Sunday, July 27, 2014

back in Hayang

Checked out of my yeogwan late—close to 1PM. I was dragging my feet, reluctant to leave Seoul, despite the financial drain of staying in this city without a proper place to call home or a steady income stream (you can live cheaply in Seoul, but it's harder to rein in the spending when you're a visitor, and my next payday isn't until August 15).

Finished some leftover work for KMA while waiting at a coffee shop for the proper time to leave: I had a 4:20 train out of town, which meant a few hours to kill. When I cabbed over to Seoul Station, I debated whether to grab lunch at the station's Burger King. An internal assessment of both my intestines and my finances warned me that that would be a bad idea, so I stayed away, having beaten the Burger King temptation for a second time; the first temptation had been the night before.

Speaking of the night before: while sitting in a noisy Tom and Tom's Cafe in Jongno (lots of bad US and Korean indie music on the speakers) Saturday night, I had a rare Skype conversation with my little brother Sean, who will be coming to Korea on August 11 as part of an Asia-hopping tour that will include Korea, China, and parts of Southeast Asia. He'll be coming to Korea with his friend Jeff, and they'll be staying at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Itaewon. Getting Sean to respond to emails and Kakao messages is like pulling teeth, so I enjoyed this opportunity to talk with him and Jeff (and their mutual lady friend Morgan, who gracefully popped into view for a Skype cameo). They both sound excited about coming to Korea, and I look forward to meeting them at Incheon International Airport. I get the impression that they want to do as much as possible during the few days that they'll be in Korea. I wish they could stay longer, but they leave for the next leg of their Asia tour on the 16th—probably to China, but I understand they'll be hitting Vietnam and Cambodia as well.

When I stumbled into my studio, I discovered my colleague's plant, for which I had made the clever drip-irrigation system, on the floor of the bathroom in a drunken stupor, looking as if it were reenacting a scene from "Trainspotting." I imagine it had tumbled off the windowsill because of a gust of wind. I righted the plant, replacing it in the window, and gave it some much-needed water. Perhaps it'll be less wilted by tomorrow evening.

Tonight, the plan is to go out and finish up my 10,000 (or more) steps, then to begin the several-day process of organizing my possessions for the Great Move North. As I mentioned before, I'll be moving into an empty apartment in my Third Ajumma's building in Karak-dong, southeast Seoul, and will be paying no rent for the place, although I hope to offer to pay for utilities and Internet service, the latter of which I absolutely can't do without. Wi-Fi-enabled cafes are nice, but it gets expensive when you have to order W3,000 hot chocolates every single time you want to access the Net.

As for the practical considerations involved in the move back north, I really don't have much with me in Korea in terms of mortal possessions: in that sense, I had planned ahead from the beginning, for I always knew my stay in Daegu would only be temporary; Daegu was only ever a stepping stone for my eventual return to Seoul.* Remember how I wrote that life should be about progress, about ratcheting upward? Well, things seem to be moving in that direction. My new job pays better and carries a bit more prestige, even though it offers no housing. Ultimately, I'll find extra work, build up a cash reserve, move out of Ajumma's place, and get a place of my own. But that's later. Right now, it's one step at a time.

For my move, my buddy Tom had suggested that I use a taekbae service to ferry my possessions up to Seoul. This is a moving/delivery system that's somewhere between an intra-city courier and a parcel-delivery company like DHL or FedEx or UPS. You see small taekbae trucks everywhere in South Korea. Tom says the service is cheap, and he's right: I just visited a taekbae site and did a fee calculation for delivering seven huge boxes up to Seoul, from my postal code to my Ajumma's. The price: only W70,000, which is ridiculously cheap for such a long-distance delivery. If I add the cost of a train ticket to move yours truly up to Seoul (with, say, a single piece of luggage in tow), that's another W40,000 if I take the KTX (or even cheaper if I take a bus north). The entire move could, in theory, cost me around W100,000, which would be less than the cost of two train trips. Two train trips would cost me W80,000 for the first round trip, plus about W40,000 for the second one-way trip out of Hayang and into Seoul. The difference between taekbae and two train trips comes out to about W10,000 or W20,000, which isn't much, but it's a huge difference in terms of the amount of physical effort I'd need to exert. I can call ahead for the taekbae service to deliver my boxes well in advance of my actual arrival in Seoul, and my boxes will be there, in my fifth-floor apartment, without my having to lug them up the stairs.

There's little left for me to do in Hayang/Daegu except to say a few goodbyes, pack up, and get the fuck outta Dodge. I'm ready for the next step in the journey.

*No, Joe Walther, I haven't forgotten that a pile of my stuff is still in storage with you.


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