Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Expat Life: MsCaroline's Summer Roundup



This is, obviously, not MsCaroline

round up
n roundup
1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Agriculture) the act of gathering together livestock, esp cattle, so that they may be branded, counted, or sold
2. a collection of suspects or criminals by the police, esp in a raid
3. any similar act of collecting or bringing together a roundup of today's news
(For those of you who were wondering, we're going with definition #3)

The last time MsCaroline used the 'roundup' device to gather in all of her recent thoughts and experiences that were - while blogworthy - not actually deserving of their very own posts, she entitled her post, "MsCaroline's Thursday Roundup."  The implication was that MsCaroline had been quite busy for the last week or so and was now taking some time on her busy Thursday to provide an overview of what had been going on in her life.

Astute readers will note that this post encompasses not just the last week, but pretty much the entire summer.  

MsCaroline is not going to dissemble:  it has been so long since she blogged (almost a month to the day) that she began wondering whether she was still even a legitimate blogger (she has decided that she is, sort of.)  MsCaroline reasons that lots of bloggers slow down and get busy during the summer.  She also reflects on some perspicacious advice given to her by one of her bloggy favorites, Stacy., suggesting that she not even mention it when a significant amount of time has elapsed between postings.  (MsCaroline is aware that it's too late for her to actually follow this advice, but she still feels that it is excellent and totally plans to heed it in future.)

But MsCaroline feels that just popping up blithely after a months' silence and going along with business as usual is Not Her Style, so she is just going to come out and say she's been Really Busy, and blogging has had to take a backseat to Life in General.  

Once MsCaroline finished up her school year (at the end of June) she turned her attention to sorting out her new apartment (which she had stupidly moved into just a week before the end of school,) enjoying time with Son#1 (home for the summer doing an internship at a Korean company,) and, naturally, heading off to the US for some greatly-anticipated Home Leave.  

In no particular order, these are the thoughts and activities that have been consuming all of MsCaroline's blogging attention lately:

