Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blog 64 - 27th February

Transtioning from minus 15 to plus 25 was quite a surprise however, we are grateful that there is no jetlag as Korea and Australia are on roughly the same time zone. Here is a view of our home from the kitchen table.

Views of our garden which is 200 metres deep, backing onto the Torrens river that runs through the centre of Adelaide. Damien is beginning at the front gate and working his way to the back...

Gathering to commemorate the one year anniversary of my Dad's dying was special, not least because it provided a great opportunity to catch up with my family all together on the day we returned.
Here we are preparing for Mass at Mum's home - pretty special and thanks to Monsignor Aitken. Dad would have loved it!

My three sisters and auntie, in the kitchen preparing a big Lebanese feast. What a treat, and a welcome change from noodles and rice! We did enjoy Korean cuisine however such foods as this were almost impossible to find.

You name it, we had it! Kibbi, tabouleh, falafel, chicken and rice, babaganoush, hummus, flat break, yoghurt... Yummm!

The follwing day my sister, Paula, had another feast at her home for Dad and for our extended family. Here I am with our son Dominic, and Paula in her kitchen. Below is Dad's favourite - licorice. For Damien and I it was another treat as it is impossible to buy licorice in Korea and it was always top of the list of things to bring back!

Damien looking very trim in spite of tucking into pavlova.

As we resettle into Adelaide and Australia, I am struck by the casualness of people, many look like they are going to the beach all the time! In spite of a population of 1.3 million, there seem to be few people around in this flat and friendly city where summer sees blue skies and sunshine most days. While I miss Seoul and my friends there I also am relishing in familiarity and food, understanding how things work and also being able to easily have conversations in English. Perhaps the known and familiar will become mundane after a while, however at the moment, it is fun and freeing.

Stay posted for the next blog on Koreans in Adelaide.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blog 63 - 23rd February 2012

Here is the view from our apartment window as we await the packers on the coldest Seoul day for 55 years - minus 17 degrees. Brrrr....!

Damien preparing himself for the onslaught - removalists in the morning and people coming to collect their goodies in the afternoon.

We counted 21 boxes that are somewhere on the high seas by now. A bit of free advertising here!

Our lives were dismantled within two days! After spendng two years making a home, gathering things to make a comfortable life, everything went in such a short time - car, fridge, washing machine, stove, furniture, bedding, pots and pans, glasses and utensils, printer and plants. We are so pleased that our things have gone to good homes.

Lee and Heather have our car and lots of kitchen stuff as they move into their new apartment on campus. Lee is originally from Port Augusta in South Australia and we look forward to seeing him and his family in Adelaide at some future time.

Our friends, Kwang Soon and Julia, taking more than a bucket - our fridge and washing machine have found a happy home in their new apartment. All the best with the move and settling.

There goes that wonderful three seater couch where we had such great snoozes. Somehow having a nap on the lounge is such a lovely indulgence.

Hilary and Pilar come to collect the last of our plants. With the cold winter it is a challenge to keep them healthy, however we know they will take care of them.

An Italian academic at SNU, Gabrielle and his daughter collected the bed that many of you have slept on.

Is this all for me? As she moves from a cot to her first bed, Dorothea and Gabrielle's 's daughter looks a bit bewildered by it all.

One mop and computer chair were all that remained of our home.

The icing on the cake was one person who had agreed to collect our stove and was very keen to do so. After negotiating to collect it at 7.30pm, exhausted by the day's activities, we finally gave up calling her at 10.00pm and went to bed at SNU Hoam House accomodation. The phone woke us at midnight with this young woman calling from outside in a big black Mercedes to collect the stove! Dazed, I quickly dressed and tramped across the road in the snow to sell the stove for $40. And to think that I had renegotiated the price down from $50! Was it that I will do anything for money or that I was too sleepy and stunned to refuse? What a crazy thing - felt like a dream (or a nightmare!)

