“You have lost so much of the fat.”

Hayley Teacher is not eating as much food these days, says the cooking lady, looking quite put out as I rise from the table with half my rice still in my bowl.

Well, I paraphrase, of course, for I still barely understand a word the woman says. Understanding a taxi driver as he questions you about your home country in slow, clear Korean is not even close to being in the same league as understanding an ajumma gruffly telling you off in a torrent of throaty noises.

She’s on a diet, explains my director firmly, clearly anticipating an unpleasant force-feeding situation. I do an apologetic little bow as I try to sneak past with my uneaten food.

The main problem is that I used to eat twice as much as the others, often going into the kitchen for a second helping of rice or soup, and piling into the meat and tteok side dishes with great relish. The Korean teachers, on the other hand, would eat only half of their rice, scooping the other half out before beginning. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that one of them would often scoop hers into my already full bowl… and I’d cheerfully eat it.

Nowadays, having used an iPhone ap for several weeks to help me understand and gauge correct portion sizes, I have realised that I was eating more than double, sometimes triple my necessary daily calories, and have adjusted my eating habits accordingly. This was torture at first, but my appetite has gradually shrunk to a more normal size, and I no longer need the massive quantities of food that I used to. Combined with regular exercise, this is great news for my waistline… but now the cooking lady is apparently feeling a little rejected. I was once her favourite, but I think I have fallen off my pedestal.

She used to derive great pleasure from asking me if I wanted more as soon as my bowl was empty, clucking and fussing over me like an anxious hen, and smiling in delight as I devoured everything she put in front of me. I have seen the confused, hurt look in her eyes on several occasions lately, and I try to make a big deal of eating a ton of kimchi (good for the metabolism) and any other healthy veggies that happen to be around, while subtly skipping the rice and fried things. Apparently this has not been enough, for she is determined to have it out with me now. She examines the uneaten contents of my bowl, shaking her head in great concern. Much frantic discussion is going on in mostly incomprehensible Korean, and I am being spun around and inspected from all angles, with rather more poking and prodding than one tends to hope for in front of one’s colleagues.

Is she angry? I ask after a while, not entirely sure what I should do. Jennifer laughs. She is worried, she explains. Your body is getting smaller too quickly, she thinks you have problems. 

Well yeah, I have problems, lady! But honestly, anyone who gives me a cursory glance would know that anorexia is not likely to be one of them. I try to explain the whole diet and exercise thing and how it’s actually very healthy and good for me, and everyone else agrees. I didn’t just jump into a random diet, I have this helpful guide I hired as a life coach during the transition. You have lost so much of the fat, says one colleague in the typically polite way that I’ve become used to. She wrinkles her nose at the memory of my previous level of fatness for good measure. They are, as I mentioned a long time ago, very direct and not at all tactful when it comes to expressing opinions on appearance. Even compliments could easily be taken as insults – like the lecture a good Korean friend gave me the other week after telling me I’d lost a lot of weight, and congratulating me. But you must try harder, she added in the next breath. You think you are making muscle here- she grabbed the top of my arm and jiggled it relentlessly –but this is not muscle! It is fat, fat, fat! I hasten to add that she is a very sweet, kind friend of mine, not a heartless bitch. ;) It’s just the way these issues are addressed here. To further my cause my family pitched in together and bought me the top elliptical of 2017, I love this thing, I can work up a sweat without the knee pains.

Anyway, the cooking lady now seems to be having a minor stroke as she pinches at my waist and discovers that my trousers are only staying up because of a belt I’ve pulled so tight that the waistband of the trousers is all bunched up. Um… I’m going to get some new clothes when I go home, I explain in some embarrassment. Really, it’s a good thing that everything is now too loose, but I do now feel a bit like a homeless person dressed in over-sized clothes.

Finally I am allowed to leave the lunch room, having obediently endured all the prodding and twirling and pinching.

And that was Tuesday.

Don’t let them see your fear.

So I was sitting in the classroom yesterday, gathering together the materials I’d need for my elementary classes, when the kids all burst in in their usual unnecessarily rambunctious manner.

[Why, by the way? Why must children be so noisy all the time? It’s like there’s a volume control muscle that doesn’t start to develop until adolescence. I don’t think they even know they’re doing it, for I’ve lost count of the number of times in a row I’ve asked, begged, pleaded, cried and finally yelled for indoor voices, only to have the noise level immediately return to painfully excessive.]