  • Freezing in America:  Many readers from other countries may be aware that Americans have a real love affair with air-conditioning (lovingly referred to by most of us as 'AC.') Conversely, most of the rest of the world does not.  What passes most of the time for AC in Europe or Asia would be cause for frantic phone calls to a repairman in the US.  MsCaroline, having spent the last 11 years in the American Southwest where summertime temperatures easily run between 100-115 F or higher (about 37-47 Celsuis,) had become well-acclimated to the subarctic temperatures found in most public buildings in the US.  Needless to say, she experienced a rude shock her first summer in Korea, where AC is used sparingly and public buildings are never cooled below 78F/26C - if at all.  MsCaroline is here to tell you that, after 2 years of sweaty acclimation to Korea's slightly masochistic cooling standards, she found herself freezing in virtually every public building she entered during her entire stay in the US.  The fact that the Midwest was experiencing an unusual cool spell just made things worse, since, apparently, once the AC goes on for the summer, it stays on for the duration, record low temperatures notwithstanding. Naturally, within hours of returning to Seoul, she was complaining bitterly about the heat and humidity. She is looking forward to Fall.
  • Trying to fit Texas-sized furniture into a Korean apartment.  The Asia Vus were fortunate enough (or so they thought) to have the option of moving some of their furniture to Korea with them.  This was nice from the point of view that they did not have to go out and buy or rent furniture upon their arrival, especially because they have very American tastes when it comes to mattresses (Asian mattresses are notoriously hard to Westerners.)  However, MsCaroline found in her last apartment that the generously-sized furniture that fit so perfectly in her high-ceilinged, open-plan homes in the Southwest does not work anywhere nearly as well in small Korean apartments.  The new apartment is no exception, and MsCaroline has found herself  moving her furniture on a weekly basis, trying desperately to come up with a configuration that she can live with.  The fact that her furniture is terribly heavy makes life rather unpleasant for Son#2, who is constantly being pressed into service as an ad hoc moving man.  She is sad to report that she is no closer to a satisfying arrangement now than she was when she first moved here and has nothing to show for it but a lot of back pain.
  • Remembering what it is like to drive in the US:  While it is true that Americans generally follow the rules when it comes to driving (eg, they stay in their lanes, generally drive in the proscribed direction, and rarely park on the sidewalk,) MsCaroline was somewhat disappointed when it came to actually driving in the US again.  As it turns out, the fact that her fellow citizens are so law-abiding means that they are also extraordinarily intolerant of even the slightest departure from accepted convention.  Since MsCaroline spent most of her time during this leave driving in cities where she had either a)never lived or b) not lived in a long time, she was usually that driver;  needing to get over at the last minute, driving slowly looking for street names and exits, and generally being unsure of what she was doing.  What she learned is that Americans, while generally law-abiding,  are actually very aggressive drivers.  Even if she was, for example, in the slow lane (where it is, after all, legitimate to drive slowly while, say, watching for an exit) it was not unusual for the driver behind her to either a) tailgate or b) accelerate aggressively past her with a roaring engine and then cut in front of her violently, just to make sure that she was aware of his displeasure with her chosen speed. Much to her extreme surprise, she found herself missing the streets of Seoul, where drivers are actually quite patient with the quirks of others (siege mentality, one supposes) and accept the shenanigans of their fellow drivers with a stolid impassivity, and calm acceptance, regardless of how blatantly illegal the maneuver in question may be.   Merging across 4 lanes of traffic on the Capitol Beltway in short order? Certain death.  Merging across 4 lanes of traffic on the Olympic Expressway? Doable.  (MsCaroline should also add that, in the year that she has been out of the US,  the popularity of texting-while-driving has skyrocketed, and she was alarmed to see so many distracted drivers, especially on major roadways.  Bad news.)
  • Shopping for the new apartment:  MsCaroline is - unlike her highly talented interior designer sister-in-law - not particularly gifted in the home decorating department.  Her decorating style can best be described as 'eclectic' ( the kind of 'eclectic' that means 'weird,' not the kind of 'eclectic' that means 'charming.')  Oh, she makes an effort, but she realizes that the best she can probably ever hope for is  'neat and clean.'  Nonetheless, she really does try to create a warm and pleasant atmosphere in her home, which has been a bit of a challenge in the new apartment.  In the first place, the apartment is entirely wallpapered in white wallpaper(why white? why not off-white?), and the blinds on all the windows are also white.  In theory, this would lend itself to a 'fresh and airy' palette. In reality, though, since MsCaroline's furniture is all Dark and Gloomy Leather and Wood (well, it looked good in our last house), the effect is somewhat stark, sort of like a bad black-and-white photograph.  MsCaroline - who repeats that she is no design expert - dimly realizes that she needs something to soften the sharp contrasts of the room and warm them up, and had been (vainly) searching for curtains and cushions in in Seoul that matched both her taste and her budget.  Unfortunately, the items available in her price range all tended to be made of fabrics shot through with glittery gold and/or silver threads, which are not MsCaroline's thing at all.  As a result, when she stumbled upon these curtains and these cushions on sale in a Pier One store in the US, she immediately bought them.  (As she later reflected on FaceBook, the irony of buying Asian imports in a store in the US to ship back to her apartment in Asia was not lost on her.  But she did it anyway.)
Curtains=elephants.Cushions=stripes.  Because that's how MsCaroline rolls.
 
Naturally, MsCaroline has a fascinating (cough) story to share about packing and shipping the curtains and the cushions (6 of them, down-filled - did you know you can suck all the air out of them using vacuum bags?) but will have to leave it for another post.  In the meantime, she has run into a challenging situation as far as actually hanging the curtains goes, involving soffits and wiring and drills and other nitpicky things that make MrLogical all cautious and grumpy, but she feels that she has taken a step in the right direction and is optimistically expecting MrL will come up with a magical fix for the whole thing.  It is doubtful that MrLogical feels quite as optimistic about this.

