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The B in Apartment 403

The B in Apartment 403

I loved my last apartment in DC. There were some drawbacks, like my neighbors. They either talked too loud or paced back and forth nonstop or liked jumping up and down on their mattress (a.k.a. having sex). I also didn’t like being on the first floor because people walking by could see into my apartment, but it was a huge one-bedroom in a great location.

I knew to expect that the size of accommodations would most likely be much quainter in Seoul. Most schools include housing in their contracts for foreign teachers, so that means they have the power to decide where you get to stay. And, most likely, they’re going to find the cheapest possible place. When I showed up at my school one December evening after flying halfway around the world with basically no sleep, the principal took me to my apartment, which is one building away from the actual school. After taking the elevator to the fourth floor, he punched in the door code (no keys here) while I mentally repeated “Please be big. Please be big.” I can get by in a lot of living situations, but I need to have space to move around. At my DC apartment, I could alternate laying in my bed, lounging on the couch, or sitting at my dining room table. I appreciate being able to feel like I’m different places without leaving my home or having to put on pants.

from Etsy

But, when the door swung open and I stepped into my apartment for the first time, I had to quickly face the fact that this place was tiny and I would just have to suck it up while I’m here. No one explained how the heat or hot water worked, and the apartment was as barebones as possible. No plates, no utensils, not even a pair of wooden chopsticks. So my first few days in Seoul were spent trying to figure out where to buy things for my apartment with no understanding of the Korean language. I survived on plastic plates and forks for a decent amount of time until Big Sis Melanie could hook me up with some metal utensils.

In the six months I’ve lived in this building, I still do not know a lot of things. I’ve never met my neighbors and I just learned that I have a gas bill and that I’m supposed to pay it every month. However, I do know that I live in apartment 403. Four is an unlucky number in Korea (and other East Asian countries) because the same character for “four” in Chinese is very similar to the character for “death”. A lot of places don’t even have fourth floors or they put “F” instead of “4” on elevator buttons.

from “25 Ways to be Lucky and Unlucky the Korea Way”

And I live on the fourth floor. So, I was cursed from the start.

Let’s start with the bed. Korean beds don’t typically come with sheets; they just use multiple quilts. But, I wanted sheets because they are easier to clean regularly. No sheets fit this bed though! I think it must be a twin XL or something. I had my mom bring some old twin sheets when she visited. They too small! And I can feel every crease in that mattress. No thank you. Miss you, queen size pillowtop.

The bed from hell. No sheets fit it correctly.
The bed from hell. No sheets fit it correctly.

My contract says that my apartment will be furnished with a “table and chairs”. This is what I got. A TV tray table. It also came with a shitty office chair that I hated, so I replaced it with this dining room chair that I found on the street. Major improvement.

The bed and this chair are the only places to sit in this apartment. No couch. 🙁 That also means anyone who spends the night has to sleep on the floor. So far, that’s been Nick and me when my sister spent the night.

My desk/dining room table/couch
My desk/dining room table/couch. Cute wall though.

If you turn around, you’re in my kitchen/laundry room. It comes complete with a “stove” on top of the washing machine and a fridge that can’t figure out whether it’s a minifridge or a regular-sized fridge.

My kitchen/laundry room complete with baby fridge

There was a TV in my apartment, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work and I watch TV on my computer anyway, so I put it in “storage”.

Such a great use of space
Such a great use of space

My bathroom’s decently sized, but the downfall of that is that I don’t have a closed-off shower area. I just have a showerhead on the wall. I’m fine with that. I’ve used them before, especially when I lived in Turkey. But, it just sucks having one with a big bathroom because everything gets wet when I shower.

Where isn't the shower?
Where isn’t the shower?

So, my apartment’s pretty small. I can’t do yoga on the floor space without bumping into some piece of furniture. But, it’s been home enough and it’s free. I’ve further supplemented my meager furnishings with a cow print table, a nightstand, and some artwork, all of which I found on the street.

