Saturday, 28 July 2012

Decompression Chamber

This five hour layover in the former outpost of the British Empire is turning out to be a wonderful decompression chamber.  I am being given time to slowly recalibrate myself from East back to West.

I've been seeing and hearing people of various nationalities.  I've even heard two dialects of French. Incroyable!!
For the last two hours I have been snuggled up in the corner of a heavenly coffee shop eating spinach and mushroom quiche and corn beef on rye while listening to the Beatles, Carole King and Robbie Williams over the p.a.

D'you know, it's an absolute tragedy that I'm travelling by myself right now?! I have never been so colour coordinated in my entire life!
Sandals: Peach
Skirt: burnt orange
Shirt: cafe latte
Shawl: dark chocolate & seville orange
Bangles: deep coral, peach, copper and mother of pearl.

All curled up in a chocolate armchair.
Seriously! Someone should be painting me right now!

Especially considering that by the time my family meet me in Limerick I am going to look like something that has been excavated from a hole in the ground!

Oh the humanity!!

The Long Road Home

On Saturday I fly back to Ireland for my summer holidays and I'm bracing myself for a whole heap of emotional and sensory mind f*%#ery to occur.
I've lived away from home for years but before moving to Korea, I was always either a long bus ride or a short hop, skip and a Ryanair jump from home.  I was able to head back for a long weekend every 5/6 months or so.  I was close enough that Christmas with my family could be taken for granted.  Similarily, wherever I was living was within easy visiting distance for my family and friends.

Most of my time abroad was spent living in Scotland, with brief forays into Wales and the south of England.  While these countries are of course different from Ireland, by no possible stretch of the imagination could they be called exotic or or even unfamiliar.

So now I find myself wondering: what is going to catch my attention first when I land in Dublin?
  • Seeing white people EVERYWHERE??!!
  • Being able to understand every conversation going on around me - that one could become exhausting!  In Korea I have become used to living in a little bubble of white noise, only understanding the occasional snippet around me if I consciously tune in to it.
  • Going into a shop and being able to read the labels!  (heady stuff, I tell ya!)
  • Going into a house and leaving my shoes ON! 
Will that last one creep me out a little, or will I just slip back into Irish default mode?

I'm also curious to see what my family will notice about me.  How have I changed in the 18 months I've been away?  Will I transition smoothly from Korea to Ireland or will odd bits of Han detritus pop to the surface unexpectedly?
I do suspect that they will notice quite a few Americanisms in my speech, a natural side effect when 90% of the ex-pats you socialise with are Yanks.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but in the previous paragraph I actually typed 'store' before I caught myself and changed it to 'shop'.  Sigh.

On the flip side of the coin, will I find myself missing Korea?  And if so, what will I miss the most?

See?!  I told you there was a lot goin on in this head!

And that's not even counting the whole family kettle of fish - how amazing it will be to see them after a year and a half; how jarring it will feel to be confronted with all that I have missed in that same time; how it's going to hurt like a bitch to leave them again in two weeks.

Aigoo!!  I'm typing this up in the transfer lounge of Hong Kong airport, one third of the way home and I'm already too tired to process all of this existential naval gazery.

So I'm going to find a restaurant, fill ma belly and revel in the luxury of just sitting still and being surrounded by conversations going on in Cantonese, Korean, English, French, Dutch and Hindi.  And that's all within 6 feet!  Bliss!!

Ta ta for now!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Summertime, and the livin' is greasy!

So here we are folks, my second summer in Korea.
Last summer I was pleasantly surprised by how well I coped with the heat and humidity.  Considering how I had wilted in high temperatures in other countries, I had expected that I would become a blubbering wreck of humanity, whimpering my way through July and August.

Perhaps that is the trick of it.  The reality was nowhere near as vile as I had imagined.

I was also helped by the dazzling array of arsenal which Koreans have amassed to ward off sunstroke and dehydration.
I quickly learned to likewise arm myself.  So nowadays, I too would never venture forth without either a sunhat or parasol (depending on my ensemble, of course!), a fan, the occasional ice pack - a really nifty invention that freezes once you crack it - and of course consuming iced beverages on a near continuous basis.

In this consumption of cooling ices and beverages, we were helped along by the wonderful parents of our elementary students, who would regularly send their children into English School laden down with ice creams for us teachers and their fellow students.  May their names be praised forever!

This summer, we had a lovely, long run up to the horrible heatwaves of high summer.  In fact, I had begun to wonder if this summer was not as bad as last summer, or was I simply more acclimatised.

No such thing folks!

Last weekend, Mother Nature finally quit lurking around 27 degrees and made a break for 30, melting away my false sense of security in the process.
Those three little degrees have made all the difference in the world.  Now, whenever I leave the airconditioned apartment, school or bus, I walk out into the kind of heat and humidity, the likes of which back in Ireland I had only encountered on butterfly farms.

My number one priority in housework has become maintaining the ice cube drawer and keeping the fridge stocked with at least two jugs of iced drinks at all times.
Hoovering can wait.  An uninterrupted supply of ice cold drinks cannot.

Rather ickily, I have once again had to get used to sweating from places I hardly knew had sweat glands!
My chin!  Who the hell knew you could sweat UNDER your chin!!!!
So now, along with the sunglasses, parasol and fan, I also have a hankerchief tucked about my person.  That and the wonderful (social) life saving deodorant wipes!!

Hugging is a sport which has been relegated to cooler months. Exept of course when it comes to crying five year olds.  In that situation I just have to grit my teeth, haul the child onto my lap and endure the overflowing stickiness of it all.

On Saturday I head back to Ireland for my two weeks summer holidays. As if jet lag from 28 hours travel and adjusting to a 9 hr time difference wasn't enough, I will also have to cope with a temperature drop of about 10 degrees. I'm going to fuppin freeze!! 
I've already started dosing myself with Vitamin C in an attempt to ward off any possible head colds.  Though the cooler climes should help me have two weeks of blissfully unsweaty sleep, so I'm looking forward to that!

Wish me luck folks!