On behalf of me my friend called my landlord and spoke Korean. She said, "Blah, blah, blah... blah, blah... blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blahhhhhhhhh." This loosely translates into "Can Mariel extend her lease two more months?"
I needed to stay in the apartment for two months because the job I wanted in curriculum design didn't begin until May, but my old job contract ended on February 29th. Also, I hadn't actually gotten that job yet but I was rolling life's dice.
My landlord said, "Blah, blah, blah... blah, blah... blah, blah, blah," which loosely translates into "Are you crazy? Why would you ask my this? Expletive, expletive." My landlord old landlord was an A-hole. More on this later.
So perhaps I need to back up just a little bit here. I've been teaching ESL for nigh on eight years now (Yes I did just use the word nigh.) and I'm getting old as in I'm 36 now and going to be 37 next November which is not so far from 40. Granted getting old happens to everybody and it's not like a secret or anything, but it still caught me by surprise. Following my astonishment was a feeling of dread. I'm about to be 40 and I can't just teach ESL forever. I need a career. Thankfully the English Center had already set me on a career path in curriculum design. Basically, I learned that I liked doing it as much or more than I liked teaching and sales of my novel, Meat Head, aren't going to be paying for my drinking habit (Coke Zero) anytime soon, it was time make a career move.
There are lots of ESL jobs so I wasn't worried about having work, but rather about having the right work. In the interim I planed to stay in my apartment and apply to positions and go on job interviews and change my E2 visa to a D10 which would allow me to stay in Korea up to 6 months.
You know what they say about best laid plans? Yeah, exactly. So my landlord threw a wrench into the works with well placed expletives. Actually, he was a nice old Korean man up to the point I signed the rental agreement. Then he became an A-hole. For example, my first few days in the I discovered that the bathroom sink had a leak, no big deal. Except he made into a big deal. Same goes for when the air conditioner started flooding the floor of my apartment. Neither of these repairs were serious and both took about five minutes but to hear him curse.
He cursed my friend too when we tried to get my key money back. In Korea, renters pay something called key money. It's like a deposit only a lot more. He owed me 3 million won, which does not equal $3000 USD with the exchange rate but just think of it like that much.
But I've digressed. I had to move. That's the point. I had to move very fast. Plan B was moving to an apartment in Punggi near my friends house. We went apartment shopping two weeks before the move date.
"Come back next week," the landlord's said, "we're waiting to rent to college students but will rent any empty rooms we have left for two months. Or rent from us for 6 months."
It's understandable that the landlords would prefer a year contract to two months so we waited a week and came back. By this time, I had exactly 8 days to be out of my apartment. Alas, the landlords had news. "The three hundred freshmen and sophomores who were going to a branch in Seoul (due to the University being built on a previous toxic waist site-- not kidding) were now not going to the Seoul branch (housing issues) and so 300 juniors and seniors were being forced out of campus housing and needed apartments. Also the school year is starting later than usual so come back next week."
"Do you want to try Yeongju?" my friend asked over coffee after looking at an apartment.
"I could just move to Seoul," I said to my friend.
"You could," she agreed. "Yeah, why don't you?"
So it was settled. I would move to Seoul. So I got permission to take an unpaid day and left for Seoul at 3 am Wednesday. I only had 10 million key money (think 10,000 USD) and wanted rent under $600.00. Also, I have two cats and didn't want a closet of a room because of them. (Pets allowed not withstanding.) This is a tall order in Seoul. It's one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. But we did it. In a day. Back to Yeongju to work on Thursday. Back to Seoul on Friday to sign the paperwork and move the cats. Back to Yeongju on Sunday to purge and clean and extricate the schools stuff from my stuff.
In the meantime all around Korea, moving companies were booked full because it was a good time to move. There is an old superstition that on certain days of each month, it's better to move because the ghosts of the old house won't follow you. Even though it is just a superstition trying to find movers during moving seasons on the non-ghost following days... it was nearly impossible. Thankfully my friend had a friend.
Monday morning rushed upon me. I caught the bus to punggi to meet my friend and get a mattress (since the bed had belonged to my old school.) We went out to her farm and got it of storage and drove back to my apartment 5 minutes late to meet the schools movers. Then it was cutting gas and electric and getting rid of furniture as my new Seoul apartment was less than half the size of the Yeongju apartment.
Then the movers came at about 6:30 Monday night. It was a man and his wife. Moving in Korea is usually a stress free bowl of awesomeness. The movers come in and pack everything and put it back where it came from in the new apartment, including your unfinished breakfast you left sitting on the kitchen counter. Thanks largely to copious amounts of plastic wrap, you will find said bowl sitting on the counter in your new apartment, milk congealing. They come with a lift and take your furniture and things out of the window and load it onto a truck. It takes about one hour at each location to move.
This was not the case. With only two people to back all my things, I became a packer too. Into the resealable boxes when clothes, dishes bathroom things and all the other stuff of life. His wife and I packed and the man carried two heavy boxes down the stairs at a time. Out with the sofa and wardrobe and so on. The three of us even took.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).