Hey guys! I greeted them in my now almost completely American way. How was your weekend?

The clamoring started, as they all crowded around me in typical 7-year-old desperation to tell me about camping trips, play dates, skinning their knees in the playground, an outing to the movies. I go to movies! I get new robot! I sleep in tent! I go to the swimming pool!

Wowwwww! I said repeatedly, feeling really good about the daily lessons I’ve been giving them for several weeks on use of the past tense. That’s awesome! (I am going to get shot or laughed out of town for speaking like this when I go home.) You went to the movies? You got a new robot? 

Teacher! Teacher! Teacher! one of them was hollering from somewhere near my right knee. I bring a bug! I looked down uncertainly, not quite following that one. You brought a bug? You brought it where? Home? 

No, said he, thrusting a flimsy plastic container at me with a proud grin, I bring a bug! 

I mean, seriously. What parent sends a child to English class with a ginormous monster cicada thingy in a box it could probably eat through in the 5 seconds before it devours a dozen children and a teacher? I leapt up and staggered back so quickly that I stood on someone’s toes, but I did not care in the slightest. The creature was the size of a Shetland pony, and buzzing angrily in a box designed for something harmless and inanimate like fruit.

Dave, I said in measured tones, trying to keep the look of mortal fear off my face, why have you brought a bug to my class? I tried to sound the same as I do when I’m asking why they’re chewing gum. You can’t let them see you’re afraid. That’s what they want. It gives them the upper hand, like when you let out one tiny giggle when one of them’s trying to tickle you. You’ve had it, then – in under a second you will have 12 of them piling on top of you and tickling you until it is painful and you actually fear for your life. If I showed any weakness in the face of this bug, they would probably set it free and instruct it to attack me.

Buzzzzz! went the Creature of Pure Evil and Doom before the boy could reply. The children were completely unconcerned by this, as if the thing wasn’t clearly about to burst out of the box and tear the flesh off our bones.

Oh, oh… ooooooookay, I said hastily, backing away from certain death and trying to look as if I just needed something from the other side of the room, that thing needs to get out of the classroom now.

Teacher is scared? asked someone, interestedly.

N-no, I said bravely, cleverly masking the sheer terror in my panic-crazed eyes, but we cannot bring pets to class. It’s a rule. 

No, it’s not, they all chimed in indignantly. Rule number one: be nice to others. Rule number two: Don’t speak Korean. Rule number-

OK, well, it’s a new rule!! I interrupted desperately, watching the Winged Thing of Terror plotting my tortured death. I just thought of it. Take it to the office. You can have it back after class. 

Dave looked devastated. Clutching the poorly constructed and potentially fatal cage of horror, he stared up at me, his big brown eyes filling with tears. Is not a rule, he repeated in a small, trembling voice. Ah, crap. I had a sudden flashback of what it was like to bring something cool or exciting to school and have everybody crowding round to see it and ask you questions. It was your little moment of fame and your turn at being the popular one. Although he was clearly putting our lives in immediate danger with his choice of pet, this was his moment. I’d have to be a heartless monster if I took it away from him with the sudden unfair addition of a new rule.

And so I spent 50 minutes trapped in a room with 12 children and the biggest bug in the whole world, which stared at me from its punnet prison the whole time, growling and roaring and things.

That’s Monday done, anyway.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

The ex-pat life has its ups and downs.

Some find that it’s just not right for them. I’ve encountered people here in Korea who were miserable from the moment they stepped, blinking, off the airport bus into an unfamiliar world full of neon lights and indecipherable signage. One girl lasted less than a week before getting back on a plane and flying home. Others set themselves deadlines of the “if I’m still unhappy after 6 months…” variety. Some just stay and accept misery as their fate.

Fortunately, I seem to be one of the natural-born travellers who adapt quite easily to foreign cultures without any significant pangs of homesickness. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever really experienced culture shock. I mean, yes, I’ve had numerous WTF moments, and there are times when I look at the fish carcass protruding from my soup at lunch and realise that I could actually kill for a sausage roll with HP sauce followed by a bag of Meanies. However, these little moments have never caused me to cry alone in my room, cowering under the blankets and working on an escape plan. In general, I tend to be intrigued rather than repelled by cultural differences. They are my reason for living abroad, not an incentive to go home.

