Monday, August 26, 2013

26 August 2013… The horizon is near.

I am now down to just 10 days left in South Korea and with so much to say, I doubt it would fit in a Facebook status so I decided to blog it. This past weekend has been absolutely amazing. It started on Friday night with our ‘Party to the Power of Four’ which was an epic party to celebrate both Kelly and Bonnie’s upcoming birthdays and a farewell to myself and Jasmine (and Ch Eng, Sam, Mathilda, Matt and everyone else who is about to leave).

We started the night off at one of our favourite bars, Osan Lounge in Songtan. I have amazing memories there; good times with friends and that’s where I first met my boyfriend.  It was quiet at first as no one is ever punctual but after the people started to arrive, the good times started rolling. The turn-out was absolutely fantastic. I am so grateful for all those who made it and lent their awesome to the collective awesome to make it the most awesome night ever! Yes… it really was that awesome. My boyfriend taught Sayida and I how to play darts which involved Sayida flinging the darts at the board with such force that I was sure she was going to break someone’s face/the darts/the dart board or the wall itself. I went for a subtler ‘throw-it-gently-and-hope-for-the-best’ approach. My approach must have worked because I won that game. We both had fun either way. Mmm… speaking of throwing stuff, I also threw caution to the wind and enjoyed some Baby Frog/Strawberry Aid slush. Aaaah, the sugar and booze-laden delight. I also had the opportunity to meet new people, including some of my boyfriend’s friends. One of whom decided it would be a great idea to introduce me to my own boyfriend. It was hilarious because just as he was asking Barrey if he knew me, my boyfriend was putting his arms around me in a giant hug.  Good to know that people who don’t know we are together think we would be good together. After a few drinks, games of pool and darts, we then gathered the masses and headed over to another one of our favourite bars and the place where morals go to die, Jammers. On the way there I had a few shots of Taiwanese ‘something’ so details may get blurry after this point.

As soon as we got to Jammers, I was unfortunate enough to have a confrontation with someone I never want to see or talk to again. Thankfully after (very loud angry) words were exchanged, he left and my awesome night continued. In typical fashion, soju-kettles were found on every table and shots flowed freely (as did the tears as people got ready to call it a night and leave). We all partied the night away side by side; military, teachers and even parents. Jas amazed us with her crazy dance moves. There was beer pong, games of pool (my boyfriend beat me even though he tried very hard to lose) and plenty of dancing. We sang along to ‘Mmm Bop’ and danced to the Macarena. We took dodgy pictures that should never see the light of day but will still end up on someone’s Facebook. We are a really amazing group and I hope that the future foreigner community of the greater Pyeongtaek area will also enjoy that sense of family and friendship that I have experienced in this past year. By the end of the night (actually some time the next morning) with speech slurred, wallets near empty and good judgement far behind us, we stumbled to McDonalds for our customary after party feast. After we had glutted ourselves on MSG and fries galore, we all headed off in our own directions. Some stayed to party a little longer but the Anjung crew headed back home for the after party which involved country music, drinks, dancing, laughter and more good times in the park. I think I only stumbled into bed around 6 am on Saturday morning. I wish I could I say I got some decent sleep but alas, Saturday happened.

Ideally I would have gotten to sleep until noon but I ended up having to get out of bed several times to sort stuff out like the birthday cake and mattresses. Eventually I gave up any hope of going back to bed and decided to make a nice big breakfast; sausage, scrambled eggs, curried baked beans and toast with chai latte. Just as I sat down to eat, a whole bunch of friends landed at my door so I whipped up some extra food then we all chilled and played a few games of Apples to Apples. Its our new addiction compliments of my boyfriend. Kelly, you had better keep it going when I’m gone. We can have a reunion game in a few years. That thought makes me smile. I really hope we are still all a part of each other’s lives years from now. Anyway, after that we all went home to shower and get ready then we headed to Pyeongtaek where we met up at Ashley’s for all you can eat cheesecake (and some other food too but mainly the cheesecake).  After 2 hours of marathon eating, we rubbed our distended bellies and groaned in stuffed delight then headed back to Anjung. Miraculously, Sayida decided to stay and we convinced Priya to come to Anjung too. I am not too sure what everyone else got up to that night but I crawled my exhausted butt into bed and finally got that much needed sleep.

