Sunday, June 21, 2009

Jjimjilbang and Public Bath

Last night, I went to Spaland inside Shinsegae. It was the first time that I had ever been to a spa. I knew that there were public baths, but I did not know what else to expect. I had not planned to go there until I got to work. One of the Korean teachers asked me if I wanted to go to the spa with her and one of the Korean staff members. Since I did not have any other plans, I decided to go.

The first thing one does is check-in and get a locker number. Then, one goes upstairs to where the shoe lockers are and puts the shoes inside and takes the key. Then, one goes through the entrance and gets a uniform and towels. The women's uniforms are faded olive green shorts and a maroon t-shirt and the men's uniforms are very burnt orange shorts and a tan t-shirt. Then, one goes into the locker rooms and gets changed. After that, one goes out to where the rooms and outdoor foot baths are. The water was around 40 degrees Celsius. Some of the rooms are very hot, around 60 degrees Celsius. These hot rooms are called jjimjilbang (찜질방). There is a relaxation room and on the third floor, there is a room full of recliners and televisions. The speakers were in the head rests and it was impossible to hear the televisions of anybody else. The spa also has a restaurant, business center, nail salon, hair salon, and massage room. When one if ready to leave, it is time to take a bath. The public baths are entered from the locker rooms. One has to wash before getting into the public baths. The baths are not too different from a hot tub, except that everybody is naked. There is also an outdoor hotsprings. After one gets dressed, one checks out and gets one's shoes.

I was a bit nervous about going into the public baths for the first time because I'm not an exhibitionist, but then everything was okay. I was the only Westerner in the locker rooms. Unlike in many locker rooms in the Western world, nobody went out of her way to cover up in front of everybody, and there weren't really any private showers. The public baths is an experience that is not so bad after experiencing it; however, I would not want to go to a public bath in America.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Tonight I signed another contract for one year so the next time that I will be back in America will be July of next year at the earliest. I'll be at the same campus and after August I will be the teacher who has been at the branch the longest and at that time, there will be only one employee who will have been at the campus longer. This time, the visa process is a lot less complicated since the only documentation for my visa renewal is the signed contract. The E-2 visa is complicated to get because one has to send an original college diploma, two sealed transcripts, and a criminal background check with Apostille, among other documents. Luckily, I did not have to go through that again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let Me Out!

Last night, I decided to go to the ATM to get 30,000 won. It was late, but I did not think anything of it. I went into the ATM vestibule to use the machines like I always do. The thing that I didn't know was that the vestibule closes at 11:00. I was in the middle of the transaction when it happened. Everything went dark and I thought I lost 30,000 won. There was a man in the vestibule as well and he tried calling SECOM security from the phone located inside, but it was to no avail. Luckily, he figured out how to get the door to open manually, or else we might have been stuck. If I had been in there by myselft then I would have been stuck until the ATMs were available again at 7:00. This morning, I wanted to see if the machine ate my money or if it cancelled the transaction so I went back before it opened and waited outside until it was time. I withdrew 30,000 won then and it appeared that the previous night's transaction did not occur. I updated my passbook and it did not show that I was at the machine the night before. I deposited the money back and it was the first time that I had ever deposited money into the machine. Here, since nobody writes checks, one can deposit only cash and then the machine counts it right there.