Wednesday, October 24, 2012

24 October 2012... Such a great lunch :)

Wow! I'm sitting here at my desk with a full tummy and an enormous grin on my face. I just had a rather exceptional lunch. I eat my lunch at the school cafeteria along with the students and the majority of the other staff. It has been a great introduction to Korean cuisine but it can also at times be quite daunting for me. You see, I don't eat seafood. I'm not allergic to it or anything. It's not a strict rule either. If the inclination strikes me then I will indulge in a piece of fish or some Mozambique-style prawns. However it is more a matter of personal taste. I just don't like seafood. Perhaps it comes from having studied marine biology or perhaps it stems from having had pet fish in my youth. Either way, I'm not fond of seafood. I've even boycotted certain family meals because seafood was served. Over the years my family has realised that this is something I will not easily budge on and now cater non-seafood alternatives just for me. Got to love them... and I don't think they mind too much, more prawns for them!

Hmm... I've strayed a bit from my initial point. Oh yes, today's lunch... What made today's lunch rather exceptional was not the food being served but rather the kind service. Wednesday tends to be treat day at the cafeteria and I look forward to seeing what will be put on my tray each week. So far treats have included delights such as fruit salad and chocolate cake (not at the same time though). Today however I was out of luck. They were serving seafood! This normally is not a train smash. In the event that they do serve seafood, I usually just eat the rice, kimchi and soup. Today though they not only served fish but  the rice itself was cooked with anchovies! You can imagine my horror as I'm about to take my first bite of rice and there, staring up at me with their sad dead little eyes, are a pile of anchovies! Lunch suddenly seemed rather bleak. It was just going to be soup, kimchi and some sweet potato for me.

Thankfully, Mr Jung, one of my co-teachers whom I absolutely adore, came to my rescue. He's been somewhat of a father figure to me here. He even called to make sure I was okay recently when I fell ill. I really appreciated the gesture considering that I am so far from home and without the comfort of family. Anyway, he left his meal, tracked down the wonderful lady who runs the cafeteria and explained to her that I don't eat fish. She was then nice enough to bring me a bowl of anchovy-free plain rice. I was beyond touched my the gesture from both of them. I hadn't known the reason that he had gotten up until she arrived with the rice. It was so thoughtful of him to consider my dietary preferences and it was so thoughtful of her to indulge me. She even brought me a bowl of this really yummy sweetish dried-seaweed-covered-in-sesame-seeds stuff that I love and when I was leaving, she also offered me some extra sweet potato. So thanks to the kindness of two very thoughtful Korean peers, my lunch went from being bleak to absolutely great. No one can ever fault the South Koreans when it comes to their hospitality and for that I am ever grateful. Its these small gestures that make life here a pleasure.

And finally, on completely an unrelated  but happy note, I would like to wish my bearded-lumberjack-loving friend (you know who you are) a very happy birthday and on an unrelated but sad note, to the family of my ex boyfriend, I know that tomorrow is the anniversary of your mother's passing. My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this sad time. Rest in peace Aunty Romilla.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

10 October 2012... Rain rain go away!

Hello again.

Would you believe it? Its raining again! The last typhoon that I mentioned put the fear of God into me. On that treacherous walk back home, my umbrella was promptly ripped to shreds by the wind so I ran my by then drenched self to the nearest shop and bought the biggest umbrella I could find as well as a rain poncho. I definitely learnt my lesson. I keep everything in my backpack in plastic bags so should I ever get stuck in the rain again, at least my electronics will survive. I really hope that it doesn't happen again but I think I'm safe between the plastic bags, poncho and heavy duty umbrella. I am such a sissy when it comes to the weather. I'll be the first to admit that. I guess living in Durban has completely spoiled me. I'm way too used to sunshine and warm days. Although the irony is that since I left the weather in Durban has been a little crazy!

It's only October so early Autumn here and a lot of the foreigners are already feeling the cold. I've swapped my jersey for a thicker coat these days. I regret not packing a gown but weight was an issue for me. I sure could use one now for those chilly mornings. I have since also invested in a proper coat; the multi-layered type that can get me through the snowy winter. Luckily for me it was going on sale so I saved quite a bit. I also bought a Spirithood type thing but instead of an animal, it has a 'Nightmare Before Christmas' theme. I love it. I'm going to be running around freaking out the adjumas (old ladies) in winter. Lol.

