[Island Diary] ‘Flipped switch’ by Jen Avison

Click here for more info about this series and to read more Diary entries. — Ed.

Dear Island Diary,

We prepare for major life milestones with ease – getting married, switching jobs, or in my case, moving to a new country. However, sometimes it’s the tiny details that can trip us up.

My boyfriend and I arrived on Jeju in mid-December. Our correspondent showed us around our new apartment quickly, leaving us alone to get some rest before our first day of work the following Monday.

After completing our own self-inspection, we made a horrifying discovery. The tabletop stove, which appeared brand-new and ready to use, didn’t work.

We stood at the stove, turning dials and yanking at the gas line in frustration. If this didn’t work, how were we going to fix it? At the time neither of us spoke a word of Korean. We were in a foreign country with no clue how to call a repair company or, worst-case scenario, buy a new stove. The combination of jet-lag and panic was doing us no favors, and we spent twenty minutes arguing and slapping the dials.

Right then our neighbor, whom I now refer to as “my savior” walked into our open front door to check something on our boiler. We waved her over, demonstrating the issue with the seemingly broken range.

She looked for all of five seconds, said “ah!” and turned a small purple dial on the gas line that we had missed.


The stove spat to life, a quick flash giving way to smooth, relieving rings of flames around the burners.

We stared at her, our mouths dropping open. She gave us a thumbs-up and walked out the door, laughing hysterically.

Sometimes kindness is a kismet act. Other times, it’s showing the new kids on the block the ropes. Either way, they’re always appreciated, and another testament to the unique kindness of Jeju Island residents

About the author: 

Jen Avison lives in Jeju City. She loves dancing, wine, and hopping on buses at random to explore the island. As a writer and avid traveler, she moved to South Korea from Los Angeles, to immerse herself in a culture that was entirely different from her own. For more pieces from Jen, check out her blog here.

If you would like to contribute your own Jeju Island story, please contact the editor at todd@ijto.or.kr.

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