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Posts Tagged ‘home’

On Our Cold War (Part Deux)

Wasn’t it just a few days ago that I wrote about the small victories we were having with our washing machine, pipes, and boiler in this ongoing fight against the cold?

Yeah….

This morning we woke up after a night of indulging in a few soju cocktails with another Canadian/Korean couple and decided we would go to Emart to buy groceries after the Sunday morning animal show (our fav shared show). So we watch this cute segment about a pheasant helping a man overcome his stoke, but in the middle of a horrific segment on the fur trade, Mr. Lee went to go into our bedroom for a moment and stepped into…a puddle of water. Upon closer inspection, we noticed an irregular trail of water near the tv – near the fridge – near the bathroom – and near the sink (all in totally different areas of the central living room/kitchen area). There was a lot of water that had suddenly appeared and seeped across our obviously slopping floor, but it wasn’t apparent if the culprit was the air conditioner, sink, bathroom, or fridge….until I opened the storage room door and found myself ankle deep in freezing cold water.

What followed was an all-out mopping attempt to stop the water from reaching our complicated entertainment system set up/electrical cords/extension cords. We then focused on trying to bail out the storage room until we realized that pouring out the excess water in the sink was making the flood waters rise because the problem was with the sink/storage area pipe. We called the realtor who came over in Sunday best and was quite surprised to see the water madness. He then called the useless man who constructed the building. I say useless because he obviously cut enormous corners in constructing this building and tries to cover up/deflect every short coming every chance he gets. He refused to acknowledge the very obvious fact that the way he had built the outdoor pipe carrying sink water from the top 3 apartments to the sewer made it vulnerable to freezing. But then the pipe expert came and confirmed that no, it was not our fault, but rather the cold water which had frozen the outdoor communal waste pipe (which then forced other people’s sink waste into our storage area when it couldn’t drain properly).

It was sometime after 9am when we first noticed the water problem – it was 6:30 pm before we finished working with the repair man, talking to the landlady, talking to the neighbours, cleaning up the mess, and disinfecting the house. Last week Grandpa died…this week our house flooded. What a wonderful way to spend our Sundays!

The biggest problem is of course, who should pay. It wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t our own pipe. It’s a shared problem between the top 3 units and the landlord who paid a crap builder and then didn’t check to make sure that he wasn’t pocketing 1/2 the money and doing a half ass job of building the place. But of course, the frozen pipe was a bigger problem for us because the 3rd and 4th floor people didn’t suffer any of the consequences. They sent their dirty sink water down to us and we got to clean it up. Of course, the landlady doesn’t want to take any responsibility – and she lives in another city meaning that she couldn’t see the actual problem. Our realtor who did see the problem first hand and did concede that it was a whole building problem caused by the badly placed and exposed pipe and frigid temperatures, so he technically sided with us. But….he’s part of the landlady’s family, meaning that even though he is supposed to be a mediator between owner and tenant, he always tries to avoid problems or directly giving any opinion. The 4th floor people just don’t want to pay, and we are pretty sure that they are trying to renew their chonse contract soon, meaning that they have to kiss ass until their new contract is negotiated and finalized. And the 3rd floor people recognize the need to pay part of the repair costs, but don’t want to be part of any negotiations. This means that all day it was up to Mr. Lee to push everyone else to take some of the responsibility…and it also means that in pushing the landlady, we have jeopardized our relationship with her.

I think it will be okay in the end – but she’s a bit furious at the moment that she has to contribute anything to the maintenance of her own building. And because she is in control of a large part of our savings in the form of our chonse, she wields a lot of power over us. Chonse is a really great thing in terms of allowing people to save more money and giving people more stability in terms of two year contracts instead of just one. But….it also means that there’s a power relationship that is much more worrisome than in a renting relationship. I’m sure at some point we’re going to have to make nice with her – somehow get some gift to her – defer to her on a number of other points to make up for this one audacious move of asking for her to pay 1/4 of the repair fees for her own building, but for now we are the horrible tenants who have jeopardized the ever necessary jeong.