I even bought some incredibly woolly thick socks. I also got some amazing sheets and a lovely warm comforter from The Arrival Store (TAS). They really do offer amazing service. If you are coming over, be sure to check the site out at As you can gather, I'm rather terrified of the cold so I'm slowly making my preparations (kind of like a squirrel with nuts except in my case it's clothing). I am terrified of heaters (long story) so I'm going for layering to keep me warm instead. I am however looking forward to winter for two reasons. The first is snowboarding/skiing. Its one of those things on my mental bucket list. The second and far more important reason is that I have applied for leave. If it is granted then I will get to visit my sister in Doha. I miss her and my beautiful nieces so much. I'm so sad that I can't go home for Christmas. This will actually be my first Christmas away from home but at least my sister and her family will be visiting South Africa so the only one who will be having a lonely Christmas is me. I'm sure I can figure out something to do with my friends to lift my spirits. In the mean time however, we have been having lots of fun.

In the previous post I mentioned going to Seoul for the Zombie Walk. It was absolute fun! I had such a good time and made new friends. It was amazing what a good job we did with budget make-up and a bit of fake blood. I even made a grown woman cry. It wasn't my proudest moment but at least it proves that I would make an excellent zombie. Hehehe... it will be quite a while before Hongdae recovers from the day the zombies took over.

The next day was also awesome fun but in a more touristy way as opposed to the previous day's craziness. We went to Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. My word... it took my breathe away. It was so intriguing to learn about South Korean history and to walk through the palace grounds. I saw and experienced so much, from the changing of the guards to the folk museum. It is something I would advise any South Korean tourist to do. It wasn't expensive either and it was such an amazing experience. Be prepared to walk though. The grounds are huge! (PS. There are birds in South Korea. I finally saw some!)

I do not in any way regret my decision to move to South Korea. It is still difficult. I don't get lost as much anymore and am getting used to the weather, culture and language but home-sickness is certainly the most difficult aspect. I miss my family, boyfriend and friends so much. I am really blessed to have such great people in my life but at least Skype makes it so much easier to be away from them. I have never felt more South African than when living out of my home country. I guess I suddenly realised how good we have it back home. The food is cheap (trust me, it is) and delicious, the country is beautiful and clean (well cleaner) and we have such a rich heritage. The only down side is probably the crime and corruption but regardless, it's still home. I can honestly say I am proudly South African and furthermore proudly South African Indian. I made sure that I celebrated Heritage day even though I'm in South Korea. I don't have any Indian clothing here but I have my South African rugby shirt so I wore that and my friends and I went out for Korean BBQ (a substitute for a good old fashioned braai). It felt good to celebrate even though I am so far from home.

I also plan on observing as much of a traditional Diwali next month as I can. I found an awesome website that stocks Indian food and items (  I'm going to invite a few friends over and attempt to cook a proper Indian meal, light some candles and celebrate the Festival of Lights. Being in South Korea doesn't mean that I have to give up who I am or lose my sense of self. If anything, this move is helping me discover who I really am and what I want out of life.

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." -Neale Donald Walsch

Work has been okay. Some times its frustrating, other times boring and at other (rare) times, I find it completely gratifying. It all depends on which class I've just taught. Some learners are so passionate and motivated and despite their lack of English skills, they are ever eager to learn more. Other classes provide a constant challenge in trying to keep them awake yet alone motivate them. I did however pick up some very handy knowledge at the Autumn 2012 GEPIK orientation. It was 3 days of fun and learning. The summary of which can be seen here: 

I'm glad I ended up in the GEPIK program. The hogwan teachers sound like they have it much harder. I also finally got my alien registration card (ARC) so I am now all legal. That in turn means I got paid so I'm eating a little better (and shopping a lot more... shoes!) which was completely necessary as I had developed anemia  Food is generally expensive here especially fruit so come prepared with multivitamins. You will need it to compensate for you limited diet. Korean food is very carbohydrate rich which I'm not really used to so its hardly surprising I developed anemia. I don't have access to the iron rich food sources that I had back home. At least the problem was easily solved; 30 000 KRW later and I now have a 2 month supply of iron supplements. My ARC also meant I could finally get a phone. I was told that they do not have sim cards here and that it would be near impossible to find one here. BULLSHIT! I managed to find one at the SK Telecom/T World in my small town and it only cost 9 900 KRW as opposed to the 70 000 KRW I would have had to have spent for a second hand cash phone. At least with the sim card option I got to use my own nice clean new smartphone. Just make sure that your phone is unlocked (can work on any network) and will be compatible the networks (in terms of the frequency the operate on) in South Korea if you plan on bringing your own. Blackberries are not compatible as far as I know. Well I guess that's all there is for now. I have some more touristy things planned with my friends in the future so I will keep you posted on my adventures. Work is officially over so I'm off to my apartment for a nice rainy afternoon curled up in bed with a good book. Later!

