The second week of Ramadan is chugging right along and is probably the easiest it has ever been for me. It COULD be because I’m at work for most of it and by the time I get home, take my 3 hour nap, and watch TV, it’s over BUT I’d like to think it’s because I am growing older and wiser and more patient and more comfortable with the idea of men wearing flip-flops out in public….actually, scratch that last one.
Anyways, anyone who knows me knows that like an elephant, I am a beautiful, majestic creature and should be admired and feared…also, I have a wonderful memory. When I stepped off of the plane and arrived in Korea, I had to go down a bunch of floors to get my luggage and then carry all 200 pounds of it on a cart that was not equipped…side note, but what is the deal with luggage carts? It’s 2016! Shouldn’t my luggage just BE wherever I need it to be at this point? I will never understand… Anyways, I called my free shuttle to my hotel…and no one spoke English. My first thought was, “How dare you?” A hotel that doesn’t have a soul who speaks English? Anyways, after about 20 minutes we somehow figured it out and my ride came. They picked up my bags and gave me a look of disgust as they heaved them into the back of the van. In my mind, I just thought, “…and so we begin.”
Anyways (I thoroughly enjoy starting paragraphs with “anyways”) I got to my hotel, checked in and slept for awhile. I met up a friend in Seoul and was definitely in the honeymoon phase of living in Korea. Now, some people are still in that phase. Some people are in that phase for their entire year. I was in the honeymoon phase for MAYBE a few hours. Then I headed back to the airport to take a bus for what felt like 9 years to Daegu. It was here that I would be picked up by my co-teachers and meet the South Africans. Oh boy, you will hear about them later because I truly love them so! NOW! This is where everyone’s journey truly begins! This is the point where we all went our own ways and really started to figure out what our lives would be like here in Korea. We could see our co-teachers in the parking lot, lined up, with papers that said our names on them. I remember getting off the bus, seeing three women standing behind a sign with my name, and them looking at me and then saying, “You?” Little did they know they had just received a blessing, but they didn’t think so and later I would find out why… you will also find out why later because I’m NOT wasting all of my good stories on one blog post! FOH!
My co-teachers helped carry my luggage to the car. Two of them left and the third asked if I would be interested in getting dinner. The woman that remained is my main co-teacher. Now remember, I get vibes RIGHT away and I was already weary. She seemed to be somewhere else in her mind and not really there in the car with me. She asked if I would be interested in grabbing dinner and I was so ready. FINALLY I was going to partake in a real Asian meal! Images of steaming bowls of noodles, seafood, vegetables, rice, desserts, pizza dance around in my head..well, pizza is always just kind of lurking around up there, to be honest, but I was READY. We start driving around and I’m just taking everything in. Where are we gonna eat?! So many new possibilities! But then… it starts pouring rain, at which point my CT looks at me and says, “Um, you like McDonald’s, right?” I just smiled and said “yeah” and that was that. My first meal in my new hometown was a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke. This also happens to be one of my favorite meals and I was excited to try McDonald’s in Korea, so I wasn’t too sad about it! She showed me how to get to one of my schools, which was only a 5-minute walk from my house, and told me to be there on Monday. Meaning I had the whole weekend to explore and freak out.
This takes us to the main event- my apartment! When my CT pulled up to a parking spot next to a building, there was a woman waiting there. I got out of the car, holding the McDonald’s drinks and my backpack and was lead into this room. Again, it was raining, getting pretty dark, and the lights were off in the room. Thinking we were just waiting out the storm in an abandoned building whose main source of income was allowing people to murder each other there for a small fee, my co-teacher instructs me to grab my bags and put them in my apartment. I was like “cool” and went to grab my bags and then I just stood there in the rain. A simple, little fool. The following conversation is based on real events:
“Inside of where?”
“Of your apartment.”
“Okay, can you show me where it is?”
“You were just in it.”
“No, I was just inside a porta potty.”
“Sobe, this is your apartment.”
“Take me back to the airport.”
Like I said, it’s BASED on real-life events, but the author of the story might have taken some liberties with the wording. My apartment was NOT what I expected at all. I had been doing months of research. I’d watched ALL of the apartment tours other EPIK teachers put up on YouTube. There was no way in hell this was my apartment! Where was the hallway that lead to the rest of the apartment? Where was the shoe cabinet that held your shoes and doubled as extra storage? How about the laundry room that could double up as storage for luggage and other garbage that we can’t ever bear to throw away? I could have one foot in my kitchen and one foot in the street at the same time! My toilet was located in a CORNER of the bathroom! The actual toilet sticks out of a corner in the bathroom like an arrowhead. It was dusty, crusty, and to top it all off, there was a HUGE American flag hanging on the wall. The landlord quickly showed me around and gave me the access code to my door (Korea doesn’t do keys, only electronic locks). She pulled a few blankets out of a drawer and a skeleton rolled out of one of them. She kicked it under the bed and proceeded to tell me that everything had been washed by the previous tenant and was good to go. She also had my co-teacher translate to me at LEAST 8 times that the apartment HAD to be kept clean because occasionally the President of Korea likes to visit here when she’s in town…or at least that’s how she made it seem. At this point, dinner takes place. We sit on my floor and she begins to tell me about her life (divorced with a baby) and I start to think that we just might get along. Then she gets up to leave. “Hey you can walk around tomorrow and buy everything you need.” Parting words. Now, again, I had been doing my research and THOUGHT we would at least be going to the grocery store to get food. How did she know if I had sheets and pillows? How did she know I would even know how to get to the grocery store, let alone speak to the people and pay them? She didn’t and this ends up becoming a big strain on our relationship, until it’s not anymore… Again, can’t waste all the good stories on one post.
Jeez, how long was that post? Barf. Anyways, my sister says I haven’t really been “saying anything” on here, so I wanted to give some back story about the first few days here. BELIEVE ME, my first few weeks here were more eventful than the rest of my year will be! Thanks again for reading. I am sure someone is going to say something like, “You’re in a new country, what did you expect?” Please die. Not really, but beat it. Nobody is forcing you to read this and your opinion won’t change what happened so just let the thought float away….There. That’s better.