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Monday, January 24, 2011

Alright sports fans, it's time for the loooooove motel (said in your best Barry White impersonation).  So Sunday, before my first day as my new boss took me out for lunch and coffee, we also stopped in at a motel on the sixth floor of a building nearby.  MJ, my female boss with her husband, informed me that Spencer, the former teacher, would be at the apartement for two more days and that I would need accomodations for the following nights.  I didn't mind because the motel was much closer to the school and the idea of staying in a Korean motel was exciting to say the least.  We went up the elevator together, and MJ paid the man behind a pane of glass with a 1' by 1' square which you could see through.  I didn't know any different...maybe all motel concierges hide behind bulletproof glass with a prison style opening large enough for keys, water, and maybe the nozzle of a fire hose if you were misbehaving.

MJ smiled and said the man would have my key waiting for me the next night.  I smiled (the universal language) and we went about the rest of our Sunday outing.  The next day, I was introduced to Spencer, a 26 year old guy from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We instantly became best friends with a rapport because face it: he spoke English.  But seriously, he was a great guy, and I immensely enjoyed getting to know him for the small amount of time afforded to do so.  He happened to ask where I would be staying while he was still in the apartment.  I proudly announced that MJ had rented me a room already and that he need not worry about my lodging.  

It was the grin that set everything in motion.  He then quietly laughed and allowed the awkwardnes of the moment to marinade in real nice.  He looked at me and said, "Ah, the love motel."  I would normally be relieved to hear that my fellow ex-pat was aware and even knowledgeable about my room for the next two nights.  But that grin....I quickly asked if he knew the one around the corner by the Paris Bakery.  Oh yes friends, the same Paris Bakery I will never enter again due to my grace and skill of kissing the door with an impact that would anger a playful rhino.  He replied that yes he did and that he had stayed there prior to my arrival during a similiar transition.  

"I thought it was very nice,"  I blurted out knowing that his reply would act as a counterweight to my optimism.  "Korea is famous for these motels," he informed me.  "They are quite the stay."  "So what's the deal?" I asked, or more like begged because I knew he knew something good, something important, something worth knowing.  "Let's just say they are available by hourly rates as well as nightly stays."

OK.  No big deal.  There are doors.  Probably thick walls.  The motel was not huge, and it's Monday night for crying out loud.  Surely, there are slow seasons and times in all lines of work.  I finished my day, and Spencer invited me out for Korean BBQ with a large group of foreigners from South Africa, England, and Australia doing the same thing I am doing here.  He told me to meet him outside the building at a specified time so I could walk with him to the restaurant.  I agreed and took the elevator up to my room.  The thoughts that were running through my head as the elevator climbed to Gomorrah were random and unsettling.  I was dressed in a business suit with the same water bottle shower I had sported all day.  At first I thought this would be a plus (the suit and all) as I look professional and someone that simply needed a place to stay.  Then my mind turned that flapjack over and I realized this looked worse.  White.  Business suit.  55 gallon hiking bag.  Dirty hair.  Oh man....

I poked my head in the mail slot at the front office, and of course, it wasn't the same guy.  It was an elderly woman that lived during all four plagues (yeah, there were a bunch of them) and even saw Pangea separate.  She came to the window and said "eh?"  Hahahaha, now I'm doing sign language for "key" and trying to find the two inch receipt MJ gave me for proof.  I presented the gum wrapper of a receipt and she cries, "Ohhh yeessssss."  She grabbed a key and points to the stairs.  As I walked away, she cried again "Wait uh"  (every English word ends in uh)  She handed me a "package."  A prophylactic package to be exact.  I climbed the stairs and opened the door to my room.  The decor was quite funky and the bed was a perfectly round circle, nice for spooning I suppose but not six foot Americans.  I instantly knew I would be lucky to have both my head and knees touching the mattress simultaneously.  The bathroom was quite nice, and I left the "package" in the bathroom.

The evening was short with other patrons that all displayed "do not disturb" signs from the door handles.  They were a vocal lot, and I felt immersed into another part of Korean culture albeit the underbelly of said culture.  I really wanted to keep this PG, so I hope  the innuendo will suffice and for those who don't know the word "innuendo," well now... that's the point.  Cheers

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Coming soon...

I am still jet lagged ergo exhausted.  But I promise the love motel story is coming

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Long Story. Amazing Results.

I've been looking forward to writing this all week.  Here it goes:

I woke up Monday morning at two thirty in the AM.  I'm wide awake cursing the jet lag as I look around my foreign apartment.  Nothing is unpacked because the former teacher is still in town.  MJ, my Korean boss, told me I would be staying in a motel Monday and Tuesday night, but more on that later.  It's freezing outside but my room has heated floors which is nice because the no shoes policy inside the home is pretty serious and when in Rome do as the non-shoe do...Anyways, I played on the computer for awhile and tried to watch the NFL playoffs, remember its Monday here/Sunday there, but the website was not working quite right.  So I had to close the browser and open it again every time I thought the score might be different.  A miserable way to watch a football game as I imagined my friends and family enjoying their television screens and English commentary.

When I decided to take a shower, I stepped foot in the coldest bathroom known to man.  The bathroom and kitchen might as well be outside with a privacy fence and an awning to cover your head as they are separate from the bedroom with exterior walls that do not deserve the name "wall."  You dread to even touch the toilet seat as you may be frozen to it for quite some time.  As I attempted to turn on the shower that is in the middle of the bathroom and a drain on the floor, the dreaded thing happened: NOTHING.  No water my friends.  First day to make my impression at school and the crusties in my eyes were to stay.  But no fear, I had a bottle of drinking water.  So, aforementioned closet of ice and a bottle of water poured over my head BAM!  crusties lose.  A few choice words enters the mind but I laugh at myself trying to conserve a bottle of water in hopes of rinsing my shampooed head.

