My Missing Peace

Recently, I have been thinking about my favourite place in the town I used to live in, in South Korea. I lived in a city called Gunsan and I would bike over to Wolmyeong Park. Admittedly, not frequently enough, especially in hindsight. I would either lock up my bike and follow the path by foot or continue riding until I got to my spot. I would stop now and again along the way to focus on the calmness around me. Gentle ripples on the lake and the trees and mountains lining the perimeter repeatedly won me over.
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At my spot, the next steps were always crucial. Find one of the lounge chairs on the side of the mountain, kick off my shoes and lie back. When I first started going there I never took my shoes off and I found it really weird that people did. That was until one day I decided to try it. Ahhhh the freedom! Happy little toes wriggling around your socks, as cool air caresses them after your hike.
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The remarkably comfy lounge chairs fixed the side of the mountain are such a brilliant idea. I think more places around the world should have them. I would sit there and meditate, take in the view of the lake and watch passersby. Then lie back and look up at the canopy of trees above and listen to the birds. Lots of people, including me, would have naps here too. Korea is so safe you could have a snooze just about anywhere. I miss truly this place.

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Tea time, treats & talks

My friend got married and bought a house while I was away! I didn’t get to see her when I visited last year, so this was a treat in more than one way. I got to see her beautiful new home and hear all about the lovely ideas she has for it. We spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest too, looking at some fantastic pictures and ideas.

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All this was done over fresh baklava ❤ and something new I tried called kaymak, a Turkish cream, on fresh bread with a drizzle of honey. It was a wonderfully tasty accompaniment to the great company. The occasion was also a stark reminder of the things you miss when you live an expat life. The trade off.

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One Christmas, three countries

I was packing right down to the early hours of Christmas morning. I started all the preparation for my final departure from Korea early, to avoid this very scenario. But there I was, 2am, 3am plodding along. Maybe I’ll get that bit right next time.

I finally finished, slept for an hour and then started getting ready. I took my suitcase and bags downstairs. One, two, three carry on pieces. Oh boy, I’ll figure that out at the airport, I thought. Andrew got a cab from his place to mine and I got in. At the bus terminal, Deborah was waiting to bid me my final farewell. 6:10am came and Andrew and I departed for Incheon Airport. I waved goodbye to Deborah 😦

After talking for a while, I fell asleep. Then, I woke up to the realisation that our bus had turned into satan’s a$$ crack. I peeled layers off, drank water and endured the rest of the sweaty ride.

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Check-in time was the highlight of my Christmas Day (apart from finally seeing my sister later that night). Andrew wanted to sing carols in the line, so we did. I had brought candy canes and chocolates to give people, so after each carol I’d wish people a Merry Christmas and give them out. We struck up various conversations with the different people around, who we encountered as the line snaked its way up to the check-in counters. That was great. I heard about some rather wonderful trips. Some going home to see family, some travelling around Europe, some moving abroad to study. I loved hearing each of them!

My suitcase was 1kg overweight, the woman at the counter declared, “Christmas ser-vi-suh.” Service, Korean speak for freeness! She hadn’t asked about hand luggage yet and I braced myself. There the mound sat, further emphasised by my coat, my blazer and my thick scarf. D’oh! She didn’t even bat an eyelid at it *phew* she just put a couple of stickers on them.

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Andrew and I said our goodbyes ㅜㅜ and I boarded the Aeroflot plane for the first leg of my trip. They gave lunch and dinner, but it was a 9 hour flight with no snack between meals, which I thought wasn’t very good at all. I had an apple and Snickers left over from what I was giving people, so I had those. I watched a couple of movies and slept a lot.

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We landed in Russia on time, despite our 30 minute delayed departure. I had three hours to kill at the departure gates in Moscow. That’s when sheer tiredness unfolded upon me. I got myself a salmon and cream cheese bagel. After the 3 hour wait was a 4 hour flight, which I correctly predicted -after that first flight- they wouldn’t give a snack on (unless they did while I was sleeping).

I woke up in time to see the dazzling amber lights of the city of Hounslow below, as the plane descended into Heathrow Airport. Baggage reclaim, immigration and picking up some bubbly in duty free all went quickly and smoothly. It was thereafter that my old frustrations with London were quickly rekindled.

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I needed wifi to contact my sister. No open networks. GAHHHHHHH! Everywhere you go in Korea has [free] wifi, so this was already irritating. There was one that Heathrow Airport offered, 45 minutes free, after you enter a bunch of details. I did that, three annoying times, none of which resulted in wifi connection. I gave up and decided to use a pay phone. Insert £1 to start. £1???? £1!!!!!! To START. Then 20p/min thereafter. In my outrage, I refused.

I found an information …cart… and I asked the lady there about the wifi. She knew nothing other than there was wifi available. Right. She was initially helpful and let me make a call to my sister. The call dropped and we hadn’t exchanged any details yet. Then, at some unknown but fairly immediate turning point, the lady transformed into a huffing, puffing, tutting, rude mess. I remained calm and handed her back the iPad and said in a neutral tone, that it was fine and I’d sort something out. Meanwhile, my inner voice was screaming at the top of her lungs, “THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN KOREA!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Sigh. Making calls on an iPad is absolutely ridiculous anyway.

