Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Dull Weekend

I was thinking today that posts are reflecting only one side of my experience. You are only getting half the story, there is another, less exciting aspect to life overseas which will be the subject of this post.

This weekend was a bit of a disappointment, Emily is sick with something horrible like scarlet fever, so I didn't make the long awaited trip to Dae-Gu, in a small notion of compensation, I took another trip up to Suwon. I only stayed there for a few hours, but my suspicion that Suwon is far superior to my little village is confirmed. Drunken university students roam the streets, there is a shopping mall and a movie theatre and even a small red light district where stone faced prostitutes are sullenly showcased in brightly lit windows, watching with dread at the prospect of you entering their establishments. Trust South korea to make prostitution boring.

I was tempted to stay the night in Suwon, drinking in the pubs until the first bus was available to shuttle me back home, but I was with Julia and thought that it would probably be better to head back with her. I regret it now, as the remainder of the weekend was filled with a tedium I have rarely had to endure so far in my travels. My boredom was so complete, that I was forced to engage myself with the dreaded chores of cleaning my apartment, and washing clothes. I am now the proud new owner of a drying rack, and a cotton mat. Pictures adorn my walls - the long awaited moment in which I have hung my Naga picture, hauled all the way from Thailand has finally arrived. It now looks as if I'm fairly settled in, and I'm playing with the idea of spending more than the planned six months in Korea. If so, I need a computer, the initial investment will end up saving me money as I donate a weekly fortune to the local internet cafe here.

A good portion of my day was spent hand scrubbing my clothes. There was a week that went by awhile ago when I realized that my feet were getting stinky. I assumed that my shoes had simply trod too many miles amid the filth of the streets in Bangkok, and I cast my mind back to strolling through markets, with a mixture of fresh pig's blood and dirty water flowing beneath my feet. I reasoned that I probably needed new shoes. The true reason was far more horrifying. I was not cleaning my socks properly. One day I got out the old washer board I found in the corner and started running my socks along it, startled at the black water that was streaming out from the freshly washed socks. Surprised, I redid my entire load using this technique and apparently my lacklustre approach to washing was nowhere near adequate. Unfortunatlely, I managed to scrub right through a couple of socks rendering them useless. I have now settled in the happy medium of gentle scrubbing for long periods of time.

It's a terrible chore, and tonight I was idly entertaining the notion that once the science of genetic engineering came along far enough, I would turn myself into a sort of ape man thus negating the need for clothing. My reverie continued, imagining an entire class of ape men, freed at last from the drudgery of cleaning socks and able to devote their time to advancing the fields of art and science to previously unimagined heights.

Washing the kitchen floor was a surprising experience as well. Taking stock of the situation, I noticed that there was a drain in the centre of the floor, and all that was required of me was to dump a mixture of bleach and soap on the floor, proudly employ my new mop and simply push the dirty water directly down the drain.

I took a look at the floor. For some reason it was filthy enough to pass for a stretch of sidewalk in Klong-Toey. The reason for this was unclear, why would the entire apartment be spotless except for the kitchen floor? The unfathomable mysteries of Asia yield their secrets hesitantly, and after awhile you just get used to accepting situations that are created by a bizarre system of logic which is very likely you will never be privy to. Even if I had the owners present, and they spoke perfect English, there would be little point in asking about the situation, as they would probably give me an answer that was simply indecipherable to my poor western mind.

Armed with what seemed like a sound, logical plan, I went ahead and dumped the water on the floor which immediately turned black. That's when I first noticed that the mysterious logic of Asia was going to work against me in this endeavour. The drain appeared to be situated at the high point of the floor, neatly directing all the water sharply away from it and toward the low point which was conveniently located where a bundle of electrical conduit came up from the floor below, containing, of course, live wires.

I gaped in horror for a moment, and then embraced the insane faith that my three dollar, Bangkok special Teva knock offs would surely protect me from any lethal doses of electricity that was sure to stream across the floor at any moment. Leaping in front of the conduit I worked the mop to try and push the water into the drain, to no avail. Apparently a good portion of the apartment had to be entirely underwater before the drain would function as my first glimpse had promised. I took my chances and started to squeeze mopfulls of grimy water down the sink. Luckily, the conduit was well insulated, or waterproof, and the theory of my lifesaving Teva's remains untested.

On another day, after a shower, as I was getting dressed I heard two sharp cracks and then the horrible crash of shattering glass coming from the bathroom. I flung open the door only to see that the bathroom floor was entirely covered with broken glass. It took me a moment to realize where it had come from as the mirror was intact. It was the medicine cabinet door, which had inexplicably popped out of its housing and crashed down on the floor. I examined the housing, which appeared suited to the task of holding up some glass, but the evidence was before my eyes. I cleaned it up after work, leaving some glass on the drain to test an old theory of mine.

One night, as Jordon, Lee and I were sitting beside a horribly polluted stream in Toronto, which we call 'The Purple River', which on occasion turns purple downstream of the Coke plant, Jordon chastised me for throwing and breaking a beer bottle in the middle of this lethally contaminated stream. He informed me that for generations, men and dogs would be hobbled by crossing the river and I had now condemned all future dogs in the area lame by my thoughtless act. I told him that the running water would wear the glass into attractive little brown stones within a week, or less. I am happy to report, that after a mere week of showers, my glass has worn down enough to have now slipped through the drain and disappeared. So Jordan, you can rest easy.

These are some of the duller moments associated with life in small town Korea, but as I explore further, Korea is starting to seem a more attractive place to stay. After this month, I will decide whether to stay longer, but I have the feeling I may be here for a year. I've tossed away good jobs before, only to have suffered through some of the most miserable times of my life.

It's a mistake I'm not eager to repeat.

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