It’s strange the things you find you miss when you’re not there anymore. I never, in a million years, thought kimchi would be something I missed. And yet, I found myself, last week, really, really wishing for some proper, hot, crunchy kimchi. It wasn’t even a specific nostalgia moment. Some days, for example, I really feel like going down to the hut and ordering kimchi-jeon and dongdongju and sitting there with those friends for hours on end. The memory is so strong I can almost taste the heat of the kimchi and the icy-cold dongdongju and the touch of the table and and the sounds: the loud foreigners, the background of quieter hangul and, of course, ‘Congratulations’.
This wasn’t that. I just wanted to be able to pop down to the local ‘mart’ and get some kimchi with the rest of my groceries. Apparently there is a Korean mart, of course not in the small town I’m currently in, but as soon as I go to Cape Town again, Korean food it will be. I miss metal chopsticks, too. I guess the places you visit become a part of who you are.
It’s funny the things you miss and remember. I was idly sitting in front of the cooking channel, reading my book, the other day and they were making pancakes. Pancakes, South African-style, so crepes, rather than American pancakes (which we call flapjacks for some reason). Pancakes make the think of Windhoek now. One of the best things about the backpackers where I stayed in Windhoek was the pancakes in the morning. The price of accommodation included 2 cinnamon-sugar pancakes and coffee or tea for breakfast (7am to 10am). It was a gorgeous wake up, in the cool of the bar area, by the pool, early enough that the day wasn’t yet hot, with BBC World News on the TV, to keep track of what was going on in the real world.
That experience, traveling there, has changed my reaction to hot days, too. It’s hot in the Eastern Cape at the moment, hot and humid a lot of days, but it’s not hot like Windhoek. The cool of the morning reminds me of how hot it gets there. The cool morning air feels the same as it did in Windhoek in December.
The heat is like Gaborone. There was a thunderstorm here the other day and I found myself wishing for the downpours of Gaborone, the hard, pouring rain, relief after the glorious, exhausting, almost-overwhelming summer heat. The feeling of ice-cold water after a round in one of the sweltering venues. Sitting that hot, stuffy briefing room. Still hot at three in the morning. All the people. The Irish singing.
Sensory memory is so strong. Some days it makes me glad to be here, remembering. Some days it makes me wish for the things that were normal there – like kimchi and early morning pancakes. Other days it makes me wish to be off, a backpack and a guidebook, traveling again.