A Knock at the Door

Trip Start Mar 02, 2004
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Trip End Apr 02, 2005


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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I live on the 11th floor of a high rise at the eastern edge of downtown Seoul. From my window I have a Western view of the city, a great view made better by the fact that I've now explored a good part of what's out there. To the south is Seoul Tower at the top of a giant hill. It looks a little like the CN Tower and at night it's lit up like a tasteful Christmas tree.

To the north, on a clear day, is Inwangsan in the distance. Running through the center is Toegyero, one of Seoul's main thoroughfares. It's a bit like having a place over Broadway looking north onto Times Square, though at times the height makes me queasy.

I'm getting used to it but I've never lived in a place higher than three stories, and out my window it's 11 clear on down to the ground. No balcony, bars or screen, and the windows open wide on an angle.

But the building is new and the place pleasant, and better than other apartments I've seen. Most are old and run down, and many have showers that are a basic shower nozzle on a wall between the toilet and sink. No stall. No bath tub. Just showering in the breeze on cold hard floor tiles. Or so I'm told. My bathroom is the major selling feature of the apartment. It's well turned-out with good storage space and a great shower stall with an adjustable shower head so I don't have to crouch to wash my hair.

In the kitchen I have a huge LG fridge and two gas burners above a combo washer/drier. My first week here I copied down the Korean instructions and took them to work for translation. As it turned out--as these things often seem to--all I have to do was push a few buttons and the machine does it's thing.

I have more closet and cabinet space than I know what to do with, and faux hard-wood flooring that is easy to clean. For the first time in my life I have air-conditioning, will be a godsend if the summer heat and humidity gets as bad as I've heard. All told I'm pretty pleased.

The other day my door bell rang as I was on my way out. Though the visitor was only 15 feet away on the other side of the door I could see them, and even talk to them if I cared to, through the intercom on the wall. I wasn't expecting anyone. Aside from the two other foreign teachers I know only one other person in the building, a Korean, and it wasn't him. I opened the door to find two Korean Jehovah's Witnesses standing a little stiffly out in the hall.

There really are some things that are, like Mastercard puts it, priceless. So the looks on their faces, which told me clearly they were not expecting a foreign face. The younger one looked down at the floor while the other recovered somewhat and shoved a pamphlet toward me.

Now, I have nothing against Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact years ago in Manotick I used to have long conversations with two guys of my age who'd come around once in a while. We'd talk religion and politics and life in general, and I very much enjoyed their company until they brought along an elder who tried to give me the hard sell.

These two seemed a little less prepared for the situation, and left with evident relief when I told them I wasn't interested. I did, however, take the pamphlet. The cover showed a promised land of multi-ethnic people reaping plenty and smiling in the sunshine. In the distance children petted a lion. Before I tossed it in the trash I noticed something written in very small type-face on the inside of the tract: Printed in Canada.
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