A Storyteller's Paradise

I have been to a Storytellers Paradise!- Zanette Burr

Every nook and cranny held a wonder, amusement or amazement, peace, tranquillity or adventure & fun. Time and space and life outside the rural village I experienced my storytellers paradise ceased to impact me. I immersed myself into the role of an Australian Storyteller for one month in the program directed by Seung Ah Kim called, Storytellers-in- Residence @ Sachon Village, South Korea.

Once was a South Korean lady, Seung Ah Kim

You see there once was a South Korean lady, Seung Ah Kim, who expressed her love for her culture and country by touring the world sharing her Korean stories and traditions. She embraced new experiences and friendships all around the world. She witnessed the power of storytelling and the value of culture. When she returned to her country from her K-Storytelling Tour Project she invited Storytellers from around the world to share their culture and stories with her extended family in a rural village. I was so lucky to be one of those storytellers. I joined with storytellers from America, Philippians and Vietnam. We enjoyed wonderful generosity, hospitality and kindness and learning new stories and lifestyle from the villagers and each other.

A new dimension

So many things were new to me and bought many traditional folktales and Asian stories that I have told to a new dimension. One day we informally were taken to a famous musician’s house where he served us tea and played his grand piano while Meeryung Hall, who is an opera singer sang a traditional South Korean folk song, Arirang. It was so emotionally beautiful. We then walked in his abundant exotic Asian garden inside the stone wall that encircles the village streets to his neighbour. His neighbour warmly welcomed us and showed us into his shed. It was overwhelming. He had rows of intricately carved gourds. They were exquisite. I have told folktales about gourds, about villages encircled with low stones walls and stories about lotus flowers and heavenly singing wafting through enchanted gardens and now I have seen and experienced these things. I can add so much more descriptions to my stories. I loved staying in the traditional hanok house were we’d take off our shoes before we got on the verandah and ate sitting on the floor at a low table. At night we’d sleep on the floor. Under and around the hanok, cats of all sizes and colours quietly slinked.

Our program was packed with mind blowing events and experiences. Each night the young Americana Storyteller, Sam and I would say:

Me: Can you believe what we did today?

Sam: Nah. But it was neat!

Thanks to our Korean language lessons we could attempt to converse with our new friends and acquaintances.  We were treated to concerts, guided tours in museums and Confucius and Buddhist temples and buildings. We were welcomed in homes and taken to dine in restaurants. We had history classes, traditional manners classes, cooking classes and field trips and hiking excursions. My favourite class was the weekly calligraphy lessons. It was taken by a master calligrapher, Eok Kim. It’s hard to fully express the depth of my gratitude for this class. Eok Kim set a calm, reflective peaceful atmosphere. One of my calligraphy scripts to copy said, A Mothers and Fathers grace is higher than the mountains. That’s true for me as a mother. I have played around with calligraphy at home with a couple of calligraphy pens so to hold an authentic calligraphy brush, use ink & an ink stone & write a script that expresses my love for my children was so magnificent.  So many wonderful experiences were provided for us. It was such a thrill when I could read what I was writing because of our language class. I found our interpreters and volunteers always went above and beyond to give us the best experience. Before I left Australia 12 children had written stories for the children in the local school in Sachon Village and we had made it into a book. The calligraphy teacher wrote each of the Australian children’s names in calligraphy and they were made into bookmarks which the Australian children thought were great.


A reason for being part of Storytellers-in-Residence in Sachon Village was the appeal of being able to actually experience authentic Korean culture to enhance my ability to share stories from around the world in a pursuit to promote harmony, acceptance, respect & peace. I also wanted to share our Australian culture & stories. Everyday exceeded my expectations. Going to Uiseong Markets was an amazing experience. This was my first time in Asia and the markets were so incredibly different to our much loved local Bega and Candelo markets. Wow, it definitely livened up my descriptions of markets. Now I can add in an atmosphere of being hectic, bustling, vibrant and exhilarating and include all the array of colours, noise, sights, smells and haggling I experienced. Local Grannies accompanied us on the bus to the markets and it was such a unique experience I’ll treasure. Warmth, kindness, smiles & body language speaks volumes when selecting clothing & we enjoyed lots of laughs. I came away with colourful clothing, having tasted delicious food seen so many new & interesting things & a deep respect and love for Korean people and their culture.

I had such fun being part of the program. A great joy was sharing stories in the village school and to adults often after a delicious Korean meal eaten sitting on the floor using chop sticks. I love telling stories with my string & once again string proved to be universal as the Grannies of the village & I played & shared string figures, games & stories. I was so impressed with their amazing memories.

My time in the Storytellers in Residence at Sachon Village, South Korea was a time I’ll always cherish. From my point of view this has been such a special opportunity where I have experienced a village where the way of life for many is one that encourages the pursuit of knowledge, respect towards others & living in harmony with oneself, others & with nature. I’m deeply touched by the respect, warmth, generosity I received. I took home wonderful memories, friendships, presents, stories  and nourishing bones for stories with underlying themes of acceptance, resilience, forgiveness, love & peace all wrapped in a great sense of humour.  I would highly recommend to look at Seung Ah Kim’s web site http://www.arirangstorytelling.com and see what marvellous opportunities she may be offering to the storytelling world.

Zanette Burr