note: I haven’t quite figured out how to make the pictures small enough so that they don’t take up the whole page on this blog. Because of this small technical difficulty I have just put the link of the image on the blog. You can see that if you hover the mouse over the link a small snapshot should appear. The little snaphots just show a small part of the actual photo. If you click on it you will be redirected to a full sized image of the photo. I am really sorry about this seeming inconvenience.

Well, technically, our new place is called an “officetel.” Seoul has a few different types of housing: houses, high-rise apartments, villas, and officetels. The officetels are used as offices as well as living spaces, hence the name. They come fully equiped with washer/dryers, full kitchens, air conditioning, internet and cable capabilities, full bathrooms….etc. Some even come fully furnished with furniture as well as cooking and eating utensils. When we first arrived we lived the first couple of weeks with my grandfather in his high-rise apartment. He lives on the 11th floor. He has a great 3 bedroom apartment right next to a small mountain that we hiked last weekend. We moved about 2 hours away (on subway) in Southern Seoul in the neighborhood called 신대방 동 (shindaebang-dong). So, here we are in Seoul living in a little officetel three subway stops away from Seoul National University where Daniel is taking Korean classes. We don’t have the luxury of living close to a nice little mountain, but it is definitely a very nice area. We took a few pics of our officetel to show you all before the batteries in our camera ran out. I will post some pics of the outside of the officetel and the area we live in real soon.

This picture is what you see right when you walk into the unit. On your right hand side you will see a door which leads to the bathroom. On the left, further down, is the kitchen area, and straight ahead is the living area. Just before the living area there are sliding doors on the left which lead into a very small bedroom. I am not quite sure how many square feet it is but it is 23 pyung (Korean units). The funny thing is that the 23 pyung is not just the livable space. They also count the parking space and the elevator space in their estimation. img_1995.jpg

The next two photos are of the bathroom. Here in Korea you step down into the bathrooms where you don a pair of bathroom slippers. The reason is because the whole bathroom is like a shower room with a huge drain in the floor and the floor slightly sloped to drain the water. Some of the newer apartments and officetels have a seperate shower stall rather than the traditional style of just showering in the bathroom area. That is how our bathroom is, we have a separate shower stall but the whole floor will still drain. This may seem somewhat strange, but it makes cleaning the bathroom a cinch. You just spray your cleaner on the walls and floors, scrub, and then rinse it all off by throwing water on it. All the water will drain out on its own. The only downside is that you have to use the shower slippers which will be wet most of the time. This then makes wearing socks a pain since you want to keep them from getting soaked everytime you enter the bathroom so you take them off. Maybe that is why most Korean people go barefoot in their homes most of the time. img_1997.jpg img_1998.jpg

The next image is of the kitchen area. It is pretty small, but there is plenty of space for just the 3 of us. The whole top part is cabinet space as well as the bottom part. The fridge and freezer look like 2 long cabinets, pretty clever. Just underneath the gas burners is our washer/dryer. I haven’t quite figured out how this works yet since all the buttons are in Korean. But it supposed to wash and dry. One thing that I do dislike about living here is the garbage situation. I don’t have a problem with recycling but this is ridiculous. I have to separate our trash five ways: paper, plastic, glass bottles, burnable trash, and food. There is no garbage disposal. Nobody has them. The food needs to be taken out everyday and put into special food grabage cans. My mom says they are taken to be consumed by the ducks in the duck farms that are being raised for food. Note to self: do not order the duck! I just can’t imagine there being enough ducks for everyone in Seoul to have to do this. Anyway, it has just been inconvenient to have to have like 4-5 separate small garbage cans for each of these things. At the end of the day I take the trash down to the basement level where they have the city trash cans set up for dumping. I have to separate the trash even further there (ie. plastic bottles from plastic wrappers…). So now for the worst part: the burnable trash. I have to buy a special kind of garbage sack (it’s white with the label for the burnable trash) to put the burnable trash in. It costs 4 bucks for ten 10L garbage sacks, and I have to walk down the street to the corner market to get it. If anyone catches me dumping the burnable trash in anything other than that white trash bag, I could get fined. It is quite a pain, but I am getting used to it. When in Seoul, dump as the Seoulites do, I say. img_1999.jpg

The next picture is of our little bedroom. It is not a really a good photo since it doesn’t show the whole room and the closets. But it is really small. It has 2 sliding doors to provide privacy and it has built-in closets. The closets are really nice though. Our sleeping arrangement of choice? A traditional Korean mattress called a yo. They are thinner than a Western matress and they fold, or roll up, easily to be stored away when not in use. They are rather comfortable. One reason that makes their use possible is that Korean homes are still heated by ondol under-floor heating. This was the traditional way of heating and is still used by all types of housing today. We chose the yo because putting a full bed would make manuevering in our bedroom impossible and the bed would be hard to move. In the picture you can kind of see Maya’s yo. Our yo is in the plastic in the corner since when we ordered it we ordered the wrong size. They are coming to get it tomorrow and give us a bigger one. img_2001.jpg

The last picture for tonight is of our apartment, that we have showed you so far, looking back at the entrance. In Korea, you remove your shoes upon entrance of a home. You will also see many restaurants that still do this as well. Every Korean home has an entrance area for the shoes and most of them have a built-in 신발 장 (shinbal jang), or shoe closet. This is where you store your shoes, umbrellas, and any other outer wear you would like. I really like these and I want to have them when we get a home someday in the USA. In this picture you can also see our little eating area off of the main kitchen counter. you can barely see the two little stools we got so that we can sit while we eat there at that little counter. img_2000.jpg

I am sorry that I couldn’t show you the little living area. Our camera ran out of batteries. I will have to show you that later. As you can see the apartment is pretty small, but I think that it is going to be a great place to live.