Disconnected in Busan: A Post Past due.

31 Aug

So I must apologize at the onset of this post. I’ve been in Busan since last Thursday, started teaching on Friday and ever since have been trying to navigate my life in a new city despite being without two amenities I’m so use to having right at my fingertips. Namely a cell phone and the internet. Now still without both, I’m sitting inside McDonald’s inside of a grocery store with my laptop looking crazy. Even having purchased a value meal, my welcome is running thin. The things I do for the love of healthy blog stats. Anyway here’s the scoop.

The ride from Jeonju University was about four hours and of course I had the bubble guts from too much cheap Korean beer the night before. The closing ceremony of the orientation was hardly necessary, but at least they gave us our medical exam results, something we would later need for an Alien Registration Card. More on that later.

For the entire bus ride I just kept looking at the map of Busan starring at the new district which would become my home: Dongnae. It’s not as close to the water as I hoped (actually it’s not close at all) but with it only being one stop away from the Pusan (Busan) National University area, and a 10-20 min train ride to just about anywhere else in the city, I’m more than happy with my setup. Well, almost.

When our bus arrived downtown Busan (Seomyeon) we were shaggy looking but eager to meet our new co-teachers, the people who would be both our co-workers and “handlers” for the next year. Some are better than others, but ideally these are the individuals who help you get situated into your apartment, help you find your way to your school, and generally help you navigate through your time on the peninsula.

After sitting in yet another hot ass auditorium, our districts were called out one by one and we walked through the crowd with our name tags on looking like lost puppies waiting for their owners. It was tragically beautiful. Now some people get as many as six co-teachers at their school. I was lucky enough to land only two. For the sake of good taste (something I almost never care about) I won’t post their names, but both of them are quite pleasant. Even when they are interrogating me on my take on everything Korean. No problem though. I was more than ready. On the way to my apartment they asked me questions on everything from alcohol intake to what I think about Korean women, to how much I like spicy food. And of course there’s the inevitable:”Do you like Kimchi?” I kindly gave them the “appropriate” answers and was sure to smile like a good little school boy awaiting his praise for a job well done. Why start out with a bad impression if you can avoid it right? Besides, these women are gonna be key when it comes to getting comfortably settled.

As we pulled up to a dingy looking building, one of my co-teachers informed me that this would be my apartment. “Great!” I say. Its on a major street, next to a post office and a three-min walk to the bus stop. No worries. My place is on the sixth floor (thank god for elevators) and is about what I expected: a larger studio apartment with a separate bathroom that also serves as a shower. That is, the shower head is connected to the sink and is hung up towards the ceiling in a corner. I can literally take a shit and a shower at the same time. Something I’ve been dreaming of since, well, never. I have a small gas burning stove, and the last occupant was kind enough to leave me a rice cooker, and a coffee maker that doubles as a toaster oven–something I didn’t even know existed–an iron and a blow dryer.

I look around and realize my co-teachers are staring at me waiting for my reaction. “I love it” I say. Again, Its less than the truth, but at least its clean and has a modern nice-sized bed. I’ve read tales of teachers moving into rat infested scum ridden slum pads stocked with nothing more than a few dirty sheets and a squishy toilet seat. That being said. There is one major flaw: Roaches. I’ve only seen a few, but anybody who knows about roaches knows, where there is even one, there are many more.

Already I know some of you are wondering why the hell I didn’t throw up a fuss right away and demand a new apartment. First off, to put it plainly: This is Korea. As a foreign teacher I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. I need to pick my battles wisely. I cause a ruckus now and I could end up having my vacation days mysteriously disappear, or I may run the risk of alienating myself from my co-teachers and principal, the people I will need the most help from in the coming months if I don’t want my life to be hell. I dropped by the local Mega Mart, spent 30,000 Won on some bug traps and spray and have been sleeping soundly ever since. I take more extreme measures later.

After dinner at a random Korean pizza joint (yes, Koreans Like pizza ) my co-teachers left me to my business in my apartment and told me I would need to prepare an introduction lesson for the next day. Now to be clear I was told I wouldn’t even be going to the school until the following Monday, and that I wouldn’t start teaching until the Sept. 1st.  What really happened? I taught five full lessons (including a power point introduction) the day after my arrival. Again, no complaints here. Koreans don’t seem to plan very much so neither do I. I let the frustrations roll off my back and did the best I could with a big smile on my face. Fuck it. The kids however, are great. I have third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, and all of them are just as curious about me as I am about them. The questions they asked tell it all:
Student: “Are you married?”
Me: “No.”
Student: “Were you born with hair like that?”
Me:“I wish.”
Student: “Are you worried about North Korea?”
Me: “Are you?” And,
Student: “Do you know any rap songs?”
Me: “What kind of bullshit ass question…..I mean, yeah. I know a few.”

