Saturday, February 23, 2013

From the "Love Motel" to the Apartment

Ahh, now I can finally settle in.

First I flew to California, then to Seoul, Korea. The final 13 hour flight was on Singapore Airlines, which I recommend. Comfortable seats, tasty snacks, good meals and a large selection of recent movies and television shows. My flight wasn't full, so I had three seats to myself. It was as good as it was going to get!

In Seoul, it took about 20 minutes for me to find the guy with my name on the sign. He arrived a bit late. The man gave me a bus ticket and the next thing I knew, my big bags were under a bus and we were on our way to Suwon. The teacher I replaced hadn't left yet, which meant I had to stay elsewhere for a few days. Yes, the school took care of that.

Nice sofa! Unfortunately, the lips and the bed were a bit hard
We got off the bus, got into his car and drove to my hotel. It was really what they call a "Love Motel," a common sight in Korea. Most young Koreans live with their parents until they get married. When they date, the logistics of love become tricky. So, a love motel is the perfect place to ... ahem ... really get to know your boyfriend or girlfriend. I know what you're thinking. Be assured that they're not dirty or grimy at all. Or, at least none that I've seen are like that -- and I've stayed in quite a few.

My room came with with a large bed, a sofa made to look like lips, a computer for internet access, and an HD TV with the standard channels plus softcore porn (hardcore porn is banned in Korea). These places always give out bags of goodies which include condoms, douches, perfumes and skin creams. My room also had a message-type bathtub, a shower and a sit-down shower.

The TV and computer provided entertainment :)
The prices for these places vary, mostly due to location. In a popular location, such as the Hongik University area in Seoul, I and a friend have split fees between $80 and $100 for just one night. But don't worry, there are cheaper options should you get caught on a night out. That's for another post though.

So, I stayed there while getting acquainted with my new school. I'm working at what's called a hogwan, or a cram school. Korean elementary and middle school students go to their regular school during the day, then come to my hogwan specifically to study English. This means that I work in the afternoon and evening.

 I was able to meet my new coworkers and the teacher that I replaced. There are several foreign teachers at this school, there is another new teacher, completely new to Korea, who arrived shortly after I did. The lead foreign teacher took us out to dinner.

Our welcome dinner
Psy, the Korean artist behind "Gangnam Style," can be seen in lots of adverts

Now, the previous teacher has left and I have just moved into her old apartment. It is a short bus ride away from the school, and a shorter bus ride away from the subway. The lead Korean teacher and I carried my heavy bags into her car, and she drove from the hotel to the apartment. The exact neighborhood is a little out of the way, and the address seems like a new one. That made it tricky to find with her navigational system. With the roads being so tight, once another car came and she had to back all the way out onto the main road and we had to start looking over again.

The bedroom

We finally found it, and we struggled with my belongings by lugging them all a few floors up. The little building has no elevator. My school bought me a welcome package of useful items, such as pots and pans, cleaning materials, a big bathroom towel, a water bottle, soaps and detergents, and even granola bars. The apartment came furnished with a desk, refrigerator, washing machine, bed, closet and TV. The former teacher also left some useful items behind, including a DVD player, a power transformer, hair dryer and a space heater. She also left many sticky notes behind telling me how to use the appliances. Thank you for that!

A view of the two rooms
The apartment is a nice size with two rooms (kitchen and bedroom), along with a small bathroom and laundry room. It has an A/C unit and floor heating, which is typical in Korea. There is also internet, which should stop working in about a month since no one's paying for it.

The apartment comes with a stove, but no microwave, and it's rare for English teachers to receive an actual oven. To make cooking easier, I will buy a toaster oven. These gadgets are good for both warming up leftovers and baking food. I also need to buy my first groceries so that I can stop only eating ramen noodles.

As far as being lost is concerned, I am making improvements. With a map, I have made my way out and back on my own. So I think I'm good to go!

A new place to live calls for a celebration!

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