The Deep End

Yesterday was not a good day.  I realized that I was coming down with a cold on the bus from Jeonju to Daegu.  Luckily, it feels like a 24 hour bug and not something serious.  My new coteacher was waiting for me in Daegu.  He drove me straight from the bus to my new apartment.  It didn’t take long to figure out that he spoke little English – low intermediate level at best.  He seemed to want to help me settle in, but the communication gap made it nearly impossible.  I asked him how to use the washing machine and he said, “yes, machine for washa clothes.”  Before leaving, he said, “take rest see you evening.”  I didn’t know what that meant, so I took a much needed nap.  After that I organized my apartment and put my suit back on.  It didn’t take long to realize that there are lots of things I need.  Trash cans, lights (lamps), a chair (the one they provided was an old broken computer chair was stains all over the seat), towells, and sheets.

About an hour later, a different man came to my apartment.  As it turns out, he is my other coteacher.  This man spoke much less English than the first man I met.  We struggled to introduce ourselves.  Like the other guy, he was very nice and seemed genuinely interested in talking…but we couldn’t.  He told me “ready time dinner”, and we walked across the street.  The man who drove me to my apartment was waiting for us with a bottle of soju and three shot glasses.  Dinner was pretty amazing.  At the beginning of the meal, a waiter brought a large cast-iron bowl filled with red hot coals.  The bowl fit into a round hole in the middle of the table.  A grate was placed over the top of the bowl and we grilled our own steak on the grate.  There were about ten bowls of sides that came with the meat.  We shared all of the sides.  My favorite was raw soy sprouts tossed in a red, spicy sauce.  I also loved the spicy tofu soup that was served with a bowl of rice at the end of the meal.

The men spent most of the meal speaking with one another in Korean.  A few minutes before we left, they finally introduced themselves to me.  The man who drove me to my new apartment is Mr. Park.  The other man, who speaks very little English, is Mr. Kim.  They are two of DalSeo’s five English teachers, Mr. Park is the best English-speaker.  I’m not sure how that works, but I didn’t question it.  Mr. Kim told me that he will pick me up “AM nine o’clock day and tomorrow.”  Of course, I didn’t know what he meant.  Mr. Park finally pulled his phone out, opened the calendar application, and pointed to Wednesday (the day after tomorrow).

After the meal I asked them where I could go shopping for a towell, bed sheets, and other related things.  They told me “many store close.”  Mr. Park led me to the corner and pointed at a 7-eleven.  I tried a couple more times to explain what I needed, but it turns out that it is hard to explain “towell” using charades.  They told me “we shopping wednesday.”  I couldn’t decide whether I was upset that I had to go a couple of nights without a towell and bedsheats or proud that I taught them the word “Wednesday.”  I decided to suck it up and make do with what I have.

They walked me back to my street and said goodbye.  I walked back to the main entrance to my building.  It was locked.  I panicked and ran back to where I last saw Mr. Park and Mr. Kim.  Fortunately, they were not gone.  I walked them back to the door and we had the following conversation:

Me: I can’t get into my building.  The door is locked.
Park: Pull out, like this. (he made a door-opening motion….as if I didn’t know how to work a door)
Me: I tried to open it.  It will not open.
Park: Try pull door.
(I followed Mr. Park’s instruction and tried again.  It didn’t work.)
Park: Pull hard.
Me: Sir, it’s locked.  I have tried pulling hard.
Park: Very hard.
Me: Please show me.
(Mr. Park pulled on the door and it didn’t open)
Park: It no open because it rock (locked).

Mr. Kim, who had been standing quietly by, pulled a piece of paper out of his wallet.  He then walked over to a keypad near the door, pushed 2-7-0-0-*, and the door unlocked.  They said goodbye again and walked away.  As soon as I got to my door, I realized that I didn’t have the code to that door either.  I ran back out, grabbed them again, and told them that I don’t know how to unlock the keypad for my apartment door (Korean doors all seem to use keypads).  Mr. Kim pulled another piece of paper out of his pocked and showed me a line that read, “Door Code: 1785.”

The rest of my night was pretty uneventful.  I called my friend from orientation, Claire, and vented a bit.  After a short conversation, I felt better about everything.  I got a solid eight hours of sleep, took a shower, and then went out exploring.  I am writing this post from “TNT PC Cafe.”  TNT is one of four PC Cafes (or PC Bahng in Korean) within a block of my apartment.  Korea is littered with them.  Until I get internet access in my apartment, I think this is how I will have to communicate with you.  So please be patient as the next few posts may come at odd times.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to explore.  I don’t know where I’m going.  In fact, I don’t know where I am.  Hopefully I won’t get lost.  If I do, this might be my last post (just kidding…kinda).

Until next time.

-Taft

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6 thoughts on “The Deep End

  1. Chris Barber says:

    Hi Taft! Glad that you arrived safely and that you are getting settled in. It sounds like you are in for quite an adventurous new life!! I am glad that I will be able to share in your adventures with the updates on your blog. Good luck and have fun! Love, aunt chris

    • wtl0715 says:

      Chris,

      I’m glad you like the updates. Thanks for keeping up with them. I hope all is well on your end and hope to speak to you soon. Please tell the rest of the family that I said hi.

      Love,

      Taft

  2. Zoe Love says:

    I am so enjoying your trip and the things you are having to figure out. Now just tell them
    who you are and I’m sure everything will work out. Just hang on to your billfold and your
    watch and your will be on time and have money to spend.(just kidding)
    Take your time and let me hear from you when you have time.
    Love ya,
    Punkin

  3. Bill Love says:

    Hope today is an improvement over yesterday! I know it will be.
    Kind of cool that you met that college professor on the street. Call him if you have any questions…… I know I would. Questions like what do I do with trash?
    Turn your space into home and things will be great. I’d need internet stat. You can watch M.A.S.H reruns while you fix ramen for dinner. Those guys spent a few years in South Korea in tents dodging bombs….. a favorite show of mine!

  4. Bill Love says:

    By the way….. I was just thinking…..

    Not knowing where you are makes it virtually impossible to get lost!

    See, I told you things would be better : )

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