Sunday, 11 September 2016

Memento Vitae

A few days ago, Ms. Amused and I were talking about one of the hardest parts of being an ex-pat, returned or otherwise - missing our friends who are scattered all over the globe.  I also took the opportunity to admit to being the world's worst correspondent. Honestly, if it wasn't for Facebook, most of my friends would be forgiven for thinking me deceased! Ms. Amused also copped to being a less than exemplary pen pal. (I do so love not being alone in the error of my ways!) However, we also acknowledged that part of the reason why we are so bad at contacting our distant friends is that we miss them so damn much that it hurts.
When I am not messaging you, it's pretty much because this Cowardly Lion is desperately trying to deny how much I miss you. And God forbid that I should find out that you are going through a hard time and I can't be there to hug you and bake you brownies!!

While all these thoughts were percolating through my brain, I re-read an old post by Starry Eyed Travels about her favourite travel souvenirs.
She has some lovely ones, which now decorate her home with memories of past adventures. After reading her post, I looked around my room with fresh eyes and realized that most of my mementos are not really of places themselves, but rather treasured keepsakes of the friends I made in those places.  I think this is a natural result of the fact that I was in Korea long term, rather than passing through. What I collected were the trappings of daily life, the more interesting ones were gifts from friends and students.
I have some pieces of jewelry which originally belonged to my favourite Diva and to Lush.
I find myself wearing them on the days when I am particularly missing them.
I have a pair of earrings that I bought at the Busan Foreigner Market from the talented Joshua Weaver.
I need to constantly remind myself of this fact, because whenever I catch sight of them, I think, "Aw! Those are the earrings that F.D.A bought me!"
Except that she didn't - but they are soooooo incredibly her style that I constantly and automatically give her the credit.
Hanging beside those earrings are a pair that African Queen actually did buy me, as a birthday present, for a birthday that we celebrated upstairs in the Golden Eagle Pub in Ulsan, followed, natch, by the obligatory and awesome noraebang session.  Good times.
(And just this morning I came across the birthday card too!)


 The silver ring in the photo is a thumb ring which I wear every single day, without fail. It is one of a pair of rings, the other is worn by the darling Ji Won, my Korean niece.  Every night when I take it off, it goes into this beautiful silver jewelry case, which was painted by Ji Won's mum, my Korean Unni (big sister).

Every few months in Korea, my Dinner Club crew would have a clothes swap night. (a necessary event when you are foreigners in a country with clothes shops for tiny people.)  The sweaters I have from those nights are like wearable hugs from my Dinner Club girls.

There is a photo collage which Doc Doolittle made for me, to wish me luck before O'GradyLady's first market.  And there is an incredibly adorable O'GradyLady poster which Cheong Soon also made for my markets.


On one of my bookshelves there sits a wooden framed, Japanese picture and a beautiful blue ceramic dish (where I stow my car keys), which Renee brought me back as a thank you for pet sitting her hamster. To the left of this hangs a ticket for a music festival that I went to with Judd.  The adorable squirrels are hand made felt creations from Cheong Soon, and the origami crab was given to me by the proprietor of a crab restaurant in Osaka, where Lush and I had an EPIC crab feast while on holiday there.  The yellow Domo Kun pencil case was a birthday present from Tonny, given while I was going through a short, yet intense, obsession with the Japanese cartoon character.

On the shelf above, the snake and the jolly pig are souvenirs of day trips with Lush and Ms.Amused, while the photo of Natalya and I is part of a photo album that Natalya made for me as my farewell gift.

I have come be deeply grateful to have such things strewn around my walls and shelves, but I also got to thinking about the marks that my friends have left, on me.

Every morning when I brush my teeth, I wait 15 minutes before eating my breakfast, because twenty odd years ago, my beloved Cled told me that was good for my enamel. I have had this habit for so long now that it has sunk into my bones.

When I indulge myself in a full on Korean skin care regime I remember learning this whole process at a slumber party with all the Dinner Club girls at Amanda's apartment - so now Amanda is with me whenever I apply three different kinds of moisturiser. (or drink craft beer - another of her many talents!)

When I make a cup of instant coffee, I splash cold water over the granules before adding the boiling water, to avoid burning the grounds and making the coffee taste bitter.  This was a tip that Goulash taught me, so now, every time I make a cup of instant coffee, I remember Goulash.

Whenever I drink Joheun Day Soju, (frankly, the best soju there is!) I remember eating samgyupsal at the best joint in Ulsan with Ellen and Alex.
[speaking of.... I'm down to my last bottle. Help! somebody send me some!!]

Last month I re-read the book 'Good Omens' and it brought Jessykat so strongly to mind, it was as if she was sitting and reading in the very next room.

Yesterday, while driving my car I heard 'Kiss from a Rose' on the radio, and I flashed back to dancing around a dining room with my friend Nuala.

I bought this memo board intending to go all 'The Secret' and create a vision board, but instead it quickly evolved into a 'Who Loves Ya Baby!' board. Much more fun.
This post is incredibly long and rambling, I know, and I'm sorry. I have mentioned as many people as I can, but it would be impossible to get everyone, though like a good Oscar speech I am trying to cram in as many names as possible.

What I am trying, so desperately, to convey, is the heartfelt message that I am genuinely sorry for being such a crap correspondent, but please know that you are always in my thoughts. 
I bring you with me through all my days. You have shaped the very person that I am.

To steal a line from 'Wicked', "Your hand prints are on my heart. You have changed me for the good."

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