|MsCaroline, MrL, and friend J in the |
MsCaroline, who has been in the UK for approximately 3.75 days, has plenty of insightful observations to make about life in Bristol, which she will share with you in due course. However, she feels that she owes her readers at least a few highlights from the last 6 whirlwind weeks of life in Seoul.
(But she will just say this before she moves on: English grocery stores: Oh. My. God. One would never be able to walk into an express corner grocery store in the USA- and in many cases, a regular grocery store - and buy a dozen free-range eggs, fresh green curry, and almond milk. She has been to Tesco or Sainsbury's every day - sometimes twice - and still cannot get over what you can find in these stores. She is not sure she will survive a trip to Waitrose.)
We all realize that it is impossible for MsCaroline to ever relate all that has taken place in the last 6 weeks, and she is not even going to try. She will provide you, instead, with a few highlights which will somehow have to suffice.
Early December: Due to the
|High School (Honors) Graduate #2 (yes, MsC is bragging. She is not apologizing.)|
Mid- December: Having wrapped up their work obligations (MsC is not going to even talk about how
Mid-December: Having recently celebrated a 'milestone birthday,' and reasoning that landing in England and immediately trying to track down a doctor would add an unnecessary level of confusion to an already-challenging situation, MsCaroline decides to undergo a series of routine medical screening tests 3 weeks before leaving the country at her local hospital (she will describe the whole experience in a future post, because this paragraph will not in any way do the experience full justice.) These are the sorts of tests that require a certain amount of fasting and other unpleasant preparations, but MsCaroline goes into the whole thing gamely, primarily because she is aware that she will be unconscious for most of it. This is, in fact, true, although, due to unforeseen circumstances, she is required afterwards to spend the night in a Korean hospital, during which time she is not only fully conscious, but also connected to an IV, not permitted to eat or drink, and (not surprisingly, under these conditions) unable to sleep. Needless to say, when she is finally released the following afternoon, she goes straight to bed and stays there for about 24 hours. (Note: there was really no cause for concern; it is just that Korean hospitals are far more conservative than Western ones and require hospital stays after even the most routine and minor procedures. MsCaroline reflected on this bitterly more than once, realizing that, had she had this test in the US, she would have been at home, eating chicken noodle soup and toast and lying on the sofa with the dog, rather than lying all night long connected to an IV on a (very hard) bed in a Korean hospital.) For those of you who are concerned about MsC's well-being, have no fear: all is well and MsCaroline has a clean bill of health - and a newfound appreciation for the western hospital system.)
Mid-to-late-December: #1 arrives to enjoy his last Christmas and New Year's in Seoul. Much celebrating is done:
|Heading out for a Christmas Eve Dinner at the Libertine in Itaewon.|
and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are lovely. On the 26th, however, the entire family awakenswith varying degrees of debilitation due to what they soon realize is a case of stomach flu which means that they lose almost 2 full days' worth of sightseeing and (even more importantly) preparing for the packers, who arrive on the 29th. MsCaroline and MrL - already somewhat weakened from their bout with the flu - engage in their traditional pre-move bickering, during which both of them remember with great bitterness just how unpleasant it is to inventory every.single.item.in.the.apartment.and.write.it.on.the.provided.form. After the packers leave and they are all settled in the hotel, they once again return to their normal state of mutual admiration and great goodwill, heightened by: 1) a bottle of wine, and 2) the knowledge that they - and their marriage - have survived yet another moving inventory.
Late December: In the midst of the stomach flu, MsC receives a frantic and unintelligible phone call from her sweet Philippine housekeeper, who, it transpires, has been apprehended by the Immigration Police and is in jail, awaiting deportation. Since MsCaroline is: a) unaware that her housekeeper was in the country illegally and b) has no experience with either Korean jails or the deportation process, it takes a certain amount of time and repetition for her to grasp the situation, compounded by (quite justifiable) hysterics on the part of the housekeeper. The situation, as it turns out, is very straightforward: the housekeeper must remain in jail until she leaves for the Philippines. The catch in all of this is that the housekeeper does not have enough money to pay for an airline ticket, nor do her family in the Philippines. In addition to all of this, due to Christmas and New Year's (both official holidays in Korea) she will be required to stay in jail until the holidays are over and cannot even buy a ticket until January. Eventually, MsCaroline and another one of the housekeepers' employers manage to sort things and arrange for the purchase of the ticket (the housekeeper has worked for them for over 3 years and is a lovely, sweet lady - it is unthinkable that she should just be left in jail.) While MsC is very happy that J's problem is solved, she cannot help but be concerned at the same time with a more selfish issue, namely: Now that J is in jail, who is going to come (at the last minute during the holidays) and do the extensive cleaning of the apartment after the movers leave on the 30th which was arranged weeks ago and which will (obviously) take hours and hours? And is MsCaroline a spoiled, lazy foreigner who is too good to clean her own apartment?(No, she is is a tired foreigner who is happy to pay for it to be done.) This is eventually sorted for them by their realtor, but MsCaroline has a few dark moments before it is all arranged.
Late December: The AsiaVu's beloved dog, Merlot, is taken to the dogsitter (also quite beloved) and left there with the understanding that she will be flown to England directly the AsiaVus find an accommodation that permits pets. No one discusses the fact that everyone has been extremely pessimistic about the likelihood of finding such (this article more or less sums up what they are up against), and instead talks brightly about other things, preferring not to consider what will happen if no pet-friendly dwelling can be found in Bristol. MsCaroline does a lot of looking out the window and sniffing. It is a terribly sad ride, both there and back.
Late December/Early January: Having finally moved out of the apartment, the Asia Vus head to a hotel in downtown Seoul, where they will stay for the next few days before heading to the airport on the 2nd of January. MsCaroline takes it into her mind that she would like to ring in her last New Year right in downtown Seoul near the Bosingak Belfry, which has a Times-Square-like celebration, complete with music, announcers, street bands, and general revelry, culminating with the ringing of the great Bosingak Bell at midnight. Accordingly, she and MrL arrange to meet with friends M and S to have a lovely late dinner (Italian, 5 courses, lots of wine) and then wend their way 20 or 30 minutes before midnight to the Jongak area. This is an excellent plan, except that they have not contended with temperatures hovering not much above 10 deg Fahrenheit/-12C. Although all of them are veterans of Korean winters and are warmly clad, the truth is that standing around outdoors in that temperature for any amount of time is fairly uncomfortable, no matter how much wine you have drunk. By the time the bell starts ringing, MsCaroline can no longer feel her toes, and MrL has completely lost his sense of humor. Nonetheless, they stick it out, and are able to wrap up their time in Seoul with another unique (by 'unique,' I mean 'mildly uncomfortable but mostly worthwhile') experience:
|Waiting for the New Year with friends M and S. MrL claims he was smiling in both of these photos. This may or may not be true.|
Goodbye, Korea. We've loved you - and we'll miss you. More than you can know.