It has been an awfully long time since I posted on here. November, I believe, was the last time. When I left you last, I was undertaking my teacher training and stressed about work. Well, what has changed since then? Not a lot. I am still stressed. I am still in teacher training. But my future path may be different, dear reader. For I have made the decision to re-apply to go and teach in Korea with the EPIK Programme again. Those who read my sporadic blog posts will know that I miss Korea. I miss EFL. I miss basically everything about those glorious two years. So this should really come as no surprise.
Thinking about the future can be pretty scary. For every decision that we make, there are a thousand “What if” questions that can crop up. What if I had done this or that differently? What if I hadn’t said that, or gone there? This is as true for travel as it is anything else. My life changed dramatically when I said “What if I do apply to EPIK?”, which (if you are a regular reader) you will know I did back in 2013.
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, those of you not living in a cave would have heard the news – on Thursday 23rd June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in an historical referendum. I don’t know how much you would have heard about it in the aftermath (a lot, if you are on my Facebook friend list, I can assure you) but today I feel the need to post on this topic. It is something that was a deeply important issue to me for both personal and political reasons.
First, a little background for those out of the loop. We (the citizens of the United Kingdom) voted to leave the EU 52% to 48%. What caused this? It is a movement against and a discontentment with the so-called ‘establishment’ (what the ‘establishment’ is has yet to actually be properly explained to me by anyone that hates it) that has been growing since my arrival back in the UK in January. It is an issue with immigration that has not been addressed in the eyes of many and who feel left behind by a political elite seen as ‘out of touch’. It is the problems that people have with an institution that is seen as not completely democratic (which is ever so slightly rich coming from a nation with an unelected upper house and monarch as head of state). At least, this is what I have come to understand from those (including members of my family) who decided to vote leave.
Me? I voted Remain. I believe that the UK is stronger in Europe. That turning our back on the continent that we belong to, especially in such uncertain times, is an unwise move. That we were more secure, economically better off and generally more prosperous in Europe. I had wanted to believe that we were an outward looking nation. A nation that wasn’t taken in by vague promises and lies. That wouldn’t be hoodwinked by media spin and catchphrases. I think, in part, I always feared that we could be that nation though. And I believe that June 23rd proved it.
What is the result of all of this? It means that my generation, who voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, and will live with the consequences of this for the next 50 plus years have had our futures decided by the older generation, who might have to live with it for the next 15. It means that the economy has already begun a slow decline downwards, with the pound hitting an historic 35 year low against the dollar and something like 2 trillion dollars being lost off worldwide markets. It means that the possible friendships that could have developed with the movement of young people may never happen. That possible relationships will now no longer blossom. It has already seen the rise of xenophobia and the beginnings of a resurgence of fascism in my country.
Yes. On the 23rd June, the UK decided to leave the EU. And I think it is the most un-British I have ever felt. We left to ‘take back control’, but what we’ve been left with is a series of broken opportunities, a heavily damaged economy and the Leave campaign backpedaling on the promises it made. The possibility of the UK ceasing to exist as there are calls for a second Scottish referendum. An arrogance that the world needs us much more than we need it. This insular view is embarrassing at best and dangerous at its worst. We 48% might be stuck with this decision but it is up to us to make it do as little damage as possible. Now, more than ever, the UK needs us to fight for what we believe in. Fight against narrow-mindedness and xenophobia; fight against this hatred of anyone foreign or different from us. If we don’t, I fear we are going down a path that will be very difficult to return from.
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 am proud to announce a new feature on my blog, which will debut next Sunday – The Week In Review: The Best of Travel Blogs. I will be posting (each week) a collection of travel blog articles, photos and ideas that I have found whilst roaming the web. I hope you guys are looking forward to it as much as I am.