Beautiful Korea

Beautiful Korea

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Last Weekend

Last semester I had an extra after school class with several teachers at the school, teaching conversational English. One of them, Kim Moon Seok, is an art teacher.

Last week, he had a showing of his art at the Insa Art Center in Seoul, and on Sunday I went to see it. I liked his work, and enjoyed the chance to see it. He works mainly in frescos, although there was also one sculpture. I was glad that I went. But there was more.

He took me across the hall to another gallery. There, the work of a Buddhist monk was on display. All of them were paintings of Buddha in a pointillist style, but get this: they were done on aluminum panels with nail polish instead of paint. Yes, nail polish, including the glittery kind. Some of them were medium-sized, about 3'x4', others covered almost an entire (large) wall. And they were gorgeous. Some were so convincing that I had to go close to make sure they were really 2-D paintings and didn't have 3-D bits sticking out of them. My favorite was almost entirely done in blues and blacks, 12 separate panels put together into a kind of collage of Buddha images.

I wish I had taken pictures. I didn't know if it would be ok to do so, and the monk didn't speak English, and I didn't want to seem rude or disrespectful, so I didn't try. You will just have to imagine the awesomeness for yourselves.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hello again!

Ok, I know, I've been bad. I haven't posted in ages. It's because I have a gazillion pictures of cherry blossoms in Seoul Grand Park, and many more gazillions of pictures from my trip to Jeollanam-do, and unfortunately, I also have an absolute abhorrence of photo editing. One day, I may actually get around to it, but I seem to have a truly amazing ability to procrastinate when it comes to photos.

But I feel bad about not having posted in so long, so you get a photo-less post.

Things here are still great! Three weeks ago I had a required 4-day teacher training/orientation session for GEPIK foreign English teachers (GEPIK is public education in Gyeonggi-do, the province where I live). Although a lot of it was stuff I already knew, it did provide many useful tips, plus the best part: the chance to meet other native English speakers in the area. I really like my Korean friends, but it was nice to have a chance to talk to people who don't struggle with English. Also, I met a couple people who live on the same block I do! Yay, local friends to hang out with!

Then I spent the next week getting caught up on things after being gone for four days. This week I only taught a bit over a half week, as the last part of the week, the students were busy studying for finals, which are next week. Like the last part of this week, next week I have to go to work, but don't have any actual classes to teach, so I'll be spending the time preparing for summer classes and for next semester (plus sundry goofing off on the internet). It's almost impossible to believe that we're almost half-way through the school year! The time has flown by so fast.

One of the suggestions I picked up at the training session was to use Korean pop music in my lessons, because it contains a lot of English, and the students will be really into it. So I've been looking into K-pop bands. The downside is that I didn't even particularly like the music of boy bands when I was a teen, and it doesn't seem to have changed much, except for the addition of some rapping, which I don't think improves it. On the other hand, I'm watching videos of really attractive young men who dance well, so it could be a lot worse.

Anyway, to make up a bit for my own lack of posting, I would like to direct your attention to the website of two other foreign English teachers here in Korea. Not only do they post more often than I do, but they make tons and tons of mini-movies about life here in Korea. I met them at the GEPIK training session, and they are very cool and funny, and their videos are a really excellent look at experiencing Korea as a foreigner. It's all there: the good, the bad, and the really weird, and it's all true! So go check it out:

The main page:

The movie archives (click on the categories on the banner at the bottom):
Eat Your Kimchi Movie Archives

Monday, April 27, 2009

Playing catch-up from early April!

On the week of March 30th, I didn't have any classes on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, because the students were doing testing. (Testing is a big feature of Korean schools.) Although I had to come to work, and did in fact get quite a bit of work done planning for future lessons, I was allowed to leave early on Thursday and Friday. So Thursday I left early to hike up Gwanaksan, the mountain directly behind the school.

