Thursday, 27 March 2008

The return of the wannabe native

My triumphant return to Korea

I like Korea. In fact I would go so far as to say I love it. One of the biggest compliments I could, and have been paid is that I am like a Korean; most of the time this compliment is because of my evangelical love of Korean food and my constant preaching about it and not my extensive grasp of the language!

Unfortunately I’m a procrastinator (it’s a very serious condition I’ll have you know) and so my grasp of the language is not what it should be, but I survive. The Korean people themselves though really are the main benefit to living in this wonderful country, they are warm and generous and kind and even though most of the time we don’t share a common language there are few barriers than are insurmountable. The kindness and friendship I have been shown in the past, am being shown in the present and the kindness I will undoubtedly be shown in the future is enough to bring tears to your eyes when you consider some of the atrocities against humanity that occurs in all corners of the world on a daily basis.

These people, most of who lead very simple lives have offered me an insight into Korea more so than any book could ever do. Their simple gestures and kindnesses have opened up this county in a way that no tourist could ever hope to have opened for them. Panmunjeom and the DMZ, the beautiful mountains, Muju ski resort or Seoul itself are mere tourist trinkets when put into perspective next to the real attraction of the country, the people. They are the sole reason I came back. I have specific things I want to accomplish and specific people I came back to see once more but it was also the prospect of meeting more Koreans who show a kindness of spirit sadly lacking in other parts of the world.

When I left the UK for the second time to come to Korea there was a distinct lack of pain, a void of emotion and I feel bad that I didn’t really care. I miss my family and close friends but I feel nothing leaving them behind; maybe this is what religion feels like, going to a better place and knowing you will see them all again one day.

What I won’t miss however is the lack of opportunity, the lack of ambition and the lack of a zest for life that is a cancer on small towns like my own. I was glad to be leaving and I wish I could have left sooner. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and, yes, sometimes, with friends and family it does but no amount of absence will make me miss the small town attitude and the small minds of the people who make these towns what they are, or aren’t.

That’s not to say getting back to Korea was without its problems, indeed there were many problems least of all with visas but transit problems included, in descending order of level of maddeningness, a bus trip to and from Heathrow airport, a delayed flight from Manchester (we were pushed onto the flight before our scheduled flight and then it was delayed, just to add madness to furiousness), a 4 hour bus trip to Jeonju from Seoul and a 3 hour turnaround at Dubai international. The flights from London to Dubai and Dubai to Incheon were long but on time and comfortable. The entire journey from door to new apartment door took 23 hours not including delays. But it was worth every second at passport control, every frisk and every moment spent waiting with baited breath to see if our bags had made the flight with us.

Whilst in Korea I will go and see more of the country and I will, without doubt, eat more and different foods and I will try to learn more of the language but as long as I can communicate on a basic level then I will leave this country in 12 months a happy person.

In the end I am glad to be back and what I have left behind, some things temporarily and some things permanently, were worth the price to get back to the land of the morning calm and the incredible people who live here.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page - Saint Augustine

Areverderci Milan - 11/03/08

With the greatest of respects to Inter Milan this Champion’s league tie was never in any danger.

The first leg score of 2-0 to the 5 time European champions was always going to hard to overcome,but,with the cauldron of the San Siro behind them, Milan would of thought they had at least a chance to level the tie up and put it into extra time. They didn’t. They whimpered toward what now seems the inevitable conclusion of Liverpool’s progression into the next round.

Had Milan scored before the 68th minute then things may have been different but with Ibrahimovich having a nightmare in front of goal Milan were always going to be facing an uphill struggle. Liverpool restricted Milan to a few clear chances with several more long range efforts, including a few free kicks, going over the bar, wide or straight at Pepe Reina. The 68th minute was the minute when the tie was won beyond the doubt of everyone but the most ardent Milan fans; the rest of them looked as if they had suddenly realised what the rest of us were all ready thinking. A pass from Babel set up Torres who controlled, swiveled and fired the ball into the net across the floor and beyond the sprawling keeper. The game was won and Milan looked as of they had lost the will to carry on, as if they knew they didn’t have what it took to turn around a 3-0 score line, which they didn’t. To be fair to them they were playing a team that has continually proved they are a force, if not the force, currently playing the champion's league and with 10 men as another Milan player, Burdisso, saw red for his second yellow card offence.

Liverpool played well enough over the 2 legs against a team unbeaten for 5 months in all competitions to show they are more than capable of winning the competition for a 6th time.
Even with all Liverpool’s domestic woes (and there are many) you would have to be blind, or a Man ure fan to deny that there is not a team on the entire continent that is more suited to the style of football that the Champion’s league demands and you would have to be a fool not to give Liverpool as good a chance, maybe better, as anyone else this year.

The only question now is who will be vanquished in the next round as the red army march on to Moscow.

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