Thursday, August 14, 2014

briefly rich

I'm back from a trip down to Hayang, where I visited the on-campus Daegu Bank and made one final wire transfer of money to the US courtesy of the Catholic University of Daegu. Today was the last payment I would receive from my now-former place of work, and although Daegu Bank does have a few (very few) scattered branches in Seoul, I went down to Hayang because those bank staffers already know the monthly drill. Had I tried to do my transfer in Seoul, the process would have taken a million years, as I'd have had to start from scratch.

So: a final 2 million or so won, plus the W500,000 I'd received from Imo yesterday. For one glorious moment, I felt almost rich. Then the moment was over: I sent a million—half my net salary—to the States, then transferred 1.3 of the remaining 1.5 million won to my old Shinhan Bank account, which I'll be using to collect my salary from Dongguk University. Once I got back to Seoul, I went to Jongno, found a Shinhan ATM, and sent W450,000 to my buddy Tom to finish repaying him for a longstanding debt plus a more recent debt: Tom had paid my plane ticket to Seoul last year, which allowed me to go job-hunting. I'd been paying him back, bit by bit, over the course of the past year, and had W400,000 (about $400, US) to go. Thanks to Imo's generous gift, I was able to finish paying Tom off for that debt, as well as for the W50,000 that he had plunked down as a placeholder deposit on my yeogwan.

Something strange happened at the Daegu Bank in Hayang: someone walked out of the bank with my umbrella. I had placed it in the "rain bucket" that many Korean businesses use whenever it rains: the idea is to park your soaking umbrella in the bucket (along with other customers' umbrellas) and to retrieve it on your way out. This obviously relies on the honor system, but the honor system is subject to human error: in this case, I doubt anyone seriously intended to steal my umbrella, but someone definitely grabbed the wrong one on his or her way out of the bank. I mentioned this to the bank staffers; a cursory search was performed, then one of the staffers shrugged and told me I could take one of the remaining umbrellas in the rain bucket. So I went from sleek black to plaid. Life is weird like that.

And now I'm back. Today, Sean and Jeff were on a DMZ tour that they had booked online before even coming to Korea. A bus picked them up from their hotel and took them to wherever the tour started. Tomorrow, when I see them, I'll ask them what they thought of Panmunjeom and the tunnels, which were apparently part of the tour package.

Tomorrow will be, I suppose, Sean and Jeff's last hurrah before they move on: they're leaving this coming Saturday morning. They clarified that they're heading to Cambodia next, then Vietnam, then finally China. So tomorrow, which also happens to be Liberation Day in Korea (Gwangbok-jeol, a national holiday) as well as the Feast of the Assumption for Catholics (and the pope is in town), will be a great day for milling about with the crowds. Jongno Street is going to be blocked off—more for the pope than for Liberation Day, apparently. That'll make that neighborhood into one huge pedestrian zone, which is perfect for our plans.

Sean and Jeff want to visit at least one temple, and although it's a lame one, we'll be visiting Jogyae-sa, the head temple of the Jogyae Order of Buddhism. The guys also want to visit Insa-dong, the art district; Jeff apparently collects traditional masks from all over the world, so he'd like to add some Korean tal to his stash. We're also going to hit a royal residence; Third Ajeossi said that the palaces will all be open to the public at no charge tomorrow, so we might hit either Gyeongbok Palace or Jangdeok Palace. I also want Sean and Jeff to breathe in the ridiculously overblown ambience of the nearby Lotte Hotel, and might take them over to the gigantic Kyobo Bookstore, if they're willing.

Saturday morning, I imagine I'll accompany Sean and Jeff to the airport and see them off. Right after I get back to Karak-dong, I'll need to pack up all my stuff, because I'm moving out of my place a day sooner than expected: the drunken ajeossi who's going to be trucking my stuff over to my new digs (I met him the other night; he's a bit of an asshole) is impatient to get the whole thing over with. He's also pleading rotator-cuff problems, so it's going to be up to me to ferry all fifteen of my parcels from my fifth-floor apartment to the second floor of Ajumma's building on Saturday, from the second floor to the ajeossi's truck on Sunday, and from the truck to my fourth-floor yeogwan room near Dongguk, not even an hour later. That'll be an easy W50,000 for the lazy drunkard. And plenty of exercise for me.


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