I moved into my new apartment on Friday afternoon. My co-teachers and I went back to the love hotel to collect my belongings, and then made one final stop on the way to my new abode.
We pulled in to the parking lot of a store named “Woman Road” and I hoped whatever we would be picking up would be small. It turned out that Woman Road sold bedding, and my new school had very kindly decided to buy me some. The store was someone’s front room and as we came in, the proprietor came out from what was clearly a living room to help us.
Co-teacher #1 explained what we were looking for and co-teacher #2 told the owner what sounded to be the price range. My Korean is nearly non-existent but I do remember my numbers. I looked around while they haggled. The store carried everything from the truly ugly to the truly exquisite. There was even a quilt set in a glass cabinet that looked to be hand-embroidered.
Judging from the choices presented, our price range hovered somewhere between moderately ugly and ugly. However, unattractive bedding is better than no bedding at all, and free bedding is the best kind, especially if the free bedding actually is bedding and not a mat to put on top of my mattress. (I was assuming that I would have a Western style bed. But whatever style bed it was, according the bedding we were buying, it would be a double.)
My choices were beige with a lighter beige stripe or purple flowers with metallic gold highlights.
“Maybe,” co-T #1 said smiling. “Maybe you are a woman, so maybe you like purple.”
“Maybe I am a woman, and maybe I like purple,” I agreed, smiling back. I was getting the hang of the Korean maybe. Why be definite when you could be mysterious and ambiguous?
I had thought we were buying sheets but it turned bedding inKoreaworks a bit differently. We got two pillowcases and two pillows in one large plastic bag. Then we got the bottom fitted sheet in another bag. This turned out to be a variation on the mat theme. Koreans must love sleeping on mats. It was a purple wavy mat to which extra material had been added,
The top sheet turned out to be more of a thick duvet cover. It was thick enough to be used as a blanket/sheet but a more substantial duvet could be zipped inside in the winter. I hoped my washing machine was large because washing these was not going to be fun.
We carried all the bags back to the car and once again squeezed ourselves in. I crammed myself into the back seat with my suitcases while the co-Ts pushed the bedding in around me. It’s a good thing I’m tall because I was in bedding up to my chin. The ever useful shove and shut method was employed to close the car door and we were off!
We drove about two blocks to reach my street and I stared out the window with eager anticipation. I had mentioned on my application that I did not want to live downtown; I wanted something a little rural. My new neighbourhood was certainly not downtown; it was the ‘hood. If by ‘rural’ they thought I had meant ‘poor’, it seemed I had come to the right place. It was a rabbit-warren of twisty little lanes and alleys with a hodgepodge of buildings and houses built all on top of each other. It seemed almost everyone had a store in their front room – I saw restaurants and beauty parlours squeezed in beside a car repair shop, a fishmonger and a used refrigerator shop. It was mayhem but it was vibrant and fascinating.
We pulled to a stop in front of a 5-storey grey building. It appeared the current tenant was still in the process of moving out. I had assumed I would be taking over the apartment of the former English teacher but apparently not; this gentleman was definitely Korean. My apartment is right above the blue truck, the little balcony and the open window in the front.
The landlord was an elderly man with a penchant for readjusting himself. He very sweetly carried my bags up for me in spite of my protests (and my un-voiced fears that he would give himself a hernia.) Thankfully my apartment was on the first floor, so there weren’t too many stairs.
The apartment itself was fabulous. About three times the size of the one I had lived in near Seoul. By Western standards, it was pretty wee but to me it was palatial.
The doors to the laundry room/balcony have flower and cat stickers on them. I’m not sure if I can take them off or not. I’m working on that. The computer is on the floor in the corner, which is the best place to pilfer internet from. The mirror is hung at a really odd height. Perhaps Koreans sit on the floor to do their hair and make up?
The bathroom is a nice size and mostly clean (except for the occasional cockroach) but the layout is puzzling.
Is it safe to use the fan when it’s plugged in right beside the shower?
My toilet seat is squishy and the lid declares “Floral love is innocent and pure.”
My landlord was MOST insistent that I not flush toilet paper down the toilet. Something to do with the age of the plumbing or something. This seems to be very common in Korea; you often see a bucket beside the toilet for toilet paper. My bucket is cute. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.
My front door opens with a key pad rather than a key. I’m a little afraid I’ll forget the code. Or worse, what if the batteries die and I’m trapped inside? I tried to ask if there was some sort of warning before the batteries died but I couldn’t get a firm answer. Mental note: change batteries periodically.