How much do you think this would get at Sotheby's?
How much do you think this would get at Sotheby’s?

So me disliking my apartment makes it extra fun to visit my sister’s apartment. The U.S. military apparently values its employees more than my private English academy does. Melanie has three bedrooms. My apartment IS the bedroom…and the kitchen and living room, etc. You can actually walk around the place and there is fast internet. Much better than my ethernet connection.

I can’t believe it’s already been six months since I moved into my place. But, not for much longer. Next month, I will no longer be the B—- in Apartment 403.


Hagwon School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Hagwon School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

The first weeks at my job were pretty demanding. My school’s a private language academy (also called a hagwon) so kids come to class at our school outside of their regular school time. It was winter break for the kids in January, so there were winter camp classes during the daytime in addition to the evening classes that we usually have. That meant that I was at work from 12:30-10 p.m. everyday and I even had to work a couple hours on Saturdays. Gross. My Korean coworkers had it even worse. They had to work 9 a.m.-10 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays. They were so exhausted, they often took naps in the teachers’ office during their breaks from class.

And these poor kids. I feel bad for them because they come after their normal school hours. I thought that they would come for one hour a couple times a week. But most of them are bused here from their schools by 5 and then they study here until 10 five days a week. 10 P.M.!!! These kids are elementary and middle schoolers. They have to eat dinner here. They fall asleep in class sometimes and I let them. I also try not to always push them that hard because I don’t agree with their parents sending them to classes for so long. I think they should just be kids.

They are also supposed to only speak English with each other while they’re here. If they speak Korean, they get their name on the Korean Loser List.

A photo posted by @pitajones on

I don’t approve of the list’s name. One of the Korean teachers is so insistent on them speaking only English that he sounds exactly like this:

Apologies for the R word. Thank you if you know what movie this is from.

It’s kind of awkward though because the Korean teachers don’t speak great English. So forcing the kids to speak English all the time makes them speak crappy Korean “English”. But, some of them really try and some of them are really cool kids. Others suck.

Here are some things that the kids at my school do/have done so far:

  • They call each other “idions” instead of “idiots” and tell each other to “shut down” instead of “shut up”. I don’t know if it’s better to correct them or not.
  • They say “I’m finish” instead of “I’m finished” which drives me fucking insane. And where do they get that? The teachers! “You finish?”
  • The kids are very honest and they (mostly boys) have no problem calling me handsome. I have no problem with that either. One kid told me I looked like Adam Levine. Yeah…no. I think he just really wanted me to give him a piece of candy.
  • The kids watch a lot of movies here to practice speaking and listening. I love that because I don’t have to talk all the time or make that many lesson plans. One time they reenacted a scene from Elf and one of the kids was the manager. The manager’s black. So, of course this kid painted his face black. Whoops.

    Excuse me?
  • I gave the kids lifesavers and they think the mint flavor is so strong it hurts. Some of them spit them out. Fucking wasted my good candy.

But, I’m finally free from winter camp and ever so slowly settling into my shoebox apartment and life in Seoul. Another foreign teacher explained to me how to turn on the heat and hot water in my apartment so I’m set there. There are actually pipes that run hot water under the floors, so I never have to wear slippers.

Finally, here are a few of my observations about Korea and Koreans that I’ve learned so far:

  • It has the second highest suicide rate in the world and the highest suicide rate among OECD countries. Probably because their parents make them go to school for 13 hours a day.
  • They really hate Japan because they haven’t forgiven them yet for what they did in the past. One kid said in class that he’d rather commit suicide than move to Japan. I don’t think that’s very healthy.
  • When I started talking about gay marriage and marijuana in DC to another American teacher, he instantly told me to stop talking. I wasn’t trying to spread my agenda, but apparently both of those things are hella taboo around here.
  • Some websites are randomly blocked. I can’t logon to OKCupid at my school and I couldn’t watch a video called “Lesbians Touch Penis for the First Time” at a coffee shop. Call me a radical, but I think it’s my god given right to be able to watch lesbians touch penises for the first time.
  • Koreans brush their teeth all the time, even while sitting at their desks.
  • They also eat pizza wearing one single plastic glove. It look like this: IMG_2769
  • Plastic surgery’s a huge deal. Maybe I’ll get something nip/tucked while I’m here.

