Friday, August 13, 2010

The comfort of Korea, the excitement of Shanghai

It is the end of day four in Shanghai. I like it, but it's bloody hot...I was rolling my eyes at Socrates for moaning about the heat, because, c'mon, we've lived in the Emirates. Then I walked outside yesterday.

Oh. My. Heck.

I will not deny the fact that in the past I may have criticized military and government expats for the fact that they basically live an American lifestyle in a foreign country, so they don't really get to experience the culture in quite the same way. Well, I've become one of those people, except because I'm abnormal, I'm living a Korean lifestyle and not an American one like I ought to be. Since getting off the plane on Tuesday I've eaten Korean food three times, been to the jjimjjilbang, and then, there's the little matter of my apartment hunt.

For the first time in my expat life, I have to find my own apartment, which is a pain in the ass when you're jetlagged and don't speak the language. The school gives me a RMB 3000/mo stipend to pay for this, which is not in any way, shape, or form, feasible. A nearby school gives them the choice of school housing, and if they decline, gives them RMB 6000/mo. So this has been the first hassle of my adventures in China, especially because I've been a little wishy-washy about what I want. One bedroom? Two? How much extra will I go over the stipend? Where do I want it? As we say in Korea (when we want to start a fight...): AISHSHIP'PAL!!!

Well, one thing I DID know that I wanted, although I'd been told was not to be had, was ondol. If you've never had the pleasure of Korean-style radiant floor heat, you're missing out. Nothing compares to waking up on a cold morning and stepping onto a nice, warm floor. Nothing compares to coming home chilled to the bone and sitting your buns down on a toasty floor. And since there were SO many Korean businesses around, I made a leap of logic and hoped against hope that there must be SOME apartments nearby with ondol (the Korean style of heating in which hot water is pumped through the floors). When I asked the realtor, it turns out I was right. But here's the catch: they're expensive. Still, I couldn't help asking to see one, even though it broke my heart when I did. Because the apartment she showed me was lovely - 2 balconies, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms...way more space than I needed, but a lovely place with a view straight into the heart of SUIS. I wanted it. I couldn't afford it. There were other thoughts running through my head, but basically I couldn't afford it, and I really thought I'd rather live on Hongmei Road, where there's a little more action.

So I saw a few more places...cheaper ones relatively close to the school...and went home to clean up before going out to meet Roisin. She and I both worked for GDA in our previous lives, but not at the same time, and I was excited to finally meet this enigma that both friends and favorite students were both so fond of. I am glad to say I was not disappointed....she's good craic and really knowledgeable and helpful, and it was fun to relive old times. She also made me rethink this whole apartment thing. She was amazed that I'd found an apartment with ondol and urged me to find a way to afford it, because those nice warm floors would be SO worth it.

And there was one.

I just didn't want to use it, because it involved me getting a roommate. Roommates can be wonderful things. I LOVED living with Sara, and there are a few people that I can say it was a pleasure sharing space with. There were also quite a few that made my life hell. But the moral of the story is I just didn't want to, for reasons that, upon reflection in the taxi coming home, didn't hold water. Also upon reflection, I would get to live a lot more comfortably, and would probably be in a better mental state. Plus there is a really sweet British girl who has been desperately trying to find someone to share an apartment with, and this apartment gave me the chance to do a good turn for her while getting something I wanted. I didn't even need to go home and pray about it (although I kind of wanted to, just to stall the inevitable)...I knew this was the right thing to do. So I texted Gemma in the cab coming home and asked her if she was still looking for a roommate. And thus it looks like I'm going to be living next to the school sharing a fabulous apartment with a nice person next year.

Life could be worse.

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