Last time I was here, another teacher at ENI and I hiked to the top of Gwanaksan from Anyang. From that side, parts of it were steep, but most were not too bad (until we went down a different, and steeper, path!). From this face, though, the trail is quite steep. It reminded me of Hallasan in Jeju-do, where the trail was almost all stairs. Here is Hallasan:

And these are the stairs on Gwanaksan, going down on my way back. Most of it was stone stairs like these:

And part was wooden stairs like these:

but almost all of it was stairs of some kind! Koreans hikers are in good shape, believe me. I hiked for about 40 minutes, but then something was making me sneeze and making my nose run, so I turned around before it got worse and headed back down. Regardless of that, it was a nice hike and a lot of exercise.

On Friday I left work early and went into Seoul. First I went to the Kyobo bookstore to look for books for learning Korean. I wanted to look for English translations of Korean literature as well, but the frequent fate of foreigners in the English section of Kyobo befell me -- a Korean came up and wanted to practice his English with me. I don't mind that when I have time to spare, but this day I was planning to go to Changdeokgung, a palace which has English language tours, and I needed to get there before the last tour of the day started. So I didn't have enough time to find the books I wanted, and had to hurry off to the subway toward Changdeokgung.

Fortunately, I arrived with ten minutes to spare before the 3:30 tour started, so I bought a ticket and sat down for a bit. It was sunny when I left Gwacheon, but now it had clouded over, and was getting cooler, with a chilly wind. Unfortunately, I had not brought a warmer jacket than the blazer I wore to work, so I started to get kind of chilly. I was hoping the tour would warm me up, as it involved walking 2.7 kilometers altogether, but it moved too slowly to keep me warm, so I was rather cold the whole time. One other difficulty was that I had forgotten to change the battery on my camera, and now it was a bit low, so I had to be sparing with taking pictures. Those of you who have seen the full extent of my Korean pictures know how much I love the Korean ornamentation and decorative brickwork, so you know how disappointed I was to have to limit my picture taking. Still, I did get many lovely pictures of Changdeokgung and its "secret garden".

Here are a sample:
This is the main palace gate, taken from the side. Check out the little forked prongs standing up from the figures on top. I haven't seen those on any other palace.

This is the throne room:

Changdeokgung was the last palace in use in Korea, lived in by the Joseon monarchs into the 20th century. As such, it was modernized to include a driveway for the king's motorcars.

This one is my favorite building at the palace.

I have nothing special to say about this building, but I love this picture:

As you can see from the bare trees in the background, spring had not yet sprung, but the garden behind the palace was still lovely. This is a pond, symbolizing the earth, and the circular island symbolizes heaven.

There are a few more pictures of Changdeokgung at my Flickr page if you want to see them.

Things I love about Korea: heated floors

Please send: Western sheets


Around Pyeongchon

Back in March, I took a walk in my neighborhood to a local park. It was long before the trees started turning green, so it will probably be prettier now, and I'll go back and take some pictures soon. But despite the bare trees, empty waterways, and not-yet-green grass, the park still had plenty of interest to offer.

A chance to exercise, without paying gym membership fees:

A playground for the little tykes:

A place to skateboard and rollerskate:

A large open area where kids rode bikes:

And a place to play a game something like croquet (although not croquet, based on the layout of the hoops and the fact that the stake is in the center):

There were also places where water flows in warmer seasons, that will probably be quite lovely once they're filled:

There were also a few in-the-ground kinds of fountains for kids to play in, once they turn them on.

Although not as pretty as it will be when all green and blooming, there were still lovely spots in the park, like this walkway lined with sculpted trees and planters of flowers:

But the most notable feature of the park during winter is all the sculptures scattered around the park. Here is just a sample:

Besides the park, here are a couple of other images from near my apartment.

An odd something (ornament? antenna? something else?) on top of a building:

And a picture of part of Pyeongchon Junction at night:

Things I love about Korea: Insadong

Please send: comfortable shoes


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Now you've seen the school, my office, and my classroom, so here's a few pictures around Gwacheon (the city where the school is located).

First, on my walk to work, about half of it (the last half) is on a pedestrian walkway that goes past the school building. Here's what that looks like:

Not bad, huh? Of course, a few weeks ago when the trees were bare, it didn't look nearly so nice.