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A few weeks ago, I arrived at my designated classroom for class exemption testing with a Starbucks coffee and scone.  My Korean staff liaison took one look at what was in my hand and said, ‘You bought breakfast?  But didn’t you make breakfast for your husband this morning?’ 

Nope.  I am a ‘bad’ Korean wife. Bad bad bad bad.  I do not rise at 5:30 to put rice and side dishes out on the table for my husband, and I do not iron shirts.

I worried endlessly about the division of household chores before Mr. Lee and I married.  Endlessly.  I am on average, a bit more anxious than the average person, but I had good reason to be with the fact that he had never lived on his own before and both statistical and anecdotal evidence (here, here, here) show that Korean men aren’t really that predisposed to housework.  I also had personal experience.  For the four years we dated prior to getting married, Mr. Lee was often at my house.  He often ate at my house, he often used towels at my house, he often drank beer at my house, he had a pair of pjs at my house…but only once or twice did he ever wash dishes, put his wet towel in the washing machine or throw out his beer cans.  He would take the garbage down the stairs when I specifically asked him to on his way out, and near the end he started to a) put his empty wine glass in the sink b) fill up said wine glass with water so the glass wasn’t stained with red wine. Oh, and he changed a light bulb and did a load of towels the day my father died and I had to rush back to Canada.  But he didn’t really take initiative, and despite my best efforts at trying to include him in cooking – even fun cooking like frosting cupcakes – he was completely disinterested in chores at my house.  At this point in our relationship, I was wondering if I hadn’t made an enormous mistake in not requiring him to do more if he wanted to set foot in my house. 

I guess from my perspective, if you are a guest in someone’s house for a few days, it seems strange to engage in any housework, but if you keep returning to the same house week after week, year after year – especially when it is your girlfriend’s house – you should start to at the very least clean up after yourself.  Mr. Lee on the other hand had a very different view.  I don’t think he felt any ownership of his own messes (and boys can be messy!) until we got married and moved in together.  Perhaps it was his once very traditional father telling him during our engagement, ‘You had better start doing some housework…you have a foreign fiancée now…,’ or perhaps it was that he started to feel that it was also his space too…or more than likely he realized that if he wanted to come home to a happy house everyday he would have to start doing things, but he did start pulling his weight around the house.

I’ve always been very North American in that I feel like we should ‘communicate’ openly about our expectations in long discussions about how we both ‘feel.’  Alas, this has never worked for us, and it tends to lead to fights and rants and actual linguistic miscommunication.  What does work is falling into something naturally….So I cook (because the only thing Mr. Lee wants to cook is ramyeon), but I don’t cook breakfast.  I also wash dishes/clean up, wash/hang up/dry the laundry, and I am the primary vacuumer/moper/general bathroom cleaner/cat feeder.  For his part, Mr. Lee takes 100% responsibility for all electronics (mostly because I can’t be bothered to run a virus scan on my computer let alone learn how to hook up surround sound stereo), collects/sorts/disposes of recycling and garbage, irons, cleans his office, is the secondary vacuumer/moper/general bathroom cleaner/cat feeder….and is the head of our mould-free house campaign (something I guess I will have to do a post on at a later date).  The division of labour is a bit traditionally gender-specific, but it also plays to our strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, is based on mutual agreement of things we would actually do.  Now, this does not mean that we haven’t had some problems. 

