Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Kerosene Man

~…(bum, bum, bum, bum……)

~…Mr. Gas-man, bring me Kerosene (bum, bum, bum, bum)

~…Make me oh so warm again, so I can sleep (bum, bum, bum, bum)

~…Give me my showers back, so I can be clean (bum, bum, bum, bum)

~…Then tell me that my nights of freezing are over.

~…Gas-man, I’m oh so cold,

~…I cannot heat those pipes on my own,

~…Please Mr. Gas-man, bring me Kerosene

(**Adapted from the lyrics of ‘Mr. Sandman’)


It was a dreary, rainy, Sunday morning. I got up to take my usual shower, and some pellets of ice-cold water drenched my body. Oie, my showers were getting a little too cold for comfort…

That’s when Ken and I decided to call the Kerosene Man. For 200,000 won (that’s right, 200 dollars), we could get one canister of kerosene to provide us with 1-2 months of heat and hot water. Expensive, eh?


Traditionally in Korea, most people would slumber on an ondol – a heated stone floor. However, these days, they have pipes running underneath their home’s floors, which circulate hot water to heat the floors and rooms.

(Our spacious Korean home here in Andeok has no insulation, so it’ll be a little difficult trying to live comfortably every day in the winter :( )


So, we waited for him. It was a little difficult to explain where we were located in Myungdang-ri (even though our little village was only a 5-minute walk from one end to the other). I had to position our house relative to the Andeok School, to the main road, and to the convenience store near our house. Even then, he had some difficulty finding our house. We only found out that he had arrived when we heard the clunking of the truck engine on the street behind our house, and a bunch of confused and angry sentences being thrown back and forth from our neighbours and the Kerosene man.

I quickly took my umbrella, ran down our driveway and turned around to the street behind our house. The gray darkness created by the clouds shadows didn’t help my vision, but I saw the outline of an empty truck, still running, parked on the street. I stood near the truck for a few minutes and waited, hearing nothing but the rain dancing atop my umbrella. As I turned to head back home, I heard a man shout in Korean, “Hey, you!”

I turned around and asked, “Keerum Ajushee?” (literally, “Oil Man?”).

He nodded and I led him to our house. He nervously drove through our deathtrap for automobiles (our narrow driveway), maneuvering his truck between our rice field and jujube trees. After a minute or so, he finally made it to the front of our house without a scratch.

He brought his kerosene hose over to our tank, and started to fill it up. Ken bet that the man wouldn’t be able to reach 200,000 on the dot. I had to remind him that we were in Korea – the land of where nothing is as it seems. As the meter ran closer and closer to 200,000 won, the man let go of the hose handle, and what do you know, the meter stopped exactly at 200,000!

After we paid Kerosene Man the 200,000 won, he went into his truck, and pulled out a dozen eggs, handing them to us. “They were just laid yesterday,” he said.

Ah, the beauties of Andeok.

Thank-you, Mr. Kerosene Man, for the unexpected eggs…and your lovely Kerosene :).

- Jess

No comments:

Post a Comment