Along that path, there's a house with a really cool door:

And there are also several bird cages like this one:

This one has three birds in it, they're green with yellow and red/orange heads. (You can see two of them if you look closely in the picture, near the top of the cage on the left and near the center. The one on the left is behind the white strings.)

I tried to get pictures of the birds, but my camera insisted on focusing on the netting the cage is made from. Other cages contain cockatiels, and one has a parrot with a gray body and a red head.

Elsewhere in Gwacheon there is a pedestrian walkway lined with cherry trees that were all blooming a couple of weeks ago, so I went for a walk there one day and took some pictures:

Things I love about Korea: sweet potato pastry filling

Please send: Trader Joe's


Monday, April 20, 2009

Finally, a new post!

I apologize for not blogging more. I have been very busy and out having fun, leaving little time for writing up posts and editing and uploading photos. I am trying to do a little at a time, though, to get caught up.

First I will post some pictures of my apartment building and the school.

You've seen the inside of my apartment, but here is a picture of the front of the building.

You don't have to count windows, I'll tell you: it's 20 storys tall. I'm lucky, there's a balcony with trees and bamboo planted in it on the floor below, so I can see them when I look out my window. A funny story about being on the fourth floor: I take the stairs rather than the elevator most of the time, and as I'm usually thinking about something else, I just go around and around until the sign tells me I'm at the fourth floor, without really paying much attention to the stairs. But I was really surprised how tired I was when I got to the top. I thought, "Wow, I'm in worse shape than I thought if I can't climb three flights of stairs without being tired!" Then, one day I actually paid attention to the stairs, and I discovered that the first two floors are double height, so it isn't three flights of stairs, it's five flights of stairs. Then I felt a little better about being tired at the top. Though of course I'm getting in better shape now, anyway!

This one is a picture of the front of the school building where I teach:

There is a "sister school" next to it, the Gwacheon Foreign Language High School. Here it is:

And there's an administration building that I haven't been in, next to the FLHS:

You can see the sports field where the students have PE in front of the FLSH. Both schools share it. The cafeteria is actually located in the FLHS, so I go there for lunch nearly every day, and some dinners, too. The lunch is inexpensive, healthy, and usually delicious. There is always a soup, some sort of fish or seafood, kimchee, and rice. There are always two other dishes, which vary daily, but usually one or both are mostly vegetables, and the other dishes, except the rice, usually contain vegetables also. So it's a lot better than school cafeterias in the US usually are! Lunch is inexpensive, under 3,000 won (around $2.50), and dinner is free. Here is an example of one of the lunches:

Gwanaksan is directly behind the school. Here is the view out my office window:

And here's the view from street level behind the school. It's much greener now, this is from a few weeks ago, but with leaves on the trees you can't see the mountain as well, so I'm using the older picture.

And here's what my office itself looks like:
That's my desk on the left, my coworker's on the right. The tall white and gray thing behind my desk is the heater/air conditioner.

Here's the front of the office (the view from my desk):

And here's my classroom:
This looks from the door at the back that leads to my office, toward the front.

The center section of the board slides open to reveal a big touchscreen computer monitor:

Here's the teacher's desk in the classroom:

Here's the room looking from the front toward the back:

And finally, at the back of the classroom, there are six computers:

So now you know what it looks like where I work!

I love: green tea yogurt

Please send: a translator to explain how to use my gadgets


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday and Sunday (3/14-3/15)

This weekend was another boring one. I spent most of the weekend taking, editing, and uploading pictures, writing up blog entries (see what I do for you people?), and cleaning.

Plus cooking, washing dishes, and laundry. Yeah, it's an exciting life we expatriates lead!