All the lessons went well and afterwards, one of my co-Teachers took me to the immigration office to sign up for an Alien Registration Card, basically a foreign I.D. that is my ticket to everything–new bank account, cell phone, internet and cable TV (not that I want it). Also, I needed to change my visa from a Single Entry  visa (meaning once I leave the country for any reason, it’s void) to a Multi-Entry visa ( meaning I can come and go as I please from Shanghai to Kyoto). Didn’t know that shit was gonna run me another 50,000 Won, but whatever. I need to be able to travel outside of Korea. I gave it to the man behind the glass and cursed him under my breath.

If I sound as if its all been less tan admirable since I arrived in Busan, let me put things straight: It hasn’t all been bad. Last weekend I hopped the subway to three of the top districts in the city for a night of drinking and socializing with other expats and EPIK teachers who were at the orientation in Jeonju.

I headed towards the Kyungsung area–another university district–and met  up some other teachers to drink a bit of booze I haven’t set my lips upon since I left home, namely Maker’s Mark and Jameson. The shit was golden. I ducked in to some club called Ghetto, and after having enough of the Korean gangster kids sucking on lollipops, I went to a nearby pub where I lost in a game of foosball to a couple of French dudes (my partner was Canadian. That’s my excuse). The rest is a bit hazy from there, but I made it home safe

Saturday a bunch of us dipped off to the outskirts of Busan for a Indie music festival that was really nothing more than a crazy DJ, a few mediocre bands and  giant water fight. Enough said. That night we headed back to Seomyeon for  some BBQ chicken and bar hopping. Less Crazy than the night before, but still good fun.

Sunday? I Spent it with fellow EPIK teachers at Gwangalibeach trying to keep sand out of my dreads  and taking in the gawking Koreans while sipping down cold beer.

By the time Monday rolled around, I had a great lesson planned for my classes, an outfit ironed out to impress the (retiring) Principal and a good nights rest with no roaches in sight. I still don’t have internet or a cell phone, which still makes me feel like an isolated bum, but at least Korea is Wi-Fied up the ass. I even get a signal at the post office. Beat that America!

I’ll try to post more soon. My brain can only retain so much and I’m pretty sure I will have to at least purchase an ice cream cone to make up for the two plus hours I’ve been in this McDonald’s. In the meantime, keep the comments coming and I’ll do my best to respond.




11 Responses to “Disconnected in Busan: A Post Past due.”

  1. Alex August 31, 2010 at 8:49 PM #

    Hey Jay,
    Nice post. Speaking of the cockroaches, I saw a spider the other day in Ulsan that was white and golden. Have you seen something like that before? And, speaking of the coffee-maker/toaster, I think Koreans must have a patent office the size of tower; they produce so much stuff that doesn’t make it overseas…and they have people working in mechanics, electronics, and engineering that manipulate verything…so you are bound to see some interesting, modified consumer products rather than cars and bikes.
    – Alex

    • Jaywoodseyo August 31, 2010 at 10:58 PM #

      Yeah, I cant wait until the release a cell phone modified with a tazer and gattling hook. I’ll be the first in line.

  2. Erika August 31, 2010 at 9:12 PM #

    Sounds like a healthily-mixed-bag experience…so glad you’re having fun teaching!

    • Jaywoodseyo August 31, 2010 at 10:58 PM #

      couldn’t have put it better myself . Gotta take the good with the not-so-good. At least I get told that I’m handsome almost everyday by my students. Can’t beat that.

  3. Jan Hughes September 3, 2010 at 8:49 AM #

    Can’t stand roaches son, but better ‘n bed bugs. Enjoying your blog. I won’t say have fun, sounds like you’re making that happen. Be safe and keep the stories coming.

  4. Tim September 7, 2010 at 2:38 PM #

    You make it sound so seamless!

  5. scholarships for women September 21, 2010 at 11:43 PM #

    well written blog. Im glad that I could find more info on this. thanks

    • Jaywoodseyo October 7, 2010 at 9:35 AM #

      Thanks for the comment and you’re welcome. Keep the comments coming.

  6. Ronald King September 24, 2010 at 11:36 PM #

    Just joined your blog.

    • Jaywoodseyo September 27, 2010 at 1:33 PM #

      Great to hear Ron.
      I checked out your blog as well. Looks like we’re both newbies to Korea. I’ll keep working to churn out high quality posts. If the spirit moves you, drop a few lines in the comment section. Comments=Jaywoodeyo’s eternal happiness.

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