As we prepared to leave our home in Seoul, there were many farewell meals. My Freiburg friend, Franziska cooked me a traditonal meal with freshly imported German ingredients. Here I am feasting on semmel, kuodel, blaukraut and blaukraut in her beautiful apartment. What a treat - thank you so much Franziska!

Our last visitor was Mark our upstairs neighbour as he was passing through on his way from Japan back home to Paris. He is also retiring and we wish you fulfilment and joy as you embark on this new journey. We have counted 12 different groups of visitors during our 2 years in Seoul, totalling 23 individual friends. How lucky are we?

Jo and Emma from my Korean book group took me on a walk to Yongsan Park and around Icheon, their local area, then to eat traditional New Year rice cake soup called dukgook and drink soju. Here we are together.

As we leave from Inchoen airport it is easy to see why the Airport Council International has nominated it for seven consecutive yeras as among the global leaders.

Can you see Damien with his hat on saying goodbye?

As we leave Seoul we are privileged to have experienced such a challenging, interesting and wonderful time, to have made such good friends and to have learned what it means to live in a new culture. So many times I was reminded of Judoo and Sittoo, my grandparents who migrated from Lebanon where the script and language are so different too. Being a minority where we are constantly trying to understand how things work, I return to comfortable and familiar surroundings with renewed admiration for migrants everywhere. I leave Korea richer personally and professionaly and am grateful to Damien for his openness to new opportunities and also to Koreans for welcoming us so warmly.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blog 62 - 29th January

Sungnam Choe and his family came for a farewell dinner. He was Damien's swimming mate from his early days in Suwon. We saw them during our first weeks here when we were taken to a traditional Pansori concert and have not seen them until now, just when we are leaving! Thank you for the semi dried persimons, rice cakes for Lunar New Year and yummy sponge cake. Our friends Im Seung Bin and Seungh hee took us to a new area on the Hangang River called Namyang Ju, north east of Seoul, where we stumbled across an old grave site of an ex-president's wife. What a gorgeous view and how different it is now than when she was buried a few hundred years ago! No doubt the site was chosen because of its Pungsu (Korean feng shui) and the quiet and space was indeed impressive.

A few last visits to galleries and palaces - how indulgent to have time to do these things with few commitments and apartment living which affords much space for leisure. These images are both from Dokgsu Palace where Esther and I went to see a wonderful photographic exhibition within the palace grounds at the Museum of Ccontemporary Art.

Damien's retirement dinner with his colleagues was across the road at Hoam House. The gift of 2 Kim Whan Ki limited edition prints and poster are much appreciated and will be treasured additions to our home. He is renowned throughout Korea as its first local abstract painter, also called the Korea's Picasso.

Gifts were exchanged between the oldest faculty member (guess who?) and the youngest member, Professor Ryu Young Ryel.

My colleagues celebrated a late Christmas get together and a farewell for Emilie and me as well as acknowledging completion of qualifications of Emilie and Kelly. How sad I will be to leave and hope to continue connections from afar.
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blog 61 - 29th January

As we prepare to leave our home in Korea and return to our home in Adelaide, we have been relishing the cold and exploring a few last places, as well as saying goodbye to friends who we hope will visit us in the southern hemisphere.

A trip to Busan on the KTX staying at Haendae Beach was a welcome respite from the traffic and crowds of Seoul and staying right on the seafront was a treat. The Busan Museum of Art hosts free concerts every Saturday afternoon and we fluked a wonderful concert when we were there.

Is it true? I wonder if this is a motto for the Year of the Dragon? No wonder Korea has the highest rate of suicie in the OECD countries! How incongruous when the music was so very peaceful too.

The bus to Geojedo (Island) to visit our friend Giant Yo (Lee Hyun Sub), occupied all of Sunday and was an hour bus ride from Busan. Here we are trying not to look like we are about to be blown off the precipice in the freezing wind! Have you noticed our Christmas hats? We have not removed them for weeks now - great for those bad hair days, although one of us no longer has to worry about this!