Monday, September 17, 2012

17 September 2012... Settling in (about time I say).

Hi again to everyone. I have officially been living in Anjung for 22 days. I’m practically part of the furniture. Ha! I still get the strangest looks walking through the street and plenty of ‘waygooks’. That means foreigner. I’m sure worse has been said but that is one reason to be grateful that I don’t understand the language yet. The last few weeks have been VERY busy.

The meeting at the school went fairly well considering I got as far as the school parking lot before being whisked to my new apartment which was completely bare except for an unconnected gas stove, the kitchen cabinets and a closet. Over the course of the day the rest of the furniture and appliances stipulated in my contract were delivered and the place started to slowly look like home. I have to admit that I am one lucky fish (I really don’t get that saying… is the lucky fish the one that got away?). Back to the point, my apartment is AWESOME! Most people get stuck in tiny, dirty apartments with old stuff from the previous teacher who has since left. I was given a brand new apartment in a shiny new building and my place was kitted out with new everything (LG, Samsung, etc.). It’s honestly a really awesome apartment and now that I’m done with all my shopping for the things not provided, it feels like home to me. It is a small studio apartment. When I walk in, I take off my shoes and place them in the little cupboard at the door which I also use for linen and towels (storage space is a little low). It’s a Korean custom not to wear your outdoor shoes indoors so I have separate slippers to use at work and at my apartment. (Note to those coming over, get ones with a thicker sole for work. You will be grateful when your socks are still dry on the rainy days.) Directly in front of my door is my tiny kitchen but it has all the necessities such as a kettle, toaster (not toaster oven), fridge, microwave, gas stove, sink, small table and 2 chairs. Directly behind that is my tiny bathroom. It has one of those freaky little showers that I was dreading but I’m getting used to everything constantly being wet. In typical Indian fashion, I invested in a plastic stool, bucket and jug. I find that a far more efficient way of bathing than the crazy shower that soaks everything. On a hilarious note my neighbour (an awesome American who teaches at the middle school next to me) and I could not figure out how to get the hot water working in our apartments. As it turns out there is a little panel on the wall that you have to switch on. It would have been useful if I knew that in advance. Naturally all the labels are in Korean like everything else in my apartment. So that first morning involved very cold showers. Thankfully there were some maintenance people about who explained to us (in broken English, hand signals and grunts) how to get the hot water working. Moving on… to the right of my door is one large room (by Korean standards not typical Western standards) that serves as my bedroom, lounge and study. I actually like the open plan style but the downside is the large windows (I had no curtains/blinds for a while) and there was a creepy lady across the street who I once caught watching me sleeping. I KID YOU NOT! I have awesome roll blinds now (worth every cent) so at least I can move about my apartment without being watched like the unfortunate subject of a David Attenborough special. Directly next to my bed is a small enclosed balcony-like room that has my washing machine and a clothing rack for drying my clothes (also great for drying my dishes when I run out of space in my dish rack). As mentioned previously, everything is in Korean so after some help from my American neighbour (who is actually pretty good at figuring out the Korean stuff), the maintenance people (who also fitted a lid on the toilet seat and fixed the leaking cistern) and the land lady, I now have little labels all over my apartment so I don’t forget what everything means. I also have labelled illustrations of the air conditioner remote, washing machine and iron. OCD much??? Yip, you better believe it but it comes in handy when it comes to getting organised. So that’s my apartment.

Work has been quite interesting. It turns out that I now work at a high school, not a middle school as I was initially informed. Oh no! More teenagers! And it’s an all-boys school. Needless to say, this will be a challenging year. I did absolutely nothing constructive the first week of work. It took the school a while to arrange textbooks for me and my teaching schedule. I see each class once a week and also have 4 teacher training sessions a week where I help the other English teachers. Some classes are nice. Some are bordering on evil. Thursdays make me slightly suicidal. But that’s most jobs right? Honestly I can’t complain much. I have 6 hours more free time a week than I had in South Africa (perfect for my lesson planning), absolutely no extra-curricular and I only have about 4 lesson plans a week. I also have a smart board in my classroom which makes teaching really interactive but (isn’t there always a but) it’s connected to a computer that’s 5 years old, in Korean and has the tendency to break down regularly. The super nice IT technician opened it up today to find that it had dust bunnies the size of dinosaurs in there and no sound card but it is functional for what I need it to do except for the lack of sound. Unfortunately, it can’t be changed to English so I use my personal netbook for the most part. For my second week at school I did an introduction lesson with a slideshow all about myself and my life back in South Africa (I strongly suggest that all new teachers have an introduction slideshow prepared for your first lesson). As for the teacher training, that threw me off a bit at first but after some discussion, the teachers and I settled on a textbook and I’m actually really enjoying the teacher training classes now. They have informed me that they want to do a little less grammar and a little more listening and conversation in future. Makes sense but it’s a little harder to plan as the textbook we chose doesn’t cater for that. I’m on to my third week of teaching now. It was a little frustrating because my classroom PC broke down again and I couldn’t use my netbook because it, my cellphone, all other contents of my bag as well as me got soaked walking to school today. It turns out there is ANOTHER (yes, another) typhoon that decided to pay Korea a visit in a matter of 22 days. Helpful hint to anyone considering coming over, carry/buy a very big umbrella, carry a big poncho as well (to cover both you and your backpack/bag) and carry rain boots/wellingtons. I am grateful each and every rainy day that I endured the discomfort of wearing my wellies on the plane to have them here with me. The staff at my school is so incredibly nice. They help me with everything from problems settling in to life in Korea to helping me dry out my soggy computer. They are really good people. I am constantly being given little gifts like vitamin drinks and rice cakes. It blows me away how nice most Korean people are. I mean South Africans are nice but Koreans take it to a whole other level. That is something that I am really lucky to have. I seriously need to get some little gifts for my co-workers just to say thank you for being so awesome to me all the time.

