Wednesday, August 30, 2006

21 Coffee, coffee and more coffee

I have been to four coffee mornings in the last week as a newcomer to Seoul meeting ladies from all sorts of countries who are all busy making lives for themselves in Korea. From helping the needy to selling their own businesses, the meetings are full of a totally random selection of nationalities and characters.

I remember long ago my first coffee morning in Brazil, where the new girls were called Red Roses and we had to wear a sticker with our names on, and introduce ourselves to the group. It was pretty grim and we all squirmed with embarressment. These days, the coffee morning is a short cut route to meeting the people that you need to have a life - social life, working life, support network and information source point for everything from where to buy chicken livers to maternity bras, how to get to various points of the city and the countryside and the best place to ski etc etc.

There is a massive variation in characters. This morning the group ranged from a super confident older ambassadors wife from South America who practically signed us all up for tango lessons on the spot, to a Korean American lady who has moved here from New Jersey, speaks Korean and is yet too daunted and timid to have even tried taking the subway. A New Zealand girl introduced herself as having joined the group so she doesnt stay at home and drink Martinis all day, a Russian woman told how organising parties for the organisation had saved her life and given her a new purpose and a Dutch lady explained how she and her sub-committee visit organisations who have requested charitable help from the organsation and tried to recruit people for the trip she will make this week to an old persons home which has been cut off from Korea recently by a huge flood which washed away their access road.

Meeting people from all over the world and every kind of background is one of the best things about living abroad. Individual national groups tend to be very home focused but international groups are much better at getting out into the local communities, and because of their make up, people tend to be more outward looking and interested in their new foreign environment than in trying to re-create the best of the home country in deepest darkest asia. I cringe when I hear of people who are rendered miserable because you can't buy, for example Salad Cream (disgusting stuff at the best of times) in the regular supermarkets here. Ok, from time to time I may moan that the price of coffee here makes your eyes water and the fact that fresh herbs come almost dead in the packet. But equally, I dig the fact that half the ingredients in the shops are total mystery items to me and that every time I set foot into Seoul I see or do something that I have never experienced before.

No comments: