Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Thrill is Gone, Pt. 2

So we made it through the first night in the garbage pail. We tried to build a makeshift crib with suitcases around a folded blanket, but the Murph would have none of it. So we did our best to cosleep on the blanket pile. It is a foggy haze, but I know she was up playing for part of the night, and we woke up to things scattered around the room and a diaper in JD's hat.

I had emailed my director and told her the apartment was unacceptable, unlivable, unbelievable. She agreed to immediately take me around to look at new apartments, 9 am Monday (our first day in the country). I was hesitant to leave my family so soon, but we desperately wanted out of there. So I went.

She took me to 3 apartments.

The first was beautiful, brand new, shiny, clean. But it was far away from the school and I would have to help supplement the rent. Sorry, can't afford that on a hagwon teacher's salary. Next.

Apartment 2 was spacious, with a proper kitchen area and a nice big Korean balcony. And every single wall had black mold at least up to my shoulders. Nope.

The 3rd apartment was similar to the one we had slept in, but was clean. It was a basement apartment (ahh, there it is, the basement). We agreed that it may end up being quieter, being underground. We thought it might stay cooler in the summer. We talked about those awesome hipsters who build tiny homes on purpose. We justified the hell out of it, just to get out of the hell we were in. It was not better.

We did our best to stay positive and try to make it work. We bought fans and a dehumidifier and a portable air conditioner and an air purifier. We bought tension-rod wardrobes to make up for the complete lack of storage. We bought a small table tall enough to put suitcases under, but narrow enough to fit in our bedroom/living room.

Some incredibly generous friends gave us $1000 to make our transition to the other side of the planet more comfortable, and we used every dime to try to make a 348 square foot, moldy basement apartment work for the 3 of us.

We didn't realize how much it DIDN'T work until a couple of my Korean friends/coworkers came by to check on us. Their faces said it all. Thanks to their interventions, my director agreed to find a new place for us. In fact, she took us around that next weekend to look at apartments.

We went all over the area, seeing some places twice, even looking at places out of our price range and out of town, desperately trying to find something that was available and would work.

Finally, we found a gem just up the street. It had a big open living space we could use as a studio apartment, plus an additional small room we could use as Murphy's room. It was in a high rise. It was clean, in a nice area, had lots of built-in storage. It was available. We were excited.

Then we were told we couldn't move until they found a new tenant for our current apartment. And that it may take a while because it was A SHITTY APARTMENT that nobody wanted.

We were crushed. Again.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Thrill is Gone, Pt. 1

Oh, sweet naive Emily of the previous post. I envy your enthusiasm, your excitement at the semi-unknown, your pride in your husband's trust, your optimism.

Your optimism.

God, was it high. And when things are that high, they have a long way to fall.

I haven't posted in a while (she said, unnecessarily, but to have an easy paragraph-starter)... I haven't posted in a while, because it hasn't been a priority. And also, I didn't want to be a downer. But then I remembered that this is my blog. My blog that I originally began in order to keep friends and family apprised of my Korean adventures, but now will absolutely be more of a family album of sorts - but words, not pictures (which I prefer, anyhow). So I will be a downer all I want. Because, unfortunately, that's where this story begins.


Way down.

But not in the basement. Yet.

We landed in Korea on Sunday, April 17. Murphy promptly threw up all over me at touchdown. We were reassured by another foreigner that it's normal - his kids make the trip back and forth all the time, he said, and they just get so exhausted, they puke. We accepted this. We know now it was a warning.

After changing clothes in the bathroom, we made our way to Immigration. Incheon International was undergoing some construction, so the line for Immigration was about 2 hours long, extending into a sweltering hallway. When we finally got close enough to see the rope maze, a kind airport employee (dressed festively in a hanbok) looked at us with pity and escorted us to one of the Immigration officers. God bless that woman.

An employee from the school met us and we got to ride in the school's van back to Suji (where we live now). It was fun seeing the old familiar signs and highways and towns. I loved being back. I loved that I was here with my family. The future was so fucking bright.

Then we got to our apartment. Which was, per the contract, a "furnished, two-bedroom" apartment. Which I had specifically and repeatedly requested be furnished with a crib, if nothing else, because that's the only place Murphy sleeps. I even sent the exact Ikea model for which I would have been happy to reimburse the school, so long as my overtired toddler had a place to sleep when we arrived.


We walked into a literal two-room apartment (we now know was about 300 square feet). One small bedroom, another less-small bedroom, a hallway kitchen (that's not a missing comma, it was a hallway-kitchen) and a bathroom. With a broken sink that wasn't even connected to the pipes below it. And a gag-inducing sewage and mold smell.

And no. motherfucking. furnishings.

We had a pile of used blankets and a couple of dirty pillows on the floor of one bedroom. That was it.

That was it.

No place for Murphy. No crib. Not even a friendly bottle of water in the fridge to say "Hey, thanks for moving your whole family across the world, please hydrate."

I was livid. I called a dear friend who has been here for a decade, and told him I was ready to go back into Seoul right then, get a hotel, and fly out first thing the next morning. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run away.

I wanted better for my family. I wanted to stop this guilt rushing in - guilt at the living conditions, guilt that my husband's trust was so misplaced, guilt that I ripped my child away from everyone who loves her (minus us, of course) and brought her to a garbage heap. I wanted a place to sleep.

I wanted to fix it.