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Summer to Christmas Korean Style

SOUTH KOREA | Wednesday, 12 December 2007 | Views [1574]

Well, here it is folks, the quarterly update from the RoK…the next one will be my RoK finale!

At the end of the summer, we were lucky enough to see Darren Emmerson, of Underworld fame, play at a big, swanky club in town. After staying up all night dancing and sitting around on the beach, my fiend Nicole and I headed straight up to the north of the country for a music festival – Flow Festival. Aimed at promoting independent labels and musicians, it was held in a country retreat and had a few stages scattered throughout the grounds. However, it proceeded to piss it down all weekend so we spent the Saturday braving the elements, ponchos on, drink in hand, and danced the night away again with the few hundred people that had bothered to venture out there. It wasn’t a complete washout of a weekend though…

On the little country train out to the festival we happened to meet a crew of people from an indie/music magazine called Rokon based in Seoul, including the publisher and editor, Julian. After a wee chat, it turned out that he was on the look out for new people to volunteer for the magazine in all capacities. “I need writers, producers and photographers” he says. I say “I have done and can do all three”. Job as Associate Producer aka Busan Branch Manager is mine! It’s now going really well. We’ve got a small, but positive and commited team put together down in Busan now to complement what the main guys in Seoul are doing. We’ve submitted some sweet articles, and hope to do even more in the next couple of months covering bands, club nights, openings, fashion etc. We’re also hoping to organise and host a ‘Rokon rocks Busan’ party sometime in the new year, bringing down bands and DJs from Seoul to play alongside some local Busan talent for the night. Check it out here: www.rokonmagazine.com

As some of you are more than aware, at the end of September I was able to get home for what was essentially a brief hello for 12 days. The original plan to meet up with the family in Hong Kong had to be postponed, but with the time off available, and with my next visit / stay at home not planned until May next year at the earliest, going home for a couple of weeks was a good second option. I had a lovely first weekend, pubs, punting and barbecue party. I served up some traditional Korean ‘goodies’ at the latter - soju (the national drink, went down quite well), ojingeo, or squid legs (which went down well in the comedy value stakes), and kimchi chocolate (chocolate with a layer of kimchi flavoured goodness…I was surprised some people liked this as kimchi is the national food – spicy fermented cabbage!). And, much like February, the majority of the rest of the time was spent catching up with people, eating cheese, reading newspapers and drinking red wine and g&tsJ Sadly, before I knew it, I was at Heathrow again having another tearful goodbye with my parents (who are absolute stars for supporting me in everything I do, whether it’s sensible or whimsically-founded!). I think a longer stay at home is definitely warranted for my next one…

Early in October, a good friend of mine, Kelly, asked whether myself and Nicole would like to make a speech at her imminent wedding party up in Seoul. She had married her Korean boyfriend a month previously, and was planning a relaxed wedding reception for their friends here. Of course we obliged, and five days later we were standing up in front of a crowd of 150 – 95% Korean, and of those, only 10% able to understand what we were saying. Thankfully, our speeches were received well and went without a hiccup. This was also the night of the rugby world cup final, but a long weekend of partying, coupled with my chest infection still reigning supreme, meant I had to retire early and miss the game – which in hindsight was a wise decision. We also found proper ale, fish & chips and a free jazz concert on the Sunday too before heading back, confirming the need to escape Busan on a regular basis.

A couple of weeks later, a group of us went hiking and yachting for the weekend near Tongyeong, a small island along the south coast. A Korean guy nicknamed Charles organises regular trips for his family and friends, and gets foreigners out of town too. We hiked all day on the Saturday, up to a peak, and then traversed several more peaks. The hiking was amazing, but hard work and a little dicey in places: sliding along a ridge on my bum so I didn't fall to my death, hoisting myself up a cliff or two on a rope, lots of trying not to look down...! The views all over the island and surrounding sea made it well worth while though – although I have been informed that should I want to try anything like that again, then I have to promise to at least tie myself to a tree!

