It has been so long since I posted here, I suspect that most of my readers will have assumed by now that I've stopped keeping a blog and deleted me from their readers. Actually, I had every intention of writing while I' was in the US ( I did manage to squeeze a post in while in Thailand), but jet lag, lingering malaise, and the whirlwind pace of activities left me very little time for sitting down to write once Son#1 and I arrived in the US to install him at University. Ultimately, what with the busy-ness of the Festive Season, our trip to Thailand, and the almost immediate trip to the US, it turns out that I have spent a grand total of 3 nights in my own bed since 24 December, and (as I whined more than once on FaceBook) it also turns out that I am clearly getting too old for this sort of nonsense.
We returned from almost 2 weeks in Thailand, had 2 days to wash and re-pack, and then Son#1 and I headed to the US. As many of you are aware, due to circumstances beyond my control, I spent the first 36 or so hours in the US in bed at my in-laws', trying to re-hydrate myself and work through some of my trauma (I'll be just fine
Once arrived, we were immediately plunged into a whirlwind of visiting and to-do lists as we tried to cram in all that needed to be done and purchased to get Son#1 settled in as well as all of the catching up with friends and the mad shopping frenzy of buying things from home that most expats know all too well. MrLogical, of course, sent me off with a specific list of items to collect, including oil filters for his car (a Japanese make, which means all parts must be special-ordered in Korea and therefore cost the earth, so why not have the wife just pop a few parts into her luggage to save a bit of cash down the road?), so - along with the items that I deemed necessary (and let's just say that the January sales back home were fabulous), I returned with two bulging suitcases and an eclectic assortment of items that may or may not have proved puzzling to the baggage examination folks in the TSA.
Given that I've been on the road (more or less) for over three weeks without posting more than once or twice, it seems almost impossible for me to catch up without writing a novel, so I thought I'd steal an idea from those 'end of the year' news shows and simply share a few highlights of both our Thailand and US trips 'by the numbers', which should (if I do it correctly) give you a general sense of both trips without boring you into a stupor.
7/36/52 - In the past 23 days, the: a) number of flights I have taken, b) hours I have spent flying and c) hours I have spent in airports in and between 3 different countries. Hardly worth noting for your seasoned world traveler, but
9 - approximate number of times MrLogical and I reminded ourselves that Bangkok was no longer quite the tropical children's paradise of loving amahs, free candy at the markets, and year-round swimming we remembered from our elementary school days. Reinforced regularly by the presence of condoms in the minibar, profusion of sex toys on offer in the street markets between the t-shirts and the Hello Kitty merchandise, and the high number of single male travelers (clearly not on business trips) at the breakfast buffet in our hotel.
2 - high-pressure sales tours 'included' by our Bangkok tour guide after our trip to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha; one, to a gem showroom, one to a tailor shop. I'm sure that anyone with a desire to buy gems would have found bargains galore, but since none of us were interested (mind you, I was there with two teen boys and MrLogical) we viewed the whole thing as an annoying joke, with much obnoxious badinage. The tailors were luckier, and all 3 boys had dress shirts tailor-made for a very reasonable price, delivered the next afternoon to our hotel.
1- embarrassing misunderstandings between Son#1 and well-meaning (but limited English-speaking) concierge at front desk of hotel in Bangkok, who confused Son#1's request for directions to a restaurant with a request for the services of a 'Thai friend.'
35(and counting) - minutes of laughter enjoyed by MrLogical and me remembering Son#1 recounting the above story.
6 - mornings that I sat on my balcony in Phuket, trying to memorize the mountains, the beach, the incredible blue sky, the tropical bird calls, and the bougainvillea spilling over my balcony, so I could take the image back with me to the grey winter of Seoul.
1,379 - Russian tourists on Kata beach in Phuket at any given moment during our stay there. Immediately identifiable by tiny Lycra grape-smuggler bikini suits on (often enormously corpulent) men, apparent 3rd-degree sunburns on parties of both genders and grim and dour expressions on countenances at all times.
0- number of roommates present in university residence apartment when Nana and I helped Son#1 move in.
3- Number of roommates who would be sharing university apartment with Son#1 but still back home on Christmas break when we moved him into his bedroom. Based on appearance of apartment, not obsessive about apartment hygiene. As the mother of two teenage boys, I was not overly shocked by the state of the apartment (left, as it was, at the end of semester exams and right before Christmas break by 3 boys who were ready to head back home.) However, Son#1's grandmother, who raised two girls, was clearly stunned.
6 - approximate number of cleaning products purchased by Son #1's grandmother before tackling kitchen and bathroom of abovementioned university apartment, including rubber gloves. *Note: this number would have been significantly higher, except that it was clear that other female relatives had amply provided the other residents with (as yet, unused) cleaning supplies at the beginning of the term.
5 - containers of Clorox and Lysol handi-wipes located in bathroom and kitchen of university apartment, likely purchased by optimistic mothers of Son#1's roommates at beginning of 1st semester and never opened.
10 - lunches, coffees, and dinners with friends (and groups of friends) I had while in Texas.
15- (and probably more than that) people I did not have time to see due to scheduling conflicts and who I still feel bad about.
5- number of pounds I probably gained from all those lunches, coffees and dinners.
6 or 7 - times I was overwhelmed by waves of homesickness while in the US and a desire to chuck the whole expat experience and move home.
4- times I handed or received money in the US holding my elbow as is the custom in Korea (one always gives and receives items with two hands or at least one hand touching the other elbow) and immediately felt stupid and pretentious.
14- times I went to Target, just because I could.
3:30 - time I seem to wake up in the morning when I have jet lag, regardless of time zone or location,
5 - pairs of shoes I bought while in the US. (Yes, they have shoes in Seoul, but they tend to be narrow and to run quite small.) Finding 'larger' sizes (US 8 is about as big as they get; I wear a 7 and that is hard to find) is a challenge. I have never bought so many shoes so quickly and so decisively. No time to dither.
6 - boxes of Mucinex (guafenesin) extra-strength extended release 1200-mg tablets preferred by MrLogical and unprocurable in South Korea, the amount needed to tide over MrLogical (aka 'Mr. Allergies') until we go back on home leave this summer. Fleeting concerns about being arrested as drug mule at Incheon but clear conscience as to the fact that items were purchased for personal use.
200- dollars' worth of charges for overweight bag on return trip to Seoul
3- pounds' worth of gourmet Thai curry blends jettisoned at airline ticket counter to avoid paying abovementioned overweight charges.
1 - times I fell apart over leaving Son#1 in the US while I headed back to Seoul. It only happened once, when I said goodbye to him. This is another one of those expat moments that make you think twice about living overseas, and I cannot think of a single lighthearted or amusing thing to say about it. That is all.