Dolla Dolla Billz

After a rather rambunctious weekend (by our standards), filled with board games, going to see ‘Chappie’, and a few games of DotA2, Kris and I sat down and realized that we were almost at the end of the money that we came to Korea with. Through everything from getting our apartment ready, to attempting to eat at as many restaurants as possible, we were left with a little under the equivalent of R500. Luckily, the point at which we realized this was our first payday.

While we had hoped that we might not use all of the money we came with, the fact that we reached the end on payday was a combination of unique planning and unexpected costs. We had planned for things like buying linen and small appliances, but some of our staple food cost more than we had thought it would. Simple things like peanut butter, bread, and jam cost between 3-4 times as much as they would in South Africa. Thinking about it for a little bit, we realized that sandwiches were not a Korean staple food, and were likely imported or made using imported resources. We then got smarter, and started buying rudimentary ingredients for the local dishes that we had enjoyed. Items like noodles, dumplings, and curry mix were far more reasonably priced, and our living expenses dropped as a result.

All of our learning as we go brought us to yesterday, where we both received our first job-related income (Christmas present money doesn’t count, no matter how bad your family is) since November last year. Up until yesterday, we had been expecting to be paid in cash, as we had not yet received our Alien Registration Card (a kind of dompas for foreigners in Korea) which is necessary for many things, including setting up a bank account. Or so we thought. At our lunch break yesterday, our director poked her head into the teacher’s lounge and informed us that we could set up a bank account with our passports alone. Kris then went with her and set it up. While we do not yet have a bank card, we have a bank book, a strange relic from a past age. We are to place the bank book in an ATM machine and then use it as you would a bank card, but it prints every transaction that you perform onto the book itself. It is a mystifying item to me, and I haven’t quite broken down how it works yet.

What has been broken down by the bank account, however, is my dream of throwing large wads of money around the apartment, Wolf of Wall Street style, and laughing at the zeroes flying around my head. I suppose I could draw the money from my account and still do it, but it seems a little wasteful and inconvenient.

So, after setting up our bank account and finishing our day at work, Kris and I set out to finish the last remnants of our money from back home, so that we could start afresh with our salaries. We enjoyed a scrumptious dinner of jjimdak (a whopping great pan filled with steamed chicken, cheese, potatoes, and happiness) and managed to find a wonderful, small chocolate bar that served white hot chocolate, a rarity in our town. With our stomachs full and our throats warm, we walked into the night. We might not know what is going to happen in the remainder of our time here, but from now on, we’re supporting ourselves. And it feels good.

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