Friday, July 8, 2011

The Hunger

When we decided to move to Korea I promised myself that I would endeavour to enjoy the local flavor. In Jeonju this means temples, mountains, amazing produce, fantastic food, beautiful paper products, and the coolest cell phones available.

Both LG and Samsung are Korean companies, and they are so powerful on their home turf that the world's largest cellphone manufacturer, Nokia, has stopped even trying to sell their phones here. Getting in on some of that gadgety goodness was high on my list of things to do once we got here.

Although we got a phone almost immediately after arriving here, it was an older flip-phone with an awkward texting interface and a mediocre camera. I hungered for a smartphone, and nothing else would do.

I tried to tell myself that I was being silly and overly acquisitive - I am not exactly a corporate jetsetter in need of a crackberry to manage my portfolio. I knew I would only use a smartphone to waste time on Facebook and to play "Angry Birds" but I could not reason myself out of the lust. My situation was not aided by the fact that there is literally a cell phone store on every block. In our eight-tenths of a mile walk to work, we pass no less than 3 cellphone stores, and that is in no way an exceptional concentration - it's pretty representative of every major street in Jeonju. Many are far more saturated. There is one street in the university district where Becky and I counted 10 cell phone stores in a single block, and that was all on one side of the street - there were several more on the other side. I honestly don't know how they all stay open. With that kind of pressure, how long could I be expected to hold out?

Even Becky supported this particular obsession of mine, but I think it was largely so that I have a hobby that is as costly as her "shopping problem." I began to rationalize...

Rationalization #1 This phone will help me identify with my students. Most of my older students have smartphones of some kind, and they are on them constantly. Whenever they have any free time on campus they all whip out their phones and begin texting, chatting, playing games, or watching TV. Talking about the apps they like is a great way to build rapport. So you see, it's actually good for my job...

Rationalization #2 This phone will make me more productive. I can check email and Facebook on the fly, so that when I get home to my actual computer I can work on other things like this blog and my thesis. So, you can see how it will help me get more done...

Rationalization #3 This phone will help me learn Korean. I can downloaded several free apps that teach Korean vocabulary, verb conjugations, Hangul handwriting, and sentence structure. When I have a problem with the pronunciation of a word I can listen to recordings of native speakers to get it just right. So it will help me fit in here...

There were several others, even more tenuous and contrived than these, but eventually I allowed myself to give in to my lust. Early last week I asked out handler, the indispensable Kate, to help me get a smartphone (everyone should have a Kate, by the way. She is simply the best.).

Behold. The iPhone 4, in classic black. This picture is the exact model I have, but mine has a nice blood red case on it now. My hunger is sated, and my gods is it good!

Although I am a Mac user, I have never had an iPhone until now. I wanted one, but when they first came out I was relegated to a backwater which lacked AT&T service. Now, not only do I have one, I also have an unlimited data plan - for less than I was paying in the US for just a simple shared calling plan with unlimited texting. (The cost of cell service in the U.S. is just ridiculous when I see how cheap it is here. Makes me really want to go throw stuff at a Verizon building.)

I won't bore you with the techy details, but this device has simultaneouly unemployed my still camera, my video camera, my Nike Sportband, and my trusty iPod touch, not to mention reducing my time on my laptop significantly as well. It has also removed my desire for an ebook reader and my nagging want for a GPS watch, and even obviated my 25 year habit of carrying a compass in my bag. I've had it a week and already it's like oxygen to me - I literally panic when it's not in my pocket or within arm's reach. It's my Swiss Army knife, except for the knife part - I still carry that in my other pocket.

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