March 14, 2010
Well I am sitting here on a Sunday afternoon trying to motivate myself to do something productive such as learning/practicing Korean or studying Hinduism or Buddhism or plan for my upcoming adult English classes yet I am not doing any of that. Instead I spent all morning watching episode after episode of Scrubs (still one of my favorite shows of all time) enjoying both its humor and its thoughtfulness. It’s a show that almost makes me feel like I am talking to someone about some of the deeper issues of life, which is something I just cannot due here. We simply don’t have the vocabulary for it. Then I just went for what amounted to an hour and a half walk around the city trying to get my bearings about where I am. My sense of direction is still fairly good. I walked in and out multiple streets but ended up right back at home without returning down the same path I had come. Still the hardest thing about walking around here is the for the most part I still don’t have a clue about what stores or restaurants are around me. It is just sign after sign after sign written in Korean and if I cannot see into the store I really have no clue what goes on in each building. I believe part of my motivation struggles today surround the numerous logistical problems that I still face trying to get settled in here.
Before I came my contacts had told me that when I showed up I would need to have a physical testing my health and making sure I didn't have various illnesses or diseases. Then after taking this physical I would need to apply for an Alien Registration Card (ARC) allowing me to then set up various services such as banking, internet and cell phone service. In particular the school told me that after I had my bank account set up they would deposit some a stipend to help me get through the month and then they would use direct deposit for my salary. All of this sounded just great but since arriving I have found that like many things these steps have not been as simple as they were advertised.
First I paid for my physical and had to wait 3 days for the results. After getting the results I went to the registration office to get my ARC only to find out that I had not been given the proper tests with my physical and would have to go back to the hospital. So I returned to the hospital and paid again for a new physical and had to again wait 3 days for the results. I then returned to the registration office to discover that the ARC was going to take at least 2 weeks to process and received. That meant I would not have my ARC until around March 23rd. So until March 23rd I would not be able to have any phone or internet service and most importantly I would not have a bank account. Living off of the cash I had arrived with was going just fine when I thought I would be getting a bank account soon along with more money but now I was looking at weeks before I would have access to new funds. My friends at the school understood the problem and talked to the administration and were able to get them to give me the stipend they had promised in the form of cash. When I got that cash it was a large weight off my shoulders and everything seemed like it would work out just fine I would just have to wait for phone and internet service.
On Friday I came home and found a yellow slip of paper in my mail box. I had not received any mail yet. Junk mail did not seem to exist here and my family couldn't send anything because I still have not figured out my address. I have asked three people and have been given a different one each time and none of my internet searches have been able to locate any of the addresses I have been given, a logistic annoyance in and of itself. Now it didn't take long to figure out the yellow slip was a bill even though I could not read anything it said. But as I examined the bill two things were very clear first was the amount that was due. It is around 55 American dollars. The second thing was the due date, which was March 22nd. The first concern I had was trying to figure out how to pay this bill I had no idea how that worked here but knew if it was anything like at home a bank account would be fairly important. Then as I examined the bill closer I did notice a few other things. There was no name on the bill it was simply attached to the room number and at first that didn't seem like a big deal but then I started looking at all the numbers that led to the total bill. Some of the numbers were in a large red box and were then added to another number leading to the total amount of the bill. There was also a chart showing the amount of power that had been used each month for the last year and I saw how much power had been used last month. It then seemed fairly clear that the bill included months I had not been here. The teacher who had lived here before me had left me not only numerous household objects and chores but at least one of her utility bills as well. There was no way for me to confirm this as true yet so I just waited and tried not to get to antsy.
The next day I got to see Seo and her family. We all played in the park. Jong Woo and I played some baseball, soccer and basketball all of which was very fun. Then we had lunch at my place and I showed Seo the bill and she confirmed what I had thought. She said that the bill was for the time before I was here and she told me that if the bill isn't paid this time they will shut off the power. So I asked her how I could pay the bill. She studied all the writing and said that it seems like the only way to pay was with a credit/debt card or a check. So now I am sitting with a bill that has to be paid by the 22nd from my bank account which I can't even think about getting until the 24th and if it isn’t paid then my gas shall be turned off. On top of this pay day is the 17th but again with no bank account the best I can hope for is cash, which while useful in buying day to day things does not help in anyway with the gas bill and whatever other bills will soon be showing up.
Like so many things that have happened since I got here there is nothing I can do except wait and hope other people figure it out. But I can’t help but sit here and be nervous as well as upset. First and foremost upset with the previous teacher who seemed to have no thought about all the junk she had left behind for me to clean up and throw away and now the complete stupidity or worse intentional apathy it took to not pay her bills and leaving them to me. Next I was upset at the billing system that allowed a bill to be attached simply to an apartment and not to a name. It makes whoever is in the apartment responsible for the bill no matter who had previously lived there the month before. I honestly wondered if this was just a normal expense here when moving into a new place. Who would pay their last bill if they didn't have to? And of course I am just frustrated with the overall situation here where I am in a place where I can't really communicate clearly with anyone and therefore have no real way of explaining any of my concerns or understanding any of their solutions.
It's not even 3pm so I still have a lot of time to get some worthwhile stuff done but will I? Honestly, probably not. Music and movies seem to be the only two things that can keep my mind from thinking (worrying) intensely. When I try to read or study I find myself just lost in my head trying to figure out a way to stave off my fears and desire to go home especially sense I know home is not an option. I have this odd feeling that I am going to come to be completely comfortable here in Korea and enjoy living here but I also have the feeling that will occur around week 49 or 50 of my 52 week stay here. Ah, nothing like unbridled optimism on a Sunday afternoon.
But just so as not to end this blog on too down note I was taken to Costco by my co-teacher and able to buy some large amounts of soda. One of the packs I got was of Dr. Pepper. It was in the regular 12 ounce cans which is a large part of why I bought it instead of the Red Bull sized Diet Cokes. When I got it home and had one I found it actually tasted like Dr. Pepper. I couldn't believe it. There was no weird after taste or slightly different flavor it was actually Dr. Pepper. The key now is not to down all 30 cans too quickly. But when I have one it does have a way of making me feel better despite knowing that I am taking in calories again having left my diet coke behind. But since I did not know what I was getting when I was buying the Dr. Pepper I did also get a pack of Coke Zero. My co-teacher's wife laughed at me when I bought it apparently diet soda is seen more as a woman's drink here. Oh well I am trying to watch my figure.