A social life in Anjung took a while to find. Facebook groups help a lot in meeting other foreigners who can relate to your daily frustrations and help you. I’ve met a lot of really great people here. And I’m not the only person as brown as the dirt here anymore. I have another Indian friend here. She’s Canadian Indian. It’s great to have someone to talk to about curry and the funny little things that make being an Indian person fantastic. (She is NOT replacing you dude.) I also met a lot of random people just walking in the streets. I found a great church and through the church, met even more amazing people. I also went to my first foreigner night. That was great. Laughs, food and other English speaking people trading ‘battle tales’. I’m not much of a party person which is probably a good thing. Food in Korea is ridiculously expensive. I have a complete lack of fruit in my diet and am only eating limited vegetables. Meat is also pretty expensive. Thankfully the school offers a great cafeteria lunch that is well balanced, substancial and relatively affordable (about $2.50 a meal) so my biggest meal is lunch. For breakfast, I just have cereal and for dinner I usually cook something. It’s not too bad cooking for one person but there are a few affordable take out options when I feel lazy. I try to limit take out to 2 times a week (foreigner night and weekends). Try not to convert into your home currency when shopping for food or you will barely put anything into your trolley. You will have to just suck it in and pay for food or risk malnourishment. I have been having plenty of those vitamin drinks to try and compensate for my lack of fresh fruit. I bought bananas once but due to the 100% humidity, they rotted in just 3 days. In future I will buy fruit that can be refrigerated. I also divide everything biodegradable into parcels for one and freeze it. It makes stuff like meat, garlic, onions, peppers, etc. last much longer and it gets mushy when you cook it anyway. Mushrooms and cabbage are cheap here and plentiful. I do my mini shopping trips once a week for things like eggs, bread, milk and vegetables. I’ve heard that there is also a local market but I haven’t had a chance to go yet. I’m looking forward to some fruit. I was so spoiled when it came to fruit back in South Africa. (*Downs another vitamin drink*)

Korea hasn’t been all great times though. There have been some challenges that had me wondering why I put myself through this. While shopping at the Home Plus I made a big purchase (things for my apartment and a month’s worth of groceries) and they double deducted me. I informed my bank and the bank then decided to promptly freeze both my cards so I was stuck in Korea with NO money. Yeah, that’s enough to scare the **** out of anyone. After a good cry on Skype with my dad, plenty of email exchanges between my parents, me and the bank, some help from my Korean co-teacher and a trip back to the Home Plus, I was eventually refunded the money a week later and my cards were unfrozen. More advice: have a stash of cash somewhere safe and keep a ledger of EVERY cent you spend. It’s important to budget well to get you through that first month until you get paid but that ledger also helps you pick up when things go wrong. If I hadn’t kept my ledger, I never would have noticed that so much money was missing from my account. I even have a backup ledger on my netbook now because that whole experienced scared me so much.

