Greetings from Seoul!
Milan Kundera likened life in a foreign land to tightrope walking without a safety net [“Qui vit à l’étranger marche dans un espace vide au-dessus de la terre sans le filet de protection que tend à tout être humain le pays qui est son propre pays, où il a sa famille, ses collègues, ses amis et où il se fait comprendre sans peine dans la langue qu’il connaît depuis l’enfance.”, from L’Insoutenable légèreté de l’être, which I confess I haven’t read cover to cover], but I have a more positive outlook on my own situation. Even though a conversation between Worf and Dax taught me otherwise, I am still going to pretend I could have the best of both, just like the bread ad goes. After all, I was born on a cusp.
In the Japanese language, there is this interesting word omiyage [お土産]. It is often translated as ‘souvenirs’, but in fact it refers to a very specific tradition. Omiyage are little gifts that you give to your family, colleagues and friends upon returning from a trip. Usually bric-à-brac, but it’s the thought that counts.
Perhaps not as socially mandatory as in Japan, we have a similar protocol in Korea. This time, however, I was first snowed in and later attacked by the flu. So, while desperately walking around at the airport, I suddenly started to wonder from when one’s stay elsewhere (than one’s country of origin) stops being a trip. Don’t get me wrong. I love gift giving. This is rather a technical curiosity.