After living here for almost a year and a half, last fall I decided I wanted to buy a scooter. I did all kinds of research, talked with some friends, and finally found another foreigner selling a 50cc scooter, which has the fewest regulations and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. In October, I spent about $300 on a 2008 Daelim Delfino.

I quickly realized that I had very little self confidence on the scooter, and Steven quickly took up all driving duties. For some reason, I was too scared to turn it tight enough. I always feel like I’m going to tip it over when I turn, but not being able to turn quickly or tightly is a huge problem, so I can’t drive it.

The scooter (Scooty, or Ol’ Blue) got us through the winter. She was low maintenance and changed the way I live here. I’m sure everyone has heard me complain about my route to get up to my school. Whether it’s freezing outside, or hot and high humidity, cold rain or hot rain, it’s a bitch to get to my school. It’s basically a 20 minute walk uphill – and even if I take various bus options, I still end up having to climb a steep hill which will leave me sweaty and hot and very unhappy. The scooter has erased this past trauma from my existence here. Plus, she gets us around the neighborhood – to Kayse’s house, Homeplus, and even Seomyeon. The engine isn’t all that powerful, so we haven’t much ventured past these lengths.

In early March, I was taking a shower and Steven left the house to go to a nearby coffee shop. Only moments after he left, he returned.

“The scooter is gone.”

And it was. After a few days of investigating with the neighborhood CCTV and the local police, we had footage of about 3-4 hoodlum high school boys jump starting it and driving it into the night. We hadn’t locked it, and they swiped it.

I had a mini-melt down. There was NO WAY I was going to be able to go back to walking up the hill, especially with summer coming. Not after Scooty had babied me into a speedy and comfortable ride. As a knight in shining armor, Steven scoured Korea Bridge and soon found a new scooter. An older scooter, but a 125cc – much more powerful, and now that we had the hang of things, a better ride for getting not only around town, but to other cities as well.

We picked up the new scooter a few days later, after the police told us they’d let us know if our stolen scooter was located. When we asked if the police had high hopes, if these things were usually found, if the criminals would be punished, we got a vague response. Sometimes they find scooters; no, high schoolers don’t get punished. That really pissed me off but what can you do? As an outsider, I could swallow the bitter medicine and get on with life.

The new scooter wasn’t as comfortable to ride from the back, mostly because it didn’t have foot pegs for the rear rider, but all in all it had power and was fast! Plus, we had papers and soon enough we had it all legally registered, insured, etc. I have a driver’s license in Korea, and soon we were set!

The day we got our new scooter suited up with a license plate and insurance, we drove into our neighborhood to a big surprise. There, hanging out in the shadows of the neighborhood gate, was our stolen scooter.

We were… shocked. The battery was dead and we couldn’t start it, but it was ours, and it was home. So suddenly we had two scooters! We don’t need two scooters, but we figured we’d wait until it got warmer, then sell the one we didn’t like as much.

A few weeks later, Steven and I went out to ride the scooters. I tried again to learn how to drive the blue one, and I couldn’t do it. Steven insisted that I try to drive the orange one. I put up a fight, but in the end he made give it a try – and I could drive it! I don’t know why or how, but I wasn’t afraid to drive the orange one. I could turn it with ease and didn’t feel like I was going to fall off or be hit by another car or drive it into a nother car. I was so excited! Finally I could drive my own scooter!

That evening, we drove the orange scooter to the movie theater downtown to watch “The Hunger Games.” When the movie was over, Steven realized he didn’t have the scooter keys with him. I thought he’d dropped them, but he was worried – maybe he’d left them in the ignition. Even so, I thought, who would notice that? If anything, someone would bring the keys into the theater to a lost and found.

Such a small town girl. The scooter was gone.

We were shocked and a little outraged. Two scooters stolen? TWO? In about the time span of one month? Seriously? Yes, we hadn’t locked the first one, and yes, the second one had sat there with the keys shining in it, screaming out, “TAKE ME! TAKE ME!” but we seriously had the misfortune of having, on two separate occasions in one month’s time, two separate criminals steal our property?

It was a frustrating blow. We had to roll the original Scooty over to a maintenance shop, where it was fixed up. Luckily, fairly cheaply. We realized that the orange scooter – the one we had bought only one month before – was probably never going to be returned. It had a license plate, inside were insurance papers, and someone had the key (and my favorite helmet). That scooter was gone.

Going back to the 50cc was difficult. It was slower, less powerful. We couldn’t take it around town like we’d been using the orange scooter. And we don’t have papers for it, so I felt really jittery driving it around. I mean, if we got in an accident or an old woman jumped out in front of the scooter and we tore her hanbok, we could be sued for thousands of dollars. I didn’t like that idea at all.

We had heard that a new law is going into effect this summer – that ALL scooters, no matter what cc and no matter if you have ownership papers, need to be licensed and have insurance. We asked Steven’s co-teacher to call the regional office to find out what we needed to do. She called and they said it was no problem, just to give them a heads up when we’d be coming in. We were lazy again, and put it off – until last week.

Kyungju called the office and came back with not such stellar news. Since we have a 50cc, which is what most parents buy for their teenagers, we had to have a “guarantor” – which is basically a stamp from a guardian or someone who can say they will help pay for any costs incurred if we got in an accident. It’s only truly necessary for those crazy teenage drivers, but since we had the small engine size like them – EVEN THOUGH MANY OF THEM HAVE CCs MUCH BIGGER ANYWAY, and EVEN THOUGH WE ARE ADULTS, and EVEN THOUGH WE ARE FOREIGNERS WHO CAN’T JUST ASK A RELATIVE OR ANYONE TO STAMP SOMETHING SAYING THEY’LL PAY FOR OUR POTENTIAL ACCIDENTS – we had to do that.

So basically, Koreans only.

We were miffed and frustrated. I finally gave up. We’re not riding that scooter anywhere except work and back, I declared. I was NOT going to jump through hoops that are too high for anyone from outside of the society to jump through, and I also wasn’t going to risk an accident without insurance or necessary papers. I was so over it. I couldn’t believe it. I was done.

Then yesterday, the cops called Kyungju. The orange scooter had been found parked downtown. The keys were gone, and so were the rear view mirrors, but a cop saw it, matched our license plate with missing scooter papers, and rolled it back to the station.

It’s currently at the shop getting a new ignition, keys, plates, and anything else that might be wrong with it… we’re hoping that it doesn’t cost too much and that we’ll be back up and running very soon.

Lesson learned: Don’t move to Korea. And if you do move there, don’t get a scooter. But if you do get a scooter, make sure you ALWAYS LOCK IT AND DON’T LEAVE THE KEYS IN THE IGNITION WHILE YOU GO SEE A MOVIE.

I hope we don’t have to learn any more lessons about how to not hand a scooter over to thieves. Steven.

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