I’m slowly getting used to the town. I’ve been walking around and as I discover new things I mark them on my map. I have gotten lost once and had to resort to getting a taxi but it’s all part of the learning curve. I’ve also made a few trips into Pyeongtaek-si for my health check (pretty typical stuff; eye test, height, body mass, blood pressure, urine test, blood sample and x-ray) and some shopping. Unfortunately I lost my T-money card so that put my travel plans on hold for a while. I am however planning a trip into Seoul in the near future for a Zombie walk. I love cosplay events even though I haven’t had to chance to attend many apart from 1 Halloween party a few years back. I’m really looking forward to that. All the walking has its benefits, I’m shrinking at a steady rate so I actually fit into Korean clothing now. I managed to get a 2 pairs of shoes (heels for going out and heeled boots for the cold) and some clothes (skirts, cardigans, dresses, blouses, etc.). At least my wardrobe is somewhat respectable now. There is a distinct lack of colour beyond black, white and grey but it does make it easier to mix and match. I still need to get some more substantial clothing for the winter. I seriously underestimated the cold here. If you have one, bring a snow appropriate coat. I plan on buying one when winter hits. For now layering the few items I do have helps. I also plan on getting a nice comforter from They are a lot cheaper than anything I found at the Home Plus bedding department. If you have the space, bring your own sheets, pillowcases, etc. They are so hard to find here and unbelievably expensive. I’m grateful for my sheets, blanket, towels, and pillowcases as well as for the blogs I read that advised me to bring those things. Hopefully you’ll take my advice on that.

Well each day here is an adventure. Today’s adventure is attempting to walk home in a typhoon without soaking all my electronics... again. To those reading this, I hope you have enjoyed my rants. Feel free to comment, ask questions or even share your own experiences if you are also an ESL teacher living far from home. Until then, may the force be with you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

30 August 2012... Oppa Anjung style!

Hi everyone. So here I am blogging again after months… well actually after over a year. I now have reason to blog again but let me not jump the gun. I’ll start where I left off.

As of May 2012, Lestat (my bearded dragon) was on the road to recovery, we had a new lovable little parrot named Lucas and everything seemed to be falling in place nicely... or so I thought. Looking back, that time from March 2011 up until May 2012 were probably some of the worst months of my life but they were trials that eventually led me to where I am today and also brought with them treasures.

I’ve already detailed everything that happened up until Reiki’s (my previous parrot) tragic passing away. I honestly had a very hard time adapting to the new parrot and dealing with Reiki’s death but I slowly started opening up to him and him to me. I can honestly say I love the little guy now. He still bites and you can’t touch him but he is generous with his kisses and he loves to copy everything I say. I love listening to him rant in the mornings and sharing my food with him. He loves curry, pasta and furniture. Lol.

In the second half of 2011 I met in a car accident. Thankfully it was nothing major but it did scare me a lot. The rest of 2011 was fairly uneventful. That guy I mentioned previously, well, he turned out to be just a good friend and I prefer it that way. I tried to have an active social life but for everyone who knows me well, you know I’m more of a book worm. I also tend to have insomnia so to beat the boredom on those long nights, I read or I chat. One particular night, someone new entered my usual chat room. His screen name caught my attention but I didn’t bother to initiate contact as I prefer to talk to the regulars who I have yet to block (as you know most chat rooms are filled with perverts so my blocked list is actually far longer than my friend list). After a while he sent me a message. I guess I somehow stood out for him. I don’t know exactly what it was that made him take notice of me; maybe the fact that I like to type in proper English, refrain from vulgarity (as far as possible) or just that I don’t abuse people in chat rooms. Whatever it was, I’m glad he took notice because from our very first conversation, I was completely hooked. From there we talked for a while online. I treasured those chats and looked for his screen name first whenever I logged in. Eventually we trusted each other enough to exchange phone numbers and our real names. There are several things that I find attractive in a man, tattoos (which the previous guy I mentioned had in abundance), piercings (because I find them cool), a sexy voice (it makes me weak in the knees) and intellect (by far the sexiest thing about a man). After that first phone call, which lasted from sunset to sunrise literally, I was more than just hooked, I was completely infatuated. He has the most amazing voice but his mind… wow! His mind drives me crazy. I love how he challenges me and teaches me new things. I love how he appreciates that I too am a thinker rather than putting me down and making me feel inferior just so he can feel better about himself. He makes me feel like his equal. Talking to him invigorates me. We had several of those all-night conversations that week and I was so sure that I was crazy about this man who I had never met, that after just a week of chatting on the phone I bought him a birthday present even though his birthday was 5 months away. I was that sure that he would be a part of my life. Sadly, things don’t go according to plan and I barely heard from him again. So I packed away his gift and kept in my heart the faint hope that I would have the chance to give it to him someday. I also made up my mind that I would wait for him until his birthday. If by then nothing came of our friendship, I would move on.