The one thing that I find increasingly difficult to deal with, though, is the temporary nature of relationships in an ex-pat community.

When I first arrived in Korea, I was – as you may recall – running away from heartbreak. I was bitter, angry, sad, and very, very hurt. I no longer believed in love, or even really in friendship. Why let someone into your heart, I reasoned, when that gives them all the power they need to reject you, leave you, hurt you, even destroy you? And so I came here, to the other side of the world, completely alone, with every intention of living an isolated, hermit-like life. Simon and Garfunkel’s I Am A Rock was my anthem. If I never loved, I never would’ve cried was my motto.

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship,
Friendship causes pain.
It’s loving and it’s laughter I disdain.

I wasn’t being melodramatic: I really, truly believed that a friendless, loveless life was better for me, because it had none of the potential for hurt. And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries. For my first six months or so in Korea, I lived by my anthem.

I have my books 
And my poetry to protect me. 
I am shielded in my armor, 
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. 
I touch no one and no one touches me. 
I am a rock, 
I am an island. 

I went to work. I taught, I learned. I shopped, I cooked. I read, I wrote. I explored. I watched TV, I slept. And I did it almost completely alone, with the exception of the occasional dinner with colleagues.

Perhaps I needed that period of isolation in order to heal – a safe, quiet place to be by myself and nurse my broken heart. In any case, I gradually became stronger, healthier, happier, and less angry. And for whatever reason, one day in March 2010, I spontaneously invited myself out with my colleague and her friends, who were going for dinner and bowling that evening. I don’t know why I did it – especially since I had always been more the sort of person to sit and wait for invitations rather than boldly ask to be included. But through that one uncharacteristic action, my anthem got torn to shreds, and against all my wishes and better judgement, I found love. Real love: friendship.

That night, I spent time with four of the people who would eventually become part of a solid group of eight close friends. They changed my life. Slowly, very slowly, my walls began to crumble. I became less and less reluctant to leave my room and socialise. I started to talk… then trust… then love.

As I was saying at the start of this post, however, the ex-pat life has its ups and downs. And the down in this particular tale is that people in an ex-pat community like this one don’t tend to stick around forever. Our group of 8 is down to 3, and by the end of the summer I’ll be the only one still here. Each goodbye is harder than the last, because it feels like the end of something I doubt I’ll ever experience again. A group of individuals so unlike each other in personality, style, attitude, beliefs, and tastes, somehow clicking perfectly after being thrown together, a world away from home.

Arlene left first. She’s the carefree, enthusiastic, thoughtful, lovably scatterbrained, easy-going one. We went to Japan together, and took a few random weekend excursions in Korea just for the hell of it.

Thandi left next. She’s the calm, positive, soft-hearted, live-life-to-the-max one, full of dreams and determination. She was my colleague, my neighbour, my friend, and my almost constant companion. It took me months to come to terms with her absence.

Charlotte was the third to leave. She’s the feisty, straight-talking, sensible, practical, fiercely loyal and protective one. She knew me better than I know myself. I cried as I walked alone down the street after saying goodbye to her.

Margo left soon after Charlotte. She’s the super-cool, hippy-dippy, peaceful and happy one. We once sat together in a bus station singing “My favourite things” to block out an argument that some of the others were having, because fighting scares us both. I think I may have been a little numb by the point when she left, because the goodbyes didn’t quite feel real.

Nicole left the other week. She’s the sassy, glamorous, party-loving one, as kind-hearted as she is confrontational. She was my “let’s go out and dance till the sun comes up” partner, and she showed me how to wear make-up, change my diet, exercise, and – most importantly – stand up for myself. She was my encourager. We parted ways in the early hours of the morning because I hadn’t been able to bring myself to say goodbye and go home earlier. She got into a taxi, and I sat on a wall and sobbed as newer friends comforted me with silent but understanding hugs.

Paddy is leaving in a couple of weeks. He’s the popular, friendly, directly honest, affectionate, funny, loving one. I’ll be flying home with him, and leaving him behind when I return to Korea after my holiday. I can’t even imagine my life here without him. He’s the brother I never had.

Hilette will leave soon after I return from my holiday. She’s the confident, optimistic, outrageous, chatty, entertaining, in-love-with-life one, and her crazy antics are surpassed only by her warm heart.  Ours will be the final goodbye.

