Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Living in Little Dragon

Some friends and family have asked about my apartment, so here ya go, some info about where I live. In Korea, all cities are divided into dongs, or neighborhoods, much like we might call Capital Hill, Wallingford, Ballard, etc. in Seattle. I live in Soryong-dong, meaning Little Dragon neighborhood. It's a more residential area off to the side of the "downtown". Here is Gunsan, on the Yellow Sea, with the gigantic Wolmeong Park running down it like an off-center spine. The downtown is the red placemarker and I live on the other side of Wolmeong at the green marker. The yellow placemarker is my school, also in Soryong-dong. So I'm not right in the heart of things, but it's about a 15 minute bike ride to get there.

Here is the main street through Soryong-dong, looking northwest to the industrial area, and immediately past that, the water.

I live on a side street in a small and brand new 4-story apartment building surrounded by little shops, love motels, and some type of industrial shipping/packing yard. It would be a good place to live except this one industrial spot right next door. I guess there isn't a concept of residential and commercial areas being zoned separately. It's like living next door to a construction project that will never end. The big truck backs in to their loading zone with its loud beepers on at exactly 6am Monday through Saturday. This makes me really appreciate noise ordinances back home and the fact that loud work cannot start until 8am. There is always noise of heavy machinery, vehicles, and pounding, often even on Sundays. I'm learning to live with it for the most part but seriously considering moving to a different building if possible in September when this lease is up.

Otherwise, living in Soryong-dong is pleasant. As a foreigner, the reactions on the street are varied, from being ignored, to curious looks, to big smiles. I've made friends with the dry cleaning/alterations man on the block who has hemmed some pants for me and always shouts hello out the door when I'm running by. He also calls me sir which is so endearing I haven't corrected him. "Your pants will be ready tomorrow, sir!"

School-aged kids are definitely more outspoken on the street than adults, as they have had more English education and exposure to foreigners. Often kids will say hello, and if I asked them how they're doing, they will all chime in perfect textbook unison, "I'm fine, how are you?" One time I was riding my bike past some high school students who had to move out of my way, and when I passed, one girl said, "I'm sorry! I love you!"

I realize that probably no one will come to visit me while in Korea. I understand- it's an expensive flight and not a normally hopping tourist destination. I'll be back in less than a year, and I know you can all survive without me for that long. So I will do my best to share the highlights of Gunsan. Hey, how about a tour of my tiny apartment? It won't take long, I promise.

When you walk in, you are in the kitchen.

It's bigger than some of my friends' kitchens, but it's been a challenge learning how to cook in such a small space. I use the top of the refrigerator to dry dishes, and often balance the cutting board over the sink to make more counter space.

The main room has my bed, a dining room table, a small table with convection oven, and built-in closet, drawers, and TV cubby.

The glass doors lead to a little laundry area. It has a new washing machine, height-adjustable clothes-drying racks, and another window to outside. The bathroom is to the right of that, typical Korean-style with a shower head but no separate shower area or curtain. On the downside, water gets all over the bathroom; on the upside, the floor is always clean.

Another plus about living here are all the urban gardens. Koreans are fantastic guerrilla gardeners! If there is an extra plot of land anywhere it will be quickly dug up and planted with onions, cabbages, lettuce, spinach, Asian greens, and peppers. Currently there are snap peas everywhere, bulging on the vine, ready to be harvested. It is so refreshing to be in a bustling, gritty city and yet see small gardens on practically every street. Also, since my building faces west we get great sunsets.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Hi there, I found your blog when I was searching for blogs by teachers in South Korea. I was excited to find yours because my husband and I got job offers in Gunsan and we decided to take them. I just looked at the map you posted, and I think my position might be at your school! Do you teach at Jeonbuk Foreign Language High School? Sorry if this sounds a little creepy!! I swear I'm not a stalker, lol. Just a coincidence :) I'd love to hear from you if it is indeed the same school. My e-mail is