The Apartment

by sebastien on February 4, 2009

Quite a few people have been bugging politely asking me to post pictures of the apartment and/or write a blog about it. Well, I'm on it, don't worry!

I'm on day 2 of my scheduled 528 days in South Korea. My first experiences so far are pretty positive, and I'm not missing being home all that much.. hopefully it will stay that way (I think I'll be ok, I have so many things I want to do here and I haven't ever scratched the surface, it's kind of exciting actually.)

My boss gave me 2 days here to adjust to the time difference and get things set up, yesterday when I arrived, and today. Tomorrow I'll be heading to site with the rest of the AECL Wolsong team in a shuttle bus to start work. I'm not sure what to expect there, but I know they will keep me busy. I'm really looking forward to it, provided I don't sleep today, and sleep well tonight. You might have read in my last post that my body is definitely still in Atlantic time and it's amazingly accurate too :P

Now, onto the apartment. I'll start where I left off in my last post, where the driver brought me onto the compound. We unload the van near one of the buildings, and head inside. the lobby of the building is essentially outside, it's a very open design, much like a parking garage. We get up to the door and we're greeted by a big modern security panel to gain access to the building. My driver doesn't speak a lot of english, just enough to ask me small-talk questions like "um, where are you from?" He doesn't tell me much about the door at this point, he just finicks with it until the slider bare glass door quickly slides over to let us pass with my luggage.

My apartment is on the second floor of what seems like a 15 story building. We take the elevator up. Something quirky about the elevators in South Korea... All of them i've seen so far have voice prompts speaking in Korean letting you know that the door is closing, what floor you're headed too, and what floor your at, etc. Kind of neat, but I could see it getting kind of annoying too. And voice prompts are always in whiney female voices.

We get to our door, and are greeted once again by a modern security panel. He again pushes some buttons and the door beeps a few musical notes and opens up. Another quirk in Korea, nothing can just beep normally, it has to beep melodies.

(My new door, kinda cool looking eh? Just on the other side of that wall divider you see on the right is a panel where guests will ring the doorbell, I'll get to that later.)

Once inside the apartment I take a quick look around and find that it's pretty much just like it was in all the pictures I've seen before. I start asking my driver, who's still with me at this point, some question about the apartment. I guess he really doesn't know how to speak much english because he sort of stops me and tries to say that the apartment manager, TJ, will be here soon to show me around. I start looking around a bit and shortly afterward TJ arrives to give me the grand tour. Typically it's Jimmy Park, the Coordination Manager, would be doing the tour-guiding, but it's the middle of the day so he's at site.

TJ has a list of about a dozen things that he has to go over. He starts by saying "Mr. Park have two things very important, Internet and Porn." I'm thinking in my head, "Pardon?" I just laugh and consider it cultural thing. I later find out while talking that he pronounces "phone" very similarly to how I would pronounce "porn." Go figure. Good thing I didn't ask him for any recommendations.. haha.

He goes on to show the apartment, how to use certain things, like the control panel in the living room:

(Kocom Home Network System Manager)

It's a touch screen control system that allows you to answer the door (after seeing who is there) and page other apartments in the complex. I'm sure it does a lot of other things too, but I haven't read the manual.

He also tell me how to use the door in the lobby to get inside the building, you can use either an access card put up to the keypad, or enter your apartment number plus a pin number. That's great in case you forget your card in your apartment or something. He also showed me how to get inside the apartment using the keypad on my door. There are three ways you can get in, either with a medallion on my keychain, a pin code similar to the one used in the lobby, or if the batteries in the device fail, you can use a fancy key. Strange, but smart and convenient.

He tells me about waste management, how you can't throw anything out that isn't in a specific plastic bag bought from a store. I guess it's a sort of trash tax system, I think it's kinda smart. If you don't use the bags and they catch you, you can be fined. TJ then talks to me about the recycling program. My eyes roll a bit at the thought of my mom cutting up plastic milk bags to recycle them. I didn't pay too much attention to TJ for that moment.

