When we got to Gangwon-do, we were placed in an apartment in Samcheok, about 40km from our school in Dogye. Samcheok has a population of over 50k (whereas I would guess Dogye is between 5k - 10k) and feels much more cosmopolitan, and less poor, than Dogye. It's a nice apartment, and I'm sure the administration had our best interests in mind when they chose it, but leaving at 7:40 every morning for a 4,000won bus ride to get to school at 9 just isn't what we had in mind.
So we asked the school what they could do. They said nothing. There are no apartments in Dogye, and besides it's: cold in the winter, no locks on the doors, heating is with oil and is expensive, there's too much poverty, and no cultural activities like Homeplus (the k-mart of Korea). We insisted it was where we wanted to be and after they came back to us and said that it was impossible, we started going up the chain of command asking what could be done. When we had gotten to the Director of Education for the province, we were told, at 4:55 on a Friday afternoon, that there were two places in Dogye that we could see next week. That was last Friday.
On Monday, we were taken to see one apartment that was about half the size of the one we're currently living in, and older, but fine. But it was the apartment of a mother of a student who had no plans to move. So what was available? We asked, through Kim Sun (a 24 year old female teacher who is supposed to be our translator and advocate in dealing with the bureaucracy that is numbers 1, 2, 3 & 4 at the school, all 50+ men in suits) and were repeatedly brushed off with answers like, if you say you like it, we'll contract an apartment.
We were also taken to see a "house" for which the front door entered into the bathroom. Walking strait from the front door, you entered an 8' by 10' room with a light bulb dangling from the ceiling, continuing strait you walk into the third room, 8' by 8' with crooked floors and mold growing through the wallpaper. No kitchen to be seen. So we said no to the house.
Then yesterday, on my way out of a class I was told by four different teachers to go to the teachers' room. When I got there a group of six people were talking about us (this happens a lot, we hear our names, but aren't looked at our attempted to communicate with), and eventually we got a "let's go." So we drove (up a hill that couldn't have been less than 10% and might have been pushing 15%) to an apartment that was also small, but fine. Nicer than the one we had seen the other day, with amazing views. Dogye is high up in the Taebaek Mountain Range, and we're going to be living high up in Dogye.
The apartment is surrounded by wild mountains, has massive windows and sunflowers painted on the wall by the entrance. It's small, but it's clean and feels good. And it's heated by gas, which will avert $400/month heating costs in the winter. And there's a lock on the door. ;)
So we left the apartment feeling great and were dropped off at school, at which point two admin went with the realtor, we could only assume to sign papers. Then in my next class, with Kim Sun, I was told that we could move anytime we wanted next week, and we will have to pay the moving costs. How much? About 600,000 won (~$450). At this I became visibly upset, the first time that's happened so far. I think I probably spoke too fast and hurt Kim Sun's head, but by that afternoon we were told that it had been taken care of and we wouldn't have to pay. You can't blame them for trying. Wait, yes, you can, and I do.
So we're almost done with this drama. The next task will be explaining that we can't possibly take all this furniture to that little apartment. The huge TV that's currently in a closet here can't come with us... I hope they have somewhere to take it. I had thought of asking for a travel reimbursement for the two months we did this crazy commute, but at this point I think I'll just settle for it being done.
Today is pay day #2. Both of our paychecks had errors last month... we'll see if that's been taken care of now, or if we'll have to beat our heads against the bureaucracy for that too. Either way, the won is trading at 1,400 to the dollar, fully a third less than when we decided to come here, and it's time for me to make a transfer to dollars. Yikes.