Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Hot Water Debacle

As many are aware, I lacked an air conditioner for the first week or two in Korea. Normally this wouldn't be such a horrible ordeal but Daegu gets HOT in the summer. But thanks to my perseverance and my wonderful co-teacher, we managed to get an AirCon unit installed fairly quickly. This thing is going to save my life come May.

With summer gone and winter very much set in, I thought climate control was the least of my problems. I was sure that the majority of my tribulations would derive from Winter Camp lesson planning, planning for upcoming vacations abroad, and coming up with new ways to alleviate the aftermath of soju. I was mistaken.

My Mom paid me a visit from the states over Christmas. We spent the first weekend in Seoul then headed back to Home-Sweet-Daegu for a few days before jetting off to Japan for the Christmas holiday. I was certain that my 4 days of work would go off without a hitch - only 2 days of training and 2 days of Winter Camp at another school. Manageable enough, even though I was sharing a bed and tiny apartment with my Mom and 2 large suitcases. Then the hot water went out.

I had my lovely coteacher phone my landlord to fix it - he griped a bit, sure that I was positively inept and couldn't toggle the Korean controls properly (despite the fact that I'd been doing this rather expertly since September). He dropped by the apartment and said something about "replacing the water" (to which no one could make any sense of) and the water seemed to heat up nicely for the next day or so. Or so I thought until my Mom proclaimed the harrowing morning she had in my bathroom. Casting away her normal conceptions of a shower (she has a very very nice shower at home, with fancy shower heads and marble and glass and, well, it's all very new and nice and stylish), she began her morning routine with acceptably hot water. Then after a minute, the water went icy. Thankfully this was the last day in Daegu before I was to be spirited to a week in hotels.

Then I came home to find my apartment sans heat sans hot water. I made up for the lack of heat inside with a space heater and electric blanket my Mom (oh so thankfully) purchased for me at Homeplus. But then there was the water issue. This continued for almost a week, during which I showered at my gym behind my house. This was not my ideal way to start my 7am days - scrubbing up with a couple other naked Korean ladies, sometimes singing songs and vigorously cleansing their lady parts. I just sucked up though - I really needed to wash my hair. Then finally, after multiple visits to my apartment messing with the same buttons, arguing that this foreigner didn't know what she was doing, and tossing about threats of moving, my landlord begrudging installed a brand new boiler in my apartment.

My water heats up to scalding temps now and keeps my apartment suffocatingly hot at times, which is just fine with me!

Moral of this story: Speak up, be persistent, and don't back down if you have a pressing issue.

As waygooks, foreigners, we are told to deal with our problems oh so gingerly - ginger to the point of ignoring our problems for the "greater good." In short, we are told to shut up and pick our fights with extreme care. There is some wisdom to this but in many instances it is complete and utter crap. I have a friend who battled giant mold growths in her apartment while others have had similar hot water issues and they were waved away with a "water doesn't get as hot in Korea as it does in America." It is true, if your battle is a small one (yes, you should just go ahead and clean your classroom if asked), it is a bad decision to ruin rapport by badgering someone about it. This holds true in ANY country! But in Korea, if your heat doesn't work, your pay is consistently late, if you have insect infestations, or if your bathroom is flooding, say something until it actually gets fixed. Sometimes you just have to be a pest.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-Albert Einstein

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree about sticking to your guns on the big issues. I have found that you will get a reasonable response EVENTUALLY, because the Koreans know they are snowing you and, I believe, are just delaying so as to not seem too eager to respond to complaints. Thus, you are discouraged from complaining over the smaller things. It makes sense, in a way.