My mother once told me that my parent’s first marital fight occurred when my father demanded to know why my mother wasn’t ironing his underwear like his mother had done.  Now, at first I mocked this underwear ironing practice, because God knows I never ever ever iron anything let alone something no one else should be seeing wandering around the office.  However, I was later told that pre-washing machine and good soap era, this was a good ‘disease killing’ practice.  However, I think that this story highlights a similar problem Mr. Lee and I encountered when we first moved in together….I am not his mother.  One day, about two weeks into our marriage, he came into the laundry room asking, ‘Where are my underwear?’  I replied that he had a ton of underwear….which ones in particular was he looking for?  Well, he wanted the ones he had worn the day before…..I then inquired (in a bit of a pissy voice I admit) if his mother had washed his dirty laundry every single day so he could have the same pair of underwear or socks or undershirt day after day if that’s what his heart desired.  And the answer appears yes…yes she did.

So we had to have a little chat about that…about how I am not (usually except right now while I’m on vacation) – a housewife.  I actually am away from the house working for 5 or 6 hours a day + marking + prep + meetings.  I’m also not the same woman that his mother is, so I might have a different way of doing things or a different schedule.  

We also had a problem in that while we both have about the same amount of house chores in relation to the time we are at home, my work is ongoing while his is more ‘project’ based.  So, he would do spend 10 hours setting up the ridiculously complex sound system that we have, and (rightly) want some praise for it.  Or, he would be scrubbing mould in the drain that the previous tenants had obviously allowed to sit and fester and want someone to recognize all the work and disgustingness such a job required.  However, when it came to recognition for my constant cooking, washing up, vacuuming, clothes folding, praise was noticeably absent.  Again…all this reminds me of my mother, and how she would throw a fit now and then asking why nobody had thanked her for making a soufflé.  In my six year old mind I would think what I would never dare to say aloud…’you’re a mother…you’re supposed to make me food.’  But now it is all sooo very clear why she would get upset.  Those every day actions which make life normal end up becoming too normal and taken for granted if we don’t recognize them.  And so, when I brought this up, Mr. Lee sat and pondered the issue and finally pronounced that he had been too spoiled by his mother doing things for him all the time – that he too never really questioned the effort and time that needs to go into making a four course meal from scratch or keeping the floors clean.

For my part, my ever-zealous quest for equality sometimes gets the better of me, and I (still) get upset sometimes when I am cooking or reorganizing or scrubbing the floor and Mr. Lee is napping like many salarymen like to do on the weekend (since they work such late hours).  But then I have to remind myself of how I sleep in on Saturdays when Mr. Lee is checking my computer for viruses or updating programs, or how I am playing on said computer while he is cat proofing the cabinets and translating the rice cooker’s Korean directions.  The measure of equality shouldn’t be measured in what we are both contributing at each second, but what we have contributed to our marriage, relationship, and living space as a whole. 

I know (again, based on anecdotal and statistical evidence) that our arrangement is not necessarily common within Korean marriages.  And even though I sometimes hear Western men married to Korean women going on about how much they do in the home, I’m a bit sceptical as they also talk about having to ‘babysit’ their own kids (Although the just-married couples I know tend to be a bit closer to equal in housework).  However, I just wanted to write about our situation because I am often asked about Mr. Lee’s participation in household chores by Koreans and Westerners alike.  I’m not sure how we were able to come to this place naturally, although I do think that except for very abusive male-power situations, women usually set the tone in the house when it comes to housework.  Mr. Lee’s own parents and my paternal grandparents had very patriarchal households in the past, but the rise in the female partner’s empowerment has, over time, led to more sharing and quasi-equality.  Certainly I think the upcoming generation of husbands will have little choice but to take on more of the chore burden with this generation of well educated, increasingly career-orientated women as their brides. Men in Canada didn’t traditionally start doing house chores either until a complicated combination of the women’s liberation movement, an increase in working women, a stronger emphasis on men participating in the home, and economic realities forced change within Canadian homes. 