We went over all the quirks of the apartment, like the digital temperature control, the water bottle delivery (which was today by the way, I now have 5.5 18L bottles of water, and I highly doubt I'll be going through all of those in a month.) and the VoIP phone system (5c/min to Canada! My first call was to Telus, to suspend my cell phone service, the next was to my mom, she had no idea who I was..) All the while two workers "unwrapped" my apartment of all the plastic that was on all the appliances. There was still a lot left on them after they took off, especially on the entertainment system. I don't care too much about that anyway, unwrapping stuff can be fun :)

He started talking about the dishwasher and why it was missing. He went on about how most of the apartments the occupants opted to not have a dishwasher because it takes up too much space and they would rather wash the dishes by hand. I told him I'd rather have a dishwasher, even if it gets installed in the laundry room where he said it would have to be. He said that I should think about it some before doing that, I told him sure.. (I already know the answer though, they're puttin' a damn dishwasher in my apartment.. it doesn't matter if I only have two dishes, I'll manage to make a heaping pile of dirty dishes before the end of a week..)

We go over a few other things, like how to use the kitchen faucet and then they finally leave. Now I have the chance to really explore this apartment and take some pictures.

(The kitchen sink - turn the faucet on with the handle and nothing happens, you need to hit your foot on either the toggle footswitch, or momentary on footswitch under the cupboard on the floor)

The apartment has three rooms (only one of which has a bed) two bathrooms (the master bath, which is really nice, and the bathroom near the entrance, which has a full standard tub) the living room, kithen/dining room, laundry room, 3 separate front patios, and 1 rear room that houses some device with a fan in it. I use that for storing my luggage.

(Second bathroom, near the entrance)

The interesting thing is that even though all those rooms mentioned are sealed off from the weather, not all of them are insulated from the temperature. The laundry room, the front patios and the small room in the back are unheated and uninsulated, while the bathrooms are both unheated. The apartment temperature is controlled with heated floors, it's really a sin that they don't have it in the bathroom where there is tiled floor. But they do have a heated toilet seat in the main bathroom though, that almost makes up for it :)

The reason why the floor in the bathroom isn't heated is because Koreans wear sandals in the washroom. They wear a different pair of footwear in every zone of their life actually. There are two pairs of slippers at my entrance right now, for me to use when I'm going around the apartment, and when I get to the washroom I'm supposed to take off the slippers and put on the plastic sandals. Two minor problems, I like being barefoot, and these footwear are definitely not designed for average Canadian feet, waaay too small, they keep falling off, or they are too tight and uncomfortable. Oh well, I guess I can't embrace all of the cultural differences.

(The master bathroom, yes the shower is as fun as it looks)

(Here I am *not* wearing my slippers in the entrance way)

A few other quirks, Koreans don't have closets. They have wardrobes, which are typically another room separate from the bedroom. So all my clothes are at the opposite end of the apartment from my bedroom and master bathroom, in these tall (and unfortunately cheap) cabinets. I'm going to embrace that cultural difference for now because I find it kind of quaint, and not really difficult to implement, but I'd like it noted for the record that I find that to be a pretty illogical way to get your day started!

(The "wardrobe" with accompanying front patio. The cabinets are just to the right of the frame)

Another interesting fact about my apartment, there are no drawers in the kitchen. That's right, nowhere to put your utensils. I remember someone telling me that before about these apartments but I forgot to bring a tray. Oh well, there's this strange cup thing that came with the apartment with vent holes on the bottom, it looks like it could be a utensil holder by design, I'll roll with it. The kitchen does have a lot of very interesting rack mechanisms that help you store things more efficiently in the cupboards. I'll take some pictures of those when I master them.

Going down the list of interesting things, we have maid service! Someone will come to my apartment every Tuesday and clean the floors, kitchen, and bathrooms, and anything else I write down on a note for him/her. Sweet! It's like having Mathieu in Korea :)

When I first looked in the laundry room I saw what looked like a washer machine in the corner, but I couldn't find the dryer. I thought, "aww crap, am I going to have to hang up my clothes to dry? not cool." While TJ shows me the front patio I notice the sealed clothes rack and fancy ceiling clothes rack that you pull down with a rope, and I'm thinking that there probably really isn't a dryer. Turns out thought that the washer machine is actually a dryer as well, which I find fascinating. I actually doing a load of laundry while typing this, even though it's looking like it will take about 3 or 4 hours to finish.. haha.

