A Wedding Abroad

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Marriage. It’s such a simple concept. You meet someone, you fall in love, you marry and have children. Usually in that order, although sometimes not. Either way, for me, and for my entire life, I imagined this marriage and I imagined just how it would play out. It was to be in a small country church, in England, with roses in my hair and I would be surrounded by family whilst wearing a long white veil.

I had even practiced it, the veil, that is. I would put my lace curtain over my head and parade across my bedroom until the veil would inevitably fall to the floor. I was seven and naive, for sure, but it never even occurred to me that this may not come to pass and that I may not even have a white veil.

Marrying a foreigner is a tricky business. Mainly because its less hearts and flowers and more bureaucracy. Its less white gowns and more signing out forms at the embassy and getting affidavits and documents translated. Then there is the rigmarole of applying for a marriage visa, but don’t even get me started on that. Falling in love was the easy part for me, it was everything after that wasn’t.

I remember our ‘wedding day’ last year, and I use the term loosely as it was less of a ceremony and more of an ordeal than I would have liked. We had to drive to Seoul on the single day out of the month when it was pouring with rain, and the traffic on the highway was so bad that my soon-to-be husband had to drive down the ambulance lane at high speed to make it to the embassy on time before it closed, (at the rather unreasonable hour of 11am I might add.)

Thankfully we made it in time, but barely, and whilst the woman behind the decidedly un-romantic counter rewrote our information down onto a form it was a moment I will never forget. Partly because of the catalogue of errors that led us up to that point, but mostly because it was a moment, irregardless of whatever obstacles had been placed before us, that would shape my life forever.

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Marriage in Korea even for locals is a decidedly less ceremonial affair than in England. There are ceremonies, yes, but they are over sharpish and then another couple is brought in on a conveyor belt of weddings one after another in a building known as a ‘Wedding Hall’ that I have seen placed above department stores and shops. It’s hardly the quaint English church that I’d dreamed of as a child.

But then life is never what you dream it to be as a child, and why should it be? We’re taught to follow a set of rules, to do things the way our parents did and to not veer off course from the expected norms. Or, at least, that was the way for me anyway.

I am glad that my marriage wasn’t easy to undertake, that I didn’t just elope in Vegas or get married quickly in a church somewhere. It caused me to think, to make sure that I was making the right decision, to actually be 100% certain that this was the path I wanted to take. And of course I was, and still am, entirely certain that I made the right decision.

However, there is one thing I can get behind with the whole Korea wedding thing, and that is the photographs. You have them taken a little bit before your wedding at a studio by a professional photographer and they photoshop the hell out of you to make sure that you’re looking your best. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

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So okay, it may have rained a bit and I may have had to fill out 100 forms and spent more than enough time at the embassy and immigration, but in the end its what you put into something that shows just how much you want to get out of it. And over a year on I would still do it all over again, even if we were faced with a snowstorm and hail.

And I did get to wear a veil, briefly! So it was all completely worth it in the end~

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Home

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Suwon, South Korea.

I have been travelling for over a decade in some form or another. When I was eighteen I went to South Africa for a month with my school, and that was when I first caught ‘the bug’. I went to university shortly after, but always in the back of my mind I was waiting for the chance to escape again. So at twenty three I packed my bags to go to Hong Kong and I haven’t been back since.

It wasn’t a whim to go and live abroad, but it was definitely something that thirty four year old me would think twice about. I was so fearless back then, so determined to live life to the fullest, that a plane trip around the world was an adventure rather than a cause for concern.

I’ve lived in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Ancona, Warsaw and finally, Seoul. I have been living in Korea for eight years and now I am married, I have a husband, we live in an apartment outside the city and life is good. Everything that I have and everything that I have done or seen, has been a conscious choice on my part.

I chose to live abroad. I chose to marry a foreigner. I chose to stay here.

But I still get the questions, the inevitable questions from people about ‘when are you going to return home?’ or ‘how long are you going to stay there for?’

And its hard to answer. I want to retort with ‘never’, or ‘none of your business’, but that’s too easy. As in actuality ‘home’ has become a complex concept for me and I am not too sure that even I know what it is anymore.

