Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Apartment

I've been in my new apartment for just over a week now. Of course, this being Korea, nothing works smoothly. As I'd mentioned previously, no one was too keen on informing where I would be moving or how any of it would go down. In addition to the general pleasure that everyone seems to take in depriving me of useful information, there were some personnel changes made at the GHD and I was assigned a new foreign babysitter.

So last Thursday, I go in person over to the GHD to figure out exactly how the moving process will take place the next day. Unfortunately, my GHD person isn't there. "Maybe you forgot that she is not here on Tuesdays and Thursdays?" Yeah, maybe. And maybe you're just baiting me and trying to get me to get angry and flip out.

I'm finally able to contact my GHD person and learn that I just need to have my stuff packed and proved the security code for the movers. Friday I can meet her and she'll provide me info about where I actually need to go to be reunited with my earthly possessions and begin extended habitation.

Friday, I hand over my old keys and receive and address and information about the commuter buses. Everything seems set. I leave that evening to go to dinner with coworkers relatively confident that I actually do have a home. As I pretty much expected, dinner included a bottle of whiskey and I wound up getting dropped off at my new place at about 1AM.

I get on the elevator and it refuses to move. After some confusion I remember that I never learned the words for 'odd' and 'even' and possibly that is the problem here. Enter elevator on opposite side. Bingo! Brandon + whiskey: 1. Korean language: 0

I find my apartment number. There's a banner beside it and posters on the door. I assume this must be b/c it was recently vacated. Seems strange that they advertised it so heavily since I've been scheduled to move here for quite some time. Oh well. I try the key code I was given. Nothing happens. I try it with various combinations of '*' and '#'. I succeed in making it beep angrily at me. Brandon + whiskey: 1. Korean Door: 1.

With no one to consult, I assume that my inability to open the door is probably a function of the whiskey and resolve to stay in the Mojo Hotel I saw next door and try again Saturday morning. The Mojo Hotel doesn't live up the glory of the Mul Hotel. The room is bigger and costs less, but without surround sound or air temperature control in the bathroom, what's the point?

I awaken earlish Saturday and walk out into the garish red light of the 7th floor hallway at the Mojo Hotel. I feel like crap and want to go back to sleep. I go to the apartment and find a security guard at the information desk. He speaks a little English and I explain that I'm couldn't get into my room and ask if he can show me how I need to enter the key code. He asks what room. I tell him. He tells me I can't live there b/c that's the model room. I remember the banners and am angry. I thank him and call the GHD.

I explain the situation to the GHD person.

"Oh, your apartment is #___. Didn't the apartment people in the show you to your actual room when you got there yesterday?"

The most frustrating thing about being here is that there's really nothing to direct anger at. Yelling at this girl or even asking why the hell she would tell me the model apartment will not really accomplish anything. There will be no satisfaction. Instead I just angrily say I will try it out and call back if it doesn't work and hang up.

Turns out the key code did work once I had the right door. And all my stuff was there. Behold:

The kitchen

My bed is in the low loft. I have since learned where trash goes.

My desk is a board stuck in a bookshelf. Perfectly functional, just struck me as odd that desks are sold like that.

The one thing that did make me happy was that my apartment is much higher than the model room I was told. So instead of looking out to see a building, I get this view. All in all, I really like the apartment. As soon as i can figure out where to buy a recliner, I'll be set.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fun with GHD

The GHD are the foreigner babysitters that the company provides. I believe they're subcontracted by my company. I only 'believe' this b/c no one really likes to clearly explain who's in charge of anything. This way they can all deny responsibility for anything until you finally manage to corner everyone who could possibly be responsible and force one of them to accede to doing their job. Anyway, since I'm scheduled to move on Friday, I contacted the GHD to ask how this was going to occur.

The impression I got from the housing manager/personal shopper when he brought me dishes was that he would be coming to the temp apartment this Friday while I was at work and moving everything. I would just go to the new apartment Friday evening and start living there. You might think that someone would verify that this was the case and, you know, tell me that I should be packed Thursday, explain how to get keys to the shopper-dude and how to get keys to my new apartment. Or at least tell me which apartment I'm moving to (I have vague information that it's in the building that I liked previously. Thus, my current plan is to get off work Friday, go to a busy area of Seoul, hope I can find an apartment building I visited once, three months ago, and hope that someone there is expecting a random American to show up and demand a place to live).

