I’m sitting in my bedroom in Daejeon, the unfamiliar sounds of the city and the language drifting through my open (and – hurrah! – mosquito net covered) window.
It’s all very exciting. What with the melancholy I’ve been experiencing, I thought I’d feel a bit scared, homesick maybe, desperately lonely. And by all accounts I should feel fairly frazzled. I have been travelling since 8.30am on Monday, and it is now 11.30pm on Tuesday, although admittedly I’ve lost a good few time zone-related hours in there somewhere. I’ve had an airport disaster, some very long flights, a stop in Dubai where it was 32°C at 3 in the frickin’ morning, and my legs are aching with what is hopefully not the onset of DVT. The Australian next to me on the Dubai flight helpfully started our conversation by telling me that her sister died of DVT after making that very journey. I have been uneasily doing lots of foot-circling exercises ever since.
I have a million (or so) stories I could pick out from what is the longest journey I’ve ever made; lots of little details that made me laugh or despair; plenty of blog material at last! But for now, I’ll just focus on the fact that I feel, to my surprise, remarkably optimistic. This is in spite of the fact that my recruiter showed me into the apartment building and informed me that the teacher I’m replacing is still in my apartment, as he obviously needs to stay on and introduce me to the kids and show me the ropes. This is wonderful, of course, as I am a little apprehensive about the whole teaching thing, and I’ll get to move into his place when he leaves in a few weeks. Until then, said my recruiter, looking worried, you will stay here. She swung open the door to reveal an empty shell of an apartment. No furniture apart from a single (sheetless) bed. Nothing. Not a cup or a plate in the cupboard. Nada.
I felt the tears start to my eyes, and tried to pluck up the courage to be forceful and demand to be put up in a hotel or something until my apartment was free. This is not in my nature, sadly, even when I’m entitled to be demanding. I tend to gush politeness and gratitude even when I’d be well within my rights to slap someone about the face with a wet kipper.
Fortunately, just as I was about to resign myself to living in poverty for a fortnight, the school director arrived to see me. With her, she brought apologies and a little care package. New saucepans, crockery, cutlery. A cute little teapot. Cleaning things. Luxurious, soft purple bedclothes. And I know it’s late and you want to sleep, she said apologetically, but the other teachers have been waiting to see you! And with that, she hollered into the hallway, and a friendly welcoming committee of Americans and Canadians bounded from various directions into my temporary apartment. Between them, they brought me sandwiches and a big bottle of water in case I didn’t feel like going out again till morning, some biscuits and some noodles. One girl led me down to her room so I could send my mum an email, since I don’t have internet access yet. The guy next door has just come to my door, having gone out after everyone left and bought me fresh fruit and bread so that I’ll be able to have breakfast before I brave the streets.
And really, everything is better than OK, because living here seems to be like living in an episode of Friends, with everyone just across the hall or up the stairs. I don’t mind the vast, furnitureless apartment, because they’ve done everything they can to keep me happy until I move – and the tiny little studio apartments are really cute. I hope I can make a home here for the next 18 months. I’ve got a feeling that I can.