I went to Seoul today for the grand finale to St. Patrick’s week.
Yes, it may only be a day-long holiday in its home country, but here in Korea they’ve been going crazy for it all week. It was quite a shock to my system to see not just a pubful of Irishness on Wednesday night, but a sea of green (and Guinness) today that stretched as far as the eye could see, in all directions.
The crowd was a fairly even mix of Koreans and foreigners, but it was the foreigners who stood out to me. From living in a quiet little neighbourhood where I’m pretty sure I’m known as “the white girl”, to suddenly being in this huge, crowded city with fellow “waeguks” (the Korean – and not exactly complimentary – word for foreigners) all around me… it was overwhelming!
I hate Guinness. I have never understood what the big deal is about it. But today, I kept grinning happily at the giant floating Guinness balloon and the friendly pints that were mingling with the crowd. I grinned happily at the silly green hats and the people draped in Irish flags. I grinned happily at the Irish traditional band and dancers. I grinned happily at the stall selling Irish stew. I grinned happily as the parade danced past to the sound of brass bands, in a blur of green and the roar of cheers.
Actually, now that I think about it, I haven’t got much to say about the experience other than I spent most of it grinning happily (as well as dancing). I love Korea, and I love living here, but it seems that I also love Ireland after all. And the Koreans entered whole-heartedly into the spirit of things, making it a really fun experience and a nice taste of home.
Yep, I’m exhausted after St. Paddy’s week, but it was worth it. You just never think that at some point in your life you’ll be whirling around with a shamrock painted on your face, in a public square in South Korea, singing “I’ll tell me ma when I go home, the boys won’t leave the girls alone”. Life is full of delightful surprises like that.