News and Observations

Positive side of living on the Korean island known for its famous dogs: I never have to worry about eating dog, and there are friendly dogs everywhere that I can pet.

Negative side of living on the Korean island known for its famous dogs: The cacophony of barking at all hours. IT NEVER ENDS.

My apartment is big, but a little on the dingy side. But, that’s not the end of the world. For Hampshire-people, it’s about the level of dinginess of Greenwich. Supposedly they may move me to a newly renovated apartment in 2 months. We’ll see. That would be nice. I’d settle for a smaller place if it was newer. Though, I do have a bathtub, which is pretty awesome. Bathtubs are very rare here, and are considered something of a luxury item.

The weather is nice, though. It’s probably about 65˚F (18˚C) right now, and the mountains are shrouded in mist.

 

A few observations and notes thus far:

 

 

  • People drive like madmen here. It’s insane. I have witnessed SO many near-accidents here, including ones involving the car I’m in! No way in hell will I ever drive here.
  • Korean food is less spicy than I was led to believe (with the exception of kimchi, which I can barely eat two bites of), though virtually everything is spicy to some degree. The upside of this is that I drink water like a fiend here, which I never did in the US.
  • FOOD IS SO CHEAP! Like, a whole watermelon = 4,000won ($4). A can of real, 100% juice from a vending machine = 700won (.70 cents). A Coke from a vending machine = 600won (.60 cents). My co-teacher and supervisor(? – I’m still not quite sure what she is in relation to me) took me out to lunch yesterday, and we had a huge meal for three people, for about $15.
  • The food here is really healthy. Very, very balanced diet. It makes my burps taste funny though.
  • Their milk smells weird. I keep thinking it’s spoiled, when it’s not.
  • My washing machine sings a little song when you start it. I assume it does the same when it’s finished. Drying my laundry here is going to be somewhat of a task, because, being an island, it’s very humid here, and everyone line-dries their laundry. I guess it will keep me from waiting until the last minute to do laundry, though, which has always been a bad habit of mine.
  • I am convinced that Koreans hate air conditioning. I have now driven in three cars, and everyone opens the windows instead of using the (perfectly functional) air conditioner. They don’t use them in their homes either, even when they have them.
  • Koreans hate fans. This, plus the above, means I am always feeling slightly damp and warm, even when it’s in the 60s. Apparently they have some weird superstitious belief that if you have a fan on and the windows closed, you will die. Yeah, I have a really hard time not laughing at that one when they say it. As a result, if they have a fan (or air conditioning, which they consider to be related to a fan) running, they have the window open as well. The same thing goes in winter, apparently – they leave the heat on full blast, but keep the windows open. I had heard that Koreans go through heating oil like crazy, and now I think I know why.
  • Peter, they have those little Japanese chocolate mushroom cookies that you like, here. They’re everywhere, in fact. The boxes cost 500won (.50 cents). Pocky (which I have seen, but not as frequently), is similarly cheap. Man, I had no idea what a premium Americans pay to get it.
  • My mattress is hard as a rock. For now, I have laid down the (rather old and dingy) blankets they gave me on top of the mattress, and then covered them with my sheets, to make something of a really ineffectual featherbed. I need to buy myself a blanket. The ones they gave me push my OCD buttons in the wrong way. Mysterious stains = Kelsey trying to sleep without actually touching the blanket (thank god I brought my own sheets).
  • My apartment needs some serious cheerfulness, and soon. I can deal with lumpy linoleum and random mold spots (not huge, but enough to make it look dingy), so long as I have things around me that make it feel more homey. So, as soon as I figure out what the hell my address is, and how to recieve mail, I would absolutely love to get small mail from you guys. Little things to remind me of home would be awesome. I brought some photos, but that’s about it. In exchange, I would be glad to send things to you guys as well, if you give me requests.
  • The bus station has little computer terminals that you can play Diablo II, City of Heroes, and World of Warcraft on. And yet, I have yet to find open wireless. Bizarre.
  • The govt. is in the process of changing the national standards for romanization of words. This means that I see more than one name for places when I’m looking at signs, documents, etc. Not too bad, but certainly confusing at times. Examples are (old version first): Pusan = Busan, Kwangju = Gwangju, Cheollanamdo = Jeollanamdo. It’s not too hard to figure out, but it means I sometimes have to take a second look at things.
  • Holy crap, so much staring. Little kids point and giggle, and old ladies look at me like I’m some sort of strange animal. I’ve had 4 women tell me (according to my co-teacher, who translates for me) that I’m pretty/beautiful. I’ll have to be careful, or this is going to go to my head. According to my co-teacher and the woman I’m replacing, I will likely be the first blonde-haired person my students have ever seen outside of a movie or TV. This should be…interesting.
  • My supervisor’s daughters think Marc is very handsome and that he looks like a movie star (I was showing them photos of my friends). I agree on the handsome bit, but I still find it really funny. Marc, they also think you’re like, a giant, for being 6 feet tall.
  • They are mindboggled that I speak more than English. I spoke a little bit of French and German for my supervisor’s kids, and they thought it was like, the coolest thing ever.
  • Most people here, despite going through a minimum of 8 years of mandatory English classes, speak next to no English. I knew their language education system was bad, but man, it must truly be terrible. I guess I’ll find out soon enough!

 

 

Okay, that’s enough for now. My co-teacher is coming by in a few hours to take me out and show me around. I need to buy some groceries, cleaning supplies (the bathroom, kitchen, and fridge could all use a wipedown), a blanket, and a power strip. Later in the week I need to get a lamp (so my only source of light is not the ugly overhead), some clothes hangers, a rug, and a water purifier (or bottled water). I’m not supposed to drink the water (even restaurants use bottled water), especially here on the island, which is way, way more inconvenient than I had previously realized. I strongly suspect that when at home here in the apartment, I’ll probably drink mostly juice (which is common and cheap here), and save my water for things like brushing my teeth.

After that, I’m going to go to the internet cafe I saw earlier, to see if I can use their wireless. It’ll be a few weeks before I get wireless here at my apartment, because I can’t get it until I get my ARC (alien registration card – the Korean equivalent of a green card), and that may take a couple weeks. Thankfully, internet cafes are like 200won ($2) an hour here, and they give you free food and drinks, so it’s not so bad. I need to figure out what their hours are though. I hope they’re open late, so I can chat with you guys today. I’ll try to get down there tomorrow morning, so I can chat with you all (it’ll be Saturday night for you folks) for sure before I start work on Monday. During the week I’ll probably be harder to get ahold of, due to the time difference and my work schedule, but during the weekends, I should be okay.

I’m mostly over my jetlag, after only two nights and a day. Not bad, for a 14 hour difference.

One more thing: Okay, it’s officially weird that I now qualify as an “expat”. WEIRD. Also, by Korean standards, I’m classified as a Civil Servant. ALSO WEIRD.

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