Saturday, 16 November 2013

All my memories gathered 'round [him]

As I may have mentioned before (here, here and here), my brother came to visit! It was wonderful having him here and I really didn't want him to leave!
Selfie in Changdeokgung Huwon, Seoul. The Secret Garden Palace 

He was a great house-guest: he killed a cockroach for me that was crawling on my wall. I'd had enough of them at that stage (a story for another day) and I begged him to get rid of it even though he was still sleeping and it was 6.30am! He also helped me to rearrange my apartment and to do a thorough cleaning out of my big suitcase full of winter clothes. Whenever I needed help with anything he was willing and ready. The only time he was intractable was when he was curled up in bed and ready to go to sleep!

From the minute he arrived it was mostly go-go-go. I had planned on going around Seoul with him the day he arrived but instead we headed to the train. He was exhausted from his trip but I insisted (like the good sister I am) that we should go for a walk.  I didn't let him rest at all those first few days, as the very next day after he arrived we headed back up to Seoul for the Halloween shenanigans and to do some touristy things. During his trip, he saw two palaces, Changgyeonggung and Changdeokgung, went to Insadong twice, partied in Hongdae, went to a lantern festival, visited both my schools (and went to four Halloween parties) and went to Gyeongju and Japan.
Palace time! The 3 pictures going clockwise from the top are from Changgyeong
and going anti-clockwise from the top are from Changdeok.
Top left - "Why do you need to take my photo, again?"
We were both really impressed with the palace at Changgyeongung and we were really lucky in the time that we went. We went fairly early on the Sunday morning after the Freak or Treat walk. When we arrived there were only a handful of people in the palace and we were able to take a leisurely stroll around the gardens. It was the first time for both of us so we were able to just drink in all the sights, colours and quiet. We sat for a while just chatting and catching up as the weather was beautiful and warm with a soft breeze. In contrast, Changdeokgung was much busier and much colder. We hadn't planned on going there as we were headed to Jongmyo Shrine. Unfortunately we'd have had a long wait for the tour and neither of us wanted to do an actual tour. When we got to Changdeokgung though, I blurted out that not only would we take the entrance tickets to the palace but also to Huwon (the secret garden) for a Japanese tour. Yep, I paid for a 90 minute tour in a language I don't remotely understand! The autumn colours were fantastic but I would not recommend joining a tour where you don't understand anything. Whilst it was nice for us to chat and hang out, it meant that we probably wasted 45 minutes of precious sightseeing time waiting around for the tour to move on.

Desserts, BBQ, Jeon, Bibimbap and Kimchi galore!
While he was here, we went on huge culinary adventures as I tried to expose him to as much Korean food culture as I could. From bibimbap to Korean BBQ, any culinary (vegetarian) delight I could present him with I did. It wasn't only the savoury things. Any sweet that I delight on, we got to eat! I have waited impatiently for this colder weather to eat Hotteok and Bungeoppang. Knowing that they aren't very healthy helped me to resist eating them until he arrived. And boy, when he did, we went to town! Several times we burned our tongues on Bungeoppang (similiar to Taiyaki in Japan) and delved into the delightful sweetness of ggul tteok and bingsu.
Street food in Jochiwon.
One the night he returned from a day trip to Gyeongju, I was talking to my sister and telling her that I didn't think my brother had done enough exploring in my town. She insisted that when I met him off the train that night we should go for a 30 minute walk. I am so glad that we did as she instructed because not only did we get to walk around and see Jochiwon but we also got to eat street food that was pastries! We wandered down a side street of the traditional market and there was still a vendor selling mandu (dumplings), deep fried battered pumpkin and these battered things that looked like courgettes. However, when we bit into them they were seaweed rolls filled with buckwheat noodles and vegetables. I was so excited because I've been wanting to eat down in the market for ages and to try more street food.

We had plenty to talk about and there was never a dull moment in the two weeks. I think that my favourite part of his visit was just having someone to come home to. It was the same when my cousin visited last year. My home never feels lonely when I am there alone but someone else's presence over an extended period of time, like a week or two, creates such an impact on your space. With him gone, I felt really lonely and really sad. I still do to be honest and even thinking about it makes me want to cry. You see, both he and my cousin are family. They don't just bring themselves to visit me. They bring a little bit of all the people I love most in the world with them. They bring shared experiences, shared memories and shared connections. They bring home. It's nearly a year since I felt homesick and right now I feel so incredibly homesick. Not for Ireland. I'm homesick for someone else to share my space and to make my house into a home.

So, you might think I'm mad to let my brother's visit affect me so much. You might think I'm mad to feel that over a two week period my brother could have made such an impact on my home. You might think I'm mad to have bawled in Seoul station for a good 25 minutes. Maybe it is silly but home is where the heart is and my heart is with my family. I loved having my brother here and I think that his visit has only strengthened our relationship and has allowed us to look at each other with new eyes and open hearts.

PS. Thank you Jody for visiting! I miss you tons!

PPS This post was inspired by a brilliant brother and John Denver's Take me home, Country Roads.

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