It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
I realized that most of my posts since arriving have been of singular events, and little about what my life here is like outside of those events. Contrary to what some of my friends have suggested, I do more with my time than simply dance (unfortunately). The next few posts are going to be of my neighborhood, workplace, daily life, etc. If you feel something is left out, I’d love to answer any questions you may have.
Most English teachers are provided housing upon arriving in Korea. In fact, when it comes to public schools, I think there may be some government mandates related to providing housing, insurance, severance, etc. I don’t know if that’s the same requirement for private schools, but most schools follow suit anyway. SLP (my school) was kind enough to set all of us teachers up in the same apartment complex a short walk away from the school. Similar to my house-warming party, I’d like to take you guys on a little walk through my neighborhood. So slip on your outdoor shoes, exchange that cardigan for a sports coat, and become my neighbor!
Taking a left out of my door and pass some apartment complexes, you’ll see where my neighborhood’s night life happens. The lights, blow-up signs, and fact that you’ll find someone here at any point of the night (even winning the party at 6:30am), make this street a miniature replica of the more hopping districts in Seoul, such as Gangnam, Itaewon, or Hongdae. It’s great if you want some food or drinks within walking distance, but most of my adventures require a bit more traveling. With that said, I utilize more of my neighborhood if I head the other direction out of my door.
Just across the street from me are convenience stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and pretty much anything you need to survive. Growing up in a small town and going to school in a town half it’s size, it’s a convenience to which I’m still adapting. As long as it’s a reasonable time of the day, I can have my choice from a variety of banks, restaurants, cell phone stores, clothing shops, and so on. If that’s not enough, I’m about 80 meters from Bauhaus. Bauhaus is a 16-floor department store and my frame of reference if giving directions to a taxi driver. It’s got typical department store products in addition to a grocery store in the basement, a movie theater, a food court, some slightly more up-scale restaurants and probably more I haven’t explored.
I’m also fortunate enough to be a block away from a rubber-paved running path a couple miles long along the river. Restroom stops and little workout stations dot the path the whole distance. If that’s not enough outdoors, I’m a ten minute jog away from the foot of Mt. Yongmasan. I’ll talk more about it later, but this “mountain” also comes complete with exercise equipment with a view. Seoul has many of these little pockets of the outdoors littered in the outer districts. Literally right outside my apartment is a small children’s park, and each city block has one or two of these.
The neighborhood as a whole is in a decent location with its ups and downs. It’s close enough to get anywhere in Seoul, yet far enough that it’s pretty inconvenient. In that sense it’s very similar to my hometown, and I’m used to the 50-60 minute commute to get to the fun places. And after all, if it’s late and I feel like a $12 cab ride I can make it home in around 25 minutes. Whatever way I take home, I’m happy to not be driving for footing the gas bill.
Most importantly, this neighborhood is very slowly starting to feel like home. I’m becoming familiar with my quick stops at the 7-Eleven and the trip to just get a couple items at the grocery store. I’m sure I’d be friends with the ajumma at Pizza School if we could ever hold a real conversation. This place isn’t Minnesota, but I’m happy to stick around for a while.