Tag Archives: Chungchongnam-do

First Days in Korea–4

February 26, 2000

It’s a twelve-minute walk to the building where my office is.  I go out of my apartment and through the parking lot, down a drive and to the right.  On the left, at the side of the road, is an orange tent where people stop.  I’m not sure, but I think someone sells barbecue inside.  I continue past a field, with a court where boys are always playing basketball.  I don’t know who they are.  Far above, you can see university buildings.  I walk about a block, turning left at the corner where there’s a convenience store and some newspaper slots and a few other shops.   I have no idea what these places are, but that’s the benefit of being a worker instead of a tourist, staying in one place; sooner or later, I may find out.

The street slopes uphill for a while, not steeply but steadily, past a little set of stone steps, and some buildings.  One of them contains what’s called the General Affairs Office, and the President’s office.  You get to the top and start down.  My building is in back, with arches at the entrance.

It’s not as I pictured it, before I left home, a scenic jaunt through woods.  It’s streets, and hills.  But what I like is seeing mountains in the distance.  It’s a nice surprise.

I met the president of the university yesterday.  Dr. Park and I went to his office at 10:30, and we were in there until 12:00, talking.  He was charming; I enjoyed our meeting.  Dan had said he was relatively young, around fifty-three.  I thought he seemed younger.  He was worldly and smart, with a sense of humor.  He lived in Germany for eighteen years, so he knows German, and his English is almost perfect.

He has been to the United States, too.  He told a story of driving in some big American city and getting lost, and he was afraid.  He said that a friend had told him to carry a twenty-dollar bill, for giving to someone who wants to hold you up with a gun.

He was kind, asking if I was tired, asking what I’d had for dinner the night before.

In the afternoon I walked almost to downtown, to the post office.  I read signs and I  passed the prison.   It has some painted murals in front that make it look festive.  When I first saw it, I was with Professor Park.  “What’s that?” I asked her, “a resort?”  “No,” she said, “it’s a prison.”

Everything looks thrown together here–unplanned, kind of shabby.  The people are attractive, though.  Young students are well dressed.  Girls hold hands.

It’s a good thing I brought long underwear.  It’s really freezing in this apartment.  I don’t think the heat works.