The end of a simple era
Yesterday my life in South Korea completely changed. I did not meet a near death experience or find my soul mate, nor did I eat dog stew (my manager at my school said I have to try it), nothing like that. It changed because I now have a washer, refrigerator, television, and microwave. Going two and half weeks without these household appliances tested my patience and survival skills. Some evenings after work, while unwinding for the day, I found myself wondering what might be on Korean television. Other times I would fantasize about how I might pack an exorbitant amount of groceries into my fridge (would I put the orange juice on its side or would I resolve the issue by making an omelette using a dozen eggs?). The days were short, but the nights were long, my friends. With time, do you know what I came to realize? I don’t need any this shit. Sure I need these things to make microwave popcorn, maintain a diet that is rich in protein, and sport reasonably clean clothes, but I survived and even began to find solace in living simply. Now that these conveniences have been thrust back into my life I feel like I’ve been granted the life of luxury. Strangely there is a part of me already yearning for those simpler days that spawned great improvisation – when I had to sneakily enter into the vacant room down the hall and use the washer late at night (every security code to enter into a room in my apartment building is exactly the same), or when I didn’t drink milk for two weeks, but instead made regular trips to a nearby Baskin Robbins to enjoy latte fudge ice cream, or when I found wholesome entertainment at strip clubs instead of on television.
“When your feet cold mine are sizzling” – Jay-Z
Upon entering some places in South Korea it is required that you take your shoes off. Unlike Frank Costanza I don’t mind this. In fact, it is rather nice liberating ones shoes to allow ones feet to breath. Apparently it is unheard of to leave your shoes on inside a home. Many floors in Korean homes are heated to keep your feet warm during the cold months of winter. In the U.S. I know of only a small handful of people that have heated floors, namely the Murphy’s and the Van der Zwan’s, but this is not very common. Here in Korea you will be hard-pressed to step out of bed onto an unwelcome chilly floor.
While in Korea I will be sure to remove my shoes when requested and to never stop short…
As I walk through the streets and in places like E-Mart (Korea’s version of Wal-Mart) I see many people wearing surgical masks. Apparently this became popular in 2007 during the avian bird flu pandemic in Japan. Three years removed and you still see a decent amount of people (mostly middle-aged women) donning these procedure masks. According to my neighbor C. Justice, whom I will call Chris J. for confidentiality purposes, a reasonably reliable source, the masks have become something of a fashion statement. I am not sold on this theory, but who knows Michael Jackson -the King of Pop- rocked them.
An intimate moment
This weekend was a going away celebration for two teachers who fulfilled their year contract at Avalon School and are now leaving South Korea. There are three Avalon branches in Daegu. Teachers from the other two branches made it downtown to say farewell and to ostensibly wet their beak. I met some new people, some of which already knew my first and last name.
Hello, you must be Dan Katz.
Uhh … yea. Hi.
Apparently they were alerted that a new Avalon teacher was coming. Meeting someone who already knows who you are without any prompt can be a vainglorious moment. It is how a celebrity must feel walking down a street to have a number of people come up to them and announce that they know who they are. My celebrity status quickly wore off and the swelling in my head began to deflate as the new teacher subject became a stale topic of conversation. Later in the night, when maekchu pitchers were being ordered at a faster rate, something caught my attention. A nice-looking, charming, Finnish girl named Emma began making out with her eastern European female counterpart. It was a sight to behold and my eyes made sure to hold it for a while.
Preview for upcoming blog post: A shortage of bathrooms, trash cans & kimchi