Well, I get a response confirming that yes, Friday, shopper-dude will be moving my stuff to my new apartment and I should go there after work. No word on how shopper-dude will be getting into my apartment or where the new one is, but at least I know I need to be pack and clean Thursday. This seems like reasonable progress, and I assume that with a few more emails over the next few days, I might actually have half a clue what's happening.

Then, at about 6:30 (TU) I get a phone call. Since I was in Korean class and didn't recognize the number I just hang it up to make it stop ringing. They call back.

Me: "Hello"
Jim or whatever: "Hello, this is Jim from the GHD. We need you to confirm the color of your dinner table."

Me: "Uh... (dumbfounded silence. My brain tries to run through all the possible slight context shifts or mispronunciations that could turn this sentence into one that makes sense. This is what I do 90% of the time I have to deal w/ the GHD or HR or really just about anyone.) ...what?"

Jim: "The housing manager called me and said we needed to confirm your dinner table. Your usually GHD person already went home, but he said it couldn't wait till tomorrow. What color is the table?"

Me: "Uh...Brown. Wait, why do they need to know that?"

Jim: "I'm not sure. They said they were moving things into your apartment and needed to know about the table."

Me: "Uh... (inner monologue:
normal Brandon: 'That can't be right. I'm not supposed to move till Friday.'
Koreanized Brandon: 'Crap, that totally could be right. They're probably in my temp apartment right now'
normal Brandon: 'What? That makes no sense.'
Koreanized Brandon: 'Exactly.'
fin.) ...I was told that would happen Friday. I haven't packed and don't even know where I would need to go if that's the case."

Jim: "Hmm...I'll call him back and let you know."

About 10 minutes later, Jim calls back.

Jim: "No worries, they're not moving your stuff until Friday. The decorator just needed to know the color of the table."

Me: "Ok, thanks."

So, maybe I don't know where I'll be sleeping 3 nights from now, but there's a reasonably good chance that my coffee pot will match my dining room table.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dodged a Bullet

The apartment I'm staying in has electronic locks. This seems like a good idea. You can carry one of the electronic keys or just use the keypad to unlock the door. It plays a happy little song for you and automatically relocks. How fantastic. The one serious design flaw is that there is no manual backup. Battery runs out, tough crap. (Actually, you can manually unlock it from the inside, so you don't have to worry about burning to death b/c you failed to replace the battery, but there isn't from the outside.)
The mover/shopper/apartment cleaner guy had me enter a new security code the first day and warned me that if the lock battery dies, they have to break the door and I'll have to pay for it. Fair enough. The batteries only have to be changed once or twice a year and I'm only going to be here for 3 weeks. Shouldn't be a problem. If the thing starts screeching, I'll know what to do.

Well, a few days back, I came home, and was greeted by a new song when I entered the code. I paused, thinking 'That's strange, why would anyone want to program the lock to have multiple songs? And why would it have decided to just up and changed today?' Since I didn't really understand why it played a song in the first place (or why the washing machine or any other number of appliances play songs), I didn't worry too much about it. I mean, it was just a different song, not some annoying or alarming sound that would obviously warn you to change the batteries or risk the permanent sealing of your apartment while your away.

As you may have guessed, lock battery alarm design is another area where Korea and I have some slightly different opinions. So this morning I woke up to find my lock would no longer play any song or unlock for me. Fortunately, I had some spare batteries. Even more fortunately, I was on the inside when it died.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fun with the House Manager

One perk that I was unaware of when coming here was that the housing costs that were being covered by the company also included furniture and appliances and such. While this is pretty much awesome, it has led to some awkward situations.

Originally, the plan was to wait till I moved to my full-time apartment before the stuff would be purchased. Well, actually I don't know what the original plan was. In fact, I only found out that furnishings would be supplied when I got a phone call from the GHD (people subcontracted by the company to babysit foreigners) telling me that I could have a couch or a desk, but not both b/c they wouldn't both fit in my apartment. Incidentally, this was the first confirmation that I received that an apartment had been secured for me. Such is how information is transferred.

Well, anyway, after a bit of confusion, I selected the couch and was pleased that I had fewer things to worry about and pay for. This was all well and good, until I moved into my temporary apartment. The big plus of this in my mind was that I'd be able to cook. It's not like I'm a culinary expert, but I miss real breakfast food (I'm sure I've complained about what passes for breakfast here [if not: western breakfast in the cafeteria had pasta and brownies one day]). So I was excited to be able to eat copious amounts of bacon and eggs again.

