Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Royal Bedchamber

I've been here for a full day, and besides the humidity, everything is great. Thank goodness I have two friends who already know how life works here and are kind enough to help me out and go shopping with me.
Here are pictures of my apartment and the view out my window.

The buildings are other apartments for teachers.
In my own royal bedchamber I have no table, and about 2 square feet of counter space, which is filled currently with a few food items left for me by the welcoming committee, along with some of the things I got while shopping today.
Yep, I went shopping today. My friend Chelsea was so helpful and planned to do her shopping today with me. She knew the right words to tell the bus driver to get us to E Mart (like a Walmart from the '90's, I guess, but way more crammed and has about 7 floors), which took probably 45 minutes...? I was taking in all the sights, which included North Korea, the high fences and excessive barbed wire on the south side of the border, lots and lots of stores and shops with brightly colored signs, and sculptures and artwork on almost every corner. When we finally got to to the store, I had to use all my faculties to figure out what things were. I only had to by a few essential things, like hand soap, some silverware, and some food, but when everything is in a language I don't know, it can be really hard to know what I'm buying. I'm pretty sure I got all the right things, but until I open up what I think is laundry soap I won't be sure.
At least Chelsea helped me out, as well as an E Mart employee who could tell I was trying to decide which shampoo to buy. I found the shampoo just fine, but, just like in american stores, there were many many varieties. I wanted to be sure to just get regular shampoo for regular hair, and while I was looking, the employee got my attention and pointed to a gigantic 3-pack of shampoo/conditioner/who-knows-what-else, then mimed washing her hair. It was very nice of her, but it wasn't very helpful since I already knew I was looking at shampoo. In the end I found some that seemed normal, and it was inexpensive compared to the "luxury" brands.
After shopping on that floor, we went down a floor to B1 to get food things. I don't know if I've ever been in a more crowded grocer before. The closest I can compare it to is the Whole Foods on Columbus Circle in New York because they were both underground and bursting with people. The difference is that I could tell what things were just by looking at them back in Whole Foods, and that at the end of every isle in E Mart they were trying to get everyone to sample iced tea and like one other thing that looked like extra wet mud. I bought basic things to feed myself, like cereal and milk and eggs, and called it good. We decided to take a 15 minute taxi back to GEV to protect our perishable food. That, and we didn't want to wait forever for a bus in the sticky heat.
After all that I decided I needed to eat, and since we get a free meal everyday at the cafeteria, I decided to go eat there. I was one of two people there to have dinner, and CNN was on (In English!) to keep my English up. I got rice and potato cakes (like hash-brown patties) and some kind of chicken(?) nugget things and a light soup, and the thing that everybody warned me about: kimchi.
I'll try anything twice, so I went for a small helping with my rice, and it actually was not terrible. It was spicy though. Way spicy. I think I'll wait a while before I try it again. By the time I was finishing up my food, people started pouring in. They looked to be teenagers and there were probably 50 or so. I don't know what they were doing upstairs in the teachers' cafeteria, but I was finishing my food anyway and left pretty soon after that. 
They offer spoons, forks, and chopsticks to eat with, and I got all three. The chopsticks are metal like the other silverware, and so much harder to use than the crappy wooden kind you get at Panda Express! The are slick and don't grip the food to well, and they are heavy too. They'd be great stab weapons, though.
And now, at the end of the day, I am tired and ready for bed. I showered with cold water to get the heat off, and it turned out that my shampoo choice was a good one. I've sorta figured out the fan/air-conditioning (or "aircon" as the call it here) machine so I don't have to baste in my juices anymore. It makes it 1000% better.
Tomorrow I start my actual job, and I'm excited and a little nervous. I'll have to post later about it.

As a random afterthought: My sleep schedule back home was a mess, but I think that it actually helped in that I can now feel tired at 9 instead of after midnight. So, "yay" for that.


  1. That is so exciting! The pictures look like... Korea... :) I'm excited to read more about how life is there!

  2. Have you found my friend Abby yet?!

    Happy Korea! Have heaps of fun! Skype me when you get bored or wanna chat. Good luck on teaching! :D

    They call it "aircon" in Australia, too.

  3. The ONLY piece of furniture besides the bed was the blue chair. I now have a desk though, given to me by a coworker three days ago.