Filed under: Korea
One week down in Korea, and we’re happy that the weather has cooled down a bit. We had a whirlwind week learning the ropes at school and making efforts to make this apartment home – an effort much helped by our newly purchased coffee maker. After a few adventures in Korean shops and with the subway system, we’re excited for this next week off (summer vacation!) to do a bit of traveling around Korea.
Like a two-ring circus, we wander through the streets of our new city, our feet finding their own way as our eyes take in countless signs and symbols that we can’t understand. Hungry as we walk home from work in the evening, we stare into the windows of small shops selling Korean food (bimbap shops), trying to decipher the large pictoral menus on the shop walls, seemingly made for foreigners like us…that LOOKS like it might be chicken….or maybe it’s fish…or even octopus…and what’s that green stuff around it? Last night as we again stared through the window of a bimbap shop near our apartment, an ancient lady, palm down, motioned us in, smiling. As we hesitantly entered, she took one look at my sweaty hair and sat us down right in front of an oscillating fan. She waited expectantly as we stared at each picture before finally deciding on something that looked like fried fish. She nodded, satisfied, and came back a few minutes later, with a dish that looked at least something like what we had ordered. With a huge grin, she handed us what were probably the only knife and fork in the whole place, which we gratefully accepted after days of chopstick hand-cramp efforts. Though we’re still not sure what the meat actually was, our meal was complete with rice (unavoidably), cabbage, radishes, and of course, kimchi (Korea’s traditional pickled, fermented cabbage spiced with hot red pepper sauce). As we left, we kamsa hamnida-ed the old woman multiple times, and she waved at us until we could no longer see her through the window….We’re beginning to settle into our new, entirely-too-spacious, home here in Busan. We packed two bags to fill a living room, kitchen, bathroom, a balcony on either side (our air-flow air conditioning), and 3 bedrooms, equipped with some hodge-podge furniture, a few pots and pans, and no less than 6 QUILTS. On Saturday, as we dutifully put away our belongings in a couple of closets, I sighed as I came across numerous cockroach poison packet. Apparently, there was, or is, a cockroach problem, but so far we haven’t seen any. Trying to buy some essentials for our new home has proven much more difficult than we could have ever imagined…we’re 0 for 2 on finding bed sheets, and it took us two tries to find a mattress cover that fit AND didn’t feel like a paper towel. Finding a fan was a pretty high priority of ours….apart from the humidity, we live on the seventh floor of a high-rise that is surrounded by hundreds of others, which makea for sleep interrupted countless times by honking horns, babies’ crying, as well as the militant cicadas. We bought one fan a few nights ago, which after 20 minutes of blissful enjoyment, inexplicably turned off. Wrong voltage? Blown circuit? Overheated?! We rolled our eyes – “aargh, Korea” – and slept the next few nights in damp humidity. Two nights ago, we brought home our second fan – brand name: “My Friend” – and the same thing happened. Hands on our hips, muttering curses at these useless Korean fans, we plugged and unplugged, pushed buttons, and banged on each fan a few times. As a last resort, we finally turned a dial with numbers, 20, 40, 60…around it, which we had thought was some sort of power setting…and it hit us – a timer! By process of elimination, we set the fan on “continuous” mode. We laughed at each other even as we hung our heads; we’d gone from our most frustrating moment in Korea thus far to one of our most joyous in a matter of minutes, through a series of mistakes and guesses. Smiling as we sat in front of not one but TWO working fans that night, feeling cool air on our sticky faces, we knew grace like only fools and stumblers do. -liz
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