So now the bathroom is completely clean, except I want to try to get the hard water stains off the glass shower enclosure (I sprayed it with vinegar and let it sit and then wiped it vigorously, but it wasn't enough), and I still have to give the floor a good scrubbing (it's already been vacuumed and cleaned with a rag and soapy water, but that wasn't enough, it's going to take abrasive cleaner and a scrub brush). The kitchen is all clean except the ceiling (and yes, that does indeed need cleaning--every SINGLE SURFACE in this apartment needed cleaning). The closets and closet doors have been thoroughly wiped down, and the bureau drawers have been wiped clean. The entryway is mostly clean, so most of the cleaning that remains is the floor, ceiling, walls, and windows of the main room. Whee. My arms are already very tired from scrubbing!

I also wrote up lesson plans for tomorrow.

In the fun category, I did spend some time reading, and managed to finish Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves, and started another book (one that was free for the Kindle, by T. A. Pratt).

And now we're all caught up through today!

The box I sent by UPS (because the US mail said it was too large) arrived at UPS on Tuesday, but I didn't get it until Friday because they demanded all kinds of things to clear it through customs: a complete list of the entire contents, a copy of my passport, and a letter explaining why I had shipped these items. Meanwhile, the boxes I sent via US mail arrived on Wednesday with no issues whatsoever. I am totally never using UPS again if I can possibly avoid it. They are *always* the biggest pain in the butt.

When the UPS box finally came (it contained the PS2 and DDR pad), of course I had to test them out! And everything made it just fine.

I'm all unpacked and everything is put away.

I keep forgetting that at E-mart if you're buying loose vegetables, you have to weigh them and print out a label or something like that. The checkers do not have codes to enter for them, so if you haven't printed a scannable sticker for them, you're out of luck. I've forgotten that twice now (I blame jet lag), with sweet potatoes and with bananas. Hopefully third time's the charm, and I'll remember to print labels for them next time. The other fruits and vegetables I bought (potatoes, apples, tangerines, green onions, mushrooms) were pre-bagged, so at least I managed to buy those successfully!

Thing I love about Korea: 2 liter bottles of mango juice!

Please send: a maid to do my cleaning!


My first week (3/9-3/3)

My first week at the school went well, although there were a lot of interruptions, diversions, and things to take care of. First thing on Monday morning, I found that the glass on the huge touch-screen monitor was cracked! I was still able to use it, but fortunately they replaced the glass on Friday, so now I won't have to worry about it.

In the office, they'd set up my computer, which unfortunately is all in Korean, which makes using it interesting at times! Later on, they added another piece to my desk for the computer, and fixed the big tangle of loose cords behind my chair. They also brought in a space heater, because the office was cold, which later in the week they replaced with a big heater/AC unit that's right behind my chair. (We had to move my desk forward a bit.) So I'll be warm in the winter and cool in the summer, which is nice! The classroom also has an extra heater, so it is probably the warmest in the school, and I get to control the temperature. They also installed speakers in the room so I could hear the bell better (it was hard to hear it, before). Also, I now have a microphone, which will greatly spare my voice. All of these installations were disruptive and noisy, but since they are for my comfort and convenience, I'm not complaining! They still have to install clocks in the office and classroom, and then I think they are done.

Meanwhile, my teaching schedule was also interrupted by the need to go get more passport-type photos taken for the health check and the alien registration card. (Wouldn't it have been nice if I'd been told from the start that I would need nine pictures, instead of telling me four, and then, oh, one more, and then, oh, four more?) The next day's interruption was going for the health check, which was weird. They took blood and urine samples, did a chest x-ray, checked my blood pressure, measured my height and weight, and then checked my vision (including my color vision—I'd forgotten how to do those, and probably got some wrong), and my hearing. Wow, I haven't been checked out so thoroughly since I was a little kid! Then on Wednesday I had to be at the school, but had no classes because the students had testing. I used the time to look through the English textbooks for the two grades I'll be teaching (first and second years). Friday I left early so that Mr. Yu and I could meet the workman coming to install internet in my apartment.

Aside from the interruptions and disruptions, classes went well. I showed them pictures, and had them tell me their names and their hobbies, and encouraged them to ask me questions. Many were very shy of speaking English, which most have not had much practice with, but they seemed enthusiastic about my being there, and I think with time they'll relax more and be willing to talk. All of my co-teachers seem very nice.

