Thursday, September 13, 2007


Searching back through everything I've written in the last year I see that I have only mentioned the word 'homesick' twice. I miss friends and family, and some of the smaller pleasures in life such as browsing around the books in the architecturally spectacular branch of Waterstone's where I live, bargain hunting in DVD stores and a host of similar consumer experiences. The book shops here are full of Korean books I can't read, not many places sell DVDs (apart from the DVD Bangs I gather a lot of downloading goes on), and in general - as you'd expect - the consumer experience is a Korean one which is of little use to me - there's not much to buy, especially given the temporary nature of my stay here, and therefore not much to browse around for. Compared to the deliberately lazy weekends I used to have back home reading books, I seem to spend a lot more time rushing around here in the name of making the most of my Korean experience. And I miss the peace and quiet - Korea is noisy; it's hard to get lost in a book when someone's blasting a horn under your window every few minutes amidst the constant background noise of Orwellian consumer propaganda.

But does this all add up to homesickness? Probably not, because offsetting what I miss are the things I'm only too glad to get away from - 'The War' and the lowest common denominator politics, media and society overseen by a huge army of government bureaucrats, intoxicated by the power they hold and their own sense of self-importance, who are determined to monitor, control and dictate every aspect of the lives of the people they think they are better than. Ironically, the Embassy experience - that petty reminder of home - has probably done more to sour my mood here than anything Korea itself could throw at me, although with the weather, my work, studying, and a dental saga I've only told the beginning of, have certainly contributed to making the summer a fairly miserable one. Perhaps it's harder to be homesick in today's world than it would have been twenty years ago - the Internet means I can read my old local newspaper on-line as well as the national ones, and get a good sense of what's going on in my absence. But being so far away from home can still carry an emotional cost.

The news of a death in the family back home over the weekend, which I was awoken to on Sunday morning, placed my being here into a new context. It's one thing to know that places are changing, buildings are going up and coming down here and there, but another to realise that the social fabric of my life is changing and that when I return this will be increasingly different. There's no opportunity to gradually adjust to new realities back home or share in the sense of loss, so my adjusting period will only really come when I am able to return, and I've lost the opportunity to talk more with people that can never be replaced.

Korean tags: 정부, 대사관, 영국, 죽음

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