And so I’ve come full circle. I arrived alone, I found an incredible group of friends, and soon I will be alone again.

Except that I won’t. Not any more. Much as I try to hold on to that anthem of mine, belting it out over the karaoke machine with a similarly-minded friend, I know that’s not going to be me any more. These goodbyes are killing me. They’re sad, they’re painful, and I’m hurting. Unlike the relationships that ended and left me heartbroken, however, I don’t feel regret about letting down my guard and forming these friendships. This time, I feel that the relationships have been worth the pain at the end.

And so I’m still going out and meeting new people, making new friends, hearing new stories and sharing mine, and learning new things. I am not a rock after all. I am not an island. I will get hurt, and I will feel sadness, but I’ve learned that the lows are necessary if I want to experience the highs. That’s a valuable lesson to have learned.

Thank you, my friends, for that and so much more.

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

I am angry

Warning: post contains slightly stronger language than I usually use on this ‘family-friendly’ blog. I supplied a few asterisks, but f**k it. The title should have been a heads-up. Expressions of anger are not as effective without swearing. 

It nearly came out as an embarrassing series of inappropriate rants on Facebook, but thankfully I resisted. There are few things more cringe-making. Don’t do that.

It nearly came out as a torrent of snappish, undeserved and regrettable insults to various people around me, but I held back, having learned to control my temper a bit better over the past few years.

Lately, though, I’ve been failing. I snap easily. I’m not as laid-back as usual. I have no outlet for my anger, and so it’s building, building, building, and starting to seep out in toxic drips. The explosion must be imminent.

Then I remembered I have a blog, which hasn’t been getting updated nearly enough of late thanks to my life having settled into a comfortable but un-thrilling routine. So feck it. If I regret my seething fury spilling out in a mess of angry words here, I can always delete it when I’m calmer. Blog, take my anger and let it be gone from me lest I murder the next person who looks at me.

I am angry with people.

Like the people who commented on various Facebook posts about the sad case of Lennox, the pitbull-type dog in Belfast who was taken away from his adoring family and put down for being potentially dangerous after a long fight to save him. Yes, this was truly horrible. It is heartbreaking for the family. The law is an ass. But seriously, you would not believe how many comments I have read from international observers saying things like “I will never go to Belfast now. Murderers.” and “I always wanted to visit Ireland, but not any more – murdering scum.”. Are you f**king kidding me???? Have you ever heard of The Troubles? The IRA, the UVF, the UDA, Bloody Sunday, punishment beatings, the Omagh bombing… people have been murdering and being murdered there since before you were born, and although that never caused you to judge and label every last citizen as “murdering scum”, the (however unfair and tragic) lawful and humane putting to sleep of an unfortunate animal does?!! Seriously? SERIOUSLY. What the f**k is wrong with people?

And mosquitoes. What is up with mosquitoes? What purpose do they serve? Evil, pointless, blood-sucking, welt-causing, sleep-depriving, pain-inflicting, disease-spreading, insane-itch-supplying bastards.

Then there’s the fact that one of my kindergarten kids cries at absolutely every-f**king-thing, and seems to equate tears with saying “can you help me?” or, y’know, “hello”. After over 4 months of this, I have lost patience with him entirely, and said today “Jun, I will help you if you try, not if you cry!”. I was quite pleased with this motto, but quelle surprise, he just kept crying and whining. One of his sweet wee classmates gave him a comforting hug and he shoved her away, screamed at her, and promptly smacked her in the mouth. Spoiled, bullying little demon.

Also, my apartment is full of fruit flies, AGAIN. It’s f**king annoying, and impossible to resolve, especially since I nearly set the place on fire the other night with a poorly planned bug-spraying session while the gas ring was on cooking my kimchi jjigae. If I see a cockroach again this year I am leaving the country.

I am angry with various Korea-related issues, too. Like the seminar the government made all the foreign teachers attend this week, where they basically told us we weren’t good enough, don’t take our jobs seriously, are unprepared… oh, just have a look at a sample slide. Bastards.