Except that I had no cooking stuff. Just a microwave and fridge. I was hesitant to buy things b/c I knew some things would be provided upon moving (the exact items were kept a secret to heighten the anticipation). I finally decided that I didn't care and bought a couple plates, an electric burner and enough utensils to cook and eat eggs.

Before buying anything else, though, I decided to ask what would be provided in the new place so as to avoid duplicity. In what is one of the most annoying aspects of being here, rather than getting an actual answer about what would be provided, I was told that the housing manager would meet me after work to provide me things. While a simple list would have sufficed, I wasn't going to complain about getting more crap that I can use immediately.

So yesterday evening, the housing manager shows up with boxes of kitchen crap. And here's why this is weird:

1. I'm not sure who the housing manager is or what exactly his job entails. I first met him as the guy that was cleaning the apartment prior to my arrival. He gave me the keys and warned me not to use the kitchen sink until it had been worked out between the apartment and company who was paying to have it fixed*. So I assumed he was in charge of the apartment complex. Except that now, it's apparent that his job also includes shopping for me and he will be in charge of moving my crap to the real apartment when the time comes. Also, I asked him about where to dispose of recycling and he had to ask a security guard, so he clearly isn't affiliated w/ this particular apartment complex.

*1b. The sink still isn't fixed. Apparently since I'm only here for a month the company doesn't want to pay or something. Which makes sense- except for the very idea that the person moving into an apartment is responsible for paying to fix broken things. Really, WTF? Also, in another day or two, I'm just going to go ahead and wash the dishes, leak be damned. I mean, I made a cheeseburger and I don't think washing the greasy pan in the bathtub is a reasonable option. And, yes, sibling, that does mean I have gross, dirty dishes stacked in my kitchen. So there's still a chance that I can make that TV show.

2. As if having this guy doing simple shopping wasn't strange enough, he insists upon unpacking everything. I try to help and he tells me no. So I stand there in the kitchen while he pulls plates out of the box and puts them in my cabinets. It was bizarre. I mean what's the proper etiquette for when a stranger has bought you stuff like sponges and dishtowels and is unpacking them all for you? I went with uncomfortable watching.

Not that this is the first time I've been relegated to awkward observance. Maybe the service industry is just way better here (and I'm not even talking about the massage parlors). When I picked up my stuff at the post office, they insisted on hauling the boxes around and not letting me help. The bellhop at the hotel did the same when I asked for a cart. I mean, I guess I appreciate their efforts, but they don't tip here and I'm just left standing around. Maybe I just need to work on my sense of entitlement.

Anyway, here are my new dishes. So if I start cooking Korean food and make a bajillion side dishes, I'll totally be set. Or if I need a weird mini-fork anytime soon, also covered.

Again, can't complain about free things, but yeah, probably won't be making much use of some of these. Probably wouldn't have picked that bedspread either...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The (Temporary) New Digs

It's kind of amazing how much of a mess I've managed to make in only about a week in my temporary apartment. Since I'm only going to be here a few more weeks, I've left most of my stuff in boxes. However, as I start needing things (like winter clothes b/c it just decided to start freezing yesterday), I begin digging things out and scattering them around.

Not having things like a dresser or laundry basket tends to make things look rather untidy. Also, piling up trash in a corner b/c you haven't bother asking how the trash system works here makes things less tidy. Anyway, here are some pictures of the place for those of you who like to live vicariously.

It's a kitchen. It doesn't come with a stove. Or a burner. Apparently the place I'm moving will come with a burner, so I don't get one for now. I bought a little electric one to use while I'm here. I made pasta Sunday night. First meal I made in Korea after spending more than 3 months here. Last night: hashbrowns (I bought a peeler and knife solely for this purpose) and eggs. It was amazing. And tonight I got bacon from the bigger grocery store. I'm totally pumped. Now if I can only find a foreman grill...
My little dining room/microwave room. The internet hook-up is in the bedroom, so I don't really have much reason to be in here. Unless I want to eat and stare at the wall. Or microwave things.
My bedroom.

All in all, not a bad setup. The only real issue I have is that the bedroom isn't dark enough due to the gigantic window that runs the length of the attached laundry/porch/room/thing. If I get the motivation to swap the bed and table though, well, good things will happen. Darker sleeping and a table to put the computer on. Nice.