One thing that differs vastly between New Zealand and Korea is air pollution. There is not much air pollution in New Zealand, and in order to combat it, it is forbidden to burn coal on your own fire in Christchurch.

However, Korea is a different story. Air pollution is a major problem here. Most of it blows in from China and consists of fine dust (PM10) and ultrafine dust (PM 2.5) that originates from the deserts of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and northern China. It is common to see people wearing masks here, and there are apps to check the air quality. I use the AirVisual app and when the dust is bad, I wear a mask when I go out.

Ever since a few days after I arrived in Pyeongtaek, I’ve had a persistent cough and have also been sick. The doctor said that this was an “allergic reaction”, but he didn’t say what to. The other night, my cough got really bad, so I decided to use some of my savings and buy an air purifier.

So I headed to Hi-Mart after work last week. Hi-Mart is an electrical appliance store run by Korean retail giant Lotte. I couldn’t see the air purifier I’d looked at on the website, which I’d been told was good and fitted my price range. However, one of the guys at the shop told me that they could deliver it the next day. So, with a bit of help from the Papago translate app, we managed to complete the paperwork.

The next morning I got a call saying that the air purifier would be delivered to work at 1pm (I chose to have it sent there rather than my apartment). At 1pm, my class was playing with Morphun blocks, so I was able to check in periodically to see whether it had arrived. It didn’t seem to. When morning classes had finished, I asked my colleague to help me talk to the delivery man, who said it had already been delivered!

It turned out that the school had, by complete coincidence, arranged someone to come and look at their air purifier on the same day! So when mine arrived, they thought it was for the school and set it up in one of the classrooms!

My colleague gave me a lift home with the air purifier and I set it up in my apartment. It does take up a bit of space but that’s the price to pay for clean air.

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There are four buttons: a power button, a night mode button, a lock button and a button that controls the strength of the air flow. The options are 강 (gang – strong), 약 (yak – weak, but here used for ‘medium’), 미 (mi, very weak), and 자동 (jadong, automatic). I set it to night mode before going to bed, which is incredibly quiet, and turn it off completely when going to work or going out.

My cough has improved markedly after buying the air purifier. It’s still there but nowhere near as bad as it was.

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