Damien and Giant Yo outside his newly established English language school (Hagwon), the first and only one of the developing island and the culmination of a long held dream. If you look closely you can see that his qualifications include the South Australain College of English. He has over 40 students so far who sometimes practice their English with us on Skype. Geoje Island is the second largest island in Korea and home to live fish for eating - our lunch was so fresh that it was still wriggling on the plate. Yum!

My friend Jyoti, with the wine glass in her hand, is celebrating her iminent trip to Copenhagen where she will study for a semester towards her Masters degree. She has some time to play around before her husband, Sri and daughter Vayshalli, join her later. Julia, Esther and Hilary came over to have a long lunch to say goodbye.

My friend and Korean teacher, Romy, took me to a special Buddhist restaurant for lunch. Sitting on the heated floor and feasting on vegetarian delicacies is my idea of heaven! Do you get the idea that there is lots of eating and drinking happening at the moment? How will we shape up when we have to show our flesh when we return to southern summer?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blog 60 - 7th January 2012

As Damien and I prepare to leave Seoul, we are home alone again after a whirlwind of activity with our sons and their friends. Christmas was indeed white and there has been little snow since, however plenty of cold with below zero temperatures many days. As I write at 4.15pm, the Seoul Metropolitan forecast site tells us that it is minus 2.2C. Brrrr.....! Luckily we have wonderful underfloor heating - the Korean tradtional ondol system.

Christmas Eve we booked to go iceskating outdoors in Seoul Plaza in the centre of the city. It was so cold and lots of fun, especially for the spectators! Here are Jacob, Dominic, Jane, Maaroof and Liam.

Jacob is showing off his newly aquired furry hat that he bought that afternoon in the subway, the best place for a bargain as our visitors reading this will no doubt concur.

Liam, with his finely honed snowboarding and skateboarding balancing skills, easily won the prize as skater of the night!

Christmas Day saw us each telling stories about the presents as we gave them to each other from Australia, Korea and Japan.

Damien got a tweed hat that has not left his head - no he doesn't sleep with it!

Here he is cooking Christmas lunch - a challenge in our Seoul apartment with no oven and vegetarian fare. Yes, there was plenty of drink and cake, even pudding. Thanks to supplies from our sponsors, Monica, Maree, Paula and Mum. A local Irish nun, Sister Nora, has the market covered with Xmas cake and pudding so we still have more to eat.

Books were the popular gift this year and post lunch saw us all reading our own or stealing each others books! Some people were a bit exhausted or hung over from the night before to indulge too much!

Were's Wally? Can you see Jacob asleep under the table?

Father Christmas also found festive socks for everyone in the Seoul subway.

Can you tell that it is New Year's Day, everyone is hung over still and below freezing, and that nobody wants to be out standing in front of the temple while our friend Esther takes some happy snaps? Can you tell that everyone is doing this because their Mum insisted and they love her too much to say no? Can you tell that she not only insisted that they have a family photo as we have not been together for 18 months, but also that we all go across the road to the Nakseongdae Temple to comemorate us together in Korea?

Thanks to all the boys and our intrepid photographer, we all scrubbed up okay.

LinkOur family dinner location was Sanchon, a Buddhist restaurant selected by Dominic who was sick on the night. We were treated to a cultural performance that was short enough to not be boring and varied enough to provide a taste of korean music and culture. Funny how we continue to sdiscover new things even as we are going!

Our friend from Hobart, Michal, spent a morning with us on her way home from Israel where she had been visiting her family and celebrating her father's 80th birthday. How special in the midst of all this activity, to share breakfast, have a walk to the market, a bit into the hills nearby and then back onto the airport limosine to the Incheon Hyatt. The drivers became very familiar with us as Damien and I met and said goodbye at the bus stop at Hoam House across the road from our apartment, eight times in 2 weeks!

Do Kiri, Jane and Roof look happy to be shedding all these layers? Dressing to leave the house requires 10 extra minutes planning as hats, gloves, ear muffs and coats are a necessity in the minus temperatures. Crazy thing is that as some of the Australian continget left to go, it was minus one degree here in Seoul and 41 degrees in Adelaide. At least there is zero humidity!