Towards the end of February, I started to get really sick. It was almost exactly what happened in 2010. I found myself in the same hospital for a long time, growing more and more despondent as doctor after doctor tried to figure out what was wrong that could possibly push my white blood cell count so high. So I went through all the tests again. All were negative. There was nothing wrong with me apart from the known conditions. So they kept me until my white blood cell count returned to normal and let me go home. I honestly think that perhaps it was stress. I was exhibiting some really strange symptoms such as severe swelling of my hands, then red spots under my skin, my hands and feet became so tender that I could barely hold a pen without it being complete agony, then the skin on my hands and feet starting falling off in chunks leaving them red and raw but the final straw was when I could not stop vomiting. That’s when my parents took me to the hospital. I still have no idea what caused all of that but I’m glad it’s gone. Maybe it was stress. Working with teenagers in a public school is a VERY frustrating job (albeit a very gratifying job at times).

I wish that I hadn’t ended up in hospital but not because it was an unpleasant experience but because it robbed me of time. Just a week later, my precious baby Lestat passed away. After her initial illness, I made sure I took Lestat to the vet regularly. Despite my best efforts, she refused to eat, not even her favourite foods and slowly she started to waste away until she was just skin on bone. First they said muscular atrophy… ‘use water therapy to strengthen her up’. Then they said muscular dystrophy and that it’s hard to tell for sure because of the inbreeding with domesticated reptiles. They put her on a high fat, high protein liquid diet and said she had months to live. How does a mother face the realization that her baby is going to die? A mother doesn’t, a mother fights. That’s what I did. Throughout 2011 and 2012, my mum and I hand fed Lestat, massaged her, played with her, bathed her, kissed her and showered her with love but a week after I was discharged from the hospital, her body started twitching badly and she couldn’t even keep down the liquid food. The vet was closed and the animal hospital said they couldn’t help. After phoning around frantically, the curator of the Dangerous Creatures exhibit at UShaka gave me the number of a very good herpetologist. I phoned him and despite it being a weekend, he understood the love I had for my baby and told me to rush her over. He was so gentle with her. I swear that man is an angel on God’s green Earth. He examined her so thoroughly and explained everything to me and then very gently broke the news to me that my baby was in the final stages of cancer and had two tumours almost completely blocking her colon which is why she stopped eating and lost so much weight and eventually why she could no longer manage to keep anything down. This is so difficult to type, to relive that pain… I’m in tears as I write this. Lestat meant everything to me, my child in every sense except birth. But the herpetologist understood that I refused to give up on my baby. Emergency surgery was scheduled for the next day. Lestat slept on my chest that night. I stayed up taking care of her. That morning got ready for work and kissed my baby goodbye as I always did but that was the last time. She closed her eyes and went to God moments after I left. I returned home where my parents broke the news to me. I was devastated. I still am. People don’t understand how I could be so hurt over a pet but very few understand that she was so much more to me. She was my strength through all of the pain that I had endured over the previous year even though she was silently suffering herself. It really isn’t fair that my beautiful angel was taken away so soon. I questioned God,  I questioned life and its meaning. I questioned everything. In the end I realised that my baby chose to go on her own terms, peacefully in her sleep after kissing her mummy goodbye, instead of being cut up. Thank God for my parents, my beautiful sister and my amazing friend Nerita. Whilst my other friends and family were there to support me, they especially knew how much she meant to me, they cried with me and were there when I lay her tiny body into her grave and prayed for her little soul. They gave me strength of spirit when losing her had taken away every bit of fight I had left in me. Losing Lestat was so hard but I know that I have my little angel watching me from Heaven. As I told my niece, God made her an angel and since she has wings, she’s a real dragon now.

That however wasn’t the end of my sorrow. Just a few shorts weeks after losing my baby, my sister (my ‘twin’/strength/partner in crime) along with my two beautiful nieces left to Qatar to start their new life there with my brother in law. I admire my sister so much for having the strength to leave behind everything she knows, including her family, to support the dreams of the man she loves. I just hope he knows what an amazing wife he has in her and cherishes her the way she deserves to be cherished. She is so strong and brave and beautiful and so many more things that I could go on forever. Life felt so empty without my baby, sister or nieces. I felt so alone and unhappy.

My mum, who knows me better than I give her credit for, saw how I was hurting and advised me to take some time off from life to concentrate on myself and to find my own happiness. I toyed with idea but how could I just leave everything behind? I mean I had responsibilities, debt, a job, students who I love and who needed me, my parents and grandparents who I love so much. I decided I would just carry on with life… besides I still had the faint hope in my heart that the chat room guy would realise that I’m the Disney princess he’s been waiting for all his life. As if. In one of the rare messages that we exchanged he informed me that he was moving to Cape Town so I told him that I was toying with the idea of moving to South Korea. He encouraged me to go for it. If he was encouraging me to move across the world and he himself was moving across the country, he definitely was not interested. So I did what any normal obsessive compulsive person would do, I researched everything. It turns out that if I sold my car, I could pay off my debt and have enough money to move to South Korea and once there, my salary would be enough to meet my responsibilities in South Africa and still save up. This was my chance to recreate myself, to start anew and to be happy. So I put in my application and 2 weeks later, I had a job, Thereafter the long process of paperwork began. But the agency I went through ( was amazing and because I’m fairly organised, this process, although expensive, was fairly painless.

