Thursday, July 27, 2006

7 Thoughts after one week

So tonight I head back to the airport for one week in the UK and then to bring our kids back to their new life here. What are they going to make of this place?

At ages 5 and 3 their entire life experience has been Asian-based, and so in many ways they will likely see less weirdness than we do. The Koreans are a handsome race - strong-looking and handsome with high cheek bones, generous features and a willingness to smile and laugh heartily and often. I think the girls will be a focus for much attention from people here, but because of the respectful nature of the Koreans, I hope that they will endure less physical touching than they have had to deal with in the past from mainland Chinese in Hong Kong and the gentle Thais. And korean kids are soooo cute in their own way, that perhaps two blonde little western girls will present less of an attraction.

Already I can feel myself adapting to life here. The fashions are very different, and Koreans LOVE their complicated patterns and off-beat cuts. Assymetric tops for ladies are common, and the layered t-shirt effect is common. Lace trim and a colour palette that favours plum, yellow, turquiose green and apricot tones as well as lots of strong spots and stripes make for a colourful and interesting range of attire.

In bureaucratic terms life will likely be easy here. Everything is efficiently set up to provide minimum red tape and fuss. The subway has tickets of course, but once you have a credit card you can use that as your pass to travel eliminating the need for travel cards and another thing to remember.

When we go out at night, if we travel by car and then decide to have some beers, we can phone one of about 20 companies who will send a sober driver to our restaurant and drive us home. We tried this the other night and it was fantastic. To order this service you need to speak Korean or ask a waitress to call them for you.

Expat life is well set up with societies for everything that all have websites and responsive members to help with all newcomers questions: The Royal Asiatic Society for cultural tours, the British Women's Group for networking and the Seoul International Womens Association which includes a working women's network and charity raising activities thrtoughout the year. National societies from all over the world are thriving, websites abound with information on restaurants and bars.

Life here will be as good as we make it. If we work hard, master the language and remain permanently positive, I think we will be very happy. Let's see how I feel when I return.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

6 Beginning to settle

After a weekend of culture shock (and having to basically leave Insadong area after finding it all too weird!), Monday morning felt fine and I headed out into town to explore. Perhaps it is the jet lag lifting, but I felt much happier today to be wandering the streets of Seoul. On Sunday I had experienced a strong desire to go back and sit in our hotel room and watch english-speaking television. This was a very unusual sensation but one which hardworking hubby admitted to also feeling the previous weekend when he had watched three movies back-to-back and only ventured to the basement to buy snacks from the convenience store. People keep telling us that the Bill Murray film Lost in Translation will become our favourite film after living here for a while, and I think I will re-watch it when I am back home.

I can't remember feeling quite so foriegn in a place before. Everyone I see, each person who I watch making their way around Seoul, all the families, friends hanging out and chatting and laughing together - I feel that there is a huge distance until I could even ask them their names, let alone have any understanding of what makes them buzz. Like a vast ocean of cultural differences to cross.

Every night I dream the most wild and crazy dreams: last night I was hit by a truck taking my kids to their new schools and running late (but survived more or less intact) and then had to go and enrol in a new university as a fresher! I think this is a reaction to the changes in my life!

I have just looked back at the title I have given this blog, and realise that I havent written about settling in at all. Perhaps I should be a little more patient.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

5 First weekend in Seoul

So on Friday night we met up with some old friends (from our Brazil and Hong Kong days - hope they dont think we are stalking them!) and went out for dinner in the trendy Apgujeong area. This end of the road was quite different from our Apgujeong experience the other night - there was noone sitting on floors here and the roads were all crammed with big cars manned with drivers who were waiting outside and smoking cigarettes. Quite glitzy and posh prices. Later we went to a wildly expensive cafe for more drinks (see my other blog spot for a review). It is all good fun, but even more expensive than Hong Kong or Singapore- the kind of town where people are rich enough to want to show it off by spending. Personally I find cash hard enough to get hold of that I do not share this desire!

Hardworking hubby and I wandered down into Rodeo Drive until we found a groovy little bar with plastic tables and loads of same-age-as-us Koreans having a laugh on a Friday night. It was good to feel that we had landed in normal land, and to see Koreans having fun around us and see that they look pretty OK and fun, actually. They are a fashionable, good looking bunch and I reckon shopping must be a popular past time. The bill in Nori People was more normal too, with beers costing just $3 instead of $15 in the cafe - ouch!

While we were there it started to rain so we were trapped into having another one for the road while we waited for the storm to pass (shame...). As we sat there with rain streaming off the front canopy, a car drove by with a guy sitting on the bonnet for a giggle.

As we left, we got chatting to a drunk fat guy outside the convenience store. He was very jolly and did the usual "where you fom?" "Scotland", "Aaaahhhhh, Scotlan, whisky ha ha ha" exchange, until he tried to say something else which just came out in Korean and basically we were all just too drunk to make it work. Never mind, plenty of time.

We rocked into our apartment at about 2am and didn't surface until the room service lady rang that bloody bell again at 10.50 and burst in - this time round I beat her to it, though, and managed to grab my dressing gown first (so no naked guest thrills/horrors for her that day)!.

4 Stuck in a blog spot

This blogging business is supposed to be so easy, but I cant work out how to put anything on my blog in any order. I also couldnt work out how to switch on my bedside light in this serviced apartment the other day, or work the washing machine or the air conditioning. Am beginning to wonder if I am actually a techno moron after all, having denied it vigorously all my life...