My preparations for Korea provided plenty of uncertainty. One of those uncertainties was the size and condition of my living space. Native Teacher dwellings range from studio apartments the size of large closets to two-bedroom houses; from state-of-the-art amenities to conditions condign of condemnation.
When I discovered that Namak was a brand new community, I hoped to live on the positive end of the decrepitude scale. My anticipations were confirmed when I walked through the door.
While I would classify my apartment as a studio, sliding doors help trifurcate the space into what feels like three rooms. It also helps trap a little cold during hot Korean summer nights.
As I walk into the front door, there is a cabinet to my right devoted solely to shoe storage. I filled it to the brim, unsure if I would find my shoe size in Korea. (My co-workers would later chuckle and point to my small feet. I realized shoes may be the only article of clothing that fits me here.)
To my left is the door to the bathroom. Unlike most Western bathrooms, my Korean bathroom does not have a totally separate shower. However, the dividing glass wall is a nice touch. I lucked out in having the shower separate from the sink. I also love the overhead shower attachment. I am not height-compatible with many wall-mounted shower heads. If I was ever caught on a creepy hidden camera in most wall-mounted hotel showers, it would be a funny sight.
Many other teachers have shower heads above their sink. Their bathrooms are more aptly classified as “wet rooms” as everything in the room gets mercilessly saturated during the course of a shower.
The floor is gradually sloped so all water drains in a couple hours. It’s quite impressive. There are pros and cons to this setup. On the one hand, cleaning my bathroom is a cinch. Just spray water, spray cleaner, scrub whatever and wherever, and spray water from the shower head. Repeat until satisfied.
Another consequence is that I am usually unclothed when I clean my bathroom (sorry in advance for the visual). On the downside, I run the risk of wet socks during late night trips to the bathroom. However, this is a trade I will (and do) take every day.
Heading through the sliding doors I delight in the size of my living-bedroom. There is plenty of room for activities (and no need for bunk beds). There is ample open space despite the full bed, table with two chairs, and wardrobe scattered among the edges. This provides plenty of floor space for meditation, stretching, drying clothes, naked burpees, or whatever else. Soon I will find a roll-up sleeping pad in case anyone wants to crash in Namak.
One thing I adapted to is the absence of dresser drawers. My wardrobe has hangers and two open bays. I just stack my clothes. While it has taken some getting used to, it’s not a huge adjustment. While my clothes tend to cross stacks to mingle with each other, a little cross-thread interaction may do them some good. It will expand their cottony horizons (as I expand mine).
I thank God for aircon. It cools my apartment on sweltering summer eves and makes my room feel drier. It operates by remote control so I can enjoy customized cooling from the comfort of my bed with a Kindle in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.
My teaching contract guarantees me a television set of all things. Sometimes I wonder how many people complained before that became a stipulation. I disassembled my television and stowed it above the wardrobe. To each their own.
Through another set of sliding doors, I reach the kitchen. While the cooking space is small (the sink doubles as counter space), I can cook very efficiently. Moreover, all the items I use to cook automatically end up in the sink, making dishwashing a cinch. I have a fridge, an (unused) microwave, and a gas range. On the first day, I struggled not to blow myself up. I have since got the hang of things.
After re-arranging some power strips, I use the top of my fridge as an instant coffee station complete with an electric kettle and stirring spoon. I used to bend over, bleary-eyed, to reach the kettle on the floor. Sometimes you just need to make things easy on yourself.
I have a generously spacious washing machine. Dryers are uncommon in Korean dwellings. Many rely on drying racks. This has led to some stiff shirts, sour pants, and many many wrinkles. However, this becomes easier with practice (along with the drier autumn air).
While I am very happy with my living space, it is smaller than I am used to. Therefore, I try to be efficient with the use of space. Velcro tape and command hooks alleviate horizontal counter space and utilize the untapped potential of walls as storage spaces. While living here is not always easy, solving mundane problems and economizing the space is surprisingly satisfying.
Spam is a delicacy here. Yes, that is seven cans of Spam and three bottles of oil for a little over $30 (on sale). Doesn’t matter though. I don’t have the rewards card yet (so it’s about $44 for me).
The Gwangju Art Museum is full of lovely calligraphy. However, I don’t understand how this fits into an exhibit of apricots. If I could read Chinese it might make more sense.
I can do better. It says, “Ian – Soju – Banchan”. I think.
Awesome display of Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats. I am not worthy. I’m just taller.