Thursday, January 31, 2008

15 Storeys High

Our Asylums & Immigration Tribunal Hearing finally went ahead on Monday, but despite of all the research and reading I did in connection with it, one small fact escaped me - you don't necessarily get a decision on the day. So the wait goes on. Meanwhile, I'd expected to be going about the business of moving apartment with a weight lifted off my mind, one way or another, but now it isn't. Even so, the last couple of days has still been necessarily filled with packing and cleaning and generally preparing for the big day.

Yesterday, we went over to the new place - the previous occupants have moved out and we wanted to look at the rooms, and decide which one to take as a bedroom and which to turn into an office. And we were told there was a problem. As a condition of moving in the landlord had agreed to redecorate. Now, in the course of the immigration case, it's become apparent that there are people back home who think my big mouth, sometimes combative nature, and deeply cynical and non-trusting attitude have been a liability of sorts. And maybe it's true - though who can really say what might have been otherwise - but there are times when you need someone with these traits around, and that time is when you're trusting your landlord to redecorate, without stipulating fairly precisely how it should be done. So apparently, it was hideous (I did warn you), and we went over to find out how hideous, and whether we had to redecorate again ourselves, quickly.

In fact, the wallpaper wasn't hideous - it had a barely discernible pattern which Korean Mother took objection to - but it was nothing we couldn't live with. However, call us old-fashioned, but in my country it's traditional to stick all of the wallpaper to the wall rather than just pasting the outside edge - leaving most of the middle area of each sheet sagging away from the wall in a couple of places. If the apartment block wasn't only four years old, you'd swear it was hiding a chronic case of damp. And while the apartment had been decorated and cleaned - after a fashion - there was still graffiti on the doors from the previous occupants' children, who had evidently done their best to age the fixtures and fittings by about 25 years.

Moral of the story - never trust a Korean landlord. Well, never trust a landlord anywhere actually. And another lesson learned - walking around an empty fifteenth-floor apartment consisting of very large windows with very big drops on the other side of them,m is not conducive to Meniere's, or likely anyone suffering from any kind of vertigo or balance disorder. I need to live closer to the ground in future, where I don't constantly feel like I'm falling out of the building (yes, I know that sounds bizarre).

So we chose out our room and office, and we'll have to fit some blinds to the window because there aren't any and never were, which begs some questions about how the previous occupants dealt with certain aspects of their privacy. The bedrooms all have these strange dead 'balcony' areas which lessen their size considerably - not a great design decision as far as I can see.

Back at the one-room apartment we've called home for over fifteen months, a succession of prospective tenants came around for the one-minute grand tour, possibly missing the wall mould which is so aggressive in places it's likely to shortly develop language skills, as the many flashing numbers on our screens gave away our occupation. "Oh, stockmarket". Well, it seems like our landlord isn't going to have any trouble filling the place - apparently as builders go for the more lucrative end of the development market, small apartments are in short supply.

I'm going to miss this place, even if I'm not sorry to be leaving behind a tiny bathroom which somehow managed to be ten degrees colder than the rest of the apartment in winter, and ten degrees hotter in summer. There's something very convenient about living in a centrally located 'one-room' apartment, on the first floor of a small apartment building, with opaque windows directly above a mini-mart. Perhaps I won't have to listen to the incessant cry of "yangpa, yangpa", the training sessions of Korean Olympic Phlegm-Throwing Squad, or the occupants of the music school fifteen feet across the street from us regularly murdering The Girl From Ipanema, but it must be said that living this close to the ground in this country certainly gives you a good flavour of it - pretty much 20 hours a day. I wonder if Korea is ever going to seem quite as real again?

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