Expat Life: Moving in Korea: The Post-Game Analysis

Friday afternoon

Things have been a bit busy around the Asia Vu household:  end of the school year festivities (both MsCaroline's and Son#2's), arrival of Son#1 from the US for his Uni holidays, an unanticipated overnight hospitalization for MrL after a routine procedure (complete unnecessary - he'd have been sent home in the US an hour afterwards, and he's absolutely fine, but the whole thing was a bit alarming initially;) showing the old apartment to new prospective tenants(which means cleaning beforehand), and, of course, moving.  During all of this, MsCaroline has only missed two staff dinners, forgotten to post 2 sets of class grades, stood up one person who she'd promised to write a translation for (No problem! I'll drop by right after work on my way home!-which she did not remember until the person in question called her, wondering where she was) and showed up 2 hours earlier than necessary for a meeting.  (Yes, MsCaroline agrees that, ordinarily, punctuality is an admirable quality, but, in her opinion, more than 30 minutes early screams 'weird,' not, 'punctual.')  

All of this, of course, is related to last week's move from The Old Apartment to The New Apartment, from which MsCaroline still has yet to recover.

On Friday morning at 8:00 on the dot, a swarm of highly efficient packers appeared on the doorstep and had the entire contents of the Asia Vu family's old apartment packed, wrapped, and stowed for transport to the new apartment in just under 2 hours.  The unpacking was slightly slower, clocking in at just under 4 hours, but was still fast and efficient.  MsCaroline would love to share details with you, but she is too tired and besides, she still cannot find any of her socks.  Or the power cord for her iPad.  Or a lot of other important things that she wishes she'd paid more attention to before the packers swarmed in.

The move was, as noted, quick and efficient, although the way Korean local movers insist on unpacking everything into the new closets and cupboards( instead of just leaving the boxes for the owners to unpack at their leisure) makes the whole moving process a bit more challenging.

 In theory, of course, it sounds fabulous to have everything already put away on shelves and in cupboards by the time the truck leaves.

 The reality, however, is that the movers (naturally) wish to work as quickly as possible to get the job done, and when there are 7 of them unpacking at a furious pace, it stands to reason that they will unpack things wherever there seems to be a reasonable space if there is no one nearby to tell them otherwise. It was for this reason that MsCaroline found all of her coffee cups and water glasses in the very back of the highest kitchen cupboard, while the martini and mojito glasses were placed, front and center on the first shelf of  the most convenient cabinet in the kitchen.  (Note:  While MsCaroline freely admits that, at the end of the day, her thoughts were more in the direction of martinis than coffee or water, her point is that, on a daily basis, the coffee and water glasses would be likely to be used more.  Of course, God only knows what the movers think about the strange foreigners anyway, and, just maybe, easily-accessible martini glasses would fit right into the picture.)

The point is, when the movers left, every shelf and cupboard and closet in the apartment was full of Stuff, often many layers deep.  Getting ready for bed that evening was a bit of a challenge, as the Asia Vus wandered forlornly through the apartment, desperately yearning for sleep, but unable to go to bed until they could locate their toothbrushes(in the kitchen) and the sheets for their beds (in Son #1's closet, under his guitar, of course.)

This scenario has repeated itself a thousand times per day ever since, although things are slowly improving.  MsC feels that she's made real inroads, and is now far less likely than before to have a nervous breakdown.  The fact that she has to keep stopping her projects and going to work has probably been the most annoying part, but her co workers have been remarkably tolerant of her strange clothing ensembles (still missing the socks) and the slightly deranged gleam in her eye.  Life is slowly becoming orderly again - certainly, much faster than it did when the Asia Vus first arrived in Korea 2 years ago.  The adjustments now are mostly related to the new apartment, the new location, and the new dwelling, which - in direct contrast to the former brand-spanking-new apartment building - is at least 30 years old and full of annoying idiosyncracies and stuff that breaks charm and character, tucked away just off of Dokseodang-ro, or 'Embassy Street.'