Next week should be a normal schedule, except that once the results of the health check come back, Mr. Yu and I will need to go to the immigration office in Seoul to fill out the paperwork for my alien registration card. Once I have that (maybe another week after) I can open a bank account.

Miscellaneous details:

I had to buy some slip-on shoes to wear at school. They don't wear street shoes in the school.

The teacher's cafeteria is excellent, and cheap. It's under 3,000 won (so less than $2), and the food is really good. Some of it is fairly spicy, but a lot is not, and there are always many types of food each day. It's funny, everyone always takes kimchee, but I have noticed that many of the Koreans don't eat any of it. It's like they feel obligated to take it, it being the Korean national food and all, but they don't actually want to eat it. Many do eat it (including me, it's very healthy), but I have noticed several who don't touch it after putting it on their tray.

The employees at the school all seem to be relieved that I'm Korean-sized. I think they were fearing some species of American Giantess! Mr. Yu was afraid that the bed would be too short for me (it's over 6 ft long)! Everyone seems happy that I'm not intimidatingly large and they feel more comfortable around me than they expected.

Thanks to jet lag, I was severely sleep-deprived most of the week. I kept waking up at ridiculously early hours and not being able to get back to sleep. Finally, on Thursday, I woke up at 6am after going to bed at 10:30, and Thursday night I gave up and went to bed at 10, so when I woke up at 6, I'd actually had eight hours of sleep for the first time in I don't know how long. I'd really prefer to get up at 7, since I don't have to be at the school until 8:50, but at least 6 is better than 5. I've actually slept all the way until 6:30...but not later. Oh well. I get things done in the morning, so I guess I'll go with it.

Thing I love about Korea: excellent public transportation: incredibly clean, cheap, efficient subway system

Please send: Clothes dryer


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday and Sunday (3/7-3/8)

When Mr. Yu (the school administrator) left on Friday night, we arranged to meet in the lobby of my building at 8:20 on Saturday morning, so he could show me how to get to the school, take me to meet my new coworkers, and tour the school.

Despite being exhausted and not getting to bed until midnight, I woke up at 3something am, and again at 4something, and couldn't get back to sleep. Finally I gave up and got up at 5:30. I had coffee, ate breakfast (Mr. Yu had kindly provided coffee and some food, so I would have something to eat in the morning), did some cleaning and organizing, decided what I was going to wear and laid it out, and read for a bit. I was planning to wear warm tights under my pants, with socks over them, because I had been told that the school is usually cold, and I was going to be wearing new boots and wanted to avoid blisters. At 8:10 I went into the bathroom to get dressed and do my hair, so I could be down in the lobby at 8:20. Then the door buzzer rang. Mr. Yu was 10 minutes early! Since I wasn't yet dressed, I tried to dress really quickly. Knowing that the tights would not go on quickly, I abandoned them and just pulled on the socks. I finished dressing in about a minute and opened the door. Mr. Yu apologized for being early and explained that he was worried about me, because the heat in my apartment did not seem to be working properly. (It does heat the apartment, it just takes a lot longer than it should.) I didn't want to keep him waiting, so I just ran a brush through my hair, and gathered my things.

I really suffered for the lack of tights, though. Not only was I cold all the time we were at the school, but I got a nasty blister on my heel from the new boots, which having tights under the socks would have prevented. Oh well. I guess I've learned not to wait to get dressed until the last minute when I'm expecting to meet someone!

We walked to the subway station and took the subway for two stops. As we went out of the subway station, I saw the exit for the school was the same one for Gwanaksan, the mountain that is north of Anyang and East of Gwacheon. We walked the few blocks to the school, which turned out to be right at the base of the mountain. I'll try to get pictures of the school and upload them soon.

I met the vice-principal and principal of the school ,and a lot of other teachers, most of whose names I have forgotten because I was severely jet-lagged and suffering from lack of sleep. Plus Korean names are still hard for me to remember.