After taking a longer than originally intended break from hapkido following the summer competition, and after giving ourselves a motivational kick up the rear recently, Sarah and I are now back at hapkido and in full-training for our black belt test. Unfortunately, because of our slackness we haven’t got enough time to get ready for this month’s test, entirely our own fault we know, so we have to wait until February for the next one. This means that we won’t find out until March if we passed or not, by which time we’ll have both left the country. Hopefully we’ll have black belts and certificates waiting for us on our eventual return home.

December thus far has been fuelled by three weekends of birthdays and parties, we like to start the festive season early…! My new cameras and lenses have had plenty of outings so my role as photographer (or photographic freak as I was called last week, cheers!) is well-established in our crowdJ For those of you who are interested, I’m now the proud owner of two effectively ‘toy’ cameras; a Lomo fisheye and a Holga (medium format camera).

Last weekend I attended the wedding of a coworker. Weddings here seem to be planned and completed within a matter of a couple of months as she only informed us a month ago; none of this ‘year in advance’ malarkey. The actual wedding itself was a surreal experience. Rather than get married in a church or country home as we conventionally do, Koreans opt to get married in a wedding hall. A big office block cum registary office gone mad. Filled with wedding rooms, your romantic day is squashed into no more than an hour of photographs (bride traditionally in as much glitter and a lace as the eye can stand), a quick walk down the aisle, and the exchange of vows and rings taking place to the backdrop of a dry-ice smoke machine - bubble machines are also common, and I’ve even heard of the bride and groom coming into the registary room down from the ceiling by means of a giant model swan – take note Ann and Emma!. Bizarrely enough for us, there wasn’t enough space for us in the wedding room itself, so we turned up, handed over the present, had a photo with the bride on her ‘throne’, and then stood and watched the ceremony on a flatscreen TV in the foyer. Kind of leaves you wondering where the romance had gone!

This year’s Christmas looks to be a good get away again. There are around 20 of us heading to a chalet at a ski resort for the long weekend. Sadly I’ve got to work Christmas Eve so I’ll be heading up on the eve itself so I’m there in time for stockings and bucks fizz on Christmas morning – and to make litres of mulled wine like last yearJ

As for New Year, I’m going to Tokyo! I’ve got a five day weekend and, even though the flight over is a little expensive, I’m not really likely to be back over this way in NE Asia for god knows how long, so sod it. I’m meeting two friends in Tokyo for three days, including New Year’s Eve, and then I’m heading down to Kyoto again for two more days.

With less 12 weeks left in Korea, time is forcing me to make plans for next year. Well, I’m meeting up with my friends Thellie (aka Dave, who visited me in July), and Tom and Dawn (an English couple who I met here in Busan) in Kathmandu at the beginning of March. The rough idea at the moment is to spend a couple of months travelling around Nepal and Tibet, and another month travelling back through China on the train. As for after that, my rough plan is to return home around the beginning of June in time for bridesmaid duties at Ann’s wedding, get a job for 6 months (not loving this idea at all but the funds will need replenishing), be at home for Emma’s wedding and bridesmaid duties round 2 in November, and then head off to Africa for a year in the new year to work for an NGO in an organisational/educational capacity and to travel some more. Obviously, it’s still indefinite and is always subject to change... In the last month or so my plans have changed a handful of times; from doing a PGCE in media or further education, to doing a Masters, to doing a second BA in photography…The latter of which is something I would love to do, but reality, money (9000pounds in fees alone, ouch) and career prospects are a little questionable so I think it’s something I have to continue to pursue as a hobby for the moment.

I’m excited about travelling again, and looking forward to spending a summer at home with you all/everyone, but I’m a little anxious as well. A friend and I were discussing the whole uprooting yourself thing recently and we were wondering if Britain does in fact want us back anyway?! And even though we bitch and moan about the country and its people sometimes, we know that we’ll miss Korea in our own way. Busan has been my home for two years and I’m leaving it all and stepping into the unknown, again! But those of you who know me well enough know I probably wouldn’t have it another way, for the meantime anyway.

Please feel free to email and say hello, I love to hear your news even if I am crap and slow in replying sometimes.

Phew! I think that just leaves me to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all, wherever you are in the world. Have a mince pie for me!

즐거운 성탄 and 새해 많이 받으세요!

Annie xx

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