I awoke refreshed and invigorated on Sunday morning after that beautiful, mostly uninterrupted slumber. I made breakfast for the girls and then we got ready. Shortly thereafter, everyone was back at my apartment but this time to celebrate Kelly’s actual birthday with white chocolate raspberry swirl cheesecake and iced coffee (Thanks Lisa and Mai). Thereafter we all headed off to a jimjilbang ( When I first came to Korea and in the 11 months thereafter, I vehemently refused to enter a jimjilbang. Just the idea of being the brown, tattooed, overweight, naked girl being stared at freaked the hell out of me. I could feel the eyes on me just thinking about it. Alas, it was Kelly’s birthday and she really wanted to go. How could I say no to her on her birthday so I grudgingly agreed on condition that I could wear my bathing suit. As it turns out, bathing suits are not allowed. So there I was, having already paid my entrance and soggy from my shower with my only options being leave or get naked. I decided to be brave. It was a bit awkward at first. I’m not a person who will ever fully be comfortable with my nakedness. Perhaps it was my lack of glasses or the fact that there were 3 other naked brown tattooed girls but after I while I stopped being so damn self-conscious. The adjummas weren’t staring (any more than usual) and maybe it was all in my head after all. I even signed up for the works which for about $40 (above the entry fee) included a full body scrub, oil rub and hair wash. It was definitely worth every cent but I haven’t yet decided whether I feel violated and need therapy or whether I enjoyed it. This was all done by a semi-naked adjumma who vigorously scrubbed me from head to toe at least 4 times and in places that have never seen the light of day. This is painful… very painful but if you can endure it; you will feel silky smooth, soft and brand new. After that, she covered me in soothing hot towels and then proceeded to beat me up (not so soothing). At this point I was silently mouthing to my friends ‘HELP ME’ but it got better. After that was an utterly delightful oil rub (which also included being rubbed down in some kind of milk), having something slathered on my face and getting my hair washed and conditioned. I do feel lovely. My skin looks amazing and my hair is super soft but I doubt it is an experience that I would repeat anytime too soon. The nakedness is okay but that scrubbing was pretty painful.

After that I went back to my apartment to clean, see Priya and Sayida off and then we all headed to a galbi restaurant in Poseung for dinner. Dinner was absolutely delicious. I don’t know how my body handled all the good eating I’ve been doing this weekend. It will probably reflect on the scales but I’ll worry about that later. For now, I’d rather cherish good food and good times with my friends and love. I’d rather take the calories and the memories over a skinny body. Afterwards it was back to my place for more Apples to Apples (which has now become a drinking game) until everyone was exhausted and buggered off to get some sleep.

And with that came the conclusion of my amazing weekend. On a side note, my boyfriend came through for me. He’s not going to end our relationship when I leave. We have decided to try long distance. It won’t be easy but it’s a fighting chance so I’ll take it. He’s worth the effort. I am officially exhausted and ready to head home. I hope you have enjoyed reading all of this. Adios!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30 July 2013... Where the heart is.

I am 28 years old. I am neither young nor old. I have lived enough to know something of life yet I know there is so much more that awaits me. Today I find myself at a crossroad. I’m sitting in my apartment alone and contemplating all that has become of my life. Just over a year ago, I quit my job, sold my car, paid off my debts and got on a plane headed to South Korea. I have told that part of my story before. The first few months here, I honestly hated it but something changed. South Africa, even though it is my home, doesn't feel like home so much anymore. As the months passed, I stopped feeling like I was taking a vacation from my life and this… living here in South Korea, it became my life. The walls that surround me now have become my first home… not my parents’ home but the first home I made for myself alone as my own person. Here I learnt that I was strong enough to survive on my own but I also learnt that being alone is not healthy. I have made friends here who in this short time have rooted themselves very firmly in my heart. In living this life far away from all we know, we have bonded and transcended the mere title of friendship. These amazing women have become my family and I love them dearly. They were at my side for my worst and at my side for my best and I honestly would do anything for them. They know who they are. Hint: they are poutine-munching, chain-smoking, pool-playing, soju-shooting, shopaholic, dancing, cussing, crazy-beautiful women.  I am so grateful for every day I have had with them. In a few short weeks we will part ways but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I know that they will always be a part of my life... and I couldn't get rid of them even if I tried. Not that I’d try.