I was shown the new English Room, which is a room set aside for me to teach in (most teachers don't have their own rooms). It has a huge touch-screen monitor on the wall (as well as white boards), and six tables that seat six students each. (And that tells you roughly what the class size is.) It also has six computers at the back for students to use, and a library of English reading books and reference books.

Next door is my office, which I share with the English coordinator. They didn't yet have my desk or computer set up, and the table was covered in boxes of books, CDs, DVDs, and other media, all unsorted. The English coordinator had ordered it all, and it had just arrived and had yet to be checked, organized, and unpacked.

So I spent some time organizing it all, and then checking off what was there from the list of what she'd ordered.

Then I sat through a training on how to use the touch-screen monitor, which was all in Korean (as is the User's Manual), but I could see what he was doing, so I think it won't be a problem.

After that, I was finished at the school for the day, and Mr. Yu took me to E-mart (in his car, which he had left at the school when he came to pick me up that morning) to first eat lunch (tonkatsu curry, Wintersweet!), and then to shop for the things the school still needed to provide me with (a clothes iron and some more bedding), and I bought some things I needed (such as a hair dryer, a clothesline and clothespins, fabric softener and laundry detergent). It was nice not to have to carry them home afterward, since we could take his car. Money was not a problem because Mr. Yu had given me the 300,000 won moving allowance in my contract. It went fast, though, so I was very glad that Mr. Yu was willing to exchange my American cash at the bank for me on Monday while I was teaching.

He helped me carry things up to my apartment, and showed me where the trash and recycling goes down in the garage. Then he left, and I had the rest of the weekend to myself.

It was not exciting. I spent it figuring out what I was going to do for classes the first week, shopping for more things at E-mart, ironing clothes, figuring out where to hang the clothes line and doing some laundry (the clothes I wore on Thursday/Friday and Saturday, plus new towels, etc.), and cleaning. The prior occupant had NOT cleaned the apartment and had evidently been a slob, and poor Mr. Yu had seen the state of things and done some cleaning before I came, but it still needed a lot more, and cleaning has been a major (and exhausting) feature of all my time at home since then, and I'm still not done.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Arrival, and pictures!

Warning, lots of big pics!

Thursday morning, my friend Wintersweet arrived to take me to the airport. I said a sad farewell to Tattermuffin and family, who were all big helps with the packing and getting ready to leave for Korea. Wintersweet and I had breakfast at Hobee's which is a Bay Area restaurant chain I had never eaten at before, to my regret! They try to use only fresh local foods, and breakfast there was great. We both had the same thing, because it sounded so delicious, and it was! It was cinnamon-orange swirl french toast sandwiching fried bananas and sliced almonds, with yogurt sauce instead of syrup.

Wintersweet and her husband (via her cell phone) offered more suggestions of ebooks I could download to my new Kindle 2 before I left. (Whispernet doesn't work outside the US, and I was not sure I would be able to get books for the Kindle while in Korea, so I wanted to download as many as possible before I left. I have over 150 things on my Kindle now, so I think I'm good for books for a while!)

We parked at the airport, and then Wintersweet helped me get my suitcases and carry-ons to the check-in counter. One of my carry-ons was overweight (I've never had them weigh a carry-on before!), but we managed to re-distribute a few things, and he let it go. My checked bags were just under the limit, thanks to Tattermuffin letting me borrow her scale to weigh them beforehand.

Then Wintersweet helped me get my stuff to security, and kindly waited to make sure I got through ok. Everything was fine, and I set off to find a place to buy some Ghirardelli chocolate as a gift for the school principal and for the administrator who was in charge of getting an apartment and all the things my contract provided (TV, microwave, bed, etc.). I managed to stuff the chocolate into my backpack, even, and it arrived without being squished. Then I schlepped all my heavy gear to the departure gate, which, naturally, was at the very far end of the terminal.

(I'm going to try an LJ-cut tag, so it won't kill the friends pages for those of you on LJ. I don't know if it will work.)

This photo is a little blurry, because my arms were so tired they were shaking badly.

