Armed with my satellite photos as a guide, Jane and I walked around a neighborhood yesterday. A REAL neighborhood. The interstitial arterial only wide enough for one car, if that, yet lined with small storefronts supplying the immediate area with all the residents need. I thought it unlikely, but we found two real estate agencies even on this off-the-main-drag place.
Jane wanted me to learn how to engage the real estate agent and give me a sense of what is available by looking inside an apartment or two. Only we couldn’t stop and looked at about five. It’s not like in the U.S. where the housing on the market must all be listed and shared amongst the agents via computer. Here, the listing is at as many offices as you go to and list, so if you want to find hidden gems, then you’ve got to visit many real estate offices.
We began to feel guilty, but as the possibilities were being presented to us, I think both Jane and I were starting to calculate whether or not, if we saw one today, if we could pull it off. All a nice fantasy for me, since I’m really not in any position to come up with the key money right now. But then we found the perfect place, and it was painful, and I wish we’d quit looking before I saw it! Sigh, so I have to call the nice men back tomorrow and give them the bad news…(guilt, guilt, guilt, though I think it was more me leading myself on than leading them on)
The streets of Seoul are where I have to be. I was just SO HAPPY being there, it’s hard to describe. There were PEOPLE in the streets, and mo-peds parked everywhere, and children and dogs, and halmoni’s squatting on floors shooting the breeze with each other. And everywhere you looked was a visual feast of sights and sounds, undulating roof-tops, the clash of patterns, vistas out towards rooftops below or impossible steps going up, few things at right angles to one another.
The perfect apartment was in some halaboji’s house, behind a gate, past a lovely little Asian garden. You walked into a big room with a kitchen to one end, and to the left through beautiful wood and paper sliding screen doors was another room and then a bathroom at the end. All for 400,000 won. Character, charm, a garden outside, in a real neighborhood, affordable. Can I move there right now? Today? Ha ha! If anyone wants to contribute a loan to a key money fund, just let me know and I’ll give you my bank account number!
Damn Jane and her master plan of getting me hooked on Korea and Seoul and TRACK! She means for me to retire here, I just know it. And, she knows my weak points…diabolical. Truly diabolical. I’m not sure I can resist…
No…Oh well. At least we know these places exist and that they can be within my budget. Unfortunately, this entire area will be demolished in 2012. I want to live there, but it will be sad that if I do it will soon be only a memory – like my adoptee friends who have gone back to visit their homes, only to find the streets don’t even exist, the entire neighborhoods gone, replaced by deadly uniform new and “improved” blocks of anonymous generic housing.
I knew I was in a hurry to find a place – I didn’t realize until yesterday how dire the situation is. Korean culture will soon only exist in the country. Hopefully the hills will preserve some of it. I’ve identified about six areas similar to the one we saw yesterday that I’d like to explore, which hopefully aren’t on somebody’s gentrification plan.
I was really energized just being there. There’s about four more months of teaching to go, and then I can move. (in the dead of winter) Please, please let me find a place as cool as the one we saw today!