Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"My Personal Hiroshima"

This morning I had the unexpected pleasure of being informed that my fifth grade class this had been cancelled due to physical testing. This I think will be a welcome respite after yesterday, which was somewhat trying.

A couple weeks ago the school offered to re-wallpaper my apartment and since the place was a little, well, dreary, I gratefully accepted. At 2pm I got an early ride home to check the job and make sure nothing had gone horribly awry. Instead of walking into my freshly finished apartment, however, I walked into a storm of shredded paper, muddy tracks all over the floor I had spent hours scrubbing last weekend, and a haze of cigarette smoke. Only two rooms were finished but through hand-gestures I was able to establish that they would call me when they were done and that there was to be NO MORE SMOKING in my apartment. Apparently this is something that needs to be stated in Korea.

I took my camera and walked into town to visit the bank and exchange the last of my american money. Happily, Kat and I discovered last week that one of the local cheap eatery employees speaks very good English so I was able to stop in there to ask for directions. Coming out of the bank flush and happy I wandered into a store selling (almost exclusively) cell phone accessories and bought a little kitty-cat to hang from my cell. It was only 1,000 won and honestly I felt like I deserved it. After that I just wandered for a bit and ran into some children who dogged me for several blocks until I stopped and talked to them. In many ways I prefer the way children react to foreigners then adults. Their blatant curiosity is much friendlier then adults' sidelong glances. On the other hand when I visited the traditional market yesterday with one of my school's teachers and her friends I had a less then warm and fuzzy feeling when one of the old men stroked my hair. Maybe pretended indifference really is preferable.

When I got back the apartment was finished but dirty dirty dirty. The floors were still coated and my coffee table had globs of some sort of congealed food sauce on it. They'd also used half of my instant coffee packets and mugs. One of the lights in the kitchen no longer works and I had to look all over the place for the bulbs to another which they had neglected to replace. I didn't cry but I might have let out a few screams of frustration, especially when I had to move the couch from the living room back into the office by myself since they'd neglected to do so. I think it could have been a real "I hate this country" moment but I tried to keep perspective. These were people I did not work with and would never see again and for a couple hours of intensive cleaning I had a much nicer -looking apartment at no extra cost to myself.

The most bizarre detail of the day was that when the workers moved the fridge to paper the kitchen I got to see this:

Another present from the previous tenant along with the previous layers of dust and a full pot of spagetti on my stove (did I neglect to mention that?). I'm glad I discovered it, though. As rotten as it was to have to scrub the entire apartment down again, at least I wasn't experiencing personal pain on the level of a nuclear detonation.


  1. Wow. That's kind of frightening...

  2. Holy shit, that is some crazy, uh, graffiti there. Part of me is like, 'I hope that person is okay,' but another part is like, 'Please don't compare your personal problems to acts of genocide, it's a little maudlin.' I might be a bad person.

  3. If anyone is the bad person in the situation Jenn, I'm pretty sure it isn't you.

  4. Uh, wow. Glad you survived and kept it in perspective! An impressive feat, given the circumstances.