  • Home Leave:  Those of you who were reading last year during MsCaroline's Summer 2012 Whistlestop Tour will be relieved to know that she opted for a less ambitious summer travel plan this year.  The Asia Vus limited their travels to a mere 4 states (plus the District of Columbia) this summer, which made things less hectic.  However, since she also had less time this year, she was not able to catch up with nearly as many people as she had hoped to (B, N, and K, I'm talking to you: I'll have to schedule extra time in Ohio next year!) She did, however, get to celebrate several significant birthdays with people she loved, hug a few old friends very close, and see people whose faces she had missed terribly.  Long enough? Never.  But it will have to do til next year.



16 comments:

Trish Burgess said...

Ah how lovely to have you back. Don't worry, we have all been carefree with the blogging this summer.

Talking curtains, in our home every curtain pole has an extra bit of wood surreptitiously nailed back on as my husband always cuts them too short. I thank god he didn't become a surgeon.

I wondered if there was more news after 'Home Leave' as there is a big gap. Is there a photo I can't see or did you just stop to rearrange your furniture again?

Stacy said...

Ha! I was just thinking, didn't I tell her not to mention this, when I got to my name! :)

You need to come to Texas! The four-lane exit maneuver even has a name here: Texas lane change. It is not uncommon and is well-tolerated. And I was as shocked as you were with all the texting while driving going on. What is the matter with these people!? I give them the same tsk, tsk, look I give parents in Dubai and Kuala Lumpur who have their children perched up between the front seats, or even, God forbid, standing in front of the front seat passenger. Do they live in some sort of black hole where news of accidental deaths due to texting or lack of seatbelt usage doesn't penetrate?

As always, Carolyne, you amuse me. I missed you!

Circles said...

Good to have you back! Re. Pier One, I did exactly the same thing when we moved from the States! Love that store and love your purchases :-)

MsCaroline said...

Trish - why, thank you! I noticed that I was far from alone in my erratic posts, but I did almost feel like I had to blow some virtual dust off the blog when I finally sat myself down and got back to business.
Curtains: Chandler, being an engineer, is usually pretty accurate about his measurements. However, in matters that aren't so important (and I suspect curtains fall into this category,) he often uses the phrase, 'We ain't building a church' (bad grammar used for effect) to imply that a slapdash approach is perfectly fine.
No news after 'Home Leave' - I was wrapping up the post at the end of a very jet-laggy day, had moved a photo and forgotten to delete the space. But yes - I did rearrange the furniture yesterday - again!

MsCaroline said...

Stacy - Thanks for the lovely comment, and, yes, I figured you'd remember having given me that advice. I just couldn't bear not to address the elephant in the room (so to speak.) Other bloggers take a week or two off - this was a full month, and I felt like I had to at least mention it...; ) As far as driving goes - in San Antonio, it's much easier to cut across 4 lanes of traffic because there aren't nearly as many cars - doesn't seem like it would work as easily in Houston or Dallas, though. In Seoul, where traffic is almost always bumper-to-bumper, you make your way across by pointing your car in the general direction you want to go, and 'oozing' into each lane. People always let you in. Always. In DC, it is much more difficult; people hate to let you in, and tend to zoom past you just to prevent your getting in front of them. It's just a much more aggressive mindset in general- very cutthroat. In fact, I found driving in the US this time much more alarming, mostly because I realized that our wide-open spaces and roomy roads lull people into the sense that their actions are not likely to affect others. In contrast, while Koreans do some really crazy things, they are - for the most part - very alert to what is going on all around them. There is always so much to pay attention to: lanes moving over/disappearing, pedestrians popping out of nowhere, motorcycles weaving in between cars, bicycles and handcarts moving right along the road with everyone else - I rarely even see people talking on their phones - can't even imagine trying to text while in Korean traffic!

MsCaroline said...

