2011. Over, finito, goneburger or as my Korean kids used to say “pinishee!”. We travelled to and from twenty-five different cities, in eleven different countries over the course of twelve months. We wrote (I’m giving Neil some credit here) 18,000 words, in 70 something blog posts and I took a whopping 3,000-ish photos. Feeling quite lucky that we managed to acheive so much last year and definately looking forward to another packed year. Here are our last twelve months in a nutshell.
Posts tagged ‘New Year’
Like most Asian countries Korea celebrates Lunar New Year, or the first day of the Lunar calendar. Today is the official day, (Solnal 설날) however the holiday period is actually three days, so we’ve been granted a nice five-day weekend.
It’s similar to Chuseok in that most people return home to spend the holiday with family, some dressed in hanbok. They often bring gifts of food and drink and the children and grandchildren perform saebae (bowing and paying respect to elders). If they excel, they are rewarded with envelopes of money. It’s also tradition to eat tteok-guk (rice cake soup) for good luck. Children are told that they will not grow any older unless they eat their soup. The soup is made by slicing sausage-shaped tteok (rice cake) into thin slices. The slices are then soaked in water, boiled in beef broth and garnished with chives, seaweed and egg.
Until late last night Lunar New Year was another excuse for a few extra days holiday, we hadn’t made any plans, we weren’t eating anything special, until my phone rang.
Neil: Yoboseyo (Hello, on the phone)
Other person: Yoboyseo, Geri teacher?
Neil: Jamkanmayo (Just a moment)
Usually when we receive phone calls from Koreans they’ve hung up by this point because they realise we have no idea what they’re saying.
Geri: Yoboyseo …
and then the fun starts. Whoever this person is definitely knows me, but not well enough to know that my Korean is VERY limited, especially when I’m speaking on the phone and I can’t see if you’re making any accompanying charade like gestures. Still our conversation continues and I answer with a couple of ne’s (yes) and she hangs up. What I gathered from the conversation was something about Solnal, something about my apartment and something about tteok. Not thinking much more about it we went back to watching our movie when an hour later our doorbell rings. Oh crap!
Our apartment is such a mess that the poor lady (I now recognise as from my school) can hardly take her shoes off in our doorway. She presents us with bags of rice cakes, some mandu (dumplings) and a plastic bottle of liquid (for the soup). Not once does she say anything in English and I gather that she’s gifting us these items of food to celebrate the New Year. The whole awkward exchange lasts maybe five minutes, her speaking in Korean, me trying to understand, often looking at Neil for help, who has almost hidden himself completely behind me in an effort to escape. I try to answer her in my limited Korean and several times she reaches for my hand as if to say “Oh bless girl, you have no idea what I’m saying do you?”
After looking at some of our family photos we say our goodbyes and we’re left with a mountain of food.
Korea sometimes you make me mad, sad and generally unhappy and then something like this happens and you surprise me and I like you again. Happy New Year Korea.
|L-R: Tteok, soup broth, sliced tteok (for the soup) and mandu|
New Year’s resolutions, they always start out with such good intentions, but by the end of January or thereabouts they’re completely forgotten about. This year Neil and I have only made a couple of promises; kiss each other more often and make a sizable dent in our World Travel Bucket List. Along the way I’ve vowed to do a few other travel related things as well.
|First kiss for 2011|
1. I Will Not Over-Pack
For someone as organized as myself you’d think I’d be able to pack more efficiently; not so. No matter how many trips we take I still manage to end up carrying extra stuff. When we arrived in Korea I had a 20kg suitcase filled with what I thought I needed for a year abroad. Turned out, half of the things I lugged with me from NZ haven’t been worn or used since we arrived. Within six months I’d improved my packing ability, taking only two small backpacks with us to Jeju for a week, using the available toiletries where we could and wearing the same pair of shoes for the entire trip. In September we embarked to Beijing for 4 days with just the one backpack. I’m learning to live without the expensive face creams, collections of guide books and mountains of shoes…almost.
2. I Will Take Better Photographs
Sometimes I surprise myself and take REALLY good pictures. However the reality is that most of them are rubbish. This year I will make an effort to seek out photo opportunities and play with all the functions on my camera. Finger’s crossed it will result in something amazing.
3. I Will Learn a Language or Two
When we moved to Korea I promised myself I’d learn Korean. Ten months later I have accomplished that goal; kinda. I can order food, give directions and ask for the bathroom but as soon as someone complicates my spiel of Korean I am forced to resort to awkward hand gestures and mumbled English. 2011 holds the promise of a lot more countries and hopefully I’ll be able to pick up bits and bobs from a few more languages along the way even if it’s only “hello”, “thank you” and “two beers please.”
4. I Will Eat Like a Local
While it’s nice to say you’ve eaten McDonald’s in 15 different countries it’s far more interesting to eat new and exciting foods. Especially when they’re cheaper and tastier! Whilst I’m not about to embark on a mission to eat spiders and eyeballs I’d like my taste buds to experience the local food and maybe pick up a few new recipes along the way. You’ll never know unless you try it.
5. I Will Relax
As I’ve gotten older (and maybe wiser) this one has become a lot easier but there are still times when I find myself counting to ten and practicing my deep breathing, especially when we travel. Flight delays, lost luggage and weather disruptions are all beyond my control, so relax Geri and try to make the best of the situation.
2010 is done and dusted and it’s onto the start of another decade. This time last year we were still waiting on final confirmation of our Korean teaching contracts and in turn thinking about all of the things we needed to accomplish before we left NZ. A year later and things are up in the air again and we’re thinking about all the things we need to accomplish before we leave Korea.
Whilst I’m happy the year is over, I’m also a little sad that it’s all gone so fast. It’s been a fantastic experience, in huge personal growth (psychologically and beer belly wise) it’s been really tough and these final weeks are proving to be some of the toughest, motivation wise. This experience has certainly opened our eyes to how much time and money we’ve wasted prior to this adventure. The experiences you have and the people you meet along the way prove there is much more to life than boxes of stuff.
So here’s to 2011. More new adventures, more expat friends, more destinations and more foreign food. Cheers!