It’s been a whole week since I’ve updated you all, but I have been busy meeting new friends and making memories to write about. (Aww, sappy, aren’t I cute?)
My social life for the first two months here was almost embarrassing. I stayed cooped up in our apartment far too much, telling myself that I was transitioning with moving and trying to figure out this whole “work from home” concept. However, over the last few weeks, a couple other “young and childless,” as we call ourselves, women have moved to Ulsan for the projects that J is working on.
This past week, we all finally managed to get together for coffee and share our experiences about “expat wife life”: the good, the bad, and the downright make-you-want-to-pull-your-hair-out. It’s nice to have some friends around here who are similar in both age and life situation, and it feels much more like home. We have found a lot in common including a love for yellow minions, appreciation of a good bottle of wine, expat relationship woes, and fiendish texting habits on Kakao. And within the first two hours of meeting, we had booked plane tickets and hotels for a weekend trip in April!
We have exchanged a lot of information and ideas in the days since. One thing you learn almost immediately being an expat is a) where to find coveted items like good cheese, a wine rack, nail polish… all the important things. This requires a lot of trial-and-error shopping, a bit of online research, expat social networking, and asking the locals. Then, more importantly there is b) learning how to live without.
Take, for example, our new apartment. Although I have had to settle and live with things I thought were pretty unbearable when I first saw the place, it has also made me one resourceful young lady. Forget Home Depot! Korea doesn’t have DIY stores where you can buy parts for all sorts of projects. My experience is more along the lines of strange looks and responses from Koreans when I ask where to buy lampshades. All three people I asked needed thorough explanation of what exactly a lamp shade is. I was even told “I don’t use lamp shades” by one Korean. Huh??
In any case, my saving graces were the carpets we brought from home (that funny trip was all worth it!), the craft and home goods “outlet” store I found, and large rolls of contact paper. Lots of contact paper.
For those of you curious to see how the place has turned out after my disappointment-turned-determination, here’s a little virtual tour to commemorate my hard work! A couple weeks, a lot of contact paper, and some curtain hemming and picture hanging have given the place just the sprucing up it needs. It finally feels a little less 1972 in here. Check out the old (look at those rainbow-thread yellow curtains!):
Feeling the vibe yet?
And the (new and) improved:
Our dining room with my latest sewing project, a table runner!
Our clean white kitchen and a place to crash if you come visit!
Our Korean and American furniture barely all fit together in the living room, and our lovely bedroom.
With our apartment finally updated a bit, I was excited for the opportunity to get some friends together for a theme party: celebrating the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics! Cue NBC’s Olympic theme song (duuum, duuuum, da-dum, dum, dum, dum…) and Bob Costas’ voice-over with images of the chilly landscape of Sochi, Russia. Our Ugly Sweater party was quite the success, so I took this idea and ran with it. Maybe a little too far.
Let me tell you, Pinterest can be a serious problem these days, making your average woman feel pretty inadequate that she can’t juggle all the expectations of what she should be. This is only worse for resource-lacking expats, and certainly has not gotten any better now that I have some group pin boards with the girls here. However, the positive part of Pinterest is all the amazing ideas you can generate, especially if you collaborate and can get some help to pull them all off!
Finding those flowers is a story in itself, I did it all on my own with a successful but broken Korean conversation!
For the Sochi party, I luckily had an amazing planning assistant and sous-chef, my dear friend Erica who works on the projects with all the guys… go girl! She jumped off the deep end with me with menu planning and supporting all my crazy ideas – like Winter Olympics bingo and trivia. One of my favorite items was the M&M Olympic ring cupcakes, which were a pretty big hit despite my tiny oven fail – they looked so nice and domed while in the oven and then immediately sunk when I took them out! (Maybe that was my fault?)
Anyhow, we had homemade hummus, samosas, guacamole, potstickers – a literal smorgasbord of international cuisine, washed down by some White Russian beverages! The Sochi/Olympics trivia was really fun, and I even made a flag pennant banner that was both decorative and practical for trivia: name that country! We also had an awesome game of opening ceremony bingo, trying to mark off items or sayings that were shown or said during the program.
Can you tell which countries we dressed as? Hint: I’m wearing Ryan Lochte glasses!
I am excited to host more dinner parties, especially with our new group of friends. Last week we made homemade ravioli and coconut milk cheesecakes (YUM!!) followed by a Breaking Bad marathon. Amidst the fun, there is one message that I keep repeating to newcomers, it is the first, and really only rule for being a successful/happy expat: LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Now! If you have an open mind about what’s to come, and don’t expect to have a glamorous experience (well, at least not all the time), then you can enjoy your makeshift Pinterest parties and more importantly, the new friends you make and all the awesome skills which expat life will teach you.