Daily Archives: February 26, 2010

Letter from Anyang, South Korea: February 8th, 2010

Walk to Work 4It’s gray outside and the sky looks as if it holds rain. The temperatures hover around the 40 degree F. mark, which feels positively balmy after weeks of below freezing temperatures.  I can hear chainsaws in the distance and know this to mean there are crews working in Pyeongchon Central Park, trimming trees around the perimeter and clearing dead or fallen limbs. There are always people working in the park to keep it tidy and beautiful with newly planted bedding plants, bushes, and flower, making it a pleasant place to linger any time of the day or night. I look forward to marking progress and change I walk through on my way to Hagwonga and Chung Dahm, where I teach, later today.

There have been two interruptions this morning: First, Fed-ex came to the door with a package addressed to me from Kansas City – a box of mail and Valentines gifts from my mother. Second, the pesticide lady, who comes around about once a month or so and sprays something odorless around the nooks and crannies of our officetel.

Yesterday I held a small-scale writers workshop for a few of the newly arrived instructors interested in same. We found a spot at the local Paris Baguette, a Korean bakery chain, near Holly’s coffee shop her in Pyeongchon and spent about two hours working from writing prompts for poetry, fiction and memoir. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience, generated workable drafts, and are eager for our next meeting in two week. After our workshop, our party of six walked a couple of streets over to Chicken and Beer, or Chimaek, (a pairing of chicken and beer served as dinner or anju) for dinner. I’ve never had such wonderful fried chicken, so crisp and flavorful, and the owner provided us with lots of extras, also known her as “service.” It was delicious and a fitting conclusion to wonderful afternoon away from teaching.

Anyang Library: Pyeongchon Branch (South Korea)

Recently I decided to explore the Peyongchon library. It’s only a block away, so an easy walk. It has five stories, including the basement level, where there is  a cafeteria with standard snack bar type food, an outdoor “lounge” on the second floor, which will be a great place to hang out and read when the weather gets a little warmer, and five reading rooms for adults (not including the reading room for children and parents on the ground level). There is also a “wireless internet corner,” a periodicals sections and what looked like a computer classroom (it was empty so I assumed it wasn’t for public use).

As it was Saturday afternoon, the library was very busy and all of the reading rooms were pretty full. Really, they are more like study rooms equipped with cubby-like desks. I took my time browsing around and found a room that was less full than the others. I went in and found a desk to sit at and began reading. About ten minutes later a young Korean girl came down my aisle – I assumed she was going to sit at the empty cubby-desk next to mine. She approached me with a piece of paper. She had her thumb on it and wanted to show me something…I looked closer…everything was in Korean, but I recognized the number ten just above the spot where tip of her thumb was pressed. I looked at her in question and she pointed to the top of my cubby, which had the number ten on it. “ooohhhhhhhh” I said, and got my things together. I told her “sorry,” laughed a little, and made my way out of the room. I was a little embarrassed, could feel my cheeks blushing, but I was not daunted.

I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I left the library and headed to the Acro-Towers Starbucks, where at least I know the rules: buy a chai, wait for a seat, race to acquire it. Under no circumstances be polite and allow others who were there first get the next available seat. It just doesn’t work that way here.

On my way to Starbucks I reflected on my library visit. I thought, “I have no idea of how one goes about reserving a cubby in a study room at the library.” I had noticed an information desk at the front entrance, but the man sitting there looked more like a security officer than someone who would arrange for reservations, and since I really don’t know any Korean, I don’t know how I would even begin to ask him where I could get more information. How does one gesture the words “reservations,” and “cubby?” I didn’t even have the phone with me, which has a dictionary in it. And of course, the signs are primarily in Korean.  I did recall, however, one reading room that had large tables in it rather than cubbies and wondered if that isn’t a general reading room for which one does not need “reservations” to sit and read in. In any event, now that I have collected myself and thought it over, I will have to go back and investigate further.

Funny, every time I mention the library to other foreigners, they all seem surprised and state they did not even know there was a library in the ‘hood, even from those who have lived here for a couple of years. Unfortunate for me because that means they don’t know how it works either and can’t explain it to me. Well, I guess I will have to figure it out myself and be the one to inform them.