Last Wednesday, I had the unique experience of attending the War and Peace Revival Show. Held at Folkstone racecourse every year around this time, it is a complete ‘celebration of military vehicles and vintage lifestyle’. This year, it spanned from the 19th July until the 23rd and attracted people from far and wide (both traders and attendees alike).
But many of you may be asking the question “What is the War and Peace Revival Show and why should I care that you went there?” Well, dear reader, let me tell you. First, I should really explain what it is. Put simply, it is a fantastic collection of military memorabilia and reenactors/living history enthusiasts. It is (I believe) the largest show of its kind in Europe. You can pretty much find anything there, from First World War bayonets to Nazi Living History enthusiasts. You can see a range of events over the course of the show and enjoy live music (though the music is obviously a bit old fashioned for some people).
I ended up attending this year alongside my best friend and his Dad, who invited me along knowing my absolute love of history. They attend as collectors of military memorabilia, whilst I went with more of an eye for the reenactment side of things. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy looking around the different stalls and merchandise they offered. I even purchased a few bits myself (a very stylish Hawaiian shirt and a new watch strap for my Timex). We spent many a happy hour following my friend’s Dad, who seemed to know the show like the back of his hand. He himself saw a few items that took his interest and would return to check them out on the other days that he attended. I could only attend the one day, however.
Once we had done looking at the sales stalls, we went to my favourite bit – the living history section of the show, where all the reenactment takes place. Though we didn’t have much time there, I took a few pictures of some American and German reenactors. That is to say, they were the countries they were portraying. Below are the shots I managed to get on my phone, as I annoyingly forgot to take my camera with me.
Overall, I would heartily suggest this event to anyone with even a passing interest in history or military things or vintage lifestyles. What you can’t find here isn’t worth finding. The ticket for the day was £18 and it has great transport links so you can even get there if you don’t have a car (although for those buying anything big, a car/van is a must)!
So, I have been home since January now. Nearly 6 months. Half a year. We are fast approaching a year since I left Korea. And I decided it was time for me to reflect on this. What do I think, having been out of ESL for a year now? What are my future plans?
I don’t think it is a secret to anyone that since leaving the world of ESL I haven’t coped with life in the West that well. Although I loved being in Canada, I couldn’t work there so that was never going to be a long term solution. Montreal is a fantastic place to be (Marta is currently back there, and although it isn’t in the best of circumstances, even she can’t deny it is a great place). The people I met in Canada were friendly and treated me well. But most importantly – it wasn’t “home”.
The biggest feeling I have had since leaving Korea all those months ago is one of not really belonging anymore. Home, or what was once home, doesn’t feel like it for me. At first, I assumed it was simply reverse culture-shock.. But after a year, and still feeling the same, I know that isn’t the case. I am a traveler at heart and being at home provides me with no adventure. I get up everyday, like many, and go through the motions. But I have seen a glimpse of something different and now there is no going back. I took the red pill, and leapt down the rabbit hole.
But in doing so, I discovered something wonderful. I discovered friends I never would have met otherwise who mean the world to me now. I discovered a way of doing a job that brings you joy everyday. A job that is always different, challenging but extremely rewarding. A way of life that is unique and a wonderful community of people to share that with. Given my chance to do the last year over, I wouldn’t change much. But if I had to make one change, it would be never leaving the world of ESL.
I miss it everyday, and though I enjoy my job now, it isn’t anywhere near what I felt doing ESL. I miss my friends, my little apartment. The ajumma at the corner store who gave me tomatoes one summer day because she had some spare. The ajusshi who ran a local glasses store, and provided Marta and I with the same service a year later. I miss coffees overlooking the city of Cheongju. I miss brunch with TJ. The smiles of my kids as they finally got that word right they’d been struggling with. Their enthusiasm for Sports Day. I miss never knowing what was going on.
I miss the life of the expat.
And friends – as great as it is being home, I count everyday down as one less until I can leave again. Once the travel bug bites you, and you experience that life, I honestly don’t think you can happily do anything else.
As a wiser person than I said, “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
I suppose you might think this a strange subject for me to write about. And it probably is. I mean, after all, who is interested in my trips to the cinema in Korea? Well, hopefully, some people out there are because going to the cinema here is quite the experience.
So, I have been struggling to come up with a topic for today’s post all weekend. And then I realised that not many people talk about living here in Korean cities. Even if they do, it is often Seoul-based. There is nothing wrong with this but Seoul is different from the rest of Korea (much more forward thinking, much more to do and easier access to ‘Western things’). I live in one of the smaller regional capital cities in Korea (Cheongju, the capital of the Chungbuk province) and I am going to write a short post on what that is like.
Welcome back, dear reader, to another Café Culture Korea post…that has nothing at all to do with cafés. In this article, I am going to be reviewing the Trick Art Guest House (TAG). Located in the quieter part of Hongdae, the TAG is about a five or ten minute walk from exit three at Hongik University subway station. It would have been harder to find, but the staff provide a map, and a phone number, to make it easy to find. Marta and I found it through Hostel World, where it had great reviews.
“Finally”I hear you say! After a 3 part series of articles, we are getting to the Cu Chi tunnels. Welcome, dear reader, to the 4th and final part of my series on the cooking class and Cu Chi tunnel tour. The tour itself began with a short introductory movie, the details of which I have all but forgotten. Luckily, I remember much more of the information given to us by our guide. She told us how ingenious the tunnel system was; protecting the population of Cu Chi by having them (effectively) all living below ground; how the tunnels were virtually undetectable to enemy soldiers; and how key there were to Vietnamese victory in the war.
The tunnels were one of the biggest advantages the Vietnamese had over the American army. They were well constructed, with the main living chambers constructed a few feet below ground and bomb shelters constructed deeper and reinforced with an A-frame structure design. To ensure that the smoke from their kitchen did not give them away, they constructed several small vents and only cooked in the early morning, so the smoke was better camouflaged. This is demonstrated in the image below.
The ventilation shaft exits were sprinkled with chilli powder, to stop the American Army dogs from sniffing them out. Entrances were extremely small and well hidden in the ground. They were covered with leaves and just wide enough for a human to get into. Marta, our guide and I each tried to get into the tunnels. I was far taller than both Marta and our guide, who became stuck in the holes and needed help to get out. I used my super long arms to heave myself out. The size of the tunnels not only made them hard to detect but meant that most enemy soldiers would not fit in with all their equipment.
Following this, Marta and I were taken into the tunnels by a guide working at the museum. They were tiny, to say the least. Despite being expanded for foreigners to visit, Marta was forced to walk at a 90 degree angle. I couldn’t even manage that and shuffled along like a penguin, my head dangerously close to the ceiling. For reference, I am 6 foot 3 inches and Marta is about a foot smaller than I am.
Next, our guide took us to a display showcasing the various traps used by the Vietcong. The traps themselves seemed almost medieval in look, and effect. Originally designed to assist with the hunting of boars and other animals, they worked just as well on the US Army.
After this, we visited a few mock-rooms (such as a dining hall and hospital) but Marta and I were pretty exhausted by this time and we soon decided to leave. Seeing the Cu Chi tunnels has shown me that they played a big role in the Vietnamese war effort and eventual victory.
Thanks for sticking with me through this (long) series of posts, folks.