Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fiction Post! (Not Korea-Related)

Opium Magazine Online, a web-based outlet for short-short fiction, is running a tiny little story of mine called "National Road." It's on the landing page now, will be on the sidebar for most of the day, and will be archived this evening. Short-short fiction is a fun challenge--it's really hard to tell a story in so few words, and you often end up with a lot of sharp angles and jarring shifts. I'm really grateful that Opium is putting one of my efforts up. Check out the story if you have a moment; you can leave comments here or at Opium.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

A philosophical question:

At what point does kimchi become rotten kimchi, and cease being just kimchi? Seeing as the main ingredient of kimchi is rotten (okay, "fermented") cabbage to begin with.

I say it's sometime between the moment it falls into the food trap in the kitchen sink, and three weeks later, when the new tenants of your apartment find it (and promptly drown it with bleach).

In other news, starting tomorrow, Nana and I will be in China through the 28th, when you can expect a few rushed China posts before we hie on to Halifax.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Moving Right Along

Here I am reporting to you LIVE from our new apartment in Wolgye-dong (our former dong was Jungye-dong. And now I have "A Whole New Dong" from Aladdin stuck in my head. Thanks a lot).

Our moving odyssey commenced last week, as we received the prized new keys on Friday.

Saturday's highlights:

After finishing up at the school, Dr. Kim took us to a used furniture store to buy a new couch for this place. Our last one felt kind of like sitting on a faux-leather wrapped concrete stoop. We got a really nice squishy floral print jobby and Dr. Kim, ever generous, also threw in a cherry-red leather chaise that Justin can stretch his knee out on after a long day on his feet. Dr. Kim did all the haggling for us and then lent us his truck for some schlepping. Plus, the school picked up the tab, since the furniture will stay in the APIS family after we go. Dr. Kim is a hero.

I had to stick around here while the air conditioning man installed the AC unit (wrongly, we suspect) and the used-furniture people delivered the couches and our new wardrobes (no closets here, unlike Brownstone). I passed time by scraping scum out of the kitchen cabinets with a pie server and spraying down the mildewy bathroom. Don't get me wrong - I like this new apartment. The neighborhood is much closer to the school and the layout is cozier. But I do not have a particularly high opinion of whoever lived here last, nor of the cleaning ladies who did the place on Friday. Sweeping is good, but it's not cleaning. I've set out trays of baking soda in two of the cupboards and two trays in the bathroom alone, which today I've also sprayed down with bleach (hence any incoherence in this post).

While I was here, Justin was off nearly getting arrested. In Dr. Kim's truck. In our boss's truck. Attaboy, Justin!

As Justin tried to leave the parking garage, the garage ajeoshi ("aa-juh-shee," means "old guy") started yelling at him in Korean and gesturing in a way that seemed to indicate that Justin was not allowed to have parked there. This is clearly not the case, as we've parked there in a different borrowed car before - it's a pay garage. He kept shouting and gesturing and called over somebody in a police-style uniform (could also have been some form of building security) to back him up, so Justin called Paul, our trusty Korean-speaking school administrator. Then, an ajeoshi from upstairs who recognized Justin from our regular comings and goings of the past year, came down and started yelling at Garage Ajeoshi, which was apparently a good thing because it culminated in Justin being released.

What we suspect happened based on info from Paul was that the ajeoshi, upon seeing a whitey in an American truck, spotted the chance for a shakedown. Unfortunately, he did not bank on Justin being a dumb whitey who did not understand that he was being shaken down. Instead of producing extra money, Justin attempted to clarify the situation. The presence of the uniform, perhaps intended to turn up the heat, instead made attempted bribery about the last thing Justin wanted to do. Silly whitey!

After that misadventure, we returned the car and spent yesterday working our backsides off moving via Korean taxis, which, fortunately, are dirt-cheap over short distances. The five-minute ride from our old digs to our new ones usually costs between $2 and $3. We worked all day and took four loads back and forth, unpacking and repacking the roller bags at each end, leaving our old Brownstone apartment covered in unused cardboard boxes and plastic packaging which you can't throw away here but you also can't recycle until recycling day, which is Saturday. So we were looking stuck.

Every week, in addition to Recycling Saturday, Brownstone celebrates what we call "Random Recycling Day," a day other than Saturday in which the recycling ajeoshis (that's your new vocab word for today, in case you haven't noticed) show up with the truck and you can bring things down. Random Recycling Day occurs on no perceptible pattern - perhaps it is a lunar calendar? - and is just as likely to happen on Wednesday, Thursday, Tuesday, or Friday as the Monday we desperately needed it to be.

But lo, the gods were with us! We cracked the curtain this morning and the recycling team was there. Perhaps this was some form of cosmic repentance for the whole parking-shakedown thing.

Then the professional movers arrived, and let me tell you, these guys are PROFESSIONAL. First of all, they looked genuinely distressed that we had packed our own possessions into cardboard boxes. We thought we might have to unpack it all for insurance reasons (they can't insure anything we packed) but since it was all nonbreakable, they were willing to move as-is.

These two guys went through our apartment like the Red Army through Berlin. You name it, they packed it. They dismantled the bed and boxed the bed linen. They took down all four sets of curtains for us, including un-drilling (word?) the curtain rod and manually unhooking the curtain from its rings. One guy managed to carry out the bookcase all by himself by standing against the skinny tall side and tilting the bookcase over onto his back. It was unreal.

And then came the even MORE amazing part. It's not inconceivable that movers would dismantle the bed, and it's logical (although not guaranteed) that they'd reassemble it at the new apartment. But have you ever heard of movers making the bed? And those curtains that they took down for us? Well, they re-hung them for us over here. Seriously. Part movers, part interior decorators.

And the funniest thing was how they seemed to think that I, as a girl, shouldn't be doing anything. When they saw me pick up a bookcase and start to move it across the kitchen, they both lunged at it, horrified, and tried to take it away from me. I'm twenty-four and five-six, and although I'm no linebacker, they're not that big, either. I just kept wondering what they would have thought if they'd seen the stuff I moved yesterday. Like, you know, the thirty-five inch computer monitor. Or the refrigerator. Stuff like that.

Well, I didn't argue with them. I respect people's culture, and if people's culture tells me to sit on my butt while other people move heavy objects, well, that's the culture for me! Also, after yesterday's refrigerator extravaganza, I feel like my whole body has been worked over by a meat tenderizer. So maybe they have a point.

Anyway, Korean movers = success, especially because we didn't have to pay for them. Dr. Kim got Brownstone to pay for the movers because technically they broke our lease - we had to move because they wanted to sell our apartment. Have I mentioned that Dr. Kim is a hero?

You know what else is a success? KT internet! We blogged about our early internet woes (here, for instance, or here) last fall, which was on a different provider, Qrix (or something like that). We switched to KT last year and had excellent service with no disruptions all spring. Unfortunately, we were unable to communicate to the installer that we wanted all of the room ethernet ports turned on, so we were forced to snake fifty-foot cables through the apartment, duct-taping them to the floor, to have service in the offices.

Today, internet timetable is as follows:

11:00 AM: Service in Brownstone apartment.
11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Computers in transit to Benest apartment in Wolgye
12:30 PM: Installer arrives at Benest apartment.
12:45 PM: Service in main room of Benest apartment. Installer requested to activate other ports. Server leaves to find assistant.
1:10 PM: Assistant arrives and tinkers.
1:30 PM: Internet service in all rooms.

Coming from the US East Coast, which is under the fascist jackboot of Comcast (caution, link has music), this is as mindboggling to me as movers who hang curtains. Way to go, the Korea!