Monday, January 10, 2011

My First Korean Con-Apt

Jisan-dong in Daegu, where I lived for the first six months of my first teaching contract.
Following are pictures of the first con-apt I lived in while teaching English in South Korea. It was a two-bedroom apartment, the only one I ever had. The rest of my time there, I was by myself in a "one-room." I must say I preferred to be alone. I shared the apartment with two different room-mates. The second was okay. He was a good guy, friendly, and as eager to explore Korea as I was.
My first room-mate, on the other hand was... well, picture the saddest, angriest, most paranoid individual you have ever met. Then double it. Imagine a guy who walked around with his own private raincloud perpetually lowered over his countenance, ready and willing to spread doom and gloom wherever he went. That was my first room-mate. He was to make my introduction to Korea a very bad experience, and a definite low point in my career as an English teacher. I had to live with this mook for a month that proved to be one of the longest of my life.
Why I didn't kill him, I don't know. I still fantasize about a dark alley, a sharp knife, and...
Well, back to the apartment.
The school paid the rent, and I was responsible for the utilities (gas, electricity, TV, etc.). We were provided with a television, hooked up to a basic cable package. There were about 70-odd channels, most of them Korean. A few movie channels showed English language programs, and Arirang showed Korean programs with English subtitles so that you could get an idea of what Korean TV was like. If you were lucky enough to be in a city with an American military base (like Daegu) you had access to the Armed Forces Network, that had a variety of U.S. programming.
There was also provided furniture, of the cheapest value that could be gotten. Most bedrooms had a bed, chair, wardrobe (there were no built-in closets in any apt. I lived in) and a desk/table. The kitchen had a table and chairs, and there was a couch in the "living room."
As I had just arrived, I had the smaller of the two bedrooms. There was just enough room to make comfortable arrangement of the furniture completely impossible, but I coped as best I could.

This is the road in front of my apartment building. A very narrow street, as you can see. It's going downhill, towards the main part of the neighbourhood where my hagwon was situated. If you turned around, you could see at the end of a street a rather large hill, which took about an hour to climb, offering quite a view of the city.

This is the main entrance to the building. The larger door was so that a vehicle could drive in and park in the courtyard, but that never happened while I was living there. The smaller door was the security door, which could be buzzed open from the apt. It never worked, and everybody usually came and went through the gate.

This is the entrance to the apt. The door is on the right, and the shoe cupboard is on the left. This is the only apt. I lived in where the shoe cupboard was built-in. The one-rooms usually had a smaller one next to the door. The entranceway featured a tiled area where everyone entering the apt. was supposed to leave their shoes. Custom dictated that nobody should wear their shoes in the house because it was considered "dirty." A Korean would goggle and gasp like they were having a heart attack if they ever caught a foreigner wearing their shoes in the house.

This is the kitchen area, just to the right of the main door. The hagwon supplied the fridge. This one was about the average size, though I have had a few that were bigger. A couple of times I have had hagwons try to get away with supplying what I would call a "beer fridge." These usually didn't last any longer than it took to replace them. One of my directors was astonished that I would need a regular sized fridge.
Foreigners constantly surprise them by acting like regular human beings.
Just on the right of the picture is the plastic garbage pail that I bought for myself. Hagwon owners don't supply these, apparently, and my first romm-mate just had a big 100-litre bag sitting on the floor.
What a mook.

This is the bathroom. Toilet, sink, and shower head attached to the wall. I've never had an apt. with a tub or separate bathing area. The water from the shower splashed on the floor and went down the drain in the middle. The bathroom had a raised threshold so the water didn't flow into the apt. After I'd been there a while, I purchased plastic slippers so I could walk on the floor without getting my feet wet, and a bathmat, so I could wipe my feet after coming out of the bathroom.
My first room-mate hadn't thought to supply these basic necessities even for himself.
What a mook.
If you look closely to the left of the sink, you can see two shower heads and a water heater attached to the wall. This was because that fucking mook hadn't figured out how to heat the water for his shower, and the hagwon hadn't seen fit to instruct him in its proper use. They did spring for this extra water heater, which kept the water hot enough for you to get wet, and then turned cold.
Very bracing!
I must say that I wasn't smart enough to figure out something was wrong until I got my second room-mate. He figured out how to get the regular shower working properly.
Why the hagwon couldn't have figured that out before paying for the extra heater is beyond me. Laying out any more money than they have to is anathema to them.
The way it was set up was pretty fucked up, too. The gas line came in through the bathroom window (Heh. In-joke for Beatles fans), which consequently could not close all the way during one of the coldest winters in Korean history. Nice engineering, eh? Typical of the makeshift that characterized all Korean engineering.
So that was the basic arrangement that I was introduced to when I first met my first room-mate and co-worker in Korea.
More about that fucking idiot soon.

1 comment:

  1. Ah the postage stamp apartments. You had a shoe closet! Lucky bugger! :)