Location: 경기도 일산구 (Ilsan-gu, Gyeonggi-do)
Soundtrack: mostly sounds of crickets, cicadas, citysounds
I really meant to post more, sooner. I am entering my 2nd day here in Korea. I start my teaching job later this morning. Right now it's 3 am and I'm unable to sleep, due to the confusion induced by the time-zone change. But I'll adjust.
Last week was very hectic, in Minneapolis, getting packed up and all my stuff moved from my apartment to the storage unit I've rented in Eagan (near the airport). I got checked out of my apartment on Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning I was on my way, Minneapolis to Chicago and direct from there to Incheon – a 14 hour flight and a 14 hour time difference meant 28 hours in a suspended state of intraplanetary teleportation.
I slept a little on the plane, but never do much. I watched two movies – from the Korean movie channel on the plane, to get myself in the right frame of mind. They were actually very good movies: "Highway Star" (Bokmyeon dalho) and "Miracle on 1st street" (1Beonga-ui gijeok). Subtitles in English, so I wasn't completely lost. If you want to get a taste of contemporary Koreana these would be excellent choices, I think.
The flight arrived at Incheon almost 40 minutes earlier than scheduled, and by 5 pm local time on Saturday night I was through immigration and customs and boarding a bus for Ilsan. I rented a temporary cellphone and was thus able to connect with my contact from my new job, who met me at a bus stop just west of Madu Station in Ilsan-gu and drove me from there several blocks to my apartment.
It's just a little studio, hotel-room-sized, but with a kitchenette. And even has a washing machine. It's in a highrise apartment building called Urim Bobo County. I have no idea what they mean by this – bobo means, roughly, bourgeois, but without any negative connotations. And "county" seems to imply a pleasant suburban living environment – it's a transliteration of the English word, not the Korean word that means "county". Overall, I expect the intended effect is like the infinite number of apartment complexes in the U.S. with names like "Park View Terrace" or whatever. Basically meaningless, but meant to evoke a kind of suburban arcadia.
But, unlike suburbs in the U.S., Korean suburbs (and postwar urbanization patterns in general) are overwhelmingly high-density – thus this suburban community (45 minutes by train northwest of Seoul) feels more like Manhattan than like any socio-economically equivalent American suburb, e.g. Thousand Oaks in L.A. or Burnsville in Twin Cities.
This picture (above) shows the main street a block north of my apartment, and the fire station that will be my landmark for finding the place. The school is northwest, about a 20 minute walk – I wasn't able to find it yesterday, walking around exploring, but I did find a nice park with a little hill in it, called Jeongbalsan (which is also the name of my rail station), and I had a strange moment when the pine forest smell and the humid, red, sandy soil evoked memories of marching through Korean woods on infantry exercises when I was stationed here in the U.S. Army all those years ago. Smells are weird that way, so evocative.
Above is a picture of the big buildings peeking through the trees of the park.
Anyway, I've been trying to get a lot of sleep since I arrived, so as to at least be well rested if not quite on schedule when I go into work later today.
In computer news… I am trying to get my Linux installation to allow me to type Hangul (Korean writing system). I'm having some frustrations, but I can kind of get it to work through a bit of kludge at the moment, by typing in the one application I can get it to work in (gedit, the opensource equivalent to something like Wordpad under Windows) and then cut-n-pasting into the destination (e.g. Firefox browser, where I write this blog), hence: 정발산 (=jeongbalsan).