from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #38: Growing Mold

with 4 comments

There’s pressure in my chest… my heart is beating furiously.


I wake and clutch my chest, which feels like it’s on the verge of bursting. After quite some time, my heart begins to slowly, gradually settle. I begin to slowly look at my surroundings. I see a red door. My body is heavy. I lift myself from my bed and stumble to the door. I try the knob but it doesn’t turn.

I throw myself against the door but it doesn’t budge. I realize I am trapped. A cold sweat forms on my brow. I am filled with an ominous feeling. What went wrong? How did I get here? Where the hell am I?*

The irony of this week is that I’ve spent hours in my room playing a game called Bang Talchul 3 (Escape from a Room 3). I’m stuck, in the game and real life.

From what I can gather, the premise of the game is similar to Old Boy in that a man wakes up trapped in a room and his captors have something against him that has some connection to his childhood although he can’t remember what it is. That’s where the comparison ends. In the game, you have to find clues hidden around the room that will help you escape… to yet another room to repeat the process over again. There is a time limit because the captors surgically implanted some sort of explosive device in the man’s chest that will explode if you don’t solve the puzzle fast enough.

I’ve also been wandering around my room lately, searching for clues of a different kind. There’s a funky smell permeating every recess of my room and it isn’t the usual musk of this semi-hydrophobic recluse. It’s the unmistaken musty stench of mold. My semi-basement apartment in the hot, humid Korean summer has become a nine-pyeong** petri dish. I came back from work the other day and the furry, black and green spots had appeared sporadically*** across my minimalist living space, on the ceiling and on the refrigerator and around my television.

I’m on the bottom floor of a four-story building and yet my ceiling leaks every time it rains. The landlady has hired various handymen to figure out the problem but none of them have been able to figure it out, partially due to incompetence and partially because I can tell they don’t really give a shit. So every couple of days, I have to open up a small opening in my ceiling and reach into the gap between floors to empty a plastic container I put up there to collect the rainwater. The first signs of mold came after I neglected my container-emptying duties for a few days last week, but they re-papered the ceiling and I thought everything was fine. As usual, I was wrong.

I soaked a rag with bleach and spent the other day hunting wild spores around my place but I couldn’t get rid of the smell. I’ve given up for the moment. I think it’s in the ceiling or in the walls.

You’d think that the smell would drive me out of the house to more writing-conducive surroundings but then you would be underestimating my imperviousness to inhuman living conditions. I spent two years in inhuman living conditions; I can handle a little mold. Besides, the musty smell only assaults my olfactory sense the moment I walk through the door and only then. My sense of smell is subpar and I get acclimated to disagreeable smells quickly.

At the beginning of the experience, I remember asking myself the same questions. What the hell am I doing here? How did I end up here? What the fuck is going on? A year later, in Afghanistan, I realized that I hadn’t asked those questions for a while. If there is anything that I can do, it’s adapting to a shitty lifestyle.

* This is a loose translation of the introductory scene of the game.

** For those who haven’t had to deal with the hassle that is the housing market in Korea, pyeong is unit of area equivalent to 3.954 square yards. I don’t really know how many pyeong my apartment is.

*** Pun intended. Whether it was successful is a different story.


Written by Young

July 22, 2011 at 9:27 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Get thee to an 옥상층 apartment!

    I thought they had phased out the use of pyeong a few years back. No? Old terminology dies hard.

    Kevin Kim

    July 23, 2011 at 12:16 am

    • It was the biggest place I could find for my budget. I don’t need natural light so I thought it’d be okay. Just another bad decision and a year of suffering for me. Nothing new.

      Officially, they did get rid of the pyeong system but I think people still use it. At least I do. It’s not like the concept of square meters are any clearer to me anyway.

      Hope all the GRE studying isn’t getting to you.


      July 23, 2011 at 2:57 am

  2. […] Random #38: Growing Mold « from the Korean Army to being published […]

    Mold smells | Becknell

    July 23, 2011 at 1:41 am

  3. Still sane. But only barely.

    Kevin Kim

    August 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

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