Expat Dribble

Andrea Avery Jackley: An expat with lots of dribble to write about.

3.26.09

I slept comfortably my first night, almost comatose from my fourteen-plus-hour excursion. I felt well this morning. Steve called and picked me up around noon. We first headed to Lotte department store, apparently a massive conglomerate in Korea, to find me a cell phone. It was an awe-inspiring experience for someone new to the Far East. Food stands everywhere and merchants yelling, we braved the crowds from floor to floor. Finally, after some haggling, Steve found me a pre-paid cell phone for a mere $65,000 Won (roughly $59).

Steve fed me lunch at McDonald’s (it was either that or KFC), where I had my first Korean hamburger. The consistency isn’t much different than foam rubber, with a slightly sweet taste – exacerbated by the “special sauce.” Even the ketchup tasted different; I swore there were cinnamon sticks swimming in the vat. But the fries were, as they should be, very McDonald’s-like. Not to be funny, but the Koreans working at the McDonald’s counter were pleasantly plump. Ah, the American influence…

After lunch, Steve brought me to the bus station to ship me off to Cheongju, my future home. It was a hasty but sincere goodbye, and the next thing you know I was cruising down the highway on my way to never-never land.

James, the director of the school I’m going to be working for and my new boss, picked me up at the bus station. I was originally concerned about how I would recognize him, but these fears were eliminated when he actually boarded the bus and walked up to me as I was gathering my bags. We shook hands tentatively and I was immediately aware of the thick language barrier between the two of us. James is a slight man, standing approximately 5’9″. He wore a tweed jacket with dark trousers and round spectacles. He is very polite, and after some observation, an obviously traditional man (when he can be). James insisted on taking my heavy bags out of holding, struggling to carry them to his white Hyundai minivan.  He instructed me to sit in the backseat.

We arrived at my “apartment” at around 4 pm. James informed me that he would be back around 8 pm with an English-speaking teacher to give me “good information” about the amenities in my room. Not aware of how depleted my body was, I lay down on the bed and fell almost immediately asleep.

My room has a black “couch” along the far wall, straight-backed and appearing to be made entirely of plastic. Next to it is an older-model, grey Samsung television on a small stand, and a single-sized fridge. I have an air-conditioning unit in the large window on this far wall. There is a small porch with a giant, antiquated-looking washing machine. When you enter you walk into a tiny kitchen with upper and lower cupboards, a single sink and two-sided range. The microwave is immediately to the right of the doorway. 

The twin bed is against the back wall, with the bathroom door directly in front of it. The bathroom is one of the most distinct differences here from the Western world. The entire room is, in actuality, one big shower. My shower head is attached to the sink. There is a medicine cabinet, a small sink and a toilet – the drain is in the middle of the floor. While it may seem inconvenient, it isn’t bad actually. Everything in the bathroom is cleansed daily! 

That evening James returned, as promised, with an English-speaking teacher named Jason. Jason was born in Korea but emigrated to California with his family at the age of five. He grew up in L.A. Jason showed me how to use my giant washing machine, the thermostat and various other things in the apartment. Afterward we all headed out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant, where I ate my first Korean meal of Bulgogi (beef). 

After the evening was through, Jason and I exchanged numbers. Minutes after James dropped me back home, Jason knocked on my door and invited me out for the evening to celebrate my belated birthday. We had a quick drink at a small pub and headed to a “nora-bong” – karaoke room… Welcome to Asia!

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