk after breakfast. Maybe spend a bit of time in a café – ideally it would be sunny, but not too hot so we could enjoy a coffee on a patio (they exist!). Both kids take a nap at the same time, so I can nap too. Then afterwards sitting on our balcony watching my older daughter splash around in her little pool while sitting and chatting with my husband. Asleep by 10pm. Wow, my perfect day now looks A LOT different than it did 3 years ago…
Is there any place in Gwangju you recommend?
My husband and I are not very adventurous in our everyday lives – we generally just stick to the same places. I suppose I would recommend going to Mudeungsan for some fresh air. I drive over the mountain to get to work and the view never gets old.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their life?
Take a risk that scares the poop out of you.
Any advice you want to give the people of Gwangju?
Smile more when you see other expats around. Back in 2005, there were so few of us, and people were a lot friendlier when seeing each other out and about. Now the community is so large that it’s common to just walk by each other without so much as a nod. I can’t see any reason for it – we share an unspoken bond of being far away from our homes – let’s acknowledge it with a smile.