Therefore, whether or not they were raised in an equal partnership, or whether or not they know how to do chores, Korean men are slowly starting to do more housework, and they are certainly capable of doing the work (at the very least on weekends if they are salarymen).  So I guess the point about explaining how our house works is not to show that we are a poster couple – I have been very clear on shunning this situation in the past – but to say that it is possible for men to share the burden.  Now, when we have kids….I’ll come back and let you know how equal parenting is working out because that may in fact be a different story…

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On Having Stuff

The first time I went back home after leaving for Korea, I had been away for 15 months.  I flew from Seoul to New York City first to visit my best friend and another friend from grad school who were rooming together in Queens.  I had just woken up from a marathon jet lag induced sleep when my friend asked me, ‘Is there anything you’ve been craving since you’ve been away?  You can take a look in our fridge, we have chips, popcorn…tapioca pudding?’ 

OMW tapioca pudding.  It was one of those things that I totally forgot even existed until I was reminded it existed, and then I couldn’t get enough of it. 

I’ve been having a lot of those moments since moving into our new place last weekend.  Like, closets. OMW closets.  I haven’t had a closet since 2005, and I had forgotten how absolutely incredible they are.  Except for new luxury apartments, most Korean homes do not have closets built into the wall.  If you are a short term expat, or an expat who plans to stay but lives off of one year contracts, you have to be mobile enough to move from one home to another, and thus you don’t usually buy large furniture.  For the first two years, I had the tiniest wardrobe supplied by my school, but as I came to Korea with just two suitcases, most of my stuff fit it in.  When I returned to Korea the second time, I ‘splurged’ and bought a clothes rack…but now suddenly I have a set of closets (you can buy them and have them assembled and installed in your house), and I’m like…woah….I’ve been missing the simple closet all these years in Korea.

 

I’ve also been missing a dryer.  I haven’t had a dryer for more than summer vacation since 1999 when I left my parents’ house for university.  In fact, I didn’t have a washer in my house until 2005 when I moved here, and since then I’ve had really crappy second hand washers provided by my employer or left by another expat…and after just one round of laundry with my new 120 kilogram washer-dryer, I’ve realized just how crappy those old ones were.  It’s like a whole new world of light fluffy towels has opened up to me. 

And having a rice cooker instead of cooking it old school in a pot?  Well don’t even get me started on that!  You would think marriage would seem like a greater life change – it is a rather large life step.  But in the absence of a ceremony witnessed by more people than the random people at the ward office and embassy, we don’t really ‘feel’ married.  And despite writing that post of the eve of the legal wedding about feeling the change between being single and married, the past week of wedded bliss has not significantly altered the relationship we had prior to the signing.

 But stuff…..somehow getting ‘stuff’ has made a huge difference in the life stage I find myself in.  Perhaps it was the incredibly complicated process of setting everything up – two 10 hour Saturdays and a 5 hour Sunday, the 10 assembly men who spent hours drilling holes in walls, and bolting shelving units to the walls – perhaps those two weeks of packing, unpacking, cementing, and nailing have actually made me realize the long term commitment I have to this place and this life.  I’ve avoided buying anything big in the past in part because of the lack of money, but also, especially in recent years, because of the lack of commitment.  And as I gaze at the couch which almost didn’t make it in the door, the air conditioner the set-up guys drilled a fist sized hole into the wall for, and the fridge which was partially disassembled so the men could get it up the stairs, I realize that I have finally arrived at the settled life I’ve both dreamed about and feared. 

And I like it.

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On Finding Bedding

Okay, so the last time I wrote about bedding, it wasn’t pretty, but I’m happy to say that there is a resolution!

 When we last left the saga, we had an appointment with a different company to see what they could make us.  The company is located in Dongdaemun, but they have a quasi-showroom near Sungshin Women’s University.  To get there, take exit 4 at the Sungshin Women’s University station (line 4) and walk for about 5 minutes until you see the sign on the side of the building.  It is located on the second floor.

 On the website, they also mentioned that they sell bedding to hotels – consisting of the fitted sheet and flat sheet that I really wanted, so I was hopeful that we would be able to cut down the site a bit by getting them to make Western style sheets.  To make a long story short, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, but in the end, we managed to negotiate a duvet cover, 2 pillows, 4 pillow cases, a flat Western sheet, a duvet, and a soft Korean quilted flat sheet (the big compromise) for 500,000 won.  All of them were made in the style and colour of our choosing. 

