Fly to Seoul - Teaching English in Korea
Chapter 2 - Leaving Home
There’s an episode in season three of Keeping up with the Kardashians when Kris Jenner calls an interventionist (had no idea that such a job existed) to help Kim with her shopping addiction. My mother did the same thing the moment I announced I was moving to South Korea, however, instead of hiring an actual interventionist named Evan, as in the episode, she brought in an army of aunties, cousins, her best friend Linda, my two best friends Lauren and Tezza, my sister Kate and dad was forced to attend. My two brothers were charging mum by the hour to sit in on, what she called, ‘a family emergency.’
We were all sat around the kitchen table, it was packed with a variety of delicious smelling foods and a number of bottles of wine. Mum was already on her third G&T, it was her go to drink when she was emotional.
The day of my sister’s wedding, Mum started at eight in the morning, by the time we had arrived at the church she was, as my friend’s 13-year-old daughter put it, ‘fully lit.’
“You burn toast,” my mother said. “How can you possibly go and live by yourself for a whole year?”
“That was one-time mum,” I said in exasperation.
“You set the fire alarm off and the neighbours called the fire brigade,” my sister Kate reminded me.
“One time,” I repeated. “My God are you lot always going to bring that up.”
“There was that time you melted the plastic bowl in the microwave,” my youngest brother Pat said with a grin on his face.
I shot him a look that said he maybe over six feet tall compared to my mere four-foot eleven inches but that didn’t mean I couldn’t kill him. It worked, because he shrugged, got out his phone and stayed out of the conversation. My other brother Tristan was about to speak but a quick glance at the murderous look on my face quickly made him change his mind.
“Look this is a once in a life time opportunity and it’s going to be an amazing life experience,” I said trying hard to control my emotions.
“You’re not going to sit around a camp fire and sing, Kumbya,” Kate said. “This isn’t bloody Eat Pray Love. Why do you have to go to South Korea to find yourself? Can’t you do that in London?”
“You’re what the French call, les incompetent, “Tristan said imitating Libby from Home Alone, so I punched him in the arm. He never took my, ‘I’m going to kill you face,’ very seriously anyway.
I looked at Tezza and Lauren with pleading eyes. “I’m only here because I was promised chicken curry,” Lauren said.
“Not helping,” I replied.
“Look, I know you really want to go but you’re not normal,” Tezza said.
Before I could open my mouth and protest, she hurriedly carried on. “You know I mean that with all the love in the world but seriously Aggie, remember that time you accidently walked into a brothel or the time you sat down to interview that random old man who you thought was an local MP but it turned out he was a sugar daddy who thought you were his Spanish Tinder date?”
“Things like that happen to everyone,” I screamed.
“They really don’t,” Tezza said. “What if you accidentally cross the border into North Korea because you were looking for the nearest Starbucks, I won’t be there to help you.”
“I’m not an idiot,” I said angrily.
“No one is saying that,” Tezza said. “The best and worst thing about you is that you always see the good in people. You made tea and biscuits for the room service lady when we stayed in that hotel in Portugal, you buy kids meals and save the toys to donate to charities and you collect coins for buskers and collection at church. People don’t do things like that.”
“So?” I asked, slightly confused.
“What she’s trying to say is that you’re too nice,” Lauren said, digging into the chicken curry.
“We’re worried about you going so far away, all by yourself. Where is South Korea anyway?”
“This is ridiculous,” I said stomping my foot. “I’m a grown woman, I can do this.”
“You have nothing to prove,” Linda said. “And what are you going to do if you get sick?”
“I can’t let that stop me,” I sighed. “I’ve been ill for nearly 30 years and I will probably stay ill for the rest of my life, but I manage.”
“Except we’re always here to look after you,” Kate said. “What happens if you collapse in Korea? How are you going to explain to them that you have severe hypo attacks, vertigo, muscle fatigue and not to mention that weird lump in your elbow?”
“They have doctor’s in Korea,” I snapped at her.
“Fine,” Kate said. “How do you say, please give me some orange juice to bring up my sugar levels in Korean?”
“There’s Google translate for that,” I shouted.
“Have fun googling when your hands cramp up,” Kate yelled back at me. “And who’s going to give you your iron infusion? You also have to take your Vitamin D injections every three months.”
Linda nodded in understanding. “We’re just worried because we care about you,” she said.
“C’mon you lot,” I cried. “Can’t you see how important this is to me? I’m just trying to have my own life.”
My eyes roamed around the kitchen and I suddenly felt a large lump form in my throat. They were all utterly mad, but there was so much love in that one room it was almost heart breaking.
I found my mother’s eyes. I could see she was trying hard not to cry, she knew she had been defeated. She also knew her baby girl was growing up and ready to embrace the world, she could no longer protect me. This wasn’t like the time I wanted to report from the frontlines in Syria resulting in my mother outright stealing my passport and refusing to let me go, this was different. This was really happening, and she just had to learn to let go.
“If this is about Joel asking you to marry him,” mum began.
“Mum…” I said, but my voice trailed away.
“Why don’t you think about it?” Mum said. “He’s a good boy, he’ll take care of you, he knows how sick you can get, he has a good job, what more could you want?”
“Love,” I replied without hesitation.
My mother crossed the kitchen floor and hugged me tightly. We both cried loudly.
“Go,” mum said. “Live your life and I hope it’s everything you ever dreamed it would be.”
I caught dad’s eyes and he smiled encouragingly at me.
“Thanks mum,” I said.
“Remember,” she told me. “Your home will always be here for you.”
We cried some more and then spent the evening dancing to a number of ABBA songs.
In the morning I bought my ticket to Seoul.
I also received a text message from Lauren. It simply said. “So, I did some research on Korea and apparently they have a museum dedicated to toilets. Also don’t forget to send me a picture of buff Korean Jesus. If you don’t know who he is look him up. Luv ya betch.”