And don’t get me started on men. MEN. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to be friends with one, love one, argue with one, comfort one, reason with one, work with one, get over one, or like one for the sake of a friend who loves him. With the exception of one male – possibly two – in my life, they all have the potential and tendency to behave like total dickheads. Of course, women are probably as bad, and I am being a horrible, sexist bitch, but I never have the same issues in my relationships with women as I do with men. Or maybe it’s not men, it’s me. Or men and women are programmed in completely different ways and will always clash eventually. Whatever. I don’t care. I am just f**king angry, and this is not exactly a carefully thought through analysis of gender politics. Don’t call me un-PC, ’cause that’ll make me bloody angry, too.

I am angry with the kids in my classes who sit through my carefully-planned, well-thought-out, and several times repeated explanations of words or concepts, either day-dreaming or not giving a shit, and then, as soon as it’s time to do the related workbook exercise, go “Teacher, (thing just explained) is whaaaaaaat?” as if I neglected to f**king mention it. I just finished a class that nearly drove me insane – I spent ten full minutes introducing fire safety, complete with colourful pictures, flashcards, and a full-on mime session to illustrate “stop, drop, and roll”. I repeated these actions several times, getting them to tell me the words as I did the actions, which prompted much laughter. I asked several times if everyone understood. Then I gave them their worksheet and asked them to copy down the three words, and draw a picture for each one. It was almost f**cking instant: “Teacher, ‘drop’ is whaaaat?”. I felt like yelling “I was just down on the feckin’ floor, stopping and dropping and rolling like a feckin’ eejit, while all your classmates listened and watched and laughed, and I asked you over and over again if you got it, and you said you did, I cannot believe you are ASKING me this, aaaaarrrrrghhhhhh!!!”. I did not do this. I really bloody wanted to, though.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I am angry with my boss, who asks far more of me than she has any right to, and yet for whom I do it all and more because I like her, respect her, and genuinely want to help the school however I can. I am angry because she never acknowledges how much I actually do around here, values my male colleague more than me simply because he’s a f**king MAN, gives me guilt trips over tiny little things while overlooking the fact that I’m here for more hours than she is, these days, never communicates important information to me, and leaves me to deal with unpleasant tasks like telling someone they’re not getting a job after all, when she’d already promised it to them and I’d made a huge effort to find them for her.

I’m angry with my friends for leaving. I mean, I’m not angry with them, per se… but I’m angry that I stupidly let down my walls, found friends, good friends, loved them dearly, and now nearly all of them have moved away and are virtually strangers I’ll probably never see again. I’m angry that that’s what I do to people at home, but that I’m too selfish to notice unless it’s happening to me.

I’m angry at myself, I suppose. For so many things.

I’m angry with the bastard who ran over a kitten outside school this morning and just left it there in the road while its mother sat and cried pitifully by its tiny little body (and then I sat and cried by the crying mother).

I’m a smoker again, did I tell you that? For quite a while now, actually. Sorry to those who will tell me how disappointed they are in me. Sorry to me for the state of my lungs. Blah blah blah, sorry, sorry, sorry. But f**k it. Angry people need their nicotine. It prevents murder.

The first stone (14lbs) took me a month to lose. The second is apparently taking 25 years, despite more vigorous and increased exercise, and a healthier diet than I’ve ever had in my life.  I’m angry with Jillian Michaels, my metabolism, and whoever puts the calories into vodka (one of the few necessarily unhealthy things still in my diet… but only at the weekends from now on).

Canadian immigration, by the way, what a f**king rigmarole.

I hate that even as I am writing this – on my own blog, for my own therapy and sanity! – I am worrying that I will offend somebody or get told off for swearing, or smoking, or drinking, or not being a patient enough teacher, or being too judgemental. If you don’t like it, go away. I don’t have the energy or inclination to apologise right now. Call back on Saturday, maybe. Or, you know what, better yet – leave it a few weeks till I’m on holiday. Things will be less infuriating then, I’m sure of it.

Oh, and it’s only Thursday. I hate that.

I am angry.

Super!

Supermarkets. They’re not particularly interesting, right?

Introducing the Korean supermarket experience to blow that theory out of the water.

There are three Korean supermarket giants: Lotte Mart, Emart, and Homeplus. All three are very familiar to me after almost three years in this country. They all have their slight differences and unique quirks, but in general the supermarket experience here is just as bonkers regardless of which one you visit.

