The Grumpy Expat: August 2013
|MsCaroline, circa 1970, in Bangkok. Grumpy even in her early years.|
MsCaroline wrote a post a few months ago about being a grumpy expat, in which she described an interesting phenomenon in which her brain managed to frame every unpleasant thing in her life as a direct result of her living in a foreign country. In short, she had become a victim of her Grumpy Expat Brain.
In fact, her brain has been so grumpy, that she has started (and stopped) any number of blog posts, typing away frantically for minutes at a time (all the while with the growing awareness that she was writing Crap) only to stop mid-sentence and perform the cyber-equivalent of crumpling up her paper and tossing it angrily on the floor (which means hitting 'delete' for you kids out there.)
She has finally hit on the brilliant idea of following these time-
So, MsCaroline is writing what she knows. And what she has been knowing for the past several weeks is grumpy internal monologue. Don't say she didn't warn you.
Friday, August 10th (Incheon International Airport): Following a 22-hour flight, arrive at ICN, and after enduring the usual bureaucratic indignities, drag hideously heavy bags (full of treasures purchased in the US) several kilometers across Largest Parking Lot in Asia to find car. Observe it is approximately a thousand degrees hotter in Seoul than it was in Washington D.C. Rejoice in relatively light traffic until we reach Seoul proper and drive into a hideous traffic jam. Wish for more powerful air conditioning in car.
Thursday, August 15th: Long-overdue appointment with hairdresser. Reflect on how fortunate one is to have found an English-speaking hairdresser who does a reasonable job, if one doesn't look too closely at the
Saturday, August 17th: Elephant curtains having finally arrived in post, MrL is finally
Wednesday, August 21st: First day of teacher orientation week after entire summer off. Realize with a shock on the way to school that I have not spoken a word of German all summer and will be walking into a week long of jargon-filled planning meetings in that language. Hastily download Deutsche Welle podcasts onto iPhone and try to reprogram brain during 15-minute walk - largely unsuccessful. First several hours back = most trying.
Saturday, August 24th: Take stock of potted plants in balcony garden, which have been looking miserable lately. Decide they are stressed from too much hot sun and insufficient water (housekeeper tasked with watering them weekly during our absence.) Spend the morning moving them to shadier places and soaking them thoroughly.
Monday, August 26th: Plants look even worse, if possible, especially one topiary which was covered with blossoms before MsC left for the US which have now all turned black and shriveled away without ever opening up. MsC notes that topiary wilts in hot afternoon sun and contrives to move it to even shadier spot in conjunction with increased watering, replacing it with thriving and intensely green arborvitae plant.
Wednesday, August 28th: Topiary distinctly worse. MsC finally resorts to Googling the problem. Discover that sun-loving topiary's black blossoms may be a sign that they are overwatered, which - based on weekly watering by housekeeper -should not be a problem. Subsequently learn that, during time MsCaroline was in the US, it rained every single day and that plants should probably have been brought indoors to prevent root rot. Wonder what MrL's reaction will be when and if hideously expensive topiary should die. Wonder if it can be spirited away while MrL is at work and replaced with something cheaper.
Thursday, August 29th: Belatedly observe that once-thriving arborvitae is now yellow and nearly dead. Concede that vision of balcony as lush green bower is not as easily accomplished as one would think. Wash hands of whole thing and decide to ignore plants altogether, after which they immediately begin to thrive again.
Friday, August 30th: Receive first electricity bill for new apartment, which is heart-stoppingly high, despite
Lest you think that MsCaroline is nothing but a complainer, let her hasten to reassure you that there is still good in the world, and she knows it. As evidence, she submits:
Slow, steady, and encouraging recovery: Good friend of MrL's and MsC's who had been in a coma after cycling accident not only recognizes us when we visit him in the hospital, but also a) smiles and: b) still understands English (his 2nd language.) We rejoice all the way home.
Hugs and smiles from former pupils make the first day of school an absolute joy.
Son #2's iGCSEs - These tests are not taken by American pupils, but #2's school (which has a British division) makes them available to all students, and #2 sat them last spring with a great deal of Sturm und Drang and dark predictions of failure. Scores came out last week, and, as it turns out, #2 not only passed, he passed everything with flying colo(u)rs -or at least, so MsCaroline (who did not really understand the grading system) was assured, by bona fide citizens of the UK, who should know what's what.
Dropping temperatures: Korean friends tell MsCaroline that temperatures will drop around 1st of September. MsCaroline- who, by now, cannot even remember a day when temperatures were comfortable - is skeptical. Fortunately for her, Korean friends are correct: temperatures drop precisely on September 1st, and MsCaroline flings doors and windows open with wild abandon for the first time in months. MsCaroline realizes it is sad that she is so excited about dropping temperatures, but anyone who has experienced Seoul in the summer will understand why this is so significant.
Pren-duh: Tiny local hardware store around the corner (roughly the size of MsC's living room) has been go-to spot for all of MrLogical's curtain-hanging apparatus and mechanical geegaws. Lovely proprietor - who now recognizes us - speaks about as much English as we speak Korean (eg, almost none) but always does her best to find what we need. Stop in on Sunday afternoon to pick up yet another piece of galvanized metal pipe (curtain rods, people; curtain rods) and find proprietor there with her teenage daughter, who is sitting by the register doing homework. As we enter, proprietor greets us delightedly, takes MsC by the arm, and introduces her to her daughter in a torrent of incomprehensible Korean. Bows and smiles are exchanged, and then the proprietor gives MsCaroline's arm a little squeeze, smiles at her, and says to her daughter, "Pren-duh."
MsCaroline smiles blankly, but doesn't get it right away; and then she remembers: 'f' in Korean often comes out as ''p'
Not feeling grumpy at all.