Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bundang it all

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Park, the school's director, called the faculty together to make a huge announcement. A few days later, he met with the students' parents to relay the news to them: the owners are planning to buy land, put up a big new building, and move the school to the southern suburb of Bundang ("Boon-dahng"), all by the start of the spring semester next year.
 Beautiful downtown Bundang.

I've been waiting until my feelings sort themselves out before I blog about it, but my feelings refuse to sort. It's like herding cats on amphetamines. (I mean the cats, not I, are on amphetamines, although maybe you need to be on uppers to herd those hopped-up cats... ah, forget it, this simile has been extended past all reason, like the 100-Years War, the Oscar telecast, and... ah, jeez, it's just getting longer, like a roll of toilet paper being played with by a rambunctious toddler who... ah, hell, never mind.)

Anyway, here come the hyperkitties:

I tend to be inert in my living arrangements; in fact, I despise being ert. I lived in Ithaca for 41 years and in St. Augustine for 13, and have been in Korea for 3 1/2 thus far. I am so used to my neighborhood. I'm right near E-Mart and Costco, I walk to school, and I'm a minute's stroll from my beloved Yangjae Cheon (stream), which runs for ten solid miles, from Gwacheon City to the Han River in the middle of Seoul, without a single car.

On the other hand, it's not really a neighborhood at all, in the sense that you could walk down the street and stop to look in shop windows or chat. The only street that even has a sidewalk is the one between the two big stores; everywhere else, you're counting on the drivers to not run you over. (Hint: Korea has the highest pedestrian death rate in the world.) It's not a very posh area; there are a lot of little mom-n-pop sit-on-the-floor restaurants and some folks wheeling handcarts around to pick up cardboard for cash.

Bundang,where the school actually started three years ago, is ten miles south of here. Unlike anything in Seoul, it's a planned community, laid out specifically to be an upscale exurb. (I suppose it's a suburb, actually, but I'm trying out new Words With Friends words here.) It has a ton of restaurants and stores, as well as a multiplex cinema, and the teachers' apartments are liable to be a lot nicer and bigger than we have now. Paradoxically, it's a lot more urban than where we are now, which is in the city. Bundang has a cheon, too, but I don't know if any of the paths are rubberized for runners or how far from it I'd be living.

But it will take longer to get to absolutely anything in the city, including all of the hashes that comprise 99 percent of my social life. Depending on exactly where the apartments are, I'd guess it will take between 15 and 40 minutes longer each way to go anyplace. And I'm told the apartments will be far enough from the school to require a shuttle bus to get to work.

We’ve been offered the option to stay in our current apartments and commute, but an hour each way from home to work, five days a week? Thanks just the same, as the patient with the DNR order said, but I’ll pass.

As for the school itself, it’ll be a whole ‘nother animal, going from 7-12 to K-12, from 120 students to 300—and eventually 600—and, if we get our first choice, just on the other side of the hill from, and competing with, the huge and prestigious Korea International School. It will mean a lot of new colleagues and a shiny new culture, the nature of which none of us can yet see.

That’s assuming it all happens, and I have to say it seems terrifically ambitious to think that it will all manifest in 11 months, without a signed contract for the land or final blueprint for the building. But Mr. Park is a good businessman, and this country didn’t get the fastest-growing economy in history by thinking small.

My attitude is que sera, sera—which Koreans never say. That may be why I don’t have the fastest-growing economy in history.

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