said the coffee cup sleeve at Alver cafe (see above) near my house in Gangnam-gu.
Without a modal verb – may or might, the message seemed frighteningly definitive, especially when I picked up the tumbler to drink and my fingers covered the last three words!
It can be the strangest of things at the most unseemly places that prompt you to run a spot check of your life.
I’m almost 4 months old in Seoul. Among other things I still pine for my friends, the huge libraries filled with English books and the well-stocked art shops of Singapore where I spent many good hours. And I am still discomfited by the fact that I don’t live a mere 4 hours away from my parents anymore and should they need assistance, it’ll take me a while to be with them. But in these 3 months, we’ve ironed out most of the kinks relating to the move and by extension, our lives because that’s what moving forward entails.
The initial surprises (like, what! local banks don’t have provision for joint accounts?; A watermelon costs 14 dollars?; Supermarkets don’t store half the things we are used to buying) and challenges (like properly separating trash or paying utility bills online) have been had and subsequent discoveries (you can get anything from a skillet to a golf ball home delivered; apartments have speakers on the ceiling through which you hear random announcements being made in Korean by the building management) have been made.
I don’t convert the price of every item I buy into Singapore dollars anymore. And I definitely understand the subway system better. The wide-eyed, fresh off the boat look is wearing off.
As more time passes, I feel that the memories we made in the last seven years of our lives in Singapore are migrating further into the cortex of my brain. I don’t reach for them as often as I used to because I am making fresh ones.
Just the other day an elderly lady in the subway asked me where I was from and after I answered, she said, “Welcome to Korea!” with such burst of enthusiasm and warmth that I almost didn’t believe she was real. Then she hugged me, patted my arm and went on her way.
So from where I stand, life doesn’t suck. Also I am a tea drinker. I may adore Alver cafe’s brick walls with vertical gardens and glass partitioned interiors, but I am going to be a dissident and pass up on those wiseass cup sleeves next time!