Can you believe I posted twice in one week? Man, all this free time and lack of a social life has its perks for now.

Seoul-ja Boy

Seoul-ja Boy

Once I booked my flight to Korea, I had a ton of things to do before leaving. I had to drop my visa application off at the embassy, move out of my apartment, and pack for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s really hard to pack for a place you’ve never been. There are plenty of blogs and vlogs that past English teachers in Korea have kept that did help me a lot. I learned to pack things like deodorant because it’s expensive here since Korean people don’t really smell bad.

I picked up my visa on a Monday and left for Korea the following morning. I also bought a new phone that I planned to use once I got to Seoul. But, this was poor preparation on my part because I miscalculated the cost of an international phone plan and I didn’t back my phone up. So, I got to keep all of my contacts but lost several years’ worth of work in Candy Crush. That fucking sucked.

RIP Level 400

I would like to give a big shoutout to my mom though. She helped me a ton while getting ready to head out. I think she was really excited for my sister and me to be in the same place at the same time. She claims she’s going to come visit, but I don’t know how she’s going to handle dat kimchi.

Y’all just jealous that you didn’t get a custom nameplate for your mom’s bday

A photo posted by @pitajones on


I flew from Washington to San Francisco to Seoul. I was surprised that the flight to Seoul was under 12 hours. But I still hate flying and have trouble sleeping in anything that’s not a bed, so I arrived in South Korea after having been awake for around 24 hours.

Once I made it through customs, I found the taxi driver who was waiting for me outside the airport. No one had ever held a sign for me at an airport.

This is what the sign said. Of course, I said, “No, I’m fucking tired.”

He drove me the two hours through rush hour traffic to the school I would be working at. I nodded off several times and really just wanted to get to my new apartment and sleep. Most schools here provide foreign teachers with an apartment, so it was nice not to have to look for one on my own. When the taxi dropped me off, someone from the school met me and took me to my new home. I knew to expect a small apartment because this is a very populous city so space is expensive. I’m sure the school was looking to save a buck too. I held my breath as the door opened hoping that it would be a decent size. It’s not. It’s a fucking tiny ass studio. There’s barely enough room for me to practice doing the splits.

I dropped my bags off and followed this man (who never introduced himself to me) back to the school. There I was passed around to several employees, and no one seemed to know what to do with me. Eventually, I was told to go to sleep and come back the following day at 4 p.m. So, I went to my tiny apartment, which I realized had no heat on, and slept for about 12 hours.

The next morning, I tried fiddling with all kinds of buttons and breakers to figure out how to turn the heat or hot water on. No luck.

What do dat say?
What do dat say?

So, I welcomed myself to Seoul with a cold shower and blew myself dry with the random hairdryer left in my apartment. I expected there to be some furnishings like cups and plates. Nope, just a bed, a microwave on the floor, and a TV. What more do you need?

I walked around my new neighborhood for a few hours and quickly realized that almost nothing has English translations. Living in Korea with no Korean skills might be harder than I thought.

I knew that my teaching hours were supposed to be from 1-10 p.m., so coming in at 4 p.m. was really like a half day. But still, having to work less than a day after flying halfway around the world made me nervous. What if I couldn’t stay awake in classes? All I had to do was shadow teachers, but I didn’t want to leave a bad first impression.

After one night of shadowing two teachers and the world’s most boring New Year’s celebration alone in my apartment, I showed up to work the following Monday with no idea what to expect. To my surprise, I was given my own teaching schedule and thrown into things. I was already expected to teach my classes all by myself. Wait, what?