Weekly Photo: Foreign


This week’s Photo Challenge is Foreign.

When I first read the theme I of course immediately went to all of the travels I have had over the past couple of years and thought about posting pictures of the beautiful scenery and unusual signage.  However, as I was scrolling through my photos it dawned on me that the foreign-est thing in all of my travels was probably the type of housing that I lived in during most of my country visits.

The MOST foreign of all to me was probably my first extended trip outside of my military travels when I took a job in South Korea.  When I first moved to Korea in 2007, I went there with my 15 year old daughter.  We were supposed to get a “2-bedroom” apartment near the school I worked at.  When we arrived, this place was not available and were were put into temporary housing which happened to be a studio (one single room in all) apartment with a twin bed.  This was meant to be a short-term housing assignment but after about 3 weeks we were still in this tiny little apartment.

I remember one night as we lay side-by-side (literally hip to hip) in this single room that sat above a mechanic shop and consisted of a twin bed, a camp stove, a dressing table and a refrigerator, with the neon lights from a million open businesses and the sounds of Karaoke streaming from some nearby club, Madison looks over me and just says, “What the hell mom?” We both broke down and just laughed.  What else could you do?  I actually didn’t take any pictures of this place though I’m not sure why.

We finally did get our 2-room apartment (Gimpo/Kimpo, South Korea) which was only slightly bigger than the studio room we had started in.  It was down some back alley that sounded like a farm and smelled like one as well.  We lived in this tiny little apartment that had one room big enough to hold a twin bed and nothing more and my room which also served as the laundry room and had a 3rd room which served as the kitchen and living room.  The bathroom was off of the “living room” and the toilet always ran and the sink always leaked.  There were so many cockroaches in this place that we would use an entire can of Korean  Raid approximately every two days.  It was so bad that one night Madison came into my room and crawled into bed and slept sometimes.  One night she sat upright in my bed and started pointing randomly at the walls saying, “there’s one… there’s another” over and over again and eventually laid back down and slept.

Gimpo- Kitchen view with door to Madison’s room. View taken from my bedroom door. Bathroom door is directly to the left.

View of my bedroom from the living room. The door is a laundry area. It was big enough to hold a washer and dryer.

Gimpo – closet that is about 2 feet from my bed.

Gimpo view from Madison’s door and Kitchen. Obviously looking at the living room. Bathroom door is directly next to television.

Gimpo – laundry room

Gimpo – Madison’s entire room..her ENTIRE room.

Gimpo entire kitchen as seen from the living room.

After about 2-3 months we left this place and the school I was teaching at and moved to another school in Bucheon.  This apartment was actually quite cool.  It had a long entry with a bathroom off the hallway. In front of the bathroom door was the galley kitchen that was attached to the living room. The kitchen actually sat under the stairway which led to our 3 foot tall bedroom. Yes, you heard me, 3 foot tall bedroom.  Every night we would climb those stairs and sleep on our mattresses that were on the floor.  The area we slept in had just enough room to hold one mattress and some korean bedding.  It was insane that 2 full-grown people could exist in this tiny little place, but exist we did.  We had 3 bowls, 3 plates, 3 sets of chopsticks, 3-4 glasses, one couch, one table.  That was pretty much it.

Bucheon view towards front door

Bucheon living room- view from kitchen

Bucheon View from kitchen and living room. Only window in the apartment.

Stairway to 3 foot tall sleeping area and kitchen under stairs. Living room is directly to the right.

Bucheon stairway blocked by kitchen stand. Kitchen sink, microwave and refrigerator are all on that one way.

Bucheon living room as seen from the kitchen.

I stayed at this school and apartment for the rest of my first year.  It was seriously lovely.  Talk about simplifying and down-sizing.  It was really amazing how easy it was to exist without an entire house full of things that felt so necessary at one point of my life.  After this first year I obtained a job at a university and moved into a nearly proper apartment where I lived for several months, at one point with both of my daughters.  Eventually both of my daughters went back to the U.S. while I continued to live and teach in Korea at this UNI.  When my daughters decided to move back to the U.S., I moved into the UNI dorm.  This was a TINY apartment, once again a one room apartment.  I actually miss this place sometimes.  It was small but had everything I could ever want or need.  There was a time Miranda lived in it with me when she came back to visit and ended up teaching English at a small private school for a time.

Seoul Dorm- kitchen and dining room as seen from the living room bedroom.

Seoul dorm-living room bedroom as seen from the kitchen dining room.

Seoul dorm bathroom, all of it. Hand held shower nozzle is directly in front of the toilet.

Seoul dorm- bathroom and kitchen and front door as seen from living room.

Seoul kitchen as seen from living room.

The beauty of my time in Korea was it WAS foreign but after a short time became the norm.  Everything was small and I existed in a space that was comfortable and un-crowded.  Both of my daughters miss the food and the culture and just about everything about our time in Korea.  It was an amazing experience and probably made every other “foreign” foreign experience feel not so foreign.

Other foreign views:

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign | Bams’ Blog
  2. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « beyondpaisley
  3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « It’s Just Me
  4. WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: FOREIGN « Francine In Retirement
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge; Foreign « So where’s the snow?
  6. Weekly Photo Challenge – Foreign | Canoe Communications
  7. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « patriciaddrury
  8. Foreign? | Thirdeyemom
  9. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign | Wind Against Current
  10. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign « All that I am, all that I ever was…
  11. weekly photo challenge : foreign | bodhisattvaintraining
  12. Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign | Even A Girl Like Me

11 thoughts on “Weekly Photo: Foreign

  1. I enjoyed looking at your very personal photos of your time in Korea and reading about your experiences too… The roach story got to me for sure. I love how you shared this precious time abroad with us, and those of us who have been expatriates can connect with it again. TY!🙂

  2. I love Korea, we have a Korean daughter-in-law. It was an amazing experience to go to their wedding and visit our new in-laws. Their apartment was small with 3 adults, mother, father and grandma plus 2 adult daughters living together. 2 bedrooms and all the beds rolled up during the day. The dining table legs folded up and the table slotted into a cupboard when not in use. the table legs were short as you sat on the floor on pillows to have a meal. (OH those delicious meals). Our son told us they had re-painted and decorared the whole apartment for our visit and also painted the stairwell to their front door, they lived on the second floor, no lifts…
    Amazing country, amazing people. I did a post on my blog about Korea also…
    http://pommepal.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/weekly-photo-challenge-foreign
    What a great memory your photos bring back

  3. Pingback: Weekly photo Challenge: “Foreign” In a different way! « Just another wake-up call

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