a ridiculous story

koreans are pretty serious about separating their trash. in parks and public areas it is not uncommon to see an array of bins such as this:

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and in my neighborhood, you need to buy blue bags for recycling, red bags for trash and there are bins outside each building for food waste. the blue bags are used in lieu of grocery bags and you have to ask for them when you check out at the grocery store otherwise the cashiers usually do not give you a bag at all. 

ANYWAY, all of that is really only meant to provide a context for something confusing that is happening to me. a couple days ago i got what at first glance i thought were some bills in the mail. there were four of five of them and they were all for amounts between one dollar to a little over two dollars. i thought this was strange, so i google translated some of the words on the papers. they were from something like a "food waste and disposal" something. and the words next to the amount of money had something to do with fees or fines. 

now, even though these fines aren't for much money, i am starting to freak out a little bit wondering what i have done wrong. i am wracking my brain and not coming up with many possibilities since i have tried to follow all of the rules as best as i could since i've been here. the worst part is that i didn't know what to do about it. i wouldn't know how to pay the fines on my own, so i would have to ask my bosses or korean co-teachers for help. even though i don't think i've done anything wrong, i am worried that somehow i did something really wrong and i don't want them to know. i know. i am neurotic. 

well, after 10-15 minutes of anxiety, i noticed that the apartment number on the address was 302. i live in 301. i may not be able to understand the rest of what's written on the papers, but i'm pretty sure i can tell the difference between a 1 and a 2. great, now i have a new problem. i have opened my neighbor's mail! ... though i am 99% it was in my mailbox. 

i came up with a great plan to put the papers back in the envelope, glue it back together and put it in their mailbox (the mailboxes in my building don't close and lock. there are just wide slots that the mailman leaves the mail hanging out of). my neighbors would be none the wiser. i mean, yeah, they (and anyone else with functional eyes) would be able to tell that someone had opened the envelope and then glued it back together, but how could they know it was me? also, i don't think that "mail tampering" is as big of a deal here as it is in the states (as evidenced by the lack of security in the mailboxes). this is what i told myself. i decided to go through with the old switcheroo and put the envelope in its rightful mailbox last night.

so i've washed my hands of it now. my neighbors can pay their own fines. 


what's this i see as i'm leaving for work this morning?? the envelope is back in my mailbox... whaaaat? i didn't want to bother with it just then, so i left it. when i got home, i looked at the envelope again just to make sure it was for 302. yep. i stood by the mailboxes for a moment in indecision. what should i do? if i put it back, now it would be obvious that it was me who had opened it and glued it back, assuming that my neighbors put it in my mailbox in the first place. why else would they move it back to mine even though it is clearly addressed to them? 

after carefully weighing my options, i decided that there was nothing that made as much sense as simply putting it back in my neighbor's mailbox again. here's to hoping it won't be back in mine tomorrow morning. 

i'm actually just really confused by this whole set of circumstances.


*** edit: i asked my bosses, and they turned out to be not fines, but bills for my whole building's food waste removal. so i guess the landlord pays it for everyone?