Bukgu and Beyond

Katie in italics
David in normal

Ok so we’re going to start with descriptions of our new apartments and the area we’ll be living in for the next year.  We are both in an area of Pbusan* called Buk-gu, which is a fair distance from the coast and its beaches but it is very built up and we’re both near a subway – the underground train network, not the popular sandwich shop that has the most restaurants in the World!

*I will refer to Busan / Pusan as Pbusan from now on because the spelling officially changed a few years ago from Pusan to Busan. However we think when the locals say the name it sounds more like a P than a B – but it definitely lies somewhere between the two hence Pbusan.

Moving on from those semantics and into my new apartment / closet, you really start to get a taste of what Korea is about. The flat is very modern with a musical washing machine that plays a congratulatory tune when it is finished, and a front door with no key and instead requires you to type a code into an electronic keypad. Very unnecessary and the door doesn’t open if the batteries die in the keypad / the circuit malfunctions – fire hazard anyone?? The best thing about the apartment is that when I’m really missing the taste of something Western and when I decide to come out of the closet / apartment, I only have to walk for 2 minute and there is a 24 hour McDonald’s – the fast food outlet that has the second most restaurants in the World, not the underground train network!

My apartment is significantly bigger than Dave’s, but at the same time, quite a lot older. This means that, while I have much more space to hang clothes up to dry, I am yet to figure out how exactly my ancient washing machine works. It also means that, although I have 2 gas burners to cook on (rather than Dave’s 1 electric), and a dining table with chairs for us to eat at, the place is so drafty and cold at the moment that Dave refuses to spend more than an hour there and thus we are yet to eat a meal at mine. My shower is also pants with the weakest stream imaginable so I’ve taken to washing my hair at Dave’s. All in all, it could be a lot worse but for now it looks like Dave’s is the place to spend the winter months but come summer, when his tin can flat becomes unbearably hot, mine will be the perfect summer get-away. It’s also just a 10 minute walk from a really busy shopping area with a very cool traditional market and lots of places to eat and drink. So location wise I’m very happy and my school has been kind enough to buy me bedding, kitchenware, a kettle and toaster. I donated the toaster to Dave, since he can’t live without toast and eggs in the morning and his flat only had a toaster oven, which takes ages. This also means that his flat looks a tad more manly – I’ve included a picture of the aforementioned toaster oven and I think you’ll understand this last comment when you see it. And it goes very well in my flat, with my hot pink, bear covered, velour bedding... 
View from my front door

Kitchen Area

Bedroom Area - Note the hot pink bedding

Dave's toaster oven goes better with my bedding than with his floral wallpaper
 If you know me well, you will know that I hate not knowing where I’m going and that I hate paying for mistakes... Well, in Korea, both situations are in abundance. My first mistake came on my first day. I was getting the subway to my school (Mora Middle school) and I decided to get off at Mora subway station (I had been told the station to get off at but the paper I wrote it on had been “Borrowed” by Ian Holm). I got out and I knew it was a 10 minute walk from the station so used my woman’s intuition, picked a direction and happened to pass a Domino’s Pizza on the way (no lie). This is when I realised I had made a mistake because I would’ve noticed a Domino’s Pizza on my practice run since I’m drawn to it like a paedo is to priesthood. So I admitted defeat and ended up getting a taxi to the school (£3), which is a challenge in itself when you can only say 5 words in Korean but he was very helpful and drove me fairly directly (how the HELL would I know!?) to school. The next mistake came that night due to not knowing when the last train was – I was stranded at a station, 2 stops from mine – what would I do? Well instead of paying a couple of quid for a taxi, I drunkenly walked home... and I made it... and I didn’t get take away food. My drunken navigation skills are fly and my drunken money restraint is tight!

The third mistake was the biggest. It involved several moments of stupidity and I guess, unlike Tarantino, I’ll start at the beginning by saying I was coming home from work and was waiting for the bus. I noticed another teacher from my school and thought I could practice my Korean – now up to over 10 words! I said hello and then said in Korean which bus I was getting – the 169. Impressed? You should be! I then saw a bus coming and he said, “169 dash 1”. The bus was 169-1 not 169. I smiled and said, in Korean, “169 tashe 1”. I had learnt that dash was tashe and had remembered it cos it’s simples.

I proceeded to get on the bus thoroughly pleased with myself that I had explained the bus number in Korean. It dawned on me when I was going high up a mountain I had never seen before that perhaps the 169-1 bus was different to the 169 bus. 2 stops after the dawning, I got off. The teacher at my school had been trying to warn me in the little English he spoke but the stupid foreigner did not heed his warning. I am not looking forward to waiting for the bus with him and his judgemental eyes next time. So the bus stop in the opposite direction was opposite the stop I got off at and I didn’t  wanna look like an absolute penis to the people staring at the white man so thought I would walk to the next bus stop. I realised that perhaps they might recognise me anyway, what with me being one of the 7 white people they had ever seen in the flesh, so I hailed a taxi. This £2 fair took me to the nearest subway (which I said in Korean – still impressed?) and I navigated my way home from there. I walked through my door and craved for a lie down (I had taught 4 lessons that day and written 2 lesson plans and had spent enough time on facebook that I felt like Mark Zuckerburg’s bitch). But first I had to take off my dapper suit and while picking it up, knocked and smashed one of my three glasses into pieces. That’s another 50p down the drain...but who’s counting? (£5.50). I cleared up the glass and decided it would be okay to throw the tiny pieces down the toilet, spilling only a small bit on my tiny shower room floor :s. A smashed glass in a tiny apartment is like a fart in a lift – you can’t get away from it... and it may sting. Coincidentally as my room is so small; you can’t get away from a fart either (as Katie knows well). In fact when I have an erection, I can’t turn around... so either I have a small flat or I have a large c...apacity to lie.

So now I’m waiting to cut my foot on the floor so I can spend another £1 on plasters and continue to pay for my mistakes. But hey ho, the good news is that instead of being angered by all these mistakes, which are NOT MY FAULT by the way, I have actually laughed it all off.

So now I’ve become one of those laughing morons happy to bundle their way through life spending money, like it’s going out of fashion cos of their own stupidity, but with a big toothy grin and an empty wallet. Oh well, at least I’m not one of those morons dragging out their boring stories into lines and lines of waffle to be read by no-one....

I haven’t gotten lost once yet.