Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prose and (re)cons

With a week off from work, I'm looking for reasons to get out of the apartment. Yesterday, I stopped in at school for a bit. I seem to work better there than at home, perhaps because the school offers bare, flat surfaces larger than a deck of playing cards.

When I was done, I was halfway to the subway station anyway and looking for something to do. I nearly went up to Gangnam because I felt like watching a movie, but paying to see John Carter, whose reviews range from "It stinks" to "It doesn't stink that bad" didn't appeal. So, on the spur of the moment, I took the train south to Jeongja Station in Bundang. If Mr. Park gets his first choice of location for our new building, our school will be right near Jeongja next year.

I've been to Bundang a few times, most notably when I took the KTX up from Daegu for the interview that got me the job in the first place, but I wanted to get a better feel for the area. Jeongja is three stops, 12 minutes, down the new subway line from Citizen's Forest, the nearest stop from my current location. The subway stop now is a 15-minute walk from my apartment, so it wouldn't cost me extra time to get to the places I go to now, provided, of course, that I actually live on the Jeongja Station platform.

Upon emerging on the street at Jeongja, I felt as if I were in a different world: there is so much sky. You have the buildings on one side, a sidewalk, an eight-lane road (or, as we say at the hash, an "eight-road lane, because things in Korea aren't... quite... right"), a sidewalk, a grassy bank down to a walking path, a wide, soft running path, a wide, perfectly straight stream, a running path, a walking path, a rise back to street level, a sidewalk, an eight-lane road, a sidewalk, and finally buildings.

All in all, it must be 100 yards from building to facing building, which is about 95 yards more than in most of my current neighborhood. I've been taking for granted how constricted life is here; you have to go way up on a hountain to get a feeling of space, and then there are all those damn trees in the way. (I kid; Mother Nature and I go 'way back.) Here, it was both exhilarating and somehow unsettling. I felt like a gerbil taken out of his cage and dropped on the 50-yard-line at the Rose Bowl.

Bundang is the land of the 40-story apartment buildings; I didn't even try to count the officetels (commercial-residential highrises), but they were everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more people living in one block of Bundang than in all of St. Augustine. I'm not so easy being above, say, the fourth floor, so when we all move there, it will be quite an adjustment.

And not for all the kimchi in Korea would I live here:

You want me to live supported by 180 feet of air? Nuh-uh. Even Seoul air isn't that thick.

Once I got off the main street, I found narrow pedestrian malls lined with shops and restaurants, stacked up for a half-dozen floors, as is so common in Korea. I admit it felt more like what I'm used to. In particular, I found three establishments of interest:
  • A hot dog and burger place called "Dog and Bug". (Perhaps the locals should learn the difference between "burger" and "bugger".)
  • The "Drunken Bob Cafe". Nice to know where I'll be able to find my friend and colleague Bob Ellison.
  • "Hera", which judging from the name and the sign, which shows silhouettes of four women sharing cocktails, is the first lesbian bar I've ever seen in Korea. I would have gone up, but they're only open from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. and I realized that, if you want to get really technical, I'm not a woman.
I love being outdoors, and I don't think I'd like running along the wide, slow-moving, stream that stretches straight as an arrow as far as the eye can see; with no landmarks, it would feel as if I weren't moving at all. (Which, actually, at my speed isn't far from the truth.) But I do like that there's a big hountain for hiking just a few blocks away.
    I don't know quite where we'll all live, or even where the school will be, when we move next year. But my recon reinforced what I already know: Bundang is the opposite of Yangjae. Here, the buildings are low and set close, pedestrians play Dodge 'Em with the cars wending down the narrow streets, my running path on the Yangjae Cheon winds around and up and down and across and feels organic, and I can walk to work in six minutes. There, not so much.

    I don't know if it will be good or bad. But it will be different.

    1 comment:

    George Kozak said...

    You should see "John Carter"...I and everyone I know that has seen it loves the movie. I really can't figure out all the hate directed toward it. It's almost as if the industry wants the movie to fail. Did you know that Disney didn't even bother to market any toys on the movie(?!?!). Very strange!
    Your old pal: