Life in the Meantime
So I had all these cool cooking projects planned for this week and even bought my groceries a few days earlier than usual so I’d be all set to hit the ground running this lovely Monday morning, and then I went to pour my steamed milk into my coffee yesterday, and something funky was going on.
The milk was off. Thinking maybe I’d grabbed a bottle with a borderline expiration date while not paying attention, I checked the date on the side, but it said May 4. Come to think of it, I had to throw some pork out the night before for smelling off, too.
I reckon I’m some kind of genius, because it took me two or three days to realize the fridge was on the fritz. Not completely dead, mind you, but just not cooling properly at all. B wanted to call a repair guy at first, but our fridge is one we got secondhand for 50,000 won a few years ago when we had to furnish an entire apartment all at once. It didn’t make sense to pay 100,000 won or so to fix the fridge we payed half that amount for in the first place.
Now I’m in a bit of a state worrying over the kimchi and various expensive jangs (fermented sauces) I’ve got in there, because the new fridge isn’t set to arrive for another day or two. The other stuff is a bummer, but the freezer’s still working, so the meat will make it out alive (so to speak), at least. Of course this had to happen in May and not three months ago, when I could’ve just put everything out on the veranda.
But the fridge conundrum finally put some pressure on an issue that’s been lying dormant since we returned from Europe: The Move. While paying more than we paid for the fridge in the first place to repair it doesn’t make sense, buying a new one if we are going to sell everything and leave the country in a year or so doesn’t really make sense either.
Similar things have been happening all month — the frying pan is finally done for. Do I spring for a nice cast iron pan that we could use for over a decade or run down to Emart to grab a cheap nonstick pan to get us through the next year? I wanted a nice set of Japanese knives for my birthday, but would I be able to take them on the plane to Germany?
I bypassed both the cast iron and the knives, but by the time we got to the fridge, I felt like it was time to have a little chat.
By the end of 2015, I was pretty much done with Korea. Not forever, obviously, but for the foreseeable future. I was ready for a break. My job was… all the worst things about Korea in overdrive, basically, and it was consuming my life. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I was in some serious need of some absence.
Now things are looking a little bit different. I vowed to myself, while we were in Europe, to return to Seoul and live here the way I did while I was on vacation, taking advantage of everything the city has to offer, looking for new and exciting things to do and eat, new places to visit. I’d fallen into a terrible rut of working and sleeping, sleeping and working, grabbing dinner at the same three places near the office, making the same few boring meals at home when I had time, and ordering in to fill in the gaps. I didn’t have time for anything else.
My days were full of pushy commutes, rush hour grocery shopping, weird office politics, way too much unpaid overtime, a never-ending struggle to keep on top of the laundry and a litany of canceled plans with friends. Now, instead, I take a walk around the neighborhood or down by the river every morning. I visit the markets during the day to chat with the women there and get their advice about ingredients, what and how to cook. I write and research what I want, when I want. I bake fresh bread every other day. I’m signing up for a pottery class at the studio up the road, visiting the neighborhood mill, eating at some of the best and coolest restaurants the city has to offer and visiting neighborhoods I haven’t seen yet in nearly three years of living in Seoul.
Of course it can’t go on forever. The center won’t hold, and eventually I’ll have to go back to earning more money. But damned if I’m not going to do my best to find a way to do it without sacrificing everything that makes living here worthwhile.
As for Germany, we didn’t reach any conclusions. I’m not really sure what B is thinking. I think life being less frantic for me has calmed it a bit for him as well. He’s got contract with a firm that doesn’t require overtime, at the moment, and I think me being free to handle a larger share of the home stuff has taken a lot of pressure off of him as well. B ended our chat about it yesterday thusly: “일단 냉장고 사고… 그것… 우리… 뭐, 생각해 보제.” For now let’s just buy the fridge and then… well…. we… you know, let’s just think about it. The phrasing was familiar. It was the same way my old editor-in-chief phrased his answers when I raised an issue about something he was asking me to do — first just do it, and we’ll talk about the specifics later. Only later never came.
Nothing has been solved, but I’m feeling okay about that, for now. And I’m more excited than any normal person should be about the new fridge.
Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.