Sunday, July 13, 2008

We made it!

This is my first post from my desk in our new apartment in Doekpo, South Korea. I have a beautiful view of a small beach surrounded by pine-covered hills. We are on the 10th floor, so our view is basically unimpeded by the ramshackle concrete stores and houses that line the small swimming area. Even though it's only 7:15 a.m., we have already seen some people out swimming. Apparently several families are camping at the little beach.

Our apartment is quite nice. Our building was apparently designed for foreigners, but it has several little Korean touches. First of all, when you come through the front door (which opens by code instead of key), you are in a little entrance area where you are expected to leave your shoes. The entrance area opens into a fairly spacious living room with a huge, slightly rounded window, looking out over our nice view of the harbor. As you walk through the living room, to the right you'll see a door to the guest bathroom, which has a tub, shower, toilet, and sink. Next is the kitchen, which is much larger than our kitchen in Norfolk with tons and tons of cabinet space and room for a table (but we think we'll move the table out into the living area in front of the window). Off of the kitchen is a tiny laundry room with washer and dryer. On the far side of the living room, next to the large window, there's an entrance to a little balcony, with large windows that can be slid open or left shut. It has a clothesline and a funny little rope sling that we are supposed to use to lower ourselves down 10 stories in case of fire. Hope we never have to use that! The apartment also has two bedrooms and a study, so we have tons of room! Visitors are welcome! The other little Korean touch in our apartment is the toilet in the master bathroom, which has a little machine attached to the seat, providing a fresh blast of air or water to your backside, after you've finished your business. We laughed hysterically when we tried it out on Friday night.

We've already had a chance to do a lot of exploring. Yesterday we met Keegan's boss, John, and his wife, Glenda, who I had been in touch with before we came. They seem like a really cool couple, and they've been here for almost four years, so they really know the ropes. We also met another of Keegan's co-workers, Matt, his wife Jacki, and their two kids. Matt and Jacki have done several triathlons here in Korea, so they're going to be our source for workout advice and information. Matt and Jacki took the ferry to Pusan for the weekend, and Glenda and John showed us around the town of Okpo, which is just over a large hill from where we live. We saw all kinds of shops, including a grocery store where we bought some provisions and a traditional market, with all kinds of weird seafood items. Here's a rundown:
  • Weirdest thing seen: a tie between what Glenda and John call "sphincter fish" and the underwear stores whose window displays feature male and female mannequins wearing matching underwear. We got a good laugh out of the fancy underwear and a lot of disgust out of the sphincter fish, which looked like a bowl full of squirming hot dogs, with a hole on either end. Yes, they are sold as food.
  • Most delicious thing: our lunch at a Korean restaurant, where we had an appetizer of steamed egg with chives and then a dish with rice and vegetables, followed by a sweet and spicy dessert tea.
  • Most familiar thing: a store run by a woman who apparently provides black market items obtained from the American military base on the cheap - if you want instant Quaker oats and Del Monte canned vegetables, this is the place to go.
  • Cutest thing: a sea turtle with a little upturned pink nose sticking up out of his watery dish. Too bad he was for sale in the food market.
Yesterday afternoon we were so tired when we got home at 3 p.m. that we decided to take a little nap. I woke up to go to the bathroom at 8 p.m. and told Keegan that we'd better get up and try to act like normal people for a while before going to bed at a reasonable time. But we were both so tired that we went back to sleep. We woke up around midnight feeling energized and ready to face the day. But we forced ourselves to go back to sleep and finally got up around 5 a.m. I've never been quite this jet-lagged before!

Since we were up so early, we decided to take a little walk along one of the hiking trails near our apartment. It is not that hot, but incredibly humid, so as soon as we started walking uphill, we were drenched in sweat. There were some nice views, though, and we saw a crab (yes, on the hiking trail), and a toad, and a really funny looking long earthworm that Keegan said is probably a delicacy. We thought that we'd climb to the war memorial that we can see from our apartment window, but when we got there, the path was blocked by an impassable gate with barbed wire. Why would they block off the supposed destination of the trail? We'll never know.

I think we'll spend the rest of today unpacking and exploring a little more. We may also head back to the grocery since we were disoriented and ill-prepared when we went yesterday and as a result have nothing to eat here. We also got our car yesterday, so we may drive around a little more to explore the rest of the island.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

It's funny - after I read your blog, I thought about the grocery store and then I thought about the things I ate today. It was an embarassingly prosaic, American, and unhealthy diet: lucky charms for breakfast, ramen for lunch, and a baked potato, watermelon, and canned cranberry (in the shape of the can) for dinner.