Stephanie and I hate moving; that should be said outright. We can travel for weeks on end, living out of two small backpacks and sleeping in a revolving door of hotels, but changing our base camp always presents itself as a much larger chore. Each time we’ve moved we have rediscovered just how much stuff we’ve accumulated. The typical purging of unnecessary items always follows the call to move, and we pare down our possessions to a manageable quantity, disgusted by how much we’d bought since our last purge. This time was no different, but we were moving to a much larger and more comfortable apartment, so we subjected ourselves to the rigors of packing once more for what promises to be our final move in Korea.
This apartment is amazingly large. Typically this is what Koreans would call a house and not an apartment due to the sheer size and number of rooms. Before the building changed hands and was left alone and unused, a family of four had lived here. Not just for the size but also for the location, we count ourselves incredibly lucky to have found this new apartment. When we were nearing the end of our teaching contract we knew that our lease would need to be renewed, so we impressed upon our co-teachers that we would like to get a slightly larger apartment. Our old apartment was certainly adequate but the layout made comfortable seating, cooking without blocking the door to the bathroom, and working at a desk impossible.
One day Stephanie’s co-teacher informed her that he had canceled our housing contract and that we’d need to move out the day day before we planned to leave for Cambodia/Thailand. When we asked about where we would be moving, we ran into some hesitation; that part wasn’t settled yet. We managed our anxieties and started packing, trusting that our housing arrangement would fall into place like so many things in Korea inexplicably do.
The day we signed our new housing contract, we saw it for the first time. One of the teachers at Stephanie’s school had bought the building and he had a line of people vying for the unit he eagerly wanted us to move into. We toured it, agreed that even with its faults it was an obvious upgrade, and signed the paperwork that afternoon. Our building contains a restaurant, two private academies for math and English, and two apartments (houses, sorry) on the top floor. The businesses are more difficult to coordinate and settle, so he was smart in wanting to put guaranteed-to-pay-on-time tenants in as quickly as possible. So that afternoon it was decided that we would be moving into this empty building for the largest apartment we’ve ever had. After settling some formalities (namely, that I would be allowed to use the roof for gardening), we started to feel more comfortable about the short-notice move.
With a heavy smell of spilled kerosene in the air and light snow falling outside of our new windows, we set our bags down in the best apartment we’ve ever lived in. We unloaded the bare essentials that first night and took showers without a shower curtain. The next morning, we woke up at 5am and took a taxi to the train station and began our 18-day trip to Thailand and Cambodia. The next month when we returned to Korea, we carried ourselves up the three flights of stairs, happy to find that our apartment had remained structurally intact and that our possessions had remained where we had left them. Coming back from that trip to an apartment we still didn’t know was a bit strange. This new abode instantly offered us our first rest after a long time on the road, and we knew that we were finally home.