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 (teacheslkorea.com) 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):
- The guys here (in general, not all of them) are VERY pretty… I had a little trouble differentiating between the genders at first.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- They drive very aggressively here.
- 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).
- 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.
- Coffee here is nasty and expensive. Bring your own.
- The beds are hard. Fork out for a mattress pad from the arrival store. Worth every cent!
- 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.
- The towels are ridiculously tiny. Bring your own.
- The water here is not too bad. Boil it first and its fine to drink but the bottled water is fairly cheap.
- 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!