The beginning of February James got his notice that we were leaving Korea in 6 weeks. March 14, 2011. Not May-ish like we thought! So the real excitement began. James started making lists and I started booking travel plans. It was an amazing list of to do’s for both of us. Everything from expiring drivers licences, health insurance, OHIP extensions, VISA’s for the first few countries to new backpacks, camera bags, hiking boots, sandals, can openers to dentist visits and doctors’ appointments. As it turns out our insurance covered us for complete physicals and seeing how Korea is so efficient and thorough we signed up.
I have to say I was lucky, my request for the physical got put on a not so efficient person’s desk in the USA and Sandra, Rob and James all went about a week ahead of me, so I had warning. They came back from theirs laughing hysterically. Sandra laughed so hard at Rob & James she almost peed while telling me. When I say complete physical, I wasn’t joking. They have about 15 “stations” or rooms you visit with a swipe card. A station to test your lungs, they take about 4 vials of blood to test (we were told at the end we were fine for Hep A & B shots – nice!), weigh you, do a mammogram, a CT scan, pap, check your eyes, hearing, EKG, ultra sound, chest ultra sound and a down the throat endoscopies – well for some. By the time my day came I knew enough to ask for the x-ray. I knew the endoscopy must have been rough when even James says no way, do not do it! The day of my appointment I arrived at the hospital at 7:50, after sitting in traffic for almost 2 hours and after having to fast 12 hours. So by 8 I was pretty hungry and feeling a bit sluggish. After being poked and prodded and giving blood and lying still, blowing hard and so on they sent me to my CT scan. By now I was feeling a bit queasy. As they stuck a big long plastic tube in my arm (okay maybe 2 cm long) for injecting the dye I became seriously nauseous. Once in the CT machine they put a pill under my tongue that made my stomach start turning, and I had to go to my happy place not to throw up right there. I found my way back up to the floor where all the other stations were and started telling the very nice Korean nurses I was going to be sick. They smiled and nodded. The next and last station was the x-ray for the stomach. They had me drink some sort of gel and sit….okay. Then stand on a moving table and drink a drink that was like drinking pop rocks. As I started to drink the doctor was asking me not to burp. Yeah right. I threw up into my cup, over flowed it, then he held out another to catch it, overflowed it so I ended up puking on his shoes. But I technically didn’t burp. He smiled, nodded and handed me another pop rocks drink that I managed to keep down until I was allowed off the moving table… barely.
As it turns out, I am obese. Everyone who was checked was considered obese. I was told I had to lose 10 pounds! And they consider that obese! Everyone else was also told they had a fatty liver; mine was fine, which was good. I have a hard enough time losing normal weight let alone liver fat.
Everything we accumulated in 2 years had to be boxed up and shipped home by the Friday before we left. Embarrassingly it was about 18 boxes, keeping in mind one was a 2 feet tall Korean pink Christmas tree, 2 were beer bottles, we had quite a few books and we had to ship all our winter and summer clothes we were not taking on our year off – so basically everything but shorts, a t-shirt, a bathing suit and a toothbrush. A hint to anyone doing a similar pack – those vacuum bags are not only amazing and fit tons but so much fun… as soon as you can find a 5 year old to show you how to use your Korean vacuum, Thanks Lucas!
The week before we left we snuck in a trip to Taipei, Taiwan so it made packing and organizing a bit more hectic, but well worth it. We were there Sunday March 6 thru Thursday March 10. James had to return to Korea and work for one final day, the Friday.
Friday March 11 we invited whoever was left in DeArche over for a “cleaning out the liquor cabinet” drink. It was a fun night of reminiscing. The people we met, places we visited, foods we ate….the last few years were full of great times. A few times I got a teary eyed.
Dearche Garage Sale
Sunday March 13 the ladies of DeArche had a good old fashion garage sale. We weren’t sure how the Koreans would react so we invited other expats. As it turned out no expats showed but the Koreans went crazy and bought almost all our stuff. I even put out unopened food items and they flew off the table. I also jokingly put out my Buddha piggy bank and my ugly fish candle holder (I tried to give them as party favours but no one would take them) that I made in pottery class and they went as soon as I set them down. I am officially a professional potter!
Monday March 14 our airport transfer picked us up at 7:15 am. We were still a little nervous about flying into and out of Tokyo so soon after the earth quake and tsunami, but everything on line said the airport was running as usual.
Once at the Busan airport we were told they could check us into our first flight to Narita Airport, but not the connecting one to Tahiti. They had no idea if it would be running. Yikes! The Tahiti flight only ran once or twice a week and we weren’t sure if we would be able to get there in time to catch our Easter Island flight the next Monday. We checked in, found a place to eat our chicken sandwiches and crossed our fingers.
Please note that a delayed or cancelled flight, a change of schedule completely or a vacation or holiday not going as planned is not even a consideration when such a horrible event happens like the earth quake and tsunami that devastated Japan Friday March 11.
So this is good bye Korea.
Friendly Korean Girl
Good bye crazy drivers, smelly sewers and green lights that mean go – and stop and red lights that mean stop – and go. Bye to horking, and being called largee largee, and being stared at. Good bye scary waving mannequins, high heels with bikinis and matchy matchy couples. Good bye fresh squid, squid hanging on the side of the road, dried squid jerky and squid swimming in a fish tank everywhere you go. Good bye to $10 strawberries, cab drivers watching movies, and where lining up is considered a contact sport.
But…good bye to friendly people who will give you a personal escort to Costco if you can’t find it, offer you Soju and snacks on hikes and add extra apples and cucumbers to your market bags. Good bye cheap easy train travel, beers for the cab ride and “service”, especially the free wine with my panty purchase. Good bye warm toilet seats, parking lot greeters and free Shinsegae bags. Good bye cleaning lady. Good bye Tous les Jour. Good bye dancing Home Plus workers. Good bye dancing lady in the yellow dress on TV.
Good bye to great friends and great times. I can honestly say you will all be missed.