However, life is never that easy and just loves to throw me a curveball. I met in another car accident, a slightly worse one than before and there went the asset that would allow me to have this adventure. The insurance company wanted to write it off and offered me a pittance of its actual worth as compensation. But they didn’t know that my step dad is secretly a superhero, SUPERDAD. He challenged the insurance company and it turns out that they had insured the wrong model. They had insured it as the lowest model in the range and mine was the top model in the range. The damage to my car was actually very minor and they only wanted to write it off because they thought that it would be uneconomical to repair based on that low value. My dad sat on their case for 2 months until the matter was resolved and my car repaired. It was a lengthy process but my car was returned to me in better condition than she ever was before and she drove like a Jaguar. Sadly I only had Xena (my car) for about 2 weeks before I had to sell her. She will be missed. My conscience is clear in selling her because I went through great expense making sure that there was not a single fault with her. If I was staying in South Africa, I would have kept her forever.

Anyway, back to my story, remember chat room guy… let us call him Mr Perfect. Well, we both knew that we were headed in very different directions but we agreed to meet the Saturday before he left for 1 date (before his birthday so he made it within the allotted time period). I remember walking in to the restaurant, seeing him and my heart just stopping. He could have looked like a troll and I wouldn’t have cared because I was so infatuated with him but there sat this handsome stranger. The date was amazing; we talked and talked and talked. He surprised me with a box of my favourite chocolates. The gesture touched me. I had forgotten what it felt like to be treated so well. He also liked his gift, a Hasbro Mech Tech Bumblebee. Like my dad, he also has a thing for the Transformers… come to think of it; I don’t think I know any men who don’t like the Transformers. They are pretty awesome. Not Star Wars awesome but a close second. Lol. I savoured those chocolates. I had only 1 a week, every Saturday to commemorate that date with my Mr Perfect but I also allowed myself to have one on special occasions like my birthday. That box lasted 3 months. On the off chance that he might agree, I invited him to my birthday celebration which was a few weeks after that date. I was completely thrilled when he actually did make it. I warned all my friends not to let on how much I liked him and talked about him. I had to play it cool after all. That night was magical. I had my brother, some of my closest friends and the man I was crazy about with me. And then we kissed. From that moment, distance didn’t matter. I was totally and completely in love. He has been amazing. He came to Durban as often as possible and we spent as much time together as we could manage. He met most of my friends and those who got to know him well also agree that he is something special. We’ve been together 3 months now. He taught me how to love again and he made me believe in myself again. Unfortunately it was too late to cancel my trip to Korea (I’ve already mentioned life’s fondness of throwing me curveballs) but he is the kind of man who encourages me to be all that I can be and has supported me in this decision. I don’t regret coming to Korea. It’s something that I need to do to be happy with who I am and decide what I want out of life. I do hold on to the fact that each day brings me closer to seeing my beloved family and my Mr Perfect again. It gives me the strength to make this work. This experience should not be in vain. Everyone back home believes in me, my Dadu, my Dadi ma, my parents (all 4 of them), my sister and brothers, my friends (or my crazies as I call them… I miss you dudes) and my Mr Perfect. I’m not going to let them all down. When I return home, I will return whole, not fragmented as I was there. I will heal and I will grow. Of that I am certain.

The days preceding my departure were sheer chaos but I made sure that I spent the very last days just relaxing with my parents, grandparents, my siblings (including my new ones, Verushka and Prakash) and my crazies. My grand Aunty had a lovely farewell dinner for me. I even brought a piece of cake that she baked with me to Korea. It was my first supper here. My gran (Dadi ma) prepared a beautiful meal for me the day before I left, chicken breyani. I’m really going to miss her cooking. I already am actually. I swear she’s responsible for the 3kg’s I’ve gained this year but I’m not complaining. The women in my family show how much they love you by how much they feed you. My granny must REALLY love me then. Lol. And I love them all so much too.

The flight here was long with 2 stopovers along the way but I made it in one piece. That’s when the chaos started again. A representative from the agency was supposed to have met me upon landing at the airport to take me to my new home however, he never pitched up. So there I was, laden with luggage and stuck in a foreign country where barely anyone speaks a word of English, with very limited knowledge of Korean of my own and no transport. So I promptly burst into tears and Skype called mummy and daddy. (You are never too old to need your parents). They calmed me down, told me to get something to eat and then once I was thinking clearly, I managed to get some help from the information desk, get a bus ticket to my new town and arrange for the hotel to pick me up. I arrived at the hotel 8 hours after landing but at least I had done it. I survived my first day in South Korea. To their credit, the agency emailed to apologise for the incident at the airport before I even had the chance to complain so its all good. I would recommend them to anyone.