 I wasn’t sure what to expect being that I could not see the actual design or feel the actual material quality, but when it arrived (custom made 1 week later), I was pleasantly surprised.  The material is very comfortable, the duvet cover is double sided, and the pattern is exactly as pictured on the website and in the photos we saw.  We are still waiting for our duvet, which took longer to make, but for now, even with the chilly weather at night, the duvet cover is more than enough. 

Therefore, if you are looking for custom made sheets –especially for larger than normal Korean beds, and you want a decent selection of styles and quick turn around, I would definitely recommend Lanovia.  They are still much more expensive than if you were going to get sheets in Canada or get Korean Queen size bedding at Home Plus, but if you have a ‘special needs’ bed, I think it’s probably one of the best deals (at least in our search). 

Soft quilted fitted sheet

Fitted sheet and ‘Western’ flat sheet

The pattern on both sides of the duvet

Close up of duvet cover

Whole bed

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On House Stress

Whenever I tell people I’m getting married 4 times, they think I’m crazy because of the stress of wedding planning. But to be perfectly honest, wedding planning hasn’t been all that stressful overall. My mum is super helpful from the Canadian end, the Korean wedding requires few decisions, and there’s a ton of great blogs and sites devoted to wedding planning which have been invaluable in my planning process.

When it comes to our new home however…well that’s a totally different story.

I thought setting up a new home with Mr. Lee would be fun. I love shopping, I love decorating, and I love new stuff. I’ve also done this 7 times before in three cities and two countries, so while not an expert, I feel pretty comfortable in my house-setting up abilities. I did not however expect the following issues which have caused the two of us considerable stress.

In Canada, it is now rare to move directly from your parents’ house to your marriage house. Most people either live together or live apart from their parents before getting married, so they have a collection of their own furniture/bedding/appliances/dishes well before they ever get married. Students, young professionals, and young newly married couples also often get their parent’s second couch or the bar fridge from the sister’s dorm room, so they usually have a mishmash of new and old items. Marriage is often a chance to update big ticket items or finally get matching sheets, but virtually no one expects to have all-new household items on the day of their wedding.

Koreans tend to have a radically different ideal about setting up a house. Ideally, Koreans do not live together before marriage or even apart from their parents although people who work or study far from their hometowns live apart for necessity. As a result, Koreans tend to think that getting married = all new household items from plates, to vacuum cleaners, to beds, to fridges. When I arrived here, it was said that men were supposed to have $100,000 to get married and/or the ‘three keys’ (house, car, safety deposit box). For their part, women were supposed to save $30,000 to fill the house before they were able to get married. From my own somewhat budget-shopping and negotiation filled experience in this area, I would say that just a few years later, that $130,000 ideal is far too low for most couples in Seoul. You need a whole lot more to rent and fill a somewhat clean and decent place.

To my surprise, I’ve struggled a lot with this Korean ideal. I mean, I never would have thought I would be opposed to buying all new things! It kind of sounds like a dream come true. However, as I already have some decent household items that have more than a few years left in them, it’s hard to comprehend why we need to spend a portion of our ever-dwindling bank accounts on seemingly unnecessary items. It seems 11 years of living as a poor student/traveling expat has made me incredibly thrifty when it comes to acquiring new household items. I’ve dumpster dived/taken in items from leaving expats/used my parents’ old items for so long that it seems really bizarre to be buying everything new. Also, while I’m also far from a real environmentalist, I do have some issues with buying new things when my co-worker has a perfectly lovely couch and kitchen table set she needs to get rid of before moving into her new (smaller) place…not to mention the multitude of ‘recycling’ centres in and around Seoul (meaning ‘second hand’ or never used old warehouse stock).