I got dressed and realized my hair was still a mess so I threw some hair product in my hands and styled my mop.  But wait, the last of the water was still pooled on my bathroom floor and sink from the head rinse.  A towel simply does not cut it with sticky paste.  So I am now leaning over the drain trying not to ruin my dress pants in an attempt to wash my hands off.  Quite the proud moment as I rinse with drops of already soapy water in a toxic drain that has never seen a scrub brush or any device remotely sanitary.

I knew I needed to leave early because getting lost on the way to school was inevitable.  So I wandered around thinking I knew where I was for about three minutes.  Then the sign I knew I would use as a marker kept showing up in different places.  Again, I kept my cool and even my sense of humor as I passed the same man in the same window four times.  He continued to smoke his cigarette and waved at me each time with a smile that understood my pain but was enjoying it entirely too much.  Finally, after about thirty minutes of walking around Kimhae in 0 degree Celsius (that's the point of freezing for you non-Metric types and 273.15 kelvin for the rest of you), I spotted a Paris bakery that looked very familiar.  I thought it would be a good time to celebrate and stopped in to grab something to eat.  But wait, automatic doors are not entirely automatic so I planted my face in the glass to set the tone for my Korean friends.  Abounding giggles and pointing at the tall white man that was probably red from the cold and a but disheveled from the bottled water shower was my greeting.  I grabbed the first thing that looked close to bread and a bottle of juice and got the heck out of Dodge.  I knew now where I was and I sauntered off to the building.

I stopped outside the classroom around 12:30 p.m. because no one was there yet.  I dropped my bags, remember I'm staying at the motel so I looked like I was climbing Everest during this entire debacle, and reached for my juice.  But wait, Eric......Why is the bottle glass?  Why does your juice suddenly begin to look a little more like fermented juice?  Did you buy wine Eric?  Are you drinking wine in front of your new job which happens to be teaching elementary students?  Folks, when presented with a moment of such gravity, I believe the only course of action is to unscrew the lid and pray that there must be some limit, some cap to the amount of suffering and pain one could feel in a matter of a morning.  It was juice.  Fizzy juice, but juice.  I think...

Tomorrow's topic will be the definition and experience of a Korean Love Motel...

Monday, January 17, 2011


Well, it's four in the morning here but one p.m. Sunday back home.  So, I'm wide awake.  My first day of work is today and the first challenge will be finding the building.  It's only a five minute walk but I'm downtown with buildings and signs everywhere.  I try to find markers that I will remember but everything is unique!!

I had lunch yesterday with the school director and her husband.  We had traditional kimchi, vegetables, and sliced pork while sitting on the floor.  I loved the spicy food and fumbled with the chopsticks to my boss's amusement.  We then had coffee in a very American type cafe.  Starbucks, Dominos, and Outback steakhouse are all downtown.  The shopping malls are too large to describe and the crowds are even bigger.  They advised me to go during the week.  I need to get groceries but am intimidated to say the least.  Losing a little weight here should be quite attainable.  I'll have more after my day of observing the classroom.  Cheers

Sunday, January 16, 2011

West Kimhae

After exiting the roller coaster plane ride between Tokyo and Busan (very strong headwinds), I quickly made it through customs and found my luggage had also made the 6000 mile trip with me.  I loaded my luggage and exited out the gate to find a very young Korean couple holding a sign with my name in all caps.  Their large smiles and willingness to help with my luggage immediately eased some of the anxiety that came with the realization that this would be my home for the upcoming year.  The woman will be my school director and I believe the man was her husband/mate.  The car ride to West Kimhae from the airport was no more than about twenty minutes.  The skyline in Pusan is astounding large buildings in small clumps scattered around with large lights that reflect off the ocean.  Technology is everywhere with huge video boards, gps screens in most cars measuring 12-15", and tons of Hyundais.  The small talk was pleasant and she bought me a large bottle of water and a sandwich at the end of the trip.  My neighborhood has a large 24 hour convenience store, the elementary school that resembles an American school, and my apartment building which is a very narrow building in an alley.   
I arrived to my new apartment last night around 2030.  It is a small flat with a bathroom, a bedroom with bed, desk, and a wardrobe, and an outside covered porch with a large refrigerator, a washing machine, and sink.  At first glance, I thought I had no shower.  Then I realized that a shower head was placed above the sink.  On the floor is a drain and poof!! you have a shower that is effectively our bathroom as well.  I have noted the efficiency of the design and am very glad to have avoided the painful decision of picking out a shower curtain!  Overall, the apartment is a perfect size with heated floors and a massage chair.  Enough said!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Air Travel

I have recently arrived in Tokyo-Narita airport.  It is dark and grey but relatively warm compared to the frigid temps we have had back in MO.  The flight between Minneapolis and Tokyo was long but very comfortable as I had an entire row to myself.  I watched a couple of movies and took a long nap...I think.  I am very excited to arrive in Pusan and meet my boss for the next year.  I will try to update my status asap.  Cheers

Friday, January 14, 2011

My official last day in the states

Well the time is now and here!  I am creating this blog to keep friends and family up to speed on my adventures in Asia.  I am very excited to get started.  I'm a little nervous about the long flight but am ready and willing to transform these anxieties to excitement.  I hope to throw pictures and weekly snippets of my life in Korea on this blog and hope to hear plenty back from all of you.  Cheers