The (Alternative) Expat Lifestyle

I don't know if it was turning 26 and acknowledging that my early-20s are actually over, or the realisation that this really, actually, will be my last contract in Korea, but I am making the most of my time like I never have before. Working hagwon hours - the 2-10 shift - makes it very easy to live a vampiric existence of late-night Facebooking and unnecessary weekday drinking. This is how I spent my first year in Korea - although 6 hour Skype-sessions with a certain Canadian I was in the process of wooing also cut into my sleeping time somewhat. Back then, I would rise at midday (at best), work through to the evening and then stay up till dawn. It's no way to live.

This year, I am making the most of the fantastic opportunity that this shift pattern opens up to you. I wake up at 9:30am, check the weather (which is increasingly blue-skied and temperate) and hop aboard The Beast (my bicycle) and pedal over to either the local subway station for Taekwondo training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or down the road to Gorilla Gym (yes, that's really the name) on the other 2 days of the week. Saturday's usually begin with a joint trip to the gym with my Canadian girlfriend before spoiling it all with bacon & eggs, and Sunday is basketball day at the local park where I try valiantly and fail miserably. Basically, I'm a keep-fit machine with guns of polished steel. I'm disgustingly attractive nowadays.

But isn't just my exercise regime that has taken such a giant leap in recent months - nowadays, I just get shit done. I'm organising nights out and exertions with my friends, hosting parties (got a nice little Cinco de Mayo shindig coming up this weekend, did somebody say fish tacos?), completing paperwork for my Canadian visa application (this is a bitch, believe me), writing articles for expat magazines, orgainising my finances. I know this is all normal stuff that normal adults do - but I now feel that I am one of those normal adults. And far from bored by that realisation, I feel invigorated. I'm confident, fearless, ambitious. I'm all the things I wasn't for quite a while.

And it was with this confidence, and my beautiful girlfriend and laughing friends, that I strolled down the Cheonggyecheon River (more of a renovated stream, to be honest) in central Seoul on Saturday past, towards the bustling, noisy, neon-lit Gwangjang Night Market. Here, I sat beside The Postman (who now works with me in a nonsensical twist of fate) and gorged on sundae (Korean blood sausage), pig's feet (basically inedible, it would turn out) ddeokbokki (a deliciously spicy street food) and noodles, washed down with shitty - but cold - (s)Hite lager. And as I looked around, I couldn't help but smile to myself and feel proud at where we are and what we've done. My Canadian and I have got through so much together that we feel invincible. No matter what gets thrown at us, we turn around and batter it back.

It is a glorious feeling that comes from knowing that everything is going to be okay. I just wish I could say that about the match tonight.

Come on, United!

Love, Smithy x


April Sun-Showers

Let's get this show back on the road, shall we?

Life is good here in Bucheon. I can confidently, and comfortably, admit that I am happier and more positive than I can remember being in my adult life. I was relatively happy and positive as a toddler, but a fucking cynical teenager. And my early-20's are probably best - and actually - forgotten.

But it's all good now (I used to hate the phrase 'it's all good' because most of the time, it wasn't) and my Canadian girlfriend and I are really enjoying our 3rd stint in this weird little country of South Korea. Was it John Lennon that said that life is what happens when we are making other plans? I was reflecting the other evening (as I'm wont to do after one too many Long Islands) and I realised that Korea has been the making of me. I've spent all this time slagging the place off but, over the course of 4 years, it has turned me from a sniffling little rat-boy into a man. Now, let's not speak too soon of course, it could still all go tits-up, but I'm more confident than ever that it won't. Life is what happens while you're making other plans, but that's fine as long as you fulfill those plans eventually. And we're well on the way to doing that.

Speaking of things going tits-up, how about United's title bid? A couple of weeks ago we were 8 points clear and you couldn't read a single opinion piece that even gave city a shot of getting back into the race. But now, with 3 games to go, United are a meagre 3 points clear with a visit to Middle Eastlands coming up a week today. That will be a 4am kick-off for me and if, as I suspect, we lose, city will go top on goal difference. How did this happen? city were crowned champions by the press after they beat us 6-1 at Old Trafford in October but, while the Berties Pozman'd around like drunk lottery winners, we just got on with the business of winning games and putting points on the board. The inevitable city collapse came in March as they dropped points against Swansea, Stoke, Sunderland and Arsenal, and the press seemed to have it right when they gave the title to United. We don't lose 8-point leads, in the same way that we don't draw games after scoring 4 goals. But we fucking do, don't we? 3-1 and 4-2 up at home to Everton and we end up drawing 4-4. A nonsense result that was baffling to watch. city followed on by sending Wolves down with a 2-0 win and that leaves with this 'fascinating title race for the neutral'. I'm not a bloody neutral though, am I?

But yeah, besides this blip on my radar everything is A-OK. I'm training hard at Taekwondo and working out in the gym, getting out with the Canadian to explore the fair city of Bucheon and saving hard for the exciting things we have planned post-Korea. But, that's for another day.

Love, Smithy x