I brought up these issues with Mr. Lee, but so far I’ve been on the losing side. For him, this is the ideal of a house, and he has also been facing some pressure from outside sources not to buy used/warehouse items. While of course people do get these items in Korea, most people prefer NOT to get something old or used. That’s why there are so many new cars on the road, used couches not being picked up in the dumpster, and new phone models coming out at an astonishing rate. People expect new as their ideal. Therefore, if Mr. Lee mentions that we are thinking about going to the ‘recycling centre’ to buy a never used but old stock kitchen table…let’s just call them ‘others’ are not impressed.

It’s funny because I thought certain things like telling his family about our relationship or negotiating the wedding budget between families was going to be tough, but those things turned out complicated but easier than I had expected. It’s been the things that I haven’t anticipated, and have been thus caught off guard about, which have caused the most strife (not to mention fights).

There’s also the issue of using ‘approved stores’ which are okayed by those ‘others’ and what I consider to be the sources which best suit our needs. These outsiders are pressuring us to go to department stores, brand name stores, or Korean-brand stores in order to get, say, ‘proper’ Korean bedding (read scratchy, hard to wash, and expensive) whereas I’ve always bought my bedding online or at COSTCO because they have bedding which is far less expensive and more comfortable. Personally, I don’t think anyone is ever going to come to our house, investigate our bedding, and proclaim us ‘cheap’ for not using the most expensive ‘luxury’ Korean brand of bedding. And if they did…well that would just be creepier than creepy. But in Korea, even more than in North America, ‘face’ and presentation matter far more than comfort and price. If someone asks us where we got our bedding, we need to be able to tell them without ‘shame’ that we bought them from X store instead of from a discount store or warehouse.

So – what’s the outcome of these differences in expectations and views? Well, when it comes to appliances and furniture, what’s done is done, and we will have all-new items. Thankfully, Mr. Lee has been honing his negotiation skills and has managed to get us enough discounts/free gifts thrown in to soothe my budget issues. I also agree that certain things – fridge, air conditioner, washer-dryer, oven, that we will be using for at least ten years should be purchased new with the hopes they will last us this long. Other things like our mattress also need to be new because…it’s a mattress! However, when it comes to the bedding and smaller kitchen items, I don’t think I’m going to give up my position. Those things are harder for people to notice if they ever come over and ever do care, and since I’m the one who is going to wash the bedding…I think it’s my decision.

I suppose the root issue of all of these disputes is that for the first time we are really making major joint practical decisions and finding our way to negotiate between personalities, cultural expectations, and present realities. I suppose the first time any couple tries to work through these issues there is bound to be differences if both sides have any opinion at all. However, I think we can both agree that we can’t wait to finish these stressful housing decisions, move into the house, and get back to the fun of planning weddings!

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On Appliances

Yesterday we bought an air conditioner which is endorsed not only by Kim Yeon A, but also by Brian Orser. You shouldn’t get it confused with the air conditioner endorsed by Kim Yeon A alone – that would be this one.

No – we got the James Bond themed one with Orser making a delightful fool of himself.

That’s right, we went out furniture and appliance shopping yesterday for our new home and spent a great deal of money! Appliance shopping was a little easier than I expected, in part because Mr. Lee went uber prepared with a list of Internet products and prices he had complied over a seven-day period in order to better haggle at the store.

We went to Hi-Mart (하이마트) which is kind of the Korean Best Buy, and walked out having purchased a 46 inch tv, desktop computer for Mr. Lee, oven, rice cooker, fridge (including a small kimchee fridge!), and said 2 piece air conditioner set. In true Korean style, a great deal of extras were thrown in, including a knife set, ‘air cleaner,’ gold crown necklace (in honour of Queen Yeon A of the figure skating world), and a box of dried seaweed! Mmmmmm

Alas, furniture shopping was less productive. We went to what was considered a ‘discount’ department store with two floors dedicated to furniture, but we were highly disappointed with what we saw. I suppose that furniture in the Western sense of bed frame, mattress, couch, kitchenette etc. is actually quite a new concept in Korea. A very large percentage of Koreans still sleep on the floor, still eat at a low table while sitting on the floor, and still lounge communally on the floor. In fact, the one time when contemporary Koreans might go out and buy this kind of furniture is when they get married. Thus, the furniture industry for middle class people seems to be tied to the wedding industry, so much so that most sections we walked into also had prominently displayed posters or brochures featuring bridal couples or wedding themes.

