Monday, November 21, 2011

And nothing lasts forever...

...even cold November showers! Or, I should say, our November showers most certainly do not last forever because there is not enough hot water in our apartment. So frustrating. For those of you who don't know, Avalon moved on Halloween, both the school and the teachers' apartments. We are now closer to bustling downtown Andong, not that we were that far to begin with (Andong is not that big). Avalon entered into a partnership with MBC, one of the Korean news networks, and we don't really know the details of it except that it means we moved into a new building, expanded our academy's size, increased the number of classrooms and  teachers and subjects, and did all this in a former (small) hotel that has now "been renovated." I say "been renovated" in quotes because I would not exactly say the work was done when we moved in, or even now, three weeks later.

I wasn't particularly excited about living upstairs from work, as I like some personal space, but here we are in the "penthouse" as I very jokingly call it, on the 6th floor, with a two second commute to work on the 4th floor to teach our English classes. The first day here we had no electricity until 8pm, and no hot water, and no stove, and no washing machine and no refrigerator. All of these things slowly but surely trickled in during the first two weeks. Internet has been problematic. There is a wireless network for the whole building, and our computers in our classrooms are fine but up in the apartments there are still continual problems with the internet experience. The other big things are the stove and hot water. The "stove" is a tiny two-burner plug-in hot plate that is about half as big and sturdy as the one in our old apartment (and most other English teacher apartments I've seen in Korea); I really think is the plastic Barbie doll play kitchen version. It takes about 20 minutes to boil some water. Brian the chef is not happy, and I feel sad about this. As for me, I am most miserably because I absolutely cannot take cold showers, so I take 3-minute showers these days. Different tasks get allocated to different days, such as washing hair, conditioning hair, etc. I hate this. I mostly hate it because the bathroom is so cold (no heat in there) that a 3-minute shower isn't enough to get you all warm and toasty anyway, so it is almost as bad as taking a cooler shower. (Almost)

Let the record reflect that I am well aware these are "first-world problems" as they say. But here's my thing about that: you can't expect people to live in a situation that has certain requirements and then not provide them. Maybe everyone doesn't deserve to live in shameless modern luxury. OK, granted. But then, people who lived in previous time periods without hot running water either lived in the desert (the cradles of civilization!) or boiled water, or both. We have a burner that is tiny and doesn't heat up, and no way to make a fire to boil water without burning the building down, and no bathtub anyway. (The shower is a corner of the tile in the Korean bathroom.)  It's one thing to say an airplane or a car is a modern luxury, but you don't send someone up in the air and then say, "Oh, too bad! We're out of fuel! You are so picky and dependent on modern conveniences!" as the plane falls out of the sky.

At least we can work our heat (thankfully it was warm the first day, when we couldn't). I love Korean ondol heating, and I actually come upstairs often when I have break periods between classes because my classoom is FREEZING. While many of the classrooms in the hallway have classrooms on either side and one exposed outside wall, my classroom is on the end of the hallway and I have two exposed outside walls...and more windows than some other classrooms (windows thin as paper)...and a window that doesn't shut...the board I write on in class is ice cold to touch first class of the day. My kids keep their jackets on. We have heat in the classrooms now, which is better than the week before last, now the weather has turned even colder so it's still freeze-ola in there.

The thing about all this is that Brian and I are only five weeks away from leaving!! So part of us has been trying to get settled, and get everything fixed, and all that, and the rest of me is totally in the mindset of "Screw it, only 32 more days!" kind of thing. It's a frustrating way to be thinking. So not living in the moment. Booo!

And it's also so weird that we are leaving so soon!!!!!!!!!!  Can you believe we have finished 46 weeks in Andong? Wow! And we still aren't sure about our plan for next year. But, first things first, we are flying from Seoul to Phnom Penh. We will kick off 2012 volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a kingdom of wonder (that's their slogan, I didn't make it up) that has seen a lot of troubles and danger and floods and problems (although being cold is generally not one of them) but has also got fascinating history, temples, rivers, coast, cities, food, people, and so on to visit.

Meanwhile, in our last five weeks back here at the ranch, we are no longer in the hip, up-and-coming nightlife area called Ok-Dong, so we now live in Dangbuk-dong, near different restaurants and bus routes, farther from the city bus terminal but closer to the city train station, closer to the rows of Andong jjimdak restaurants (the spicy chicken stew specialty) in the downtown market jjimdak stalls, but father from all the fabulous Ok-Dong places we had come to love, farther from E-Mart, closer to the hospital and doctors, farther from two of the three bars where the Westerners mostly hang out, closer to some other bars, closer to downtown shopping and coffee shops, farther from the Tous Les Jours where they love me and Coffee Beach, farther from my kickboxing gym, but still a nice walk home from kickboxing class.

"And so it goes, and so it goes, and so will [we] soon, I suppose..." as Billy Joel sort of sang.

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