Now, on to one of the more annoying aspects of this apartment. The bed.

I have a lot of problems with this bed, let's go through them shall we?

First of all, I think they misplaced the mattress with a box spring. There is absolutely no give to this mattress, I have no idea why they would ever put springs in it, because I haven't felt it move since I got here. It is rock solid.

Second, contrary to what some people have been telling me, this is NOT a double bed. It's not a queen either, it's a size in between. I though I was being all prepared by bringing a brand new set of high quality double sheets for my new bed but the fitted sheet won't fit at all. Dammit! and the sheets that are provided might as well be burlap sacks (ok, they aren't that bad, but they are pretty rough compared to what I brought along with me.)

Third, Not really a problem with the bed, but with the bedroom layout and where the outlets are located. There are no outlets behind the bed to use with the lamp or my alarm clock.. boo! I'm going to either have to run an extension cord, or move the bed. Neither of which I really want to do at this point, so we'll have to wait and see.

Fourth, the bedding is pink. Wtf?

Fifth, and this isn't really a problem but it might be an indication as to the quality standards involved, pictured below is the bed's label:

It reads:

Wellbeing Life is ~
Feel Mores Bed

The Best of Comfort
The best way of sleeping
can bring the best life
The tenderness bring the best
Way of sleeping
Enjoy your art of the best sleeping.

What am I supposed to make of that jibberish? Haha. All on an American flag too ;)

So I start putting things away and setting up my stuff, eventually I have my laptop all set up in the office with the internet working fine, and I start backing up my files from the last week or so to the server, and that runs better than expected. Torrents are downloading really fast, but upload speeds an pretty much none-existent because port forwarding isn't configured on the gateway. I give TJ a call about this but he has no idea what I'm talking about, and still doesn't. I'm still trying to find out how to log into the gateway to configure it. I have the logon page, but no the username and password. Anyway, that's not a deal breaker, but it would be nice.

I took a shower in the middle of the night last night since I wasn't sleeping (notice how I didn't say I couldn't sleep? it's because I didn't even try.. haha) and I really enjoyed it. There are two shower heads, one fixed, and one with a hose. The controls are very simple and I think all showers should be like this. The fixed head drops a LOT of water and it's really efficient for rinsing. I ran into a bit of a problem though where I put a lot of water out onto the bathroom floor, the toilet area. I guess the sealant at the bottom of the door isn't all that good.

(The master shower, it's awesome. I love the layout and the space, and not having to deal with a shower curtain is definitely a plus.)

I discovered that the bathroom sink doesn't have any cold water getting to it... I'll have to make a maintenance call for that one...

I made some KD twice yesterday, since I didn't leave the apartment at all. I didn't have any butter or milk though, so it was just water and part of the cheese in the box, it wasn't so bad!

During the afternoon yesterday I couldn't help but take a nap. I really wish I hadn't, but anyway. I slept in two segments of 2 or 3 hours, waking up for the last time at around 8:00pm with my boss beating on my door like he's about to knock it down. Sean is the first person I know from back home that I've seen on this continent, and it's really good to see him. He's on the phone with George and Les telling them to come on over which is welcomed. I missed George quite a bit, he's pretty entertaining, for a short guy. I can't wait to get back to work with these folks.

Oh yeah, one more thing. The master bedroom has a fancy remote controlled light switch, which is also an alarm clock if you can figure out how to configure it. that's pretty cool in my book.

That's pretty much it for the news on the apartment itself! I'm still waiting for my laundry to dry.. I'll let you know how that works out.

Here are the rest of the pictures of the apartment:

http://www.gwcphoto.ca/photos/20090203_NewApartment/

My next post will be able my first outting to the grocery store on this complex and the awkward encounter I had with the lady working the counter there who doesn't know a single smidgen of English. Stay tuned!

Take care for now.

(Note: This blog post was imported from my old blogger site to this new WordPress blog.)