Circles - thanks! It was definitely a leap of faith - I have no idea how the elephants will blend with everything else - but I did say my taste was 'eclectic' - didn't I? ; )

nappy valley girl said...

I certainly am not missing US driving! It's not just the texting, it's the texting at the same time as sipping an enormous cup of Starbucks at the same time as applying mascara. I swear I saw a woman reading the paper while driving once. Was fun to read about your summer and looking forward to a September resumption of the blogging season!

Holly said...

With regard to driving the the US (and U-turns, in particular), you may be interested to know that I gave my new SatNav to Erica and insisted on having "old faithful" returned to me.

With regard to seeing faces that were missed, I still get a bit teary when I think about our afternoon together - thank you for fitting me in.

Love you!! - Holly

MsCaroline said...

NVG-Oh, do I agree! I have to admit to always taking my travel mug of coffee with me everywhere, but that's where I draw the line. I've seen a lot of 'no texting while driving' public service announcements on FaceBook, but really had no idea how bad the problem was until I got home this summer. It seems like at least some places are cracking down, though: a friend of mine was in NV this summer and said that the fine for having a cell phone in your hand (whether for talking or texting) was $250. Seems like a step in the right direction. Another reason your train trip sounds so ideal - no driving! Hope the move is going/has gone smoothly and looking forward to hearing about your return home!

MsCaroline said...

H- hahahaha - that one wasn't much use, was it? I was amazed and awed by how well you were able to get around with (more or less) no help at all. As far as I could see, your U-turns didn't engender any road rage, though - you knew exactly what you were doing! I, on the other hand....; )
I felt exactly the same way about our afternoon, as well. A recharge to my batteries and a boost to my spirits, you are. <3

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Ah there you are ! Had assumed you were travelling and hadn't come by for a while but it is delightful to have you back. You are very good about the repeated making a home thing. I think I might just lie down with a blanket over my head. Hope you are energised and not too sad as a result of your travels. It is such a pity Wales is not on your circuit. I feel we would get on.

Nance said...

Oh, I hear you about freezing with the AC in public buildings. It's terrible. I am not alone among my friends in carrying a Building Sweater wherever I go, especially for restaurants and grocery stores.

This summer has been so very odd. Tons of rain in June; a heat wave in July; vast amounts of humidity and cooler than normal temperatures accompanied by heavy cloud cover. I have picked a total of TWO TOMATOES from my garden. The plants are loaded, but they just aren't ripening.

Blogging is sporadic for so many of us. We understand.

MsCaroline said...

Elizabeth - Thanks for the kind thoughts - there are many days when I am ready to chuck it all out the window (but fortunately, can't lift the furniture!) I'm sure I'm learning all sorts of character lessons from this experience, too. I know we'd get on, too - was actually trying to convince my mum that we needed to make a trip to Wales together just so I could meet you in person - I felt like I knew you from reading your blog!!

MsCaroline said...

Nance - I posted a response to you yesterday but it's disappeared into the ether somehow, so here goes again:

I definitely needed a Building Sweater this summer - something I never would have expected. I appropriated a light jacket of my mum's for the duration, which she was kind enough to spare.
As far as produce goes, I think N. Ohio has had a worse summer than the southern part - my mother's garden has produced really well this summer, although most of the produce is consumed by wildlife (despite her having erected a complex barrier system that stops just short of including concertina wire.)
I figure most bloggers can identify with getting busy, but a month still seemed like a pretty unconscionable amount of time to go without at least a photo or a gratuitous link to an article. I've only been blogging for a couple years, though: maybe I'll get tougher as I go along. ; )

BavarianSojourn said...

Glad you had a more relaxing summer this year... Hope you get your furniture problem sorted soon. So reminded me of friends of ours who lived in Singapore for 3 years. They chopped a table in half upon their return to make it fit! :D

MsCaroline said...

Emma - chopping actually did cross my mind, as did throwing out the whole lot and starting over again. Fortunately for MrL, I'm too lazy to do all the shopping that would be required...