The plane I flew to Korea on:

The flight was uneventful. The food was decent, and there was no one in the middle seat in my section. Korean Air has video-on-demand even for economy class, so I got to choose from many available movies and watch them when I wanted to. I also read part of one of the books Wintersweet recommended, His Majesty's Dragon, and played My Sims on Nintendo DS. But I spent most of the time reading Tattermuffin's gift to me: Lost in Austen, a Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure. It was very funny, and kept me entertained, although I did fail in my mission several times.

Eventually, we arrived at Incheon International Airport, and proceeded through immigration and on to baggage claim. Where I waited. And waited. And waited. My bags were the penultimate off the plane, and it was an hour from the time we landed until they finally showed up on the carousel. The whole time I was fretting that the van driver would think he had missed me and go off somewhere, but it wasn't a problem. Once I finally got my bags, I breezed through customs, and the van driver was waiting right past customs, holding a sign with my name on it.

He seemed to be in a big hurry, and didn't speak any English, so I wasn't able to exchange any of my US money for Korean won at the airport. This was a problem, because it was Friday evening, and banks here aren't open on weekends, and I work during the hours banks are open on weekdays, so I was worried that I wouldn't have any spendable money!

After a longish van ride, we arrived at my neighborhood. The driver didn't know what building my apartment was in (Korean addresses are very confusing, even to Koreans!), but he asked around and found the right place. My coworkers were there and waiting, and helped me get my suitcases up to my apartment.

Check out the high-tech door! (As you might guess from the number, I'm on the 4th floor.)

I was surprised and pleased to find the apartment more than double the size of my last apartment in Korea. Plus, there is one big bonus.

View from the entryway:

Far corner:

From the far corner across:

Looking from the center toward the kitchen/dining, and check out the adorable tiny vacuum cleaner!

The kitchen:

Check out the fancy rice cooker. Not only does it cook rice in 15 minutes, but it's also a pressure cooker, crock pot, and can steam vegetables. Unfortunately, the instructions are all in Korean. So far I've figured out how to make rice and boil water. LOL

The narrow black rectangle is the stove top (2 burners) -- glass top, yay! And below is the clothes washing machine. No dryer, darn!

I was very happy to find that this kitchen has about 5 times the counter space of the previous apartment in Korea! More cabinet space, too!

The bathroom:

The toilet has a bidet! And it blows you dry! You can choose hot or cold air! The instructions and buttons are all in Korean, of course, but I screwed up my courage and experimented one morning.

The mirror slides back and forth, and there is storage behind it, as well.

And check out the best part -- shower stall!

It has a door that seals it off completely, but it's all the way open so you can't see it in the photo. Woohoo! No more splashing water all over the bathroom when I shower! I can store towels and TP and stuff in the bathroom! I don't have to squeegee the whole bathroom dry after I shower! It's not quite as exciting as a clothes dryer, but it's a close second.

The only thing about this apartment that's not much better than my old one is the view out the window. My last apartment looked out on Gwanaksan (Mt. Gwanak) (and yes, Wintersweet, the mushroom bar). From this one, I can only see buildings:

The side window is even worse:

However, the window itself is much bigger and lets in more light, plus I have a second side window for light, so overall it's still better. And I have blinds for privacy. The windows open two different ways--sideways, or the top tilts open. Unfortunately, there are no screens, so I'm really glad that I brought some mosquito netting.

After bringing my things into the apartment, my coworkers took me out to dinner. We had a delicious mushroom bulgogi soup. (For those not familiar with Korean food, bulgogi is beef that has been cooked to tenderness in a slightly sweet sauce with onions and garlic. If you find yourself in a Korean restaurant and don't know what to order, bulgogi is a good choice, assuming you eat beef.) Then we went back to my apartment and they showed me how to use the heating system, the washer, the TV, the vacuum cleaner (the base snaps out for emptying and for use as a mini-hand vac, with attachments) and the basics of the rice cooker. Wondering why I needed help for this? Check 'em out:

TV remote:

Rice cooker:

Washing machine:

Door camera and intercom, heat, timer:

Then they left, and I did a little unpacking and went to bed.

And this is already way long, so I'll leave the rest for another post.