(Yes, yes, I know, I've already used the above photo in a previous post, but, as I've pointed out in the past, this is, after all, my blog, so I get to make the rules. And honestly, this face really does sum up exactly how I've been feeling.)
First of all, an apology for the long silence. I have no excuse, unless feeling sorry for yourself because winter is insisting on lingering into (what seems like) next Fall counts as an excuse. I could also refer to the enormous bruise I got falling up the stairs at Seoul Station two Saturdays ago, but MrLogical would suggest that it was my own fault for having imbibed too much soju earlier in the evening. This may or may not be the case, but the main thing is, the bruise really does hurt, and between icing it and telling people how much it hurts, there's not much time left for blogging.
And let's not forget the demands of my job. Granted, it's a part-time job, and only 15 hours per week at that, but singing, "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" approximately 400 times each day takes it out of you. (Let me tell you: the week I taught them 'The Hokey Pokey' I was exhausted, not to mention perpetually dizzy, but it was worth it from a pedagogical standpoint. It's true that their whole grasp of 'right' and 'left' is fairly vague, but on the other hand, I estimate 95% of the children have mastered the phrase, "then you shake it all about" which, as we are all aware, includes a verb as well as a preposition.)
So, yes, I've been busy, although that fact, in itself, is not the reason I'm in such a foul mood. In fact, I have a veritable potpourri of reasons for being ill-tempered and crabby these days, none of them huge and life-threatening, but which - in the manner of the infamous Chinese Water Torture - have combined to wear away at my usual good spirits drop by drop, minute by minute, day by day. In no particular order, they include:
-Mercury is Retrograde - 'nuff said.
-Winter -I know I've whined about this endlessly, but I really did think that we were over the worst of it, with days hovering around 9C(48F) and several fairly sunny days in a row. Sadly, my hopes were once again dashed with another week or so of bona fide winter weather. However, towards the end of last week, after lulling me into a false sense of hope with several less-arctic days, Mother Nature played another cruel trick on me. Last Saturday morning, the sun was shining so brilliantly I dragged MrL and Son#2 out with me for a walk to the grounds of my beloved National Museum of Korea. MrL and Son#2 patiently listened to me enthuse about how the buds on most of the viburnum were nearly getting ready to open, and how - if they looked really carefully - they could see that the straggly green blades at the foot of the Joseon Dynasty Pagoda were definitely going to be daffodils. Someday. I suspect they exchanged a lot of looks behind my back and over my head as I scrabbled madly in the dirt and amongst the plantings, pointing out the most infinitesimal signs of life and becoming more and more inflamed at any indication- no matter how slight- of impending Spring. Eventually, the wind picked up to the point that we were all numb and even MrLogical- who is ordinarily far less sensitive to the vagaries of the weather than I am - conceded that he wished he'd worn a warmer coat, so we headed home. Within the hour, the sun had been obscured by a series of grey and businesslike-looking clouds,which - in an action that I took as a personal affront- began producing a series of snow squalls. This, naturally, plunged me into the depths of gloom, which I combated in a healthy and positive manner by going to the gym and running several miles on the treadmill, followed by an hour's weight-lifting. Ha! Gullible Reader, I did nothing of the kind. In fact, I coped with my disappointment by reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel in an afternoon and meeting friends for dinner at Zelen, where I was able to soothe my wounded spirits with stuffed tomatoes, svinsko verteno, and Krombacher beer.
Spring Break: One of the things I had not contended with when accepting my part-time job was the possibility that my Spring Break and Son#2's Spring Break might not occur simultaneously, but - as you've probably already guessed, knowing what you do about Mercury -that's exactly what happened. Son#2 (who will be appearing in the school musical at the end of April) was adamant that missing any rehearsals were Out Of The Question, so the option of pulling him out of his school during my Spring Break was not even considered. As a brand-new employee, I was not exactly in a position to request a week's leave (during his Spring Break), so our hands were more or less tied. Son#2 is therefore spending this week sleeping late, socializing with his friends, and generally enjoying not going to school, while I am working, after which he will go back to school, and I will be off. This turn of events was particularly disappointing as we'd planned on visiting China during our break, which turned out (obviously) to be a no-go. I was only slightly mollified to hear from an acquaintance that the weather in China right now is dreadful - colder than here, in fact - and that we would likely have found ourselves shivering miserably in the snow on The Great Wall. Possibly true, but at least we would have seen it. On the other hand, you would have then had to listen to me whine about how cold it is in China, so consider yourselves fortunate.
