Archive | February, 2013

Dear Korea (by Baden)

27 Feb

Dear Korea

Thank you so much for having us. Cath and I really enjoyed our stay.

Even though I was never 100% sure of what you were saying to me, showing me or asking of me, I felt very welcome here. You made an effort in making sure I was alright, and didn’t feel home sick. Thank you.

I have had so many wonderful experiences, challenges and explorations during my year here. There are three particular things I want to thank you for. First, as a kid in school, my teachers would sometimes asked me; “If you had a million bucks, what would you do?” Such a question seemed unfathomable. But you made this possible for me, thank you. Over this year I was not only a millionaire, but a multi millionaire. Second, Thanks for seasons. You really do have “four distinct seasons.” The beautiful cherry blossoms of spring, the scorching humidity, high temperatures and greenery of summer, the vibrant, reds, yellows, oranges, and brown colours of autumn and the white snow capped mountains, frozen rivers and minus temperatures of winter. It was such an honour to experience the earth’s seasons as they are taught in nursery school. And third, a taste of home only uniquely Korean; your delicious  braai (barbecue) style restaurants serving samgyup sal, sitting over a meat grill surrounded by an array of side dishes, Yum!

I will always remember you. Thank you for your hospitality and provision over the past year. My wife and I are eternally grateful. God bless you in all your future endeavours.

Yours truly

Baden Dowie (South African English teacher at Yeongju Jeil High School)

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Farewell Korea

27 Feb

By Catherine

I am sitting in a hotel in Insadong, Seoul – the same hotel we sat in 1 year and 1 month ago when we first arrived in Korea. We deliberately came back to “old man in the alley way” as we thought it fitting to end as we began. This will be my last post written in Korea.  The old man still works here and I remember the soapy smell of the corridors.

I remember the bitter cold and the unattractive underwear we bought to keep us warm. I remember the smells of foreign food and the sweet sugary cakes sold on the side of the streets. I also remember the pungent odour of bugs cooking besides sweetcorns.

I remember the change of season and the radiant pink azalaes that grew along the river and outside my school. I remember the crisp mornings that we tried to run along the river and the smell of car fumes as we came up the stairs to join the road. I remember wading through the river and the pebbles digging into my softened feet.

I remember the first time we had Korean grilled meat and the relief I experienced knowing my school would feed me every day – even if I only ate kimchi and rice sometimes. I remember my delight when the menu was chicken salad, spaghetti Bolognese, spicy tofu or hamburg steaks. I remember catching fish in the Bonghwa river during the fish festival and then eating juicy watermelons back in Yeongju, with the cherry-red sauce dripping down my chin. I remember taking evening cycles through narrow quiet streets and discovering music concerts where we sat and listened. I remember sitting outside HomePlus eating ice creams and bumping into other foreigners doing their shopping. I remember throwing the frisbee on the river bank on sunny afternoons or playing basketball. I remember watching Baden and the boys play soccer in the dark.

I remember train rides to the next city, just to watch a movie and stuff ourselves with popcorn and coke. I remember gazing out the window as heavy rains fell and watching Baden walk home under his red umbrella. I remember climbing onto bus 1 and my surprise when I saw Baden sitting at the back, with an open seat beside him. I remember late evening trains back to our town after a weekend of exploring, and the song “Speaking words of wisdom” signalling that the journey was over.

I’ll never forget late long lunches at Hans Deli or coffee breaks at coffee shops. I’ll also remember trawling through second-hand shops in search of bargains. I’ll remember the summer heat and how we stripped off most of our clothes as soon as we got home and basking in the breeze of the aircon. And I’ll definitely remember the time I had a full conversation (in Korean) with a taxi driver 3 weeks before I left.

I’ve watched too many episodes of CSI and, even more of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve moaned that it’s not what I expected and that I’m not growing. But really it’s been an amazing experience. As a person, I’m wider and fuller and deeper than I ever was before. And that is everything.

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2 travellers and a baby