At long, long last, the day had finally dawned. Shackles were shed, goodbyes had been said, and with more childish anticipation than you could shake a bowl of kimchi at, I was bound for Hawaii. For the next two weeks, I would leave behind the rigmarole of teaching, and Korea’s amazingly ignorant way of testing my patience, and set forth to do what I am best at doing…nothing! Basking horizontally on various beaches was the order of the fortnight, and with no deadlines looming, no sulking, snotty nosed students to babysit, and monotony becoming a word for the past, I was as excited as a scouser on dole day.
For many of my friends and family back in England or Australia, living and working in Korea is still a mad, crazy adventure…maybe even dangerous too? But for me, despite living in the shadows of despotic Kim Jong Il in the red north for more than two years, it is no longer that adventure, and far from it. I had a home, a job, lots of friends and a football team, and of course my girlfriend Leslie. I may be blase, but it was as ‘normal’ a life as I have had in a very long time. For sure I have had an enriching and rewarding couple of years in the R.O.K, absolutely, but hitting the winding and uncertain road again, if only for a few months, was to get a new lease of life, a return to freedom.
Honolulu and its glitzy, chaotic Waikiki Beach was a perfect place in which to spend New Year’s Eve, and such a far cry from down town Daegu, scene of last year’s revelry. With sultry weather and beach-side champagne, Waikiki was the place to be. January 1st 2011 was spent frozen, battered and bruised, head first in Korean snow, the result of my first, and probably last, attempt at skiing. January 1st 2102, however, was spent surrounded by swaying palms, warm seas and scantily clad women…in my opinion a far more exotic and appropriate way to usher in a new year. After a brisk hop over the sapphire Pacific from Oahu to Maui, Hawaii really slowed down, and with it my metabolism. In such a naturally stunning, laid back place, I felt totally at home and at ease. Apart from a couple of days on the road, snaking along the precarious, cliff hugging ‘Road to Hana,’ and a sunrise lurch to the wild and broody summit of towering Haleakala Volcano, it was one surf pounded beach after another.
Surfing is not a sport in Hawaii, it is a way of life, so ingrained is it in the the native’s psyche as to dominate lives. Leslie’s brother and niece, having lived on Maui for 15 years, are prime examples, getting intolerably grumpy if they can’t surf every day. I myself have surfed before, and was eager to test myself out in surfing’s spiritual home, but I admit it, I was scared. The waves were enormous, and sharks not uncommon and, perhaps as a sign of age, I sensibly denied my impulses.
My only other decisions on Maui were choosing what to eat. Korean food, decent as it is, was hardly inspiring. So now, in the U.S, gaining kilos was inevitable, and to adopt the Roman philosophy, “When in America, eat like the Americans eat,” and gorge I did.
After two weeks of worshiping the three S’s…sun, sea, and stuffing my face, I reluctantly squeezed out of my hula hula skirt and flowery shirt, cast off my lei (garland) and prepared to face the daunting mid-winter chill of ol’ blighty. It’s no fair trade, magical Maui for lackluster Lowestoft, but after yet another thirteen months away, I was going home.
Next up: California & Lost Boys!