Happy Birthday Buddah

Trip Start Feb 12, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Sunday, April 30, 2006

I somehow feel that admitting I'm homesick is a sign that I've made the wrong choice. I'm worried that it may signal that I'm weak and not coping. I don't want to be a cry baby and a whinger, but I really miss home.
In a couple of weeks I will have been here for a quarter of a year. The weeks seem to go so quickly. One day it's Monday and the next is Friday. Each day is different, but they all seem to merge into one. While the weeks are flying by and it feels like I've been here forever, the truth is I'm still new at this Korea malarkey. Every now and then I'll be cruising along, doing whatever it is that I do in those rare moments I'm not hanging out with seven year olds and I have to stop and take in the fact that I'm actually here. It's those moments that I realise it hasn't all sunk in yet. It's like I've been winging it all along, flying by the seat of my pants, adapting to this whole new crazy, foreign and sometimes frustrating existence I've thrust myself into.
I know that being homesick is natural, and I don't want anyone to worry about me. I'm actually coping really well. I get along famously at work, everyone respects my opinions and I know I'm making amazing headway with all my classes. There's enormous satisfaction to be had seeing my kids, who couldn't speak a word of English two months ago, chatting away with each other and the teachers so naturally. They've taken to the "No speaking Korean" rule with relish and take great joy in dobbing in anyone in the school who speaks their native tongue. I sometimes feel like such an Imperialist invader, coming into this country and forcing kids to stop speaking their own language, especially when they misinterpret the rule and run around saying "No Korea!" It's a little cringe-worthy, but it's a rule their parents want enforced. Whatever. They are soaking it up like little sponges and I've come to love them all fiercely. The thought of leaving them at the end of the year and never seeing them again makes me feel a little panicky.
Another thought that struck me today was really depressing. Since I've been here I haven't been hugged. I've had those friendly matey hugs with everyone, but not one of those, no-reason-in-particular cuddles that you can only have with friends you've known forever. It's a very non-touchy society as far as us grown-ups go. The kids however seem to have troubles letting go of me. I never get a break time at work because they like to pile on top of me during play time, everyone sitting on top of whatever space is left to be had. At last count we managed to get 10 kids making some form of contact with me while sitting on the couch in the lobby. There are two girls in particular that seem to have trouble getting anywhere unless they are dragged there by the back of my shirt or clinging to my legs. One little boy loves to throw himself at me and hug me to death whenever we cross paths and I'm strongly considering baby-napping him and smuggling him into Australia.
But enough of the kidlets. I'm turning into a clucky mum who never shuts up about her little wunderkind.
I was trotting merrily down LaFesta with Erin last Friday night after an unsuccessful shoe shopping excursion (although fortunate for my savings account) and heard the unfamiliar sound of English being spoken in a public place. Not only that, but one voice very distinctly said "Bloody hell mate!" Oh joy! I have finally encountered my first Australian since I've been in the country! I executed a stunning pirouette and confronted him with "You're a bloody Aussie!" His reply, naturally was "You're a bloody Aussie too! Where are you from?"
"Bathurst" says I. He looked disbelieving. "No shit! I'm from Orange!" We both had a bit of a scream of joy and jumped into each others arms, much to the surprise of the Americans he happened to be gallivanting with at the time. In a country of 50 million people I ran into my next door neighbour in my 'hood. In true Kat fashion I picked up a few strangers in the street and decided to show them the local watering holes. It turns out they are all working at Paju English Village, which is the Disneyland of the English language. It's an American town built on the outskirts of Gyeonggi-do, funded by the Provincial Government. Paju employs about 150 native speakers, so pretty soon the area is going to overrun with our fellow whiteys. Stu (my new Orange friend) tells me everyone out there is having kinky bisexual group sex. Interesting set-up. I wonder if they government officials know about that?
So Erin and I took Stu and his buddies to the Pirate Bar and proceeded to down 5 litres of beer. I love that they bring it to you in a pirate keg. It turned out that the three of us were the only beer drinkers there, so we had a merry time of it all. I got my own back on the North Americans when Stu and I sat there talking non-stop about all sorts of local Oz business. An American girl asked many intelligent questions such as "What colour are Australian natives?" "What are they called?" "Can they speak English?" and my favourite: "But where do they live?" We eventually shook off the misinformed ones and went to a nurebang (where else?) to sing ourselves hoarse once more. Stu's actual job at the English Village is called an "Edutainer" which pretty much means he gets paid to play the guitar and sing songs all day long, the lucky shit. We had another early morning return home, getting in around 5:30am. Stu and one of the other guys crashed on my (hard wooden) floor for half an hour them buggered off, as Stu had to work at 9am. Heehee. Erin and I slept all day.
Sunday proved fruitful as far as shoe shopping goes. These folk have little feet like me. I found a pair of really comfy street shoes in a place called FootMart. The guy fitting me was really cute and I said as much to Erin, adding that I was considering taking him home and making him my own. Needless to say, I was quite surprised when he looked up smiling and said in English "They are a good fit." Oops. I don't think he minded though, 'cos when we walked past again later, he gave me a wink. Yay me.
It's a little depressing that Spring hasn't really materialised as it should have. The trees are all turning green and the flowers are coming out, but sometimes the yellow dust blowing down from Siberia is so thick that it looks like a nuclear winter outside. Last week I looked outside and it looked like it was about nine o'clock at night. It was in fact, eleven o'clock in the morning. All the street lights had to be turned on all day.
I've seen a few sunny skies, but they are few and far between. Hopefully Siberia will bugger the hell off soon and give me a bit of a break.
At least bitching about it all makes me feel less homesick somehow. I have a standing invitation to Paju English Village whenever I want to go, (group sex optional) and on Sunday I'm going to the Lantern Festival in Seoul in honour of Buddah's birthday. It's meant to be a spectacular sight and probably be my first authentic Asian experience since I've been here. I'm a little ashamed about that. My excuse is that I've been waiting for the weather to exceed sub-zero.
It took a while. Believe me.
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