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The Suwon Revelation

After spending seven of the past eleven years in the Yeokgok district of Bucheon City, not living there has been full of surprises. Even though I tried to resist it, I developed a habit of mind wherein I conflated Yeokgok with Korea generally, just as I conflate Seoul Subway Line 1 with the whole system.

Well, like riding Line 6 for a while, staying in Suwon for a week has been a revelation. For one thing, people don’t look us up and down, or scowl nastily at us the way the used to in Yeokgok, or on Line 1. They don’t constantly comment or seem to pass judgment… and if they do, they don’t show it, which is all one can ask for.

The unhappy trapped feeling that seems to emanate from many of the residents of Yeokgok, the despair and the scary roughness, are much less pronounced here. People seem, in a sense, to be an order of magnitude happier, healthier, and saner.

Not that Suwon is some kind of paradise: there are still shops that blast shitty pop music onto the sidewalk; there are still morons all around hacking up and spitting their tubercular phlegm willy-nilly, still twits who don’t seem to grasp the idea of queuing up at counters, and plenty of dunderheads who think that the place to stop and chat or argue with their companion is at the end of a busy escalator, or right at the foot of a stairwell you’re trying to pass them to get onto. It’s not as if everyone in Suwon realizes that one ought to let people off a train or elevator before boarding, in other words.

But it’s so much less brutal and miserable than Yeokgok. I know for certain that living somewhere other than Yeokgok is something I should have done, even if I would have had less money in the end. It would have made my life better, and maybe I’d have spent less on things that made the misery of Yeokgok more tolerable. (Let alone being free of the crappiness of having the same bureaucrats who mismanage your workplace mismanage your housing situation.)

Ah well… for now, here we bide our time, pausing occasionally to pack a bit more and discard things and archive what we can as we wait for all the money I’m owed to come through (*), and some paperwork to get processed.

(* And waiting to find out how much I’m actually owed. I asked the financial services office at my former workplace, and their brilliant response was, “We don’t know either, but there’s a way you can check how much it will be. Just wait till payment comes through, then check how much it is… and that’s how much it will be.” I wish I could say I was surprised by this stupidity, but I wasn’t; and I was too busy telling them that no, I will not wait till the end of the month, and in fact they’re obligated by law to pay me that severance pay within two weeks, or I’m entitled to sic the government on them and a hefty fine will ensue. We’ll see whether they get their shit together in time.)

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