Monday, August 23, 2010

Domestic Relocation, i.e. Moving in Korea: My Review of Brandon Moving Service

Moving in a foreign country when you’ve never done it before is the kind of adventure-chore that requires the utilization of all kinds of new and potentially crappy-time creating services. After finding out that my old employer basically wanted us to clean out our old apartment (there were many reasons for this, which I won’t go into now), we decided to go ahead and get a moving service to transport all our belongings from our old apartment in Mok-dong to our new apartment in Incheon.

Now, the drive between Mok-dong and northern Incheon is about forty minutes, and with the help of large elevators in the old place and a second-floor apartment in the new place, our moving expenses weren’t very high. Also, we packed all our own things. We found all the newspaper we needed in the recycling area of the basement of our old place, as well as some boxes there. When we were short on boxes, we headed out to our local HomePlus, where they keep a stash of boxes by the door for people to use in lieu of bags if they want. Finally, we purchased some small moving/storage boxes from this gmarket store. The latter weren’t very sturdy boxes, but they are nice for storing things like old toddler shoes, crochet projects, and random food items.

With PapaFish and I packing all our own things and helping Brandon move our stuff onto the truck, our cost was cheap. He quoted us 150,000 for the deal and was true to his quote. He arrived half an hour early and we got started right away. When all was said and done, we had packed the truck, transported our goods, and unpacked the truck in a matter of two and a half hours. Forty minutes of that was transit between the old place and the new, and an additional 20-30 minutes of it was me trying to clear out all the old garbage and recycling from the place before finally leaving it forever. (Even though there were soda bottles on the floor and rotten meat in the fridge when I moved into it, my mother just didn’t raise me that way. Yes, the fridge was dirty when I left it – but it was empty, at least. And the floor was also vacuumed.)

If I were to give Brandon Moving Service a star rating out of five stars, I would give it: five stars! Because he was prompt, friendly, true to his quote, and got things done in a time-efficient manner. It’s true that a few ridiculous things went wrong on our moving day, like my phone being locked and I couldn’t find the password, but still Brandon was patient with us and didn’t charge us extra for the trouble. I’d recommend his service to anyone! (link)

Relocating the Fish Bowl, v.2010

Wow, it has been a long time since I last blogged! Working six days a week really did a number on me after about 2 or 3 months. The last month of working Saturdays felt pretty unbearable, and hence there was no blogging and pretty much no creativity until the end was in sight.

I had been looking around at jobs that offered more leave time (in other words: university jobs) since April, but I knew most of those were out of my league. I had two interviews in late may and early June but neither were successful. Since I had about six weeks left on my contract with my previous employer and they pretty much dragged their feet all the way through mid-June, refusing to tell me wither or not they would renew my contract for another year (although I was exhausted, it WAS good money, our apartment was okay, and I really didn’t want TheFry to switch daycares), I decided I had better just go ahead and accept one job offer I had teaching elementary school at a rural private Christian school.

Therefore, I announced my decision to my boss in middish-late June that I would be going elsewhere after the end of my contract, and here I am: in the northern part of Incheon, a city-province west of Seoul. The school has treated me very well already, providing me with an excellent apartment within walking distance of the school, and allowing me to move in a full 12 days early, as there was that large of a gap between the end of my last contract and the beginning of my new one, which starts tomorrow.

That said, there are several things we will miss about living in Seoul, Mok-dong. First of all, I will miss my son’s old daycare, the Blue Grass Nursery, very, very much. The daycare workers were so unbelievably kind and helpful to us, and TheFry really misses them. Even after going on vacation from the nursery for a week in July, he squealed and ran to the head teacher when he saw her again. I never really worried about him while he was away there, and I was thankful to have him spending his time in such a nurturing environment. They taught him very good Korean manners, and he was getting along with his friends there very well.

The second thing I will miss is the availability of English-language services. In Mok-dong, we had access to free Korean classes, English-language medical and dental services, amongst other random things. It was convenient by both bus and subway. That said, I am looking forward to being forced to use more Korean out in the country – I hope my proficiency in the language will grow, and I also hope that I’ll be able to find a tutor or something so that I can really learn to communicate with people at a more real-world level.

The third big thing I miss is the availability of parks and entertainment for children. There are a couple of playgrounds around our new housing, and a few more areas to run within the larger apartment complexes, but there really isn’t anything in the way of the huge parks with fountains, bandshells, baseball diamonds, walking paths, and exercise machines that there were in Mok-dong. Then again, this area is a relatively new development, so hopefully as it becomes more populated, more shared community spaces such as parks will spring up throughout the area.

With all of this in consideration, there are a few huge advantages we’ve already found to living out in the country:

First, the cleaner air. I already feel like my lungs are getting healthier and losing their grayish tinge by the minute.

Second, the quietness and slower pace of being out in the country. I don’t get woken up by buses driving by at 5:00 in the morning anymore. I can go for a walk at any time of day and mostly what I hear are locusts and the wind in the trees. The scenery is amazing, with long, flat rice paddies surrounded by hazy green mountains. I often feel like I’m standing in front of a painting, and it’s quite therapeutic.

Third, the friendliness of the people. They’re never too busy for a conversation, whether in English or Korean. They also seem less concerned with the “propriety” that people in Seoul seemed to like – I’ve seen more people with unconventional hairstyles, piercings, body shapes and clothing than in upscale Mok-dong. It’s kind of nice to see people as they are. My son may get more attention as a strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed baby here, but people are at least willing to talk to me when they are ogling my son.

Fourth, the reduced cost of nearly everything. With the exception of maybe bread and real drip coffee grinds, everything is pretty much cheaper here than Mok-dong. That’s probably at least partly due to the fact that Mok-dong is populated with doctors and lawyers and people who work for major radio and TV stations. However, if it means 1/3 the cost of utilities and 2/3 ~ 1/2 the cost of groceries, then I’m all up for it!

And finally, Incheon is not necessarily convenience-deprived. I can still charge my transit card and catch a bus into the city within a city block of my apartment. I can walk probably 200 meters or less to the nearest grocery store, and I could walk within three or four blocks to a whole collection of businesses that include a bakery, dental and medical practices, a taekwondo and kumdo (Korean swordfighting) school, a toy store, and several real estate agencies.

So, while I feel like part of my heart is still in Mok-dong, I’m sure that in a few months I won’t be missing it much at all. I’m looking forward to this next year as a year to learn more Korean, live a healthier lifestyle, and spend some time relaxing and enjoying life outside the stress and hustle of the city.

Cheers to Incheon!