Other highlights of the move include:
  • The discovery that the kitchen sink leaked.  MsCaroline discovered this by letting the water run for a minute or so to get hot and returning to step in a rapidly-growing puddle on her kitchen floor.  Naturally, this meant that everything under the sink (which she had already painstakingly located and put away) needed to be taken out and dried off.  Fortunately (if anything about a leak can be fortunate) this took place while the plumber was there to hook up the (AMERICAN-SIZED) washing machine, and he was able to triage it and call in reinforcements.  The whole thing turned out to be even more truly serendipitous when it was discovered just moments later that
  • The sink in the boys' bathroom also had a leak. By that time, MsCaroline had begun to worry that they had made a dreadful mistake in their choice of apartment, but everything was repaired in a timely and efficient manner, and (knock on wood) all has been peaceful since on the plumbing front.
  • Learning that the new apartment has very few electrical outlets - something that no one noticed during the whole real estate process.  MsCaroline should point out that the last Korean apartment was not overly burdened with electrical outlets either - she wonders if it's only Americans who expect to find an outlet on pretty much every wall - not to mention several spaced at frequent intervals in the kitchen  This challenge has been addressed through the creative use of far too many extension cords, which, besides being unsightly, make MsCaroline very nervous, even though MrL assures her that everything is safe.  Safe, yes, but hideous.  If only lamps and coffeemakers weren't so necessary.  Which leads to the next highlight, namely
  • The realization that the apartment's lighting is - well, strange.  Clearly, it was (somewhat) refurbished within the last few years, and apparently the refurbisher was operating under the assumption that foreigners prefer indirect or 'mood' lighting.  All the time. Although MsC would absolutely love to have been party to his thought processes when the decisions were being made about what kind of lighting to put where.   Sons#1 and #2, for example, must brush their teeth in the romantic glow of a low-wattage bulb which is reminiscent of candlelight.   MsC and MrL, on the other hand, can perform their ablutions in the odd glow of a strange undercabinet flourescent tube - mind you, there's no overhead light at all - that - as MrL remarked, 'makes you feel like you're in a bar.'  (MsCaroline has not put on any makeup since moving in, so she has no idea how Joker-like she will end up looking after her first attempt in the new bathroom. Stay tuned.) On the other hand, it would be entirely possible to perform microsurgery in the living room, and on the balcony, so powerful are the bulbs in the wall sconces.  
  • Internet Delay.  It is never a good sign when the Internet guy comes out of the room shaking his head and saying, "Uh... Internet in this house - very bad. Come back - tomorrow." (Given the fact that this area is older and most buildings have a cobbled-together sort of retrofit internet arrangement, it is not exactly surprising that connecting might be a bit of a challenge, but presumably the last tenants had not been Luddites, and, as such, would have already had Internet access, so the delay was a surprise.) As an internet-dependent family, the Asia Vus- who had already been suffering without a wifi connection for 24 hours- considered this to be a far graver situation than being without running water, but they managed to limp by for the next 24 by using their smartphones as hotspots and tethering their assorted devices off them.  The situation was addressed the following day when a different - and, apparently, more knowledgeable - Internet Guy appeared on the scene and addressed the problem in about 15 minutes. 
As with her previous moves, however, MsCaroline has made it a point to keep her focus where it belongs.  Yes, it's true that pictures may be leaning in piles against the wall:  socks may remain unlocated; Tupperware keeps popping up in the oddest places, and it appears that #2 is still living out of a suitcase a full week after the move.  

Nonetheless, MsCaroline has, with typical laserlike intensity, managed to maintain her priorities and create order where it is most important.  The rest can wait.

Friday evening.


Nance said…
...Aaaaand there you go! Wine is located and stored, glasses at the ready. With that, all things become a bit more tolerable, and you can relax as you sort through your Tupperware and Christmas decorations on your way toward finding the socks.
I think it is very American to have electrical outlets on every wall. We were pleasantly surprised by it when we moved here. British houses are never that convenient!

Well done on having achieved the move. I have mine to come in a few weeks, and am dreading it!
MsCaroline said…
Nance - fortunately for me, it's so hot in Seoul now, I only need socks if I'm going to the gym - which, I feel sure you'll understand, has not been on the top of my priority list for some time. The Tupperware, on the other hand, is making me insane: the OCD part of me wants to throw away anything that does not have a matching lid, but my logical brain keeps telling me it may show up at some point, so I have a shelf full of unmatched Tupperware, sitting there sort of like a dog shelter full of animals awaiting either adoption or euthanasia. I probably need to set myself a deadline of some sort for accepting that the lids will never be found. I guarantee you, the day after I put them all in recycling,though, all the lids will appear. You just watch.
MsCaroline said…
NVG - Yes, I had begun to suspect that, although it doesn't make sense to me that every inhabitant is forced to keep their furniture and appliances in the same locations (see, there's that American individuality again!) My next step may well be battery-powered lamps.; )

Good luck with the move: the good news is that you've already done one international move, and this time at least you know what to expect on the other end. I'll be curious to hear about the repatriation process. I've heard from more than one person that it is not as simple as one would expect - plus some extra challenges in your case -save those spoons when possible. Luckily, you'll have a great support system awaiting you when you return, which should help a little bit, especially with keeping the boys entertained (that was always so helpful when we moved!) Thanks for taking the time to comment - I know you must be up to your ears right now in packing and sorting and saying goodbye. Will be thinking of you in weeks to come and looking forward to your own post-game analysis. xx
Oh how well I know the Moving Mambo you're currently dancing! And oh how I pray that we don't move any time soon... our shelf-life in any one spot seems to be about 12 months. I'm getting too old for this nonsense! Here's hoping it'll all be sorted out post haste!
BavarianSojourn said…
There you go. The important stuff (the wine) has found it's place in your new kitchen! Hope you get all the bullet points sorted out ASAP! Happy new home!!! :)
Trish said…
So lovely to get back to reading your posts again. There is something very soothing about them and I'm not quite sure why when cupboard rearranging and plumbing issues are mentioned.
Here's to your new happy home - may you have light and Internet access x

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