The end result of all of this is that the quality of Western style furniture seems very low (plastic shelving units made to look like wood) while the prices are in line with other wedding-inflated prices (very plain wood-looking plastic shelving units selling for $1000). The same went with mattresses. Simmons, for example, is available in Korea, but Mr. Lee’s online research, and our lengthy discussions with the Simmons representative, showed us that mattresses here seem to be about $500-$800 more expensive than similar models available in Canada.

If we are going to be here for another 10-15 years, I think that investing in quality appliances with good warranties is a must, but as the daughter and granddaughter of woodworkers, I know quality wood! I don’t mind having plastic furniture, but I’m not going to pay a lot for the ‘look’ of wood! Plus…we have two cats, and cats + expensive couch = quickly destroyed couch! So, next week we are going to head off to the Yongsan Recycle Center (ie. used furniture centre), that I’ve been seeing commercials for over the past many years. The idea is to buy used furniture and then splurge on an uber expensive mattress. We may also try COSTCO here in Seoul or Emart/Lotte Mart which are sort of Walmart-esq stores that might have shelving units or desks for much less money.

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When a dear Canadian friend of mine used to live in Korea, we would go shopping and talk about all the things we wanted for our ‘one day house.’ We saw beautiful lamps, gorgeous pottery, and even bought silk table cloths in the market in Shanghai which I later shipped back to Canada in hopes that one day I might stop living my second-hand-ratty-furniture-and-wanderlusting life and settle down in a ‘proper home.’ My friend returned home years ago and bought a home with her savings and inheritance, but it seems that settling down for me is here in this city. That’s right…we signed for our new home!

I started this blog because I felt that there was a lack of long-term expat info about Korea on the Internet (especially as it pertains to Western women integrating into Korean society). Therefore, I really wanted to share my house hunting experience in its fullness because the experience is so different here from anything I would have encountered in Canada. However, I just can’t bring myself to explain in detail the whole madness that was Monday’s 2 hr negotiation/debate/haggling marathon.

Nevertheless, I do want to comment on the feeling of finding something more than a student style temporary place to live. It’s a much different emotional feeling to put down your life savings on a place and commit to living there for two years. And for a person who has never bought a single piece of furniture or electronic kitchen device, it’s difficult to imagine filling our new home with REAL things. I’ve been living off of handouts from departing expats for the past four and a half years. So far, I’ve collected a washing machine, single mattress, blender, tv (from the army base which is on an American power grid – so it comes with a handy voltage and plug converter!), plastic and wooden sets of drawers, pots, pans, bookcases, storage units, hangers, … and that’s the short list. When I got here, I thought I would only be here for a year or two, so I didn’t want to invest in anything new. After a few years, I realized I would be getting married, so I put off buying anything new until we got our house. And now the time has arrived to start shopping for things to fill the one day house which is now a reality.

I also think not buying anything new was secretly a way to avoid becoming too tied to one spot. Without stuff you are mobile. If home is where your stuff is, having very little to call your own means you can easily build and dismantle your home (and all the resulting emotions tied to that word). Once you have bought a full-sized refrigerator, it’s hard to pick up and move on a whim. Adopting my first cat a year and a half ago was a small step in acknowledging that Seoul was becoming my long term home. Buying a new washer/dryer will strangely be the culmination of this process of calming my wandering spirit and solidifying my roots here.

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