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I’d made a few reluctant attempts at starting to learn Korean. The sounds were totally alien, I struggled to get my mouth around them, and of course there would be no familiar Romantic base to hang the grammar upon. The thought of struggling so much with communication was weighing on me a little… But then I got a call out of nowhere, offering me a job in Seville, Spain. I could abandon the Korean completely! And now, three weeks later, here I am…

Packing was difficult – I’m no stranger to packing but this is the first time that I’m going somewhere just to go. And not come back, or have to think about coming back, or where I’m going next, or what on earth I’m going to do with myself in six months, or a year, or whenever the current venture is up. This time, I can stay still. How unusual… In the end, due to the expense and impracticalities of trailing large amounts of luggage in my wake, I couldn’t really take any of the things I’d have liked to have taken for a life of staying still, especially books. I had to settle for my Spain guidebook, my Spanish dictionary, Bukowski’s Tales of Ordinary Madness, and Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, which I’ve only just read but have every intention of reading again as soon as I’m done with Bukowski. I think I chose well…

My journey over on Saturday was also notably unusual. For me, anyway… I stayed with a friend in Glasgow in order to catch my late-morning flight in plenty time. I did indeed arrive at the airport in plenty time, and hangover-free. I checked in my hold bag, 0.1 of a kilo below the weight allowance. I carried on through security without difficulty. The flight wasn’t delayed; In fact it landed 25 minutes early, which left enough time to catch the direct bus from Malaga airport to Sevilla. I had enough cash for my bus ticket (despite initially trying to pay the driver with Turkish Lira – thanks, Dad, for the bag of ‘Euros’). The bus got into Plaza de Armas station right on time, at 8pm. I walked in the right direction straight off and arrived at my new apartment within only a couple of minutes, where my new flatmate was waiting to greet me.

All this things going smoothly is unheard of for me. An airport experience, free of debacle? Naw… Either something is very wrong, or, just maybe, very right… Korea never had sat quite right with me (goodness knows, I’d procrastinated over it long enough). Now it feels like the universe has corrected itself. If it hadn’t been for an unexpected delay in getting my Korea visa documents sorted, it would have been too late – I would already have been there, away out East and unreachable. I don’t think I believe in fate – more often than not it’s used as an excuse or an empty justification, and that annoys me – but sometimes you need something to hold on to. It makes you feel nice…

I have long made known my vitriol against pandas: great, dim, pointless beasts who refuse to make an effort to procreate and