I have a ‘language exchange partner’. But it’s a bit of a joke, because we don’t speak Korean, because I don’t speak Korean.
Everyday I daydream about diving. It’s an obsession with me. I spend countless hours reading online blogs on diving (good thing I don’t have a job anymore!), searching for the best (cheapest) places to get certified – if the place has amazing beaches that doesn’t hurt either.
The next morning (why!!!), after a delicious breakfast of a fresh bun stuffed with lotus seed paste (yes, we used Google translate for that one), it was time to drive around visiting family, which meant visiting the small village about 20 minutes out of town that Ying’s family originally came from. Ying explained that the poorer people lived in this area, and that a lot of foreign workers, hailing from poor countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma) lived there.
As it was a public holiday, we saw loads of people out and about, from Bangladeshis playing a game of cricket, to Indonesian men strolling around holding hands (in Islamic countries same-sex handholding and hugging is a sign of platonic affection. Any public displays of romantic affection are strictly forbidden, and of course homosexuality is illegal, with a stint in jail if you’re lucky, the death penalty if you’re not).
As we did the rounds from one uncle’s house to the next, we were force-fed more treats and tea, got a visit from the ‘Prosperity Man’ – kinda like Santa, except he gives you fake ancient coins (that are shaped like an emperors hat) that are supposed to bring you prosperity in the new year.
After arriving in Muar, we ate a massive dinner of leftovers from the large CNY Eve Lunch we had missed out on, and after that spent a few hours blasting firecrackers and lighting sparklers, and watching as people all around us let off loads of illegal fireworks, smuggled in from China. One of my favourites was a fire cracker that sounded like an automatic machine-gun, it just gave such a gangland atmosphere to the area. We were force-fed lots of special CNY treats and chrysanthemum tea, and were told that the later we stayed up, the longer and more prosperous life our parents would have (so Mum and Dad are going to live to about 150 years old and be billionaires – the things I do for you people).
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had some pretty amazing birthdays over the years. When I was little, I was slightly obsessed by the story of Humpty Dumpty. I would demand that my mother make me a Humpty-theme cake every year. Basically a cake that looked like a brick wall with a little egg in costume on top of it. I think mum even made little top hats for the eggs.
One year I decided to be a bit different and asked for a green caterpillar cake. I had my party at our local town swimming pool pretty much every year I lived in Kununurra. Mainly because my birthday is in November and it’s about 45 degrees Celsius outside. Also because it meant that mum and dad would hire the big floating bouncy castle for us (and who wouldn’t like a big floating bouncy castle).
For my 18th birthday, I celebrated with two friends in Northern Italy, and I made them eat pizza every night for an entire week. After that I had some pretty cool birthdays at uni, where my friends would surprise me by decorating the whole apartment and baking me a cake before I woke up (kind of easy because at uni I rarely got up before 11am).