(A Short Story in Second Person)
Did you pack a coat? You know, it’s not as hot in Northern Ireland as it is in South Korea. The chill hits as you roll that massive suitcase, stocked with rations from home, toward the car and hug your son’s new family-to-be; smiling far too brightly at your own adjusting eyes that have been dried to raisins through hours of hovering above the clouds. The grins continue with broken greetings, neither you nor them sure which language to use or how to get to the next step and closer to a bed. Still, it’s a happy occasion and you’re in Europe! There are sheep in green fields that stretch beside the tiny road they tell you is the main one home. How exotic.
Bread replaces your customary side dishes; not the vegetables you’re used to, but there are plenty of those in the bowl of homemade soup in front. It becomes difficult to express a single thought without someone telling you a new word for it or taking over the tale to convert to other ears. Observations of the others show a tangle of expressions, not waiting for one to stop before the other begins; as if it wasn’t hard enough for you to decipher their particular intonation in the first place.
This big fluorescent box of goods for sale goes by another name than ‘martuh’ but has some familiar treats at the fresh produce section; enough to mix with the dried and packaged ones snuggled beside clothes and shoes, awaiting their own view of the new land. Breakfast and snacks obtained; some sort of normality can be achieved in the privacy of the thankfully separate digs thoughtfully provided.
The cottage teaches the meaning of quaint, exciting your heart back up to a waking rhythm. Your pores soak up the beautiful water in the shower to get you physically prepared for any more hits to the senses. The olympics coverage provides entertainment, allowing easy understanding despite the nonsensical commentators. You thought you’d be able to stay awake for another round of gathering round the host’s big table, but your eyes feel a new pain and that cosy bed calls your name.
It’s lunch time, your body tells you, but the sky behind the curtains says no such thing; it’d be saying ‘shhh’ if it could be bothered to rise. A brunch of the new vegetables with the smuggled rice and soup settles the rumbling, and brings you some familiarity in the world that the airplanes turned upside down. It’s hard to understand why all of that makes you so tired.
Waking up again to the wooden floorboards and rugs makes you feel like you’ve been transported into one of those foreign movies with subtitles. Sprinkling water again helps bring resolve for another full day of odd food and chatter; which begins right away, since you’ve fast forwarded to this world’s lunch. This, then is followed by a winding drive to the beach; very different in this grey sky that seems to always threaten rain. Not just threaten, it was serious, but thankfully you’re back in the car on the way to another sit down with some more side-bread.
Church is church: the tunes bring a multi-lingual choir and the verses need little explanation. You’re at home, praising with an ever extending family.
You’re driven a different road back, and when the car is turned up a narrow (you learned that word for ones much bigger) lane you see a house you’d imagine Jane Austin to write about. Your escorts take you inside where each room is decorated to continue that novel feel. They talk to new people who show them where to find different items. Boxes are brought in and one is opened to reveal little flowers made from hanji: you had wondered why your nearly daughter-in-law spoke of needing some traditional Korean paper. Untouched sheets are draped along tables to create settings organised by the vibrant colours of the delicate paper, then those crafted flowers are dropped onto any surface that can handle them. You’re taken to the kitchen, where you find the other three boxes have been hidden and each is opened to reveal paintings and pop-up frosting which you’re told is representative of her land, his land and verses from the book that brought them together. You’ve never seen cake you didn’t want to ruin by eating before.
The reason you ventured so far has arrived and as you look in the mirror one last time, you feel great, not just from a good rest, but because it’s a beautiful day with great hopes for the future. The car arrives and you’re led to the church where you wait for the union. Flashes of scenes from romantic stories acted out by famous people flash through your mind in anticipation of this very different ceremony and celebration. Other than the white dress and suit up front, it’s quite reminiscent of yesterday’s worship, only your own participation is more obvious, especially for poses inside and out.
Now begins the mystery tour in the old fashioned van with those always smiling girls in matching blue. They start a conversation which you continue and somehow the gurgles they come out with match up with the slow sentences you try to help them understand. One asks a question: it’s about your language and the couple that connects you, so you offer a range of salutations one might quote for these occasions. One seems to catch their attention and they almost sound like they could manage a wedding in your own country, if required. The 1900’s esque compact version of your own vehicle stops in front of a park entrance, so you exit to join them for photos and fun. This is not at all how you expected your son’s wedding to be memorialised.
Back in the car, you practice pronunciation with that simple phrase the girls cannot get their heads around all the way to the grand manor. Pureed soup, speeches, matured beef and gravy; not the wedding buffet you usually enjoy, but quite a delight. Games, from your home and theirs, and dancing (oh the dancing!) It’s a busy night, but a final taxi back to the cottage supplies the needed rest.
Again, a beautiful day! And you’re off to the coast; only this one is rocky, no sand in sight: only hexagons. The newly joined family tells tales of the protected volcanic landmark and it’s legendary formation. Pictures of the giants, running from their own monsters, playing their organ, looking out for their offspring and losing their boot, run through your mind as you exercise your legs in preparation for tomorrow’s lengthy return, minus one.
At the airport again, you can imagine the reverse of your arrival, but hope the familiar time-zone will welcome your body much more comfortably. Only one month to prepare for the ceremony on the other side of the world.