Giddyup Pony and Take Me to Bed

April 21, 1987.

By the time I landed in Seoul, the last plane for Pusan was already gone. Not knowing what to do I called Shin. Looking back I have no idea what I could have expected him to do, with me in Seoul and him in Pusan. But at the time I could think of no better option. It would have cost me dearly if it had been The Amazing Race. (Apologies to Phil Keoghan for that blatant anachronism...)

Shin told me to get a bus or train down and call him when I got there. Humping my luggage I fumbled my way like a tourist over to the Seoul train station and caught an overnighter. Already tired from a trip over the International Date Line, I should have slept like a baby on the train, but I clearly remember not being able to catch any winks.

I arrived at the Pusan station in the early morning hours and called Shin again. It was like 5 a.m. and Shin, half asleep, told me to take a taxi to the main gate of Pusan National University and call him when I got there. The third time is the charm and after this call Shin pulled up in front of PNU in his pea green Hyundai Pony hatchback.

I must have looked a haggard and sorry spectacle standing there at the crack of dawn with two hard-sided suitcases, the only foreigner for miles.

Shin hurried me into the car with his wife (a true angel, I later learned) and u-turned the Pony to head up to my apartment. We pulled in to a giant colony of 45 or so identical high-rise apartment buildings, each with a number painted on the side followed by 동. My home for the next 3 months was on the ground floor of number 27. A small 2-bedroom place with a kitchen that had a hole in the ground for burning the 연탄 that would heat the floor in the bedrooms and living room. Luckily the weather was warm enough so that I never needed to fire up that charcoal brick of death.

The bathroom was much smaller than I was used to back in the States. There was a regular toilet (not a porcelain squatter) and a sink in a room about the size of a small hall closet. Over the sink was a removable handheld showerhead on the end of a hose. If I used that for a Western-style shower, the whole bathroom (toilet seat, toilet paper, sink, everything) would end up soaked. The weirdest thing is that the bathroom was so small it wasn’t really even suited for 세수. Go figure.

Shin didn’t leave me any time to get settled or nap. And even though my classes didn’t start for a few days, we went straight to KHI Institute to introduce me to his students as a means of advertising that he had a native speaker on staff for coming months. On the way he told me that if anyone asked my age I was to tell them I was 28. That would make me older than any of the students and make mo more respectable. Fine. 28 I was. I don’t think a single student ever bought that, but I continued to sell it the whole time I worked there.

By the time I got back to my 아파트, I was beyond exhausted. Even without bedding of any kind, I passed out right on the floor and slept the sleep of the dead.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I can completely follow your tracks as if they happened yesterday. you have a gift of storytelling.

oh, and the story is stressful. I had a stressful experience but yours makes me feel a whole lot better about mine :)