Saturday, 25 May 2013

The many thresholds I can cross

As I clatter in the door, dumping my bag and coat on the ground in the kitchen entryway, chattering away I proceed to fill up the kettle. A few minutes later, a fresh, steaming teapot sits on the kitchen table, milk in the cups waiting for the perfect brew. Each of us takes our tea at a different strength from mostly milk with a dash of hot tea flavoured water preferred by my youngest sister to the strongest brew that sits in my cup. Slowly we drift in, one at a time we sit, sisters five, chatting away. Everything is discussed at that table from the latest purchases to whatever tv show or movie we've recently watched, book we've read or music we've listened to. We've discussed politics, religion, ideologies in the same breath as holiday plans and whether King or Tayto's are best. When all seven of us kids sit at the table the conversation expands and twists even more from judging each others styles, badgering each other to make tea - even those who don't drink it(I'm usually the unlucky devil who makes it!), lamenting over someone throwing their shoes in the sea or plotting a way all seven of us can do something fun together. Holiday time is even more intense as games like Bar Talk, Spoons or Werewolf are played, competition running fierce and accusations of cheating go hand in hand with memories, laughter and a ton of fun. This is family and this is HOME.

HOME means a lot to me - it's not just the structure I lived in most of my life or a place to "shelter me when darkness falls." It's where my family is along with all the memories. However, as I have moved from child to adult the concept of home has changed. HOME - that is my home in Ireland is the one I love best, but so many other places have had that name. When I was in college, I had at least 5 different places that I called home at anyone time: my HOME in Ireland, my college dorm/off-campus housing, my aunt's house in Omaha and my uncle's and aunt's houses in Lincoln. I had another uncle and aunt in Omaha, whose house I frequently stayed at that I also considered home. The thing is all of these places were somewhere I had some roots, somewhere where "I [could] sit and gather moss".

Now that I have graduated many moons ago, the concept of home has changed yet again. Whilst there is one HOME for me, there have been many places called Home where I have put down roots and I have gathered a little more moss - the apartment in Swords, the house off the NCR, this apartment in Korea. In each way and in each place, I've learned important lessons such always pay your bills (NCR house - the people who were in the house before me hadn't paid any bills in the 6 months BEFORE I moved in!), find ways of cost saving from turning off lights that aren't being used to layering up, and roommates you like. Most importantly, I've realised that I'm a hoarder. I don't mean to be but I am and every place I live I try to downsize a little more - I don't necessarily want to downsize on space but rather on what occupies it. When I moved to Korea, I recycled tons of books and clothes. I am trying to do that again now. I recently started with cleaning out my food cabinets. I have so much stuff in there, I can't actually tell what's there - I think that at the moment  there can never be "too much view for me" or "so much space between".

The concept of home has changed even more once I started travelling it has become whenever "I need a threshold I can cross". I remember the first time I went on a holiday and stayed in a hostel - the hostel was called a "hostel" by me but over time even the hostels, guesthouses, B+Bs, and hotels I've stayed in have become "home". A friend of mine once posted a picture on Facebook called home that had a dozen or so different places labelled home. I feel like mine would have at least 30 to 40 places that at one time or another I have called home! Whilst these places don't have the creature comforts that make a home a Home, they are somewhere where you can splay your roots for little while with no possibility of "gather[ing] moss forevermore".

I have learned over the years that while there may be no place like HOME,  "four cabin walls would be just right for me" in settling down in a place on a temporary basis- but Home...Home needs a few things from HOME - a few pictures of family and friends and a bit of the auld Barry's tea. That's Home for me. When I travel, I don't bring tea with me - I am there to experience and learn about the place I am in. However, when I am in a "Home", I need my tea - it's my connection to Ireland, my way of feeling as if "someone [is] smiling from [their] chair across the floor". The other thing that I've learned is that whenever it's time for me to move from living in my Home to my own actual HOME that has the same value and comfort as my current HOME, I need a little more than "four cabin walls" but one thing will never change - I'll always need my Barry's tea!

So might think I'm mad that I can't call somewhere "Home" without the auld Barry's and you might think I'm mad that over the course of my life I've called more places "home" than I have actually lived. However, I think that Home/HOME really is where the Heart is. The thing is, at different points in time, my heart not unlike Voldemort's soul, has been split into different places. Unlike Voldemort's soul, it is only with beneficial consequences!

PS This post was inspired by a cup of tea and a chat with my family
PPS The title of this song and this post was inspired by "A million miles away" from Paint your Wagon staring Clint Eastwood.
PPS Thanks to my Mam and my Aunt for keeping me in supply of Barry's tea - I haven't found it here and as you know Korea just wouldn't be Home without it! 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

I'm a [small, small] girl in a [small, small] world

"Ah, what a small world it is, isn't it?" This question has been said to me and by me many times over the course of my life and I am sure I will both hear it and say it many times before my life ends. Whether it is because you bumped into someone you know in the most unlikely of places or because you found a random connection to someone you never met (Oh my gosh, you're from X!...Me, too! Wow, I've never even seen you around!")

To me, the world is simultaneously both a big, big world and a small, small world. There are so many places to go and see, things to do and people to meet that you could travel everyday of your entire life and still not see, do or meet all those things/people. However, there are so many moments and experiences that can make the world seem like a tiny place indeed.

 There was recently an article in ( ) that posted some absolutely stunning photos of Ireland. It's so easy to forget when you live there when "outside it's now raining", just how beautiful our little island is and what a wealth of culture and natural beauty it has on offer. These photos have inspired me to find the beauty in 세종시...or rather the little gems that make living in, what some may consider the back end of beyond, well worth it! (BTW  - it's not the back end of beyond!)

I live in a new, planned city called 세종시.  This is a growing town that is expected to have a population of half a million by 2030! Currently, the area of Sejong where I live is called 조치원.  It's really small, less than 50,000 people live here but it is my home and over the last few weeks I've come to really appreciate it as the sun shines and the flowers bloom. A couple of  weeks ago it was my friend's, Rucy Bear, birthday, and to celebrate we headed out to a lake in 세종시  Eating cake, crisps and sandwiches we kept exclaiming over this beautiful spot and found ourselves entirely grateful that it's a part of our new city. It's a man-built lake surrounded by new trees, interesting water features and a cycle path. It has an amphitheater in the middle of the lake that only adds to the atmosphere. As we sat there, and knowing that I had only just discovered it, I realised that " I do feel I will miss [조치원] much" whenever it is I decide to branch out to new things. I also realised that I don't know that much about the amenities and beauty spots of my town as I would like and so, I found myself setting forth on a challenge to capture the little things that have made daily life in Korea an easy transition.

So, you might think I'm mad to feel that I that I could already miss the small, small world of 조치원 if I left it anytime soon and you might think I'm mad to try and find any gems in this town. After all, when there are so many more beautiful places in Korea why would anyone want to come to this little place? Well, I hope when you review the following photos they may change your mind. 세종시 tourism may find themselves needing to commission me after this! 

PS All photos were taken by me unless otherwise stated.
PPS This blog post was inspired by "Big, big world" by Emilia and the stunning photos in
A memorial park in 조치원 
PPS There are other places too but I've never taken photos, I will add as I go to them again.
A memorial park in 조치원 

A fabulous gem by the train station - proper cake!
I have heard that the owner studied in Europe and refuses to
 compromise on Quality ingredients and methods!
The roundabout at 조치원 station is decorated 
for the different holidays.

Water feature
세종시 Lake - Amphitheatre 
세종시 Lake

View from the river
View from the river