Whilst it is still fresh in my mind, my first day in Korea was a bit hectic. When my buddy (다영) and I were sitting on the bus waiting to arrive at Sungshin I found out that the apartment that I was promised, and had expected to stay in was not ready for me. I was thinking, "Okay, thats fine. When will it be ready and where will I stay for now?" So I asked Da Young, "Why can't I move into the apartment yet? Is everything okay?"
Da Young: "Yes. Everything is fine. It is just that some foreign students from last year are still there and haven't left yet. You are going to be staying in the dormitory where the other Korean Students stay with three other Americans. The apartment should be ready soon."
Myself: "Oh okay. Well, thats fine I suppose. Where are they other American students from?"
Da Young: " I don't know exactly, but I think you will be more comfortable that way."
Now, While this dialogue is all fine and dandy, I think I should clue you in on to some of my deeper thoughts.
I didn't get the letter from Sungshin that the Embassy requires me to have until two weeks before I needed to fly off. When they finally did send me the letter, the forgot another document that was necessary. Here is an excerpt from the Sungshin University International Student Guide -->
Sungshin International Students Dormitory is located in a safe, high-rise apartment building just a few blocks away from Sungshin Women’s University. There are 2 different types of units available, which consists of bedrooms, a common living room and kitchen. [Suite (1,530 sq ft): 4 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms or Regular (1,175 sq ft): 3 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms] There are no single occupancies. Students will be notified of their room assignments & roommate(s) once it has been determined by the university. Please note, students of all different ethnicities will be placed together. All utilities are included in the dormitory fee. Smoking and pets are not allowed anywhere inside the rooms and building. Any issues or concerns regarding housing should be directed to the Office of International Affairs."
All dormitory rooms are equipped with heating and A/C units Bedrooms: bed, desk, desk lamp, closet; bookshelf Kitchen: dining table, microwave, toaster, water purifier, rice-cooker sofa (not available in all apt.), washing machine, clothes drying rack,
So what happened next? Well, after the long treck up University Mountain (JK JK) with all of my crazy suitcases (and yes people were staring) I got to the dormitory. Ah! Finally, I can rest my arms.
NOPE. What? Why? Well, you see there is no elevator in the dormitory. Oh!
Yes. So there are three entrances to the dormitory surrounding the building. One is at the main gate, one is a side street, and one is at a back gate entrance. The door to the dorm consists of a indoor thourough way with glass doors on either side. So, basically, once you enter the first glass door you have to stop, put your finger on a scanner and wait for next door to open. 'Wow. Thats cool.' You might be thinking...hmmmm. Well, I don't have my finger print in the system so that isn't going to work now will it. Hence, we hit the page button and scream Ajussi! Odeiso?! "Mr. Where are you?" Five seconds to five minutes later the doorman comes. "Who are you and what do you want?" JK JK. The Ajussi is really nice. He spoke with Da Young and let us in. When I got there my room was locked and my American room mates werent' there so the Ajussi used the master key to let me in.
Needless to say, by the time I had gotten up yesterday morning to the moment I walked up that hill, I had not realized just how tired I was....and hungry! So I quickly changed and headed out with Da Young to get some 음식 food at Doddori! Okay. So "Doddori" means acorn in Korean and as we walked down the stairs into this total mosh-pit of teenagers eating some sort of stew out of pots, I seriously thought we were going to be eating acorn stew..... ah hem.. no we didn't ...not really. haha.
There were rows of tables set up against a booth at the wall and little stools shaped like flowers, hearts, ect surrounding the other sides of the table. In the center of the table was a little cook top built into the table. Once we ordered what we wanted in our pot ( We chose: dumplings, sweet potatoes, beef, and deokkbokki = spicy rice cakes, but they are not anything like cake! They are more like flat round little noodles) We sat down and put our cute little aprons on, (yeah! They provide aprons so you don't get your clothes dirty! How awesome is that?) got some water and (utensils= spoon and chopsticks), and ordered.
Now when I say ordered you probably didn't think anything of it. However, ordering food is different in Korea. In Korea, once you sit down, the waitress or host brings you a little rectangular clip board with a sheet of paper and options on it. Thats the menu! You just circle or check of the items on the list that you want and give it back to the waitress. It is really easy as long as you can read Hangul.
We were almost finished our pot of deliciousness (lol) when I burst 배부로! (I'm stuffed.) What oh no! There is more to come. We had a whole pot of mixed rice after that! I was totally surprised. How can people eat that much and be so skinny?! However, it was delicious.
We walked around a bit after we ate to work off some of the food and then headed back to the dorm. I saw so many sites. Though the sky was dark, the street was full of life. The shop keepers were all out and about trying to lure you into their shops (literally, they will drag you in there) "Good sale. Cheap price." psssh. Yeah right. Sometimes, but you have to haggle. lol. Thank you for all my experience yard-saling. I didn't buy anything the first day out, because I was too tired and we have to get back before 11:30 pm. However, little did I know what I was in for when I got back to my dorm.
A tiny room, maybe 15 ft by 50 feet, four bunk beds, four desks, four closet thingies, and three girls?! Holy Crap that is some tight space. Okay, so what is the first thing you think when you get off a plane.
1. Take a shower?
4. Call home?
Yeah, well there is this little problem of TOWELS!
So, know I am thinking. 'I should have bought towels when I was out.'
Luckily, I did bring sheets, but pillow.... 업서요 (none).
Thankfully, my room mates Nadeia and Zerin had been through it already and were able to help and console me. As they put it, "When we got here the lights were off, no one was here, and we had to sleep on crack beds." Well, that sounds fun. Not.
Zerin and Nadeia are awesome. They have been best friends for 12 years and come from New York. They have both had Korean for a year already, so they are definitely going to be helpful to have around. I have only self taught myself Korean for year and had some help from my friend Lee Boram. Boram went to my school MBC in the states last year, where we met in the cafeteria. She has since then become a great friend of mine. She is a senior here at Sungshin and hopefully will have some time to help me out with my awful pronunciations....lol....
Well, how did I bathe exactly? With innovation. The " shower " stalls are just like closets with a hole in the floor and a hose on the wall. The water is either blazing hot, or freezing cold. So...take your pick. I chose hot at first and simply rinsed off. Because I didn't have towels, I didn't think it would be a good idea to wash my hair. But how did I dry off? This is where being raised in a big family comes in handy. For those of you out there who have more than five kids, what do you do when your super mom doesn't manage to wash all of the towels in time. Or when your kid brother stops up the toilet and you have to use ten towels to keep the water from ruining the ceiling? You use a sheet. Yes people, I used my top sheet to as a towel and slept on top of my bottom sheet. Again, no pillow, no blanket, and now, no top sheet. Sound like fun to you? Psh. Yeah.....uh huh...no. However, I guess since I grew up in a crazy family of six kids (four of them BOYS!) I managed. No. I wasn't sad, depressed, pissed, or freaking out. However, I was baffled at the lack of organization and preparedness that my University has. Why on earth weren't they ready? At my school (Mary Baldwin College) . They have all of the students arrive at the same time, they take them on a school van to Walmart and help them buy towels, sheets, ect. and they have a welcoming ceremony where they are introduced to the student body. But, I digress.
My first day was in a nutshell...crazy.
So, I hope you enjoyed reading this episode of my crazy adventure in Chosen. Next time I will write about my third day in Korea and even give you a special episode dedicated solely to the bathrooms! ha ha people. You have a lot to look forward to, because things will just keep on getting better from here.