Firstly, much like everything else, these places are a violent assault on your senses. The bright colours, the flashing signs, the neon uniforms. The smells of sizzling meat and zillions of sweet baked goods mingling with the unmistakable stench of the fish department (yes, that’s department rather than aisle). The mad, bustling crowds of busybusybusy people elbowing you out of the way and bearing down on you at breakneck speed with their shopping carts. The flavours of the astonishing selection of free food samples you try along the way. And the noise… oh, the noise.

Sometimes just walking down the street can be too much for me, with the roaring traffic and frantic crowds and traffic cop whistles and the insanely upbeat kpop music blasting aggressively from every shop as over-enthusiastic sales girls scream “enticingly” at you from the doors of make-up and clothes shops. But when you take that level of noise and contain it all in a 6-storey building full of every conceivable product under the sun, it takes on a whole new level of intensity.

Here are some interesting (y’know… ish!) things about Korean supermarkets.

1. Free samples. This is a fantastic part of life here. You get free samples of everything, from beauty products to fried pork to melon flavoured vodka. It’s perfectly possible to have an entire meal while you do your shopping, just by stopping every time you’re offered something interesting-looking on a cocktail stick, and washing it down with a free shot of whatever drink they happen to be promoting that day. I’ve seen them brewing coffee, frying seafood pancakes, grilling meat, and mixing cocktails. It’s a wonderful system of which I whole-heartedly approve.

2. Costumes. In supermarkets in the West, you’ll find helpful signs and arrows pointing you to where things are. In Korea, you’ll find girls in ridiculous miniskirts and strange legwarmer things at the end of every aisle, greeting you loudly and trying to kidnap you into their own particular department.

 

3. Animated price tags. These are actually little TV screens dotted around among the shelf labels and occasionally scaring the living daylights out of you when you bend down to examine a packet of minced beef and someone suddenly starts screaming at you in frantic-sounding Korean from the previously blank and silent screen.

4. Seemingly random free gifts. You know how you might occasionally get something free with a product, as part of a promotion or something? You normally expect it to be vaguely related to the product. Like those nice Coca Cola glasses I went through a phase of collecting years ago, free with a 6 pack of Diet Coke or something. Maybe some free filters with promotional packs of coffee, you know what I mean. Well, here in Korea, there does not seem to be any such logic – but boy, do they love their free gifts! These come taped or shrink-wrapped to the promotional packs, and often have so little in common with the product being purchased that I have been known to simply stop and stare in wonder for a while, searching my brain for any possible explanation. Here, for example, we see a Spam-like product with some free kitchen roll.

That’s fairly tame (at least you’d expect to find them both in the same room of your house) when you consider the display of laundry detergent boxes I saw a few months ago with cans of dog food taped to them. I swear, last week in Emart I saw cereal boxes with huge free gifts shrink-wrapped to them – they turned out to be umbrellas. Umbrellas! With your cornflakes! There were brightly coloured jump-ropes attached to packets of shrimp-flavoured ramen once, too, and the other day I was somewhat bemused to receive a free bottle of orange juice with my mosquito spray. Sure why not, I suppose.

5. Things that look so familiar and yet so different…

6. …unless you go to Tesco. Yes, I said Tesco! Homeplus is actually co-owned by Samsung and Tesco, which was my preferred supermarket when I was still living in the UK. It obviously stocks mostly Korean products over here, but you can find actual British brands and Tesco’s own-brand items dotted around like little glimmering treasures.

I go there for two main reasons: mature cheddar cheese, and coffee. Of course my new healthy diet and weight loss plan means cheese is once again out of my life for the foreseeable future, but it was a wonderful discovery before that. I still go there for this, though:

My favourite cheap but good quality coffee when I lived in NI: Tesco’s own brand. Who would’ve thought it?! I was so overjoyed when I discovered this little treasure trove last year, I literally did a little happy dance right there in the aisle.

7. Singing. Or shouting, at the very least, but I’ve certainly witnessed one or two crazy song-and-dance routines! The shouting does my head in, as exciting as I found it all at first. It’s particularly bad in the fresh produce sections, where butchers run around wielding their knives and yelling about the meat, and middle-aged ladies with hairnets try to sell you their kimchi from the other side of the store. Not what you want after a long day filled with screaming kids! The singing and dancing is pretty hilarious, though, I’m not going to lie.

That’s probably enough for now, although I could easily stretch to two or three posts on supermarkets. Really. Sometimes the most ordinary, everyday things are the most fascinating for me!