Saturday, August 02, 2014

finalizing prep

I'm about to leap over to the local E-Mart to steal another small pile of boxes so I can pack most of the rest of my possessions up and taekbae them north. The studio is already looking a bit emptier, especially after I sent off my first four boxes. I'll box up the next wave of stuff this evening, then hit the convenience store on Sunday night so as to have the taekbae truck cart my things away on Monday.

In thinking about my immediate future, I see I already have to begin planning the next phase. Third Ajumma's generosity isn't infinite: even though she's offered to house me rent-free for a bit, she'll be losing a lot of money in doing so (you'll recall that she and her husband are landlords of their own building). She's given me about a month before I need to pack up and find another place. During that time, I'm going to try to arrange for extra work at one of the offices of the Golden Goose: Dongguk's work schedule, like Catholic's, is only four days a week, which means my free day can be sacrificed to propitiate the Golden Goose.

Assuming I can find a place near campus (I'm not convinced that no such places exist, and I just heard from a DCU colleague about a friend of his who's living a five-minute walk from Dongguk's campus), there's the matter of monthly rent and how that's going to affect my finances. If I add the Golden Goose job to my plate, I might be earning an extra million won a month, net, but most of that would go toward covering living expenses—rent, utilities, etc.

Among the various living options in Korea, there's the jeonsae ("key money") system, which involves initially paying a huge lump sum (around $5,000 to $10,000 or more), then paying a nominal rent whose size depends on the amount of jeonsae paid. When the renter moves out, the jeonsae is returned, at least in theory: the landlord invests that money during the rental-contract period and earns an income from the interest.

The other major option is a weolsae (monthly rent) arrangement, which may be a bit harder—but not impossible—to find. This would involve paying a much higher monthly rent, but with no lump-sum payment at the beginning. The point is that I'll need a second job, especially if I go the weolsae route.* The Golden Goose is my biggest, bestest hope in that regard. KMA pays handsomely, but work there is sparse: I get a gig maybe once every two months. (NB: I just had to turn down a 2-day KMA gig because my brother Sean is coming to Korea with his buddy Jeff at the same time the gig is happening. That's $1,000 going poof.)

Upshot: much to think about, much to plan.

*There are other options as well: an English colleague of mine endured life in a goshiweon, a very small, cramped study space with minimal facilities, meant for students on a budget. By "cramped" I mean seriously cramped: see here, and note the floor space. It wasn't a bad way for her to save up a pile of cash, though; if you can put up with monastic conditions, this isn't a terrible option. Yet another type of lodging, which I've tried before, is the hasuk-jip, which is, perhaps, slightly larger (but in some cases slightly smaller) than a goshiweon. This is where students are housed in a building that functions as a mini-dormitory, normally with communal toilet and shower facilities. Also communal, in a hasuk-jip, is the food: the place is often run by a woman (or a couple) who serves perhaps two meals a day to the residents; they have to show up at the designated mealtimes if they hope to have a meal. The hasuk I was in, long ago, was extremely cramped, and not exactly cheap, either, at W300,000 a month. My current studio, which I think of as a shoebox, is positively palatial next to that sort of hasuk.


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