Korea has given me many gifts but the greatest gift that it has given me has to be love.  When I came here, I had a boyfriend. I thought it would be a quick year and that I’d be going back to him and that we would possibly build a life together but things changed. The relationship was not what I had hoped it would be and perhaps I was the only one in it. It certainly felt that way a lot especially as I sat in front of my computer waiting for a Skype call that never came. When it came time to let go of that relationship, I was ready. I had tried to save it and had failed. There was no regret. I know I gave it my all. It hurt so much to see it fall apart but I had tried. I hope he’s okay. He’s a good guy, just not the one for me. I guess we were right for each other at that point in our lives but not right to stay in each other’s lives.

After that, I had just about given up. I never expected to find love… especially not in South Korea of all places but somehow, it found me. It was the 30 March 2013, a few months after my breakup. I was at a friend’s birthday party. I had gotten up to go get my coat which I had left at the other end of the bar. As I was on my way to retrieve it, I felt a hand on my arm so I looked up. There was this big mountain of a guy, wearing a black shirt that fit perfectly, with a sweet yet sexy grin and amazing blue eyes. He opened his mouth and with all his country boy charm told me I was beautiful and asked me for my name. I’m the kind of girl that sits in the corner and doesn't make eye contact. I’m a people watcher, not the center of attention. For the most part, I’m rather invisible but he saw me. I remember giving him my name and saying thank you before blushing like a complete idiot and running for my life. I have never been accused of being smooth. I literally ran away. That is how my love story began.

After that, I went back to my friends and excitedly told them that a cute guy told me I was beautiful. They asked what I was doing there with them and chased me away to go and talk to him. So I went back to where I met him but I didn't have the fortitude to talk to him so I just stood there are talked to my friend about this mystery guy. Turns out she knew him and he knew her. She worked her cupid magic and sometime later that night he talked to me again. I had ingested some ‘liquid bravery’ by then so I didn't run away this time. We spent that night talking, playing beer pong, dancing and he even carried me in those big strong arms and kissed me. He took my number and when I got home that night, sure enough he had messaged me. Another rarity for the invisible girl, guys do not message me.

We talked and talked and a week later, we had our first date. It was unbelievably adorable. He took the wrong bus and got lost but eventually we found each other. It’s been a few months now that we've been together. I was reluctant to be in a relationship at first because I had been hurt so many times but when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I was helpless. I was his. Everything about us, every moment we are together, it feels right. He and I seem to fit like we were made for each other. I’m not saying we are perfect, we've had some hurdles but we've gotten past them. We have never had any major misunderstandings and we have never even raised our voices to each other. There’s serenity in our relationship. I am most content snuggled up in his arms on the couch watching television without saying a word. I am completely comfortable in his presence. I have not felt invisible a day since I've met him, how can I when he looks at me like I’m the only girl in the world and tells me I’m beautiful. He makes me feel so special. Dear Lord, when he kisses me, I feel alive. He is a good man and I cherish him. Somewhere in the last few months, I went and fell in love with him. It was not a conscious decision. I only realised how much I loved him when I was given a reason to walk away and I couldn't. I needed him, I wanted him and I knew that I would fight for him and work at our relationship. But the clock is ticking and now I have just a matter of days left with him. I get on a plane back to South Africa soon and the decision about whether we stay together or part remains in his hands. I've made my decision. I will always choose him. I hope he chooses me. All I can do now is enjoy the time I have left in his arms and show him how much I love him.

