Sunday, August 31, 2014

Settling In

After an hour-and-half ride on KTX (aka the Korean bullet train) and a whole lot of greenery and small mountains on the way, I finally arrived in Daegu (대구), the fourth largest city in Korea and home to around 2.5 million residents. The first order of business was to move into my new apartment. Luckily I didn’t first have to spend a few weeks in a temporary apartment or, even better, a love motel like some other teachers.

Not so bad, right?
Feasts shall be made.
I honestly had no idea what to expect when I first walked in, but it’s actually pretty nice. It’s not huge but is definitely spacious enough for one person, despite the almost non-existent counter space in the kitchen. It’s very well furnished; I’ve heard of other apartments not even having a bed, but mine even came with a clean pillow and comforter. (I try to ignore the slightly acrid-smelling stain on the mattress.) Unfortunately no one had been living in the apartment for 6 months before I came, which meant there was a quite a bit of cleaning to be done (yay cobwebs!) and it still needs some maintenance. That and there’s no rule in Korea that you have to leave your apartment even moderately clean when you move out, which means the next resident gets the delightful job of cleaning it up for you. Still, it could’ve been much worse.

Some idiosyncrasies: 

1) Like in most other apartments here, there’s no oven, so I was really disappointed when I found out I couldn’t bake my favorite muffins. Maybe I’ll buy a toaster oven eventually. 

2) There are also no dryers in Korea, which means you have to hang up your clothes outside or on a metal rack and hope they dry by the time you need them again. 

Koreans seriously love their slippers.
3) In most Korean homes and even in some restaurants, there's a tiny indented space at the entrance for leaving your shoes so you can continue inside either barefoot or in provided slippers. I did that at my house in the States so I don’t mind it, but at the same time it’s really easy to trip on that mini step before you get used to its existence.

Yep, that's the shower head in 
the top left corner.  

4) Another really interesting and rather baffling trait of many Korean residences, at least the less expensive ones, is that there’s no designated shower area. In other words, when I take a shower, my entire bathroom gets wet. It’s an odd design choice, but it's also something you can quickly get used to. I guess the perks are that it saves space and at least you don’t have to clean your bathroom as often?

5) And then there’s the on-demand hot water, which means you have to turn on a special thermostat and let the water run for a couple of minutes before it gets warm. It took me two days to finally figure out that the reason this wasn’t working was because the leaky hot water valve was turned off (gotta love those cold showers), but now I can get hot water for as long as I want.

Such a pretty site on your walk home.
6) The trash system is pretty different as well. Each region in Korea has a designated trash bag that you’re technically supposed to use for all of your trash. And Korea is supposedly very adamant about recycling, which is nice…except that it doesn’t seem to apply to my area. Anyway, these trash bags are rather expensive, but that's partly because you're also paying for the service of having your trash picked up. Instead of finding the nearest dumpster, in Korea you find the nearest…light pole. That means wherever you walk you’ll see piles of trash on the road, which grow bigger and bigger and then suddenly disappear. 

I can walk to my school, the subway, and the Korean equivalent of a Wal-Mart within 15 minutes; downtown is only 15 minutes away by metro; there's a good-sized local grocery store with fresh produce on my way to school; and my apartment is right next to a small convenience store and several restaurants/bars that are always filled with people at night. So far I’ve been hesitant to try any because the menus are all in Korean and going to a restaurant by yourself isn’t looked well upon, but no worries—I’ll try them all soon enough. And best of all, I live either in the same building or very close to four of my coworkers. I'd say it’s a pretty good setup. :) 

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I forgot to warn you about the bathroom situation, lol. I'm glad you don't seem to be to inconvenienced by that, because I actually really hated it. I don't mind that there is no tub, just that you have to wear shoes so it's like being at camp in your own home. I definitely do not miss that part! :/