It has occurred to me that although I’ve been living in Korea for what feels like forever now, I’ve never documented one of the biggest parts of my life here: my home.
Now, to be perfectly honest with you, this is mainly because I am a disastrous mess who generally lives in something approaching squalor. The conditions inside my miniscule apartment are really not something I want any of you to see. At any given time, you can find clothes strewn about the place in an artistically haphazard manner, a sink piled high with dishes, books and papers and pens in the most unlikely of places, coffee cups lurking where you least expect them… sorry, Mum, I have not improved since I was a teenager.
I think it’s partly down to the fact that I’m not home very much, and when I am, I tend to be exhausted and capable of nothing other than sleep. There’s also the fact that the apartments with which we young(ish), single, hagwon ESL teachers in Korea are provided are the size of your average conservatory (or perhaps laundry room) back home, and it’s very hard to keep your entire life in a room that size without it becoming cluttered and disorganised.
But the main reason is that I am indeed a messy, disorganised, chaotic and twirly kind of person. I am trying to get better. Living in a room that looks like a badly-run second-hand shop is not a particularly cheering experience. And so I have spent the past couple of weeks – Operation Pull Self Together – having a determined clear-out, dumping all unnecessary gumpf and then cleaning the emerging surfaces underneath. Section by section (as I cannot clean or tidy for more than an hour at a time without losing my mind), my apartment has reappeared, and a few days ago I woke up in the morning to the realisation that it was, at last, a home again. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable you can find simple things like reading a book or drinking a cup of coffee or cooking a meal when you’re doing them in a nice, clean, tidy apartment where you don’t trip over things every few seconds!
Anyway, I’d better take some pictures and show you the inside of a typical foreign teacher’s apartment in Korea before my messy genes kick in again and everything inevitably descends into chaos once more.
All of us have this little “entrance square” (it would be completely misleading to use the word “hall”), which is where shoes must be removed upon arrival. You can’t wear outdoor footwear indoors. The first thing that now jumps out at me from photos taken inside friends’ places back home is that they’re wearing shoes in the house. I looked at one friend’s picture of his wife holding their new baby the other day and all I could think was “she is sitting on the sofa wearing her shoes!” as if it was the most astonishing thing imaginable. Funny how you get used to cultural differences.
This is my room. When I say my “room”, I mean that it is my bedroom, my living room, my guest room, my dining room, and my office.
It also – quite bizarrely – contains a fridge and toaster oven because there’s no space for such luxuries in the “kitchen”.
I say “kitchen”, but it’s really more of a cupboard with a sink in it, and a couple of gas burner rings. If I could change one thing about my home, it would be the kitchen. I miss my huge kitchen from my house in Ballymena, with its many work surfaces and proper oven and stove and dishwasher and cupboards and table and chairs… but you can’t have everything, I suppose!
This is the bathroom, and it’s fairly typical of ‘bath’rooms over here in that it contains no bath whatsoever.
And yes, that would be the shower over the sink, there:
No room for cubicles and curtains in these apartments! No, simply switch the water flow from the tap to the shower, and wash while holding the shower head in your hand. This does mean that your entire bathroom gets soaked every time you shower. Most people keep waterproof ‘bathroom slippers’ inside for this reason, but as I generally shower in the morning and don’t return home for over 8 hours, I’ve never bothered. I really don’t mind the wet room/handheld shower thing as much as a lot of people seem to. And anyway, it’s easy to keep the bathroom clean when you can quickly hose it all down at the end of your daily shower! The only annoying thing is when you forget to switch the water flow back from shower to tap, and then turn it on to brush your teeth or wash your hands, usually while fully clothed. This happens with surprising regularity even after all this time (including just before I took those pictures, hence the water all over the mirror).
And so you have it: my home. It’s small, but it’s fine… for now! Things I miss include kitchen space, a dishwasher, powerful water pressure in the shower, windows, and space to entertain. But on the other hand, it’s free, it’s big enough for me to live comfortably, it’s fairly modern and clean, and it’s five minutes from work.
Oh, and it’s in South Korea, for crying out loud! :)