An aspect of moving abroad is that people will want to visit you. Family and friends will miss you just as much as you yearn to see them. They’ll bring a slice of your homeland; their accents, quirky personalities and the food that your current country fails to supply.
I’ve been lucky enough to host a variety of people over the past year in Korea. Each one has varied slightly due to differing personalities and situations, but they have all provided this odd feeling of weaving regular domestic life with this temporary otherness that is living abroad. A visitor can observe your situation with fresh eyes, and they are able to notice what is strange or different. However, I have just come to accept that the domestic side to my life here is not perfect, but it’s temporal, so for me it doesn’t matter. Admittedly, the AC is weak, there are patches of mould in the kitchen and at night I can hear my neighbours through the paper-thin walls. I hardly even concern myself with these issues, but when you have a visitor it’s impossible to ignore them.
Also, visitors will comment on things that have long become normal; such as the street smells, eating fruit with beer and eating on the floor. Again, I’ve grown accustomised to all of these things, but each guest highlighted how they contrast what I used to believe was normal. These moments of realisation that Korean normalcy was once absurd made me see Korea as a newcomer once more.
The main restriction of having visitors whilst working at an academy is the sheer lack of holiday time that is on offer. However, I found that the constant reminder of how precious our time was and the ever approaching new day in work made me take full advantage of our reunion. Each free minute was spent socialising, or sampling Korean life and culture.
Unfortunately, the clock won’t stop ticking, no matter how much you want it to, and suddenly your visitors will be departing. Even though I was dreading the termination of each trip, they actually proved as a reminder that some relationships don’t change no matter how far apart you might be.