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I stood nearby fiddling with the wifi again, I paused and turned to her and spoke, again in no real tone. I told her that she was very unhelpful and that she was rude and that I couldn’t understand how she could be acting like that while working on an information desk. At this stage she was packing up the cart. She started wheeling away. I asked her if there was another information point that we could go to. She said it was the only one. I exhaled sharply with a slight laugh, eyebrows raised, to fully disclose to her that I thought we were all pretty damned, if she was our only point of assistance. I felt worse for the other people around, clearly tourists, stranded or trying to figure out what to do and where to go.

Eventually, Dallas (my sister) got on to me and told me where my taxi was waiting. I went out to find it. Rain, of course. After that first hour, I thought, yep, welcome back to London. I prayed that the taxi driver didn’t want to engage in small talk, I was just too exhausted to even muster that. He didn’t. Thank you, Addison Lee, for sending that angel. I knocked out on the ride there. We arrived. I paid and I gave him a Snickers bar.

My sister came out to the taxi. Warm embrace. Rejoice! I was finally back in LondonTown with 30 minutes to spare.

~~~The Wandering Pier

Gunsan Goodbyes

The time to say goodbye in this expat life comes more frequently than one would like. I have made some great friends here. People I can predict will be friends for life. Being so far from home, away from your family and those dear can be rough. For me, most of my close friends here I pretty much view as my family.

My mum's visit. She, Lawrence and I in Jeonju. First time for all of us.
My mum’s visit. She, Lawrence and I in Jeonju. First time for all of us.
Will trying out some tuho (투호) at Hanok Mall. Traditional Korean Village in Jeonju.
Will trying out some tuho (투호) at Hanok Mall. Traditional Korean Village in Jeonju.

I’ve had to say lots of goodbyes during my two year period in Korea and it’s safe to say that it doesn’t really get easier. At least not for me. I always feel the loss for longer than I’d predict, even with a buffer. Then there are places, activities, songs, foods that take your mind straight back to them.

Friends at the beach. Dana, Katie, Peter & Estie chatting on the shores of Sunyudo Island.
Friends at the beach. Dana, Katie, Peter & Estie chatting on the shores of Sunyudo Island.
Josh & I on the ferry back to mainland Gunsan, after our birthday/goodbye weekend for him on Sunyudo Island.
Josh & I on the ferry back to mainland Gunsan, after our birthday/goodbye weekend for him on Sunyudo Island.

I’ve learned that keeping busy definitely helps, whether it be work, social life or distracting yourself in some other way. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for all the relationships and bonds that I’ve formed. They have all added immensely to my journey through this chapter in my life. Even though it really, truly sucks to say good bye, we’ll always have Gunsan 🙂

Phil taking a break after our night out. This year for NYE, I went to Italy and met his wife & kids!
Phil taking a break after our night out. This year for NYE, I went to Italy and met his wife & kids!
Group effort at Korea Burn 2012. Photography by Dana Felthauser.
Group effort at Korea Burn 2012. Photography by Dana Felthauser.
Estie, Cayley & Dana strike a muddy pose at Mudfest 2013 in Boryeong.
Estie, Cayley & Dana strike a muddy pose at Mudfest 2013 in Boryeong.

I’m dedicating this blog post to all my friends who have left and especially two friends in particular, simply because I knew what the double impact of their leaving would do. They definitely shone as bright lights in our little community and I knew when they were leaving I’d miss them tons and really feel the difference of not having them around. Estie and Peter! Two adventurous souls who came to Gunsan together and really left a stamp on those who met them.

Peter & Estie <3
Peter & Estie ❤

I shall hopefully be spending some time with them in their homeland of South Africa next year. I'm very much looking forward to that. Below are some pictures from a little goodbye breakfast we had for them.

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~Enjoy your now and savour your memories of great times with great people~

i

Catching sunrise at the Marine Park to end our night out~~~^^
Catching sunrise at the Marine Park to end our night out~~~^^
My Super Saturday partner. We always had a blast every Saturday.
My Super Saturday partner. We always had a blast every Saturday.
Will and Mario preparing some food for our first BBQ of the year. Will's coming to Trinidad for Carnival next year :D
Will and Mario preparing some food for our first BBQ of the year. Will’s coming to Trinidad for Carnival next year 😀
Josh & Mario relaxing with some shisha at our BBQ in the park.
Josh & Mario relaxing with some shisha at our BBQ in the park.

You can see more of Dana’s photography here: Korea 365 http://danafelthauser.blogspot.kr/2013/08/korea-365-365-goodbye-korea.html?m=1

London soon

I’ve been so occupied with other things that any excitement for this trip has been overshadowed. The main thing was getting everything ready at work for the cover teachers coming in while I’m away. Other than that, I’ve just been busy running around getting little pressies for people and seeing friends for the last time in 2012.

Must.start.packing.
Must.start.packing.

Last night I FINALLY opened my suitcase (new suitcase that I’m quite fond of) and started getting some things together to put in. This definitely fostered some excitement. However, excitement for the trip was quickly dashed by the wayside and replaced with excitement about news from my friend- SHE BOOKED HER TICKET TO KOREA….WOOOOO! I was so excited I could barely sleep last night.

It started raining today.. preparing me for British weather!
It started raining today.. preparing me for British weather!

Anyway, now my departure nearing. I leave home at 6:30am and it’s 4am now. I’m ridiculously tired and hoping to get lots of kip in on my very long journey. My sissy and my friend I just mentioned are both coming to meet me at Gatwick. I cannot wait to see them.

Toodles!