Is it the place I grew up in? My country of birth? Or the country that I have chosen to live in?

Home to me is my mothers house. Its the small town of Keynsham where I was raised. Its my family and the people I have spent my life with. But it is also Korea. Its my husband and our first apartment together. Its going to be our future family home and the life that we forge there.

I think most long-term expats face this problem. Just where does a traveller rest his feet? Is ‘home’ a building or a concept? To me I have multiple homes in multiple countries. My father lives in the Czech Republic, my family in England and me? Well, I live in Korea.

And for now, Suwon is my home.

What Makes A Writer?

I’ve been writing my entire life. Back when I was a child it was in notebooks and on scraps of paper, when I was a teenager it was on a word processor that I got for Christmas from my Dad and when I was at university it was my major. But its always solely been a hobby, something fun, or that is until I was about fifteen when I handed in a piece of fiction for English class and got my one and only A* ever.

Up until that point writing had been something fun, but after that it became a prospect and something that I could potentially pursue beyond the scraps of paper, short stories and terrible angst-ridden poetry that I’d created. And when I allowed life to get in my way, when I travelled and saw the world, I hadn’t really stopped writing, even then. I still blogged, I still wrote down stupid anecdotes on the internet and I still kept it up in some form or another.

But again, it was a hobby. Something to do when I was bored, something to do when I was inspired. I could never, and still can never, call it anything more than that.

People have a hard time telling others that they write because they get the inevitable questions back. Have you published anything? But, you have a day job, don’t you? You’re not really a writer, are you? It’s just a hobby, isn’t it?

I mean, no, its not my job. But what defines ‘writer’. Are we defining it as a job, or are we defining it as a lifestyle? I write. I create stories and put them down on a computer somewhere. Maybe no one will ever read them and maybe they will stay on that computer until I am dead and buried and someone will come and find them, (hopefully my as yet unborn children) and publish them in memory of me and I will become Van Goghian in my success. Who knows? Did Van Gogh call himself a painter even though he only sold one piece of art? (Was it one? I forget.)

Anyway.

The point is that my husband has taken it upon himself to go round telling everyone and anyone he meets on the street or in bars that his wife is writing a novel. And it scares me. Mainly because I have a hard time telling anyone that I am writing a novel, but also because he’s implying that I am a writer. And it makes me feel a fraud and a little bit silly.

I mean, I’m not published, I don’t have an agent, I haven’t found a beta reader and I am pretty sure that after I have let my draft rest for six weeks I will go back to my manuscript and mock my terrible attempts at sci-fi.

So I ask this:

If I write does it make me a writer? And how do we define ‘writer’? Because if its a job then no, I am most definitely not earning a living off this. But if it is a lifestyle, a way of thinking, a way of being and something that I could never, ever give up, then yes, I am and will always be someone who writes.

Day One

I’ve been blogging for years, in some form or another. I’ve been on tumblr, livejournal, blogspot and, originally, wordpress; but nothing ever stuck. I was too busy travelling to focus on my writing, or too busy with life and work to sit down and read. And eventually one blog after the other got deleted, until I realised that I had spent the majority of my twenties writing on websites rather than on paper.

Then January 2017 came around and I realised that I had abandoned the one true passion in my life for planes and exotic countries. I had a plethora of experiences and insta-worthy photographs, but I didn’t have the one thing I had always wanted:

A finished novel.

So I began writing. Every day I would sit down at my computer and formulate the story that had been rolling around in my head for nigh on ten years. And five months later I have finally finished the novel that I had been dreaming of writing. It has been such an achievement for me, such an accomplishment, and whilst its not quite there yet, it is very close.

And now that I have finished?

Well, I am back to WordPress of course.

I want this blog to be an accompaniment to my main focus, which is, of course, writing. I didn’t entitle it ‘claretravels’ or ‘clarewrites’ like I have done, and was tempted to do again, because that is too narrow a focus. This blog is me, my life, my travels, my writing, (if I dare) and my journey. Its not a specific topic of a blog, and its not going to be pigeon-holed as such. Its just me, which, in case you haven’t guessed, is Clare.