The difference between my last relationship and this is that this time I’m willing to fight for it, over and over again if need be. I have found the man I want to spend my life with. He gives meaning to my existence, he completes me. When I look at him, I see everything I have ever wanted and needed. My heart yearns to be with him and to make him happy. Seeing his smile, his dimples, gives me a joy like I have never known before.  I have been happier in these last few months than I have ever been in my life. As you read this, please take a moment to pray that this love story ends in happily ever after.  I am at a crossroad in my life but I am not steering. I know the road I want to go down but only he can lead me there.

Monday, March 11, 2013

11 March 2013… Winter blues :’(

Happy belated new year for 2013. I hope this year has been treating everyone well. It certainly hasn't been very kind to me but we’ll get to that soon enough. It’s been quite a while since I've gotten around to writing this blog. I had every intention of doing this is December but then life became rather complicated and somehow I found myself putting it off.

Winter in South Korea has been a rather unpleasant experience. I’m pretty sure that everyone around me has felt thoroughly uncomfortable with the actual weather but then add to that the expense of winter clothing and the astronomical heating bills and you get a bunch of very grumpy waygook. Now most of my friends here are Canadian and somehow those guys are built for the cold, perhaps it’s all that maple syrup flowing through their veins, but for South Africans like me, anything below 16’C is too cold. Unluckily for my sissy South African hide, this last winter dropped as low as -20’C. Prior to moving to Korea, the coldest weather I had ever experienced was around 2’C which is still above freezing point and I had a warm fireplace to ease the chill then. Winter has certainly been a shock to my system. Furthermore was the realization that I was completely unprepared for the cold. My warmest coat in South Africa wouldn't even be an autumn coat here so I had to stock up on the essentials (coat, boots, scarves, gloves, beanies, earmuffs, thermal underwear, etc.). Once that was done, at least I wasn't at constant risk of catching hypothermia. I also eventually figured out how to use my heating in my apartment and bought a nice warm comforter. That just left one hurdle and a major hurdle at that… snow.

Now snow was at first a novelty. It’s beautiful to watch, it’s all sparkly and makes that delightful crunch when you walk on it BUT that novelty wore off very quickly once the snow turned into ice and slush. The winter boots that I had ordered from eBay weren't exactly cut out for Korean weather seeing as they were neither waterproof nor had any grip on the ice. I can’t even recall the amount of times I fell down but I vividly recall my painfully bruised hip (for some reason I always landed on the same hip every time I fell). Eventually as a result of sheer desperation I walked into a shoe store in my sodden boots with a very pathetic look on my face. No verbal communication was necessary. The store assistant could clearly see that I was in need of proper snow boots. She was really nice to me and even gave me a pair of dry socks to wear. Those bright purple ‘ugly as **** boots’ (now fondly known as my Barney boots) may just well have been the single smartest investment I've ever made. While they went a long way in keeping me warm, they did not however ease the fear of ice and snow that I had developed prior to the purchase of the boots.

I was so incredibly terrified of falling down and killing myself that I literally refused to leave my apartment unnecessarily. I went to work (usually in tears and holding onto anything I could find to stay upright along the way or walking on the road itself where there was less snow/ice), to the grocery shop (which is on the way home anyway), back to my apartment and that was about it. Now I am not completely crazy, there is a name for this condition; chionophobia. Whilst I didn't have any severe traumatic incidents related to snow and ice to develop this fear, I suspect it was because I had never been exposed to ice or snow like that before combined with a horror story I heard of a woman around my age needing hip replacement surgery after falling. I’m fairly accident prone so this was a legitimate fear. After an argument with a friend in which she pointed out my somewhat irrational behaviour, I decided to brave the elements. I eventually got somewhat comfortable walking on the snow and ice, even if I looked like a bandy penguin doing so, and I did have quite a few close calls. At least I ended up enjoying some of the winter and did actually leave my apartment for some social interaction. I’m just glad that spring is on the way. I doubt I’d ever want to endure another Korean winter.  I will NEVER take Durban’s beautiful weather for granted again.

For the record, I did throw a snowball and make a snow man just to say I've done it.