Thursday, August 10, 2006

13 Sinking In

Although lots of people live much more challenging lives than me, and seem to manage without moaning about their hardships, I can't help but feel a little over whelmed at times with this move to Korea.

I have started reading autobiographical books of women who do extraordinary things, partly I think, to make me realise how soft things are for us. So far I have read Ellen McArthur's book about her Vendee Globe round-the-world solo sailing challenge (fantastic book - what a woman). I am now reading about Claire Bertschinger, a valiant nurse who has treated casualties and sickness in some of the world's most awful places and was the inspiration for the first Live Aid.

Husband thinks it is hilarious that I am reading these accounts, but I find them quite inspirational and they make me determined to get Korea licked and our situation sorted out so that I can go on and use my time productively and usefully. It feels like years since we started moving to Korea - although it is only actually about 6 months since it became an almost definite plan.

This kind of "trailing spouse" time is frustrating. Six months is a long time to be doing admin, sorting, arranging, packing and all the other nonsense that a move entails. And the aim at the end of all this upheaval? To recreate the same home situation in a different geographical location. When you look at it like that you wonder why anyone can be arsed moving at all - losing almost a year of productive time (not to mention all the work and social contacts you have in one place) to shut down something only to reopen it immediately somewhere else (with almost zero contacts and no social life!). What a wacky life...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

12 Thai truths

If there is one thing I learned from living in Thailand it is that in the face of a problem, the approach most likely to bring success is nearly always to stand calmly and smile gently at the situation and the people involved. Freaking out, shouting, threatening, begging and all the rest never work, but remaining incredibly calm and staying put can often bring results.

And this seems to hold true in Korea. Our container has now arrived from Bangkok and a team of men are standing by ready to unpack it on Friday. Today was Wednesday and this morning I went to collect the keys for our ready-to-move-in abode. It is now 6pm and I do not have the keys. The house needs to be painted and cleaned before we move in.

As the landlady chatted away to me in Korean (looking me directly in the eye which was most endearing considering I had no idea what she was saying!) and our agent translated for me, the nub of the problem was that the house was not ready but we were. Since we are paying $200 a day to stay in our wholly charmless serviced apartment, we dont want to delay too much on moving into our new pad.

For a while it seemed hopeless - the painters couldn't start until Friday at the earliest, it would take at least three days. Mrs landlady hoped I would understand that the people who just moved out had had some problems and were delayed and they havent had time to get things ready.

Our agent duly translated back to her that of course, we understood absolutely and there was no problem except for the fact that we are now paying rent and a hotel bill concurrently. Smiling away and nodding agreeably at each other the landlady suggested perhaps we might only like to paint a few crucial places. And with my face almost aching with the length of smile, our agent duly communicated to the landlady that while this would of course save time, once some parts have been painted, there would be some very obvious places which had not should we take this option.

The smiling continued for some time. We don't have the keys yet but the house will be painted tomorrow and we will move in on Friday (let's not get too hung up on the quality of the paintmanship, eh?!).

As husband pointed out, if the house had been ready, the chances are that our container would have fallen off the boat in the South China Seas, or been shored up sheltering from a typhoon for weeks on end.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

11 The Stone Rabbit

Having sent our entire Barbie (registered trademark) collection, many jigsaw puzzles and toys by air freight from Bangkok, I am delighted to report that our kids are playing almost exclusively with a small stone rabbit which their granny bought them to put in their new garden in Seoul. Weighing about a kilo I was delighted with this particular present, but it has made it intact to Seoul and the kids have made it a selection of paper foods to eat (radishes, carrots and lettuce) from a bowl inside our air conditioned serviced apartment. Lala, as the rabbit is known, is probably the world's best maintained non-pet, receiving much love, care and regular food and water.

Monday, August 07, 2006

10 Singing in the park

We went for a 5 kilometer walk to the top of the highest peak in town yesterday and stood at the foot of the Seoul Tower for a good peek out over the city. Following some onlookers' instructions, we followed the bus route to the top which meant that we walked along a busy uphill road through the park to the peak - zero contact with grass or foliage for the duration . The Yellow Bus Number 2 passed us every five minutes with various tour coaches in between so that the top was buzzing with ice cream vendors and ladies selling what look like re-heated roadkill squid (even though a squid would be doing well to be road kill).

Checking a map for the journey down meant that we enjoyed the forest more intimately and tranquilly, finding acorns and horse chestnuts and a man, standing on his own facing a brick wall and a drainage channel, singing loud chants along with his tape recorder. Whatever gets you going, I suppose!

9 Silver City

Praise Allah, Emirates airlines have granted me a silver class membership of their loyalty programme after flying 29,000 kilometers with them during July! Yippee. I now get an extra 12kgs of luggage allowance any time I fly with them (so will be able to bring the cool bag of goodies from the delicatessen back with me after all!).