North Korea - living within 30 of so miles of a shared border with a rogue state that has nuclear capability does tend to keep one somewhat on edge, although - not surprisingly- it's not something we think about daily. Well, honestly, who could? No point in worrying about things that are entirely out of your control, after all. Of course, yesterday's news that North Korea intends to launch a rocket as part of a 'peaceful'
nuclear intimidation space exploration program - and the ensuing response from South Korea - that it intends to shoot it down if it infringes on South Korean airspace - did stir up a bit of anxiety, to be honest. If the truth be told, though, those of us living in Seoul derive a certain amount of comfort from the fact that, should Pyeongyang actually deploy a nuclear weapon against South Korea, Seoul would most certainly be Ground Zero. This means an efficient instant annihilation, as opposed to a slow, lingering death in a post-apocalyptic landscape fighting fellow survivors for potable water. Of course, all this nuclear talk leads me to the next topic on my list, namely:
The International Nuclear Summit - taking place in Seoul as we speak. Heads of State from across the world (hence the term, "international") began arriving in Seoul last week, and it's obvious from the vastly increased police presence that everyone wants things to go smoothly. I don't know what it's like in the rest of Seoul, but in the foreigner-concentrated areas in which I live and work, there's a policeman (so far, I have seen no policewomen in Korea) about every 5 yards. Traffic - heinous at the best of times - has become unbelievable, what with all the important people, their handlers, wives, children, assistants, and - of course - the media. Seoulites have been strongly encouraged to use public transportation to help avoid traffic jams, and someone told me that only vehicles with even license plate numbers were supposed to be driving yesterday, although I cannot confirm that. Besides the heightened police presence, there's also the increased number of tour buses, as all of the entourages accompanying the various Heads of State make whirlwind visits to all the top Seoul tourist destinations. It's a bit like normal Seoul on steroids. And of course, since we live in an apartment complex overlooking the US Army Post, we've been privy to the comings and goings of fleets of aircraft (mostly enormous troop transport helicopters). On Sunday morning at about 6:30 am, we were jerked out of sleep by the glass-shaking reverberations of the double propellers of not one or two, but FOUR of the giant helicopters. Remembering that President Obama (or, 'POTUS*' as he's referred to by the acronym-loving US Military) was supposed to be arriving sometime that day (exact time a closely-guarded secret, but 7am on Sunday was looking promising), MrL and I - having already been rattled out of bed - blearily made ourselves some coffee, located the binoculars and observed the activities below us with interest, hoping to catch a glimpse of POTUS and/or any of his entourage, which - regardless of one's political leanings - is still a pretty exciting thing. Watching as the giant transport helicopters disgorged dozens of tiny personnel, MrL observed that, as they were all carrying their own luggage, it was unlikely that POTUS was among them. His observation was confirmed a few moments later when a more traditional (only one propeller) helicopter with an enormous US Flag emblazoned across its roof landed on the helipad across from the field and from whence disembarked a swarm of tiny figures in black overcoats, none of them carrying luggage, and one of whom (we could only assume - damn cheap binoculars) was the POTUS himself. The figures quickly dispersed themselves into a long line of vehicles (many of them with flashing lights) which moved off in a stately procession. While it was all a bit exciting, I can't say that I found it to be a particularly pleasant way to start my Sunday, especially as I never really did actually get to see POTUS. At least, not that I know of.
Physical Deterioration - While I am fully aware that my jeans size is not nearly as significant as the International Nuclear Summit, it does, nonetheless, occupy more of my attention these days as I have begun to realize exactly what kind of toll the winter has taken on me. All those hearty stews and 'comfort baking' I did during the dark and frigid months of January and February, combined with my unwillingness to set a foot outside the apartment if not absolutely necessary, have had a cumulative effect, and I am in need of some decisive action. Clearly, the 10-minute walk up the hill to work 3 times a week isn't burning nearly as many calories as I'd been hoping. MrL is quick to point out that my bicycle is already set up on the stationary trainer in Son#1's (old) bedroom and nothing is keeping me from using it. Damn.
Goodbyes - The curse of the expat - frequent goodbyes - has reared its ugly head already and I have not even been here a full year. At lunch today, we said goodbye to a couple who were some of our very first friends in Korea. I still can't believe that they're leaving, and, even though I know we'll see them this summer, it won't be the same as having them here as part of our expat family. I will write more about these special people and a wonderful friendship in a while, but for right now.......ouch. Just..... ouch.
*President Of The United States