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A weekend in England

7 Sep

When Hurricane Bolaven changed direction and headed towards Korea a day before our flight to England, people around us began to panic. All over the news were stories of cancelled flights; Japanese homes were being torn apart and Chinese fishermen disappeared into the seas on the Korean pennisular (although honestly I don’t know why they were in their fishing boat when there’d been warnings all week about the Hurricane). We, however, had faith!

The only delay we experienced was the night before our flight when we caught the KTX (normally a very fast train) to our hotel. It was probably going as slowly as I ride my bicyle and we arrived at the airport guesthouse in Seoul much later than hoped. The next morning, however, we woke up to clear skies and a flight scheduled on-time. God had calmed the storm.

Despite the criminally high price of the ticket, we flew with airFrance – and what a treat. We delighted in French food and sexy French airhosts and hostesses – bear in mind we haven’t seen Westerns in over 10 months (anything’s sexy after 10 months!). 13 hours and a few movies later, we arrived in Paris and boarded our second plane for London. Elan, his mom and Portuguese gran collected us from the airport and it was an amazing experience to share what Baden and I have been doing this year. 

The next few hours we spent driving through beautiful English countryside towards Brighton. Much flatter than Korea, we stared wide eyed at pastures of sheep and cows and horses; we passed white people behind the steering wheel, and a VW that looked just like my old car, and BP petrol stations, and English signs, and all things we haven’t seen in months.  

When we arrived at gorgeous Brighton, I was reminded how much I love English architecture: Small, double-story cute homes packed together in a row, street parking and tiny but well-kept beautiful gardens of hydrangea, roses and lavender. Ironically, coming from Asia, Elan’s first suggestion for dinner was a Thai restaurant (the London version) but we pleased that it wasn’t Korean. Little did we know that after 6 days of processed Western food and heavy bread, we’d be craving the healthy fermented foods of Korea. 

Elan and Sam (the groom and bride) kindly offered their living room as a bedroom and we spent the two days before the wedding at their house. I had half expected to be left to fend for myself while Baden went off to do ‘bestman’ but I was touched by Elan’s laid back nature which included me in all their plans right up to the wedding moment.

On our first day in Brighton, we headed towards the cobbly beach wrapped in rain coats. From there we wandered towards town where we experienced English culture and smells. I’d forgotten how perfectly overwhelming smells are in England: the smell of brewing coffee, of women’s perfume or shampoo as they push past you, the smell of new books from book shops or pub smells of beer and steak. In Asia, I smell the open sewerage pipes. We had a pub lunch in town with Elan. Baden ordered a pie which wasn’t actually a pasty pie and I had steak, egg and chips (but the steak was actually salty gammon) so my week-long expectations for a pub lunch were a bit disappointed.

The following day we bounced along to the wedding venue to help set up the venue. At lunch we had to vacate the venue to avoid seeing the bride and we headed to the Bnb. There was only 1 room available for check in so the groom, his brother, the best man, the wives, the mothers and the grandmothers all squashed into one tiny room to get ready. And then we were off.

The wedding was beautifully elegant and simple. There was no MC and little in terms of strict regiment. Baden stood besides Elan until his bride appeared and that was his job done. The service was conducted by a legal woman (as opposed to a pastor) and I was touched how the service still had a strong sense of morality and emotion – despite the lack of reference to God. They are still expected to forsake all others, even though unfaithfulness is not illegal. And she reminded us that love is everything and it overcomes all things.   

The wedding reception was also elegant but simple. We got to practice some of our moves on the dance floor, (and it’s been a long time since we last danced) and by 12pm, the bar was closes, people headed home and we were calling for a taxi. 

On the Saturday morning, we took some time to explore Chichester, where we were staying. We went through a beautiful, ancient cathedral and were quite surprised to hear English conversations. One of the things I’d been looking forward to was listening in on conversations but I soon started to feel very intrusive, like I was eavesdropping, and then irritated that people could actually listen to me. Baden and I kept having to whisper to each other: “shh, people can understand you here.”

Sometime during a stay in England, we drove passed an old English castle – possibly built in the 1400s. I was aware then of how much travelling has influenced me. Having seen Korean temples built during this same period or the Great Wall of China built 1000 years before the medieval area, I realised that Western people are NOT the centre of all history. That MY history is not the only history. What I once regarded as the most ancient history of mankind is now simply a small part of a mich bigger history.  

On our second to last day, we made our way by train to London where we met Baden’s cousin, Linda. We had the privilege of staying at their house for the weekend and it felt like home. Delicious home cooked meals, English TV, a little garden where she hangs her washing: all things I’ve missed about home. We spent the afternoon shopping down the credit card in Kingston (the clothes in the UK are so cheap in comparison to Korea. In fact, we laughed at how cheap the UK was for us!) The next day we attended their church which was another treat: English hymns and an English sermon (followed by yummy biscuits and juice.)

By the time we were finished at church, it was time for our whirlwind trip to England to come to an end. Linda kindly dropped us off at the airport and we prepared to return to Korea. Excited to eat Kimchi but heart-sore to leave behind all that we know.

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