On day 2 I woke up late (I’m still running on South African time it seems), showered, got dressed and went down to the hotel restaurant only to be informed that it is closed. By this time I was starving and there was a typhoon looming. So I had to brave the ridiculous wind and go to the local supermarket to get food supplies. Now THAT was an adventure. All the labels are in Korean (note to self: start learning the alphabet immediately)! So I shopped based on the pictures on the packaging and hoped for the best. It went pretty well. So at least I had some food.

On day 3 the weather cleared up beautifully. It was my chance to actually go out and explore the town but I was informed that the principal of my school would be phoning me so I sat next to the phone all day waiting for the call. It eventually came mid-afternoon and so I now know when I will be meeting the principal and when I will be given my new apartment. After that I got ready and went out. It was too late to explore but I did stop by the supermarket for more food supplies as the weather was predicted as being disastrous for the rest of the week. That night I also got a visit from a new friend, Kivithra, who is a little piece of home right here in Korea… and she brought me real food. God bless her! I look forward to all the good times we’ll have together in the future.

Which brings me to day 4 (today). The weather is absolutely horrible. Pouring rain and howling wind but it should die down my midday tomorrow (hopefully) which is perfect because that is when I check out. I’m glad I stocked up on food because there is no way I would step out in this weather. So I have spent my day reading emails, learning Korean, Skype calling family and Mr Perfect, checking my Facebook, watching Korean television (the advertisements are driving me mad) and writing this blog.

So after all of this, and I have to admit that this is a really long blog, this is what I have learnt about Korea and from Korea so far (for anyone considering coming over):
  1. The guys here (in general, not all of them) are VERY pretty… I had a little trouble differentiating between the genders at first.
  2. Clothing is bright and shiny… or completely ugly (in my experience so far). I can’t seem to find anything in between as yet. I’m hoping Seoul or Pyeongtaek-si will offer better options.
  3. I’m huge here. But I have seen people bigger than me so theoretically I should be able to buy clothing here. I’m hoping the limited diet and all the walking I’ll do will help me lose some weight and make shopping less of a hassle.
  4. Hand gestures, facial expressions, grunts and lots of smiling will get you pretty far in terms of communication. Most of the people here are SO friendly but not all. Some here are quite openly racist or just dislike foreigners. Take it with a pinch of salt and be grateful for the nice ones. (HINT: Learn the alphabet and basic phrases before you come over, you will need it).
  5. They drive very aggressively here.
  6. Everything is laden with sugar. I couldn’t find anything except crackers that were fat or sugar free (but then again, I can’t read the labels very well yet).
  7. Write everything you learn down in a little book and take it everywhere with you. It will help you so much until you figure everything out.
  8. Coffee here is nasty and expensive. Bring your own.
  9. The beds are hard. Fork out for a mattress pad from the arrival store. Worth every cent!
  10. Don’t bother bringing your phone. It will not work here unless you use it with wifi. They don’t use sim cards here. But wifi  is available at quite a few places.
  11. The towels are ridiculously tiny. Bring your own.
  12. The water here is not too bad. Boil it first and its fine to drink but the bottled water is fairly cheap.
  13. Spray deodorant is nearly impossible to find here. Bring a lot. Roll on can be found but is so expensive. So is peanut butter. So bring or own or be prepared to pay for it or live without it. You have to leave behind western perceptions. This is Korea. Embrace it. I plan on doing just that… when its stops raining.

Well that’s all for now folks. I’d like to wish Verushka all the best on her travels to Doha. Prakash, you will be okay. You guys will be reunited before you know it and Yanthra will have such amazing opportunities there. You guys are doing this for her future. Congrats to my amazing sister on the new car, you deserve it doll. My crazies, I miss you. Ferrari, please take care of yourself. Jothi, I’m so proud of you for making the move to Cape Town. Sayida, stop putting potato on pizza (lol, I couldn’t resist). Bex, you are so right about SA. Neri and Kersh, mwahs! Charlene, be strong and have faith that the Lord has something better planned for your future. David; good luck on your matric exams my baby. Mum, dad, Davedad, Aunty Neela, Dadu, Dadi and the grannies, I miss you and love you. To all those that I didn’t mention, I haven’t forgotten you. I love you all so so much. And lastly, to my Mr Perfect, I love you baby.

An-nyeong-hi gye-se-yo to you all!