After 20 hours, three flights, and tornado-induced travel chaos I finally landed in Seoul, South Korea. Well, kind of. I actually landed in Incheon, a city west of Seoul on the coast. From there I rode the never-ending bus to Seoul that took longer than my flight to Korea from Tokyo. The bus dropped me off at Suyu Station, where I met Roy, one of the Korean employees at my school. When I stepped off the bus I was immediately immersed in a sea of neon. Neon is everywhere in this city; there is no escaping it. Roy led me through a bright pink and lime green glowing alley to the Four Season Motel. When Roy said that name my initial jet-lagged thought was something along that lines of “Swanky!” How wrong I was.
The Four Season Motel (not Four Seasons Hotel) is a sex motel. Like neon signs, these are ubiquitous in the city of Seoul. I’ve been told that many Koreans live with their parents until they are married and apartments in Seoul are tiny. Young couples who want to avoid mom and dad or married couples who just want to get down and dirty without literally bumping into the kids are frequent customers in these establishments. While the general nature of a sex motel might seem somewhat sleazy, the motel was actually reasonably nice. The Four Seasons it was not, but it was a step up from the Motel 6. I had a giant TV, nice desktop computer, and a pool for a bathtub. I even had a mountain view once I opened the intentionally blacked out windows.
I was in the Four Season Motel for about a week before I could move into my apartment. I had to wait for the teacher I was replacing to leave and for the school to clean everything up before I could get in. Now that I’m in, I’m pretty impressed. I’m not living in some chic Park Avenue apartment but I am definitely comfortable. The apartment is a pretty basic layout. When you enter through the front door you are in the kitchen and the door to the bathroom is on your immediate left. The kitchen is fairly basic. No oven, but I do have a hotplate and toaster oven. The bathroom is big but has no separate shower so the shower head just comes out of the wall and the water flows into a drain underneath the sink.
An archway from the kitchen leads into my dining room/bedroom. My mattress is next to the refrigerator and dining room table. Because the teacher I’m replacing was married, I got lucky and managed to score a queen-sized bed while other teachers just have twins. Another opening from the dine-in-bedroom leads to what I’m assuming is a living room. It has a desk, armoire, TV, and a couple of shelves. The living room also leads to my favorite part of the apartment: the balcony. I’m in a high-rise building up on the eleventh floor, surrounded by other high-rises. My neighboring buildings are not particularly pretty or architecturally unique in any way but my new, sky scraping view is something I was not accustomed to in my ground-level apartment in Phoenix. I’m really not in my apartment very often but whenever I’m here I almost always go out to the balcony and just watch the people go by from up above. The balcony also doubles as my laundry room, housing a laundry machine and clothes line instead of a dryer. It still amazes me that I am living in a country in which I have seen toilets that can speak and yet dryers seem to be Korea’s answer to the pot of gold at the end of rainbow. You’ve heard of them but never actually seen them. Here is a picture of the view from my apartment.
In addition to moving into a new apartment I also started this little thing called work. I’ve only taught one day but everything seems to going fine. The kids didn’t kill me and I didn’t have to discipline anyone. One thing I have yet to get used to is how they address teachers here. In America I was Mr. Brown in my classes. In Korea, I’m Andrew Teacher. Small detail but weird nonetheless. One of my Korean co-workers also told me that my name is incredibly hard to pronounce for the students. I guess they have difficulty with the “ndr” part of Andrew and the day before I started the students spent a lot of time practicing saying my name. The final result ended up sounding something like An-duh-loo but I’m kind of amused by it. With a name like Andrew Brown, I never got that experience of the substitute teacher mispronouncing my name. Now is my time and now I am An-duh-loo Bull-oww-nuh.
When my one day of working came to an end I was treated to a three-day weekend. I have absolutely no idea what holiday the country of South Korea is celebrating but I do know that everyone under the sun has left Seoul and gone to the beach in Busan. Since I have yet to receive my first paycheck I am still poor and cannot afford a beach vacation. Instead I’ve been doing a lot of the touristy things around Seoul. I’ve gone to three palaces, gotten the necessities for my apartment, and wandered around some of Seoul’s more interesting neighborhoods. This exploration-based weekend has taught me a lot about life in Korea. Here is a list of some of the things that stand out most:
1) The ajumma (the specific type of visor-adorned, permed old women pictured below) are everywhere and will kill you if that’s what it takes to get where they need to be.
2) Koreans like to drink. Like a lot. And when in Rome…
3) Asian palaces just might beat out their European counterparts.
4) Korean pop (or K-Pop for those in the know) is one of the greatest gifts given to this world. This is my personal favorite example of the strange yet oddly fascinating phenomenon that is K-Pop.
5) Korean food is amazing and eating out is both better and cheaper than anything I could prepare.
With one day left in my long weekend I’m hoping to find a few more things to add to that list. I plan on checking out some of the big fish markets tomorrow but who knows what could happen. I may or may not have Internet access for the next couple of weeks so I’m sure my next update will be even more informative. Until then, you will just have to find another blog to live vicariously through.