Don’t get me wrong, Burma was fun. I’m currently in Laos as well, where, though a friend and I were comically robbed (courtesy of a possibly kleptomaniac mother at our guesthouse, remedied by an embarrassed father and daughter) and the daily rain has made everything begin to mildew, I’m still enjoying my time here. Southeast Asia is the home of my heart, right now. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that I miss from the West.
I didn’t recognise them at first. While working in Korea, I spent two years away from the West, and out of sight was certainly out of mind. As soon as my friends and I got off the train in Russia in September, however, I started being reminded of things I hadn’t realised that I missed. Below is a short list.
Korea had autumn, yes, but always dry and very short. When we arrived in Russia, fall had begun and it was so perfect – damp, grey, rainy and cool, perfect for long walks through the birch forests, where the smell of petrichor blended comfortingly with the riot of oranges and yellows around us. It’s a comforting weather, made better by putting the kettle on as soon as you get home.
The street art
No, Korea wasn’t completely without it – but long stretches of tags by railway stations, surprise wheatpastes, and vibrant graffiti murals appear so much more often in the streets of Western cities. Walking past the street art in Girona and the painted murals in Barcelona turned art into an every-day experience. It’s one of the things I love about big cities.
The ornamental architecture
In the same vein, I hadn’t realised how much I missed seeing architecture that wasn’t purely utilitarian. Much of Korea was rebuilt quickly after the war, which doesn’t make for the most scenic buildings (though some truly beautiful ones do still exist). Irkutsk, however, our first major stop in Russia, was apparently once known as the ‘Paris of Siberia,’ which is a comparison made very apparent when you walk down its main shopping drag and see all those beautifully, intricately decorated buildings.
Listen, it doesn’t matter how much you may love trying new, foreign dishes – sometimes, you just can’t mess with breakfast. Our very first day in Russia, my friend and I went out to the supermarket in the morning and bought real bread, real cheese, and real yogurt to have with tea, eggs, and fruit. It was glorious. GLORIOUS.
Cute, (semi…)quality shoes in my size
Yeah, things can be cheap in Korea – bags, jewellery, clothing, and shoes – but this is simply because they’re cheaply made. Very cheaply made. The only place to find size 40 shoes in Korea is Itaewon, the foreigner district, but everything bought there would inevitably fall apart in two months. I knew I was ready to get a real pair of shoes when a new set of ballet flats literally dissolved in the rain one night in Gangnam. You can’t make this stuff up!
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