I moved house last Saturday, abandoning the effeminate shut-in cum human wreckage that I used to live with to set up on my own. There are rumours circling that I’ve established some sort of love nest in a women’s university; the truth is I’m living in the neighbourhood around Sungshin Women’s University. The district is technically called Dongseon-dong or Donam-dong, but that’s too many dongs for my liking and the area takes the university’s name colloquially, and on maps. It’s a pretty sweet place for several reasons.
For one, it’s close to work, only 20 minutes by bus and a 5 minute walk. The area is a thriving mix of old red-brick, low-rise apartments, a crowded, vibrant shopping, drinking and dining district, and a lot of street stalls and markets too. Being a university town, and being a women’s university in particular, obviously there is a bit of a feminine angle to the businesses, and the streets are packed with young girls. You can cut the estrogen in the air with a pink hair-straightener but I’ll just have to cope with it somehow.
There are a lot of back-alley love motels too, which are abundant all over Seoul, but these seem to be more of the ‘discreet rendevous for couples’ rather than ‘married businessman needs a place to take his prostitute’ variety. But I’m just speculating. Despite this though, the whole place, even on a Saturday night – Korea’s big night for drinking and debauchery – the streets have a kind of family night out vibe, with lots of kids and parents about, and very little of the loud, vomit and stumble type of public drunkenness that characterises Korean nightlife.
My home is just near all the action, but it’s down a little alley just off the street, so it’s totally quiet. And, as per my usual requirement, there are very few foreigners in the area, which makes me feel special and I can convince myself my experience here is more ‘authentic.’ It’s kind of worrying how quickly I’ve adopted the word ‘foreigner’ as meaning ‘non-Korean.’ Although I did see two red-nosed old British gents wandering around the metro station in tweed looking like they’d taken a wrong turn at Harrods and ended up in Seoul.
My house is a one-room apartment on the ground floor of a small two-storey place – you can’t really call it an apartment complex, more like a townhouse minus the house part. Koreans call them villas. It’s quite big for a one-room by Seoul standards; I’ll be able to fit a wardrobe, a desk plus a decent table and chairs, and maybe even a couch, not to mention the mattress. Speaking of mattresses and by extension, sleep, I seem to be getting a lot more of it lately. The new location is twenty minutes closer to school than my old place, which translates to getting home earlier and waking up slightly later. This morning I got up at 5:55am and made it to work on time; I’m going to try for 6am tomorrow, an impossible sleep-in I never thought I’d get here.
I’m still working on the furnishings: currently the place is just a mattress and an ironing board – my belt is hanging off the fridge and there’s an iron in the sink. All that will change this coming weekend hopefully, with a trip to the domestic metropolis of Homeplus. Or I can keep hanging my freshly ironed shirts on the bathroom door, whatever’s easier.
Pics of the neighbourhood next update, but I might save the house until it’s presentable. That may take a while. Next update will come during the merry Chuseok holiday, and will hopefully see me sitting on the floor of another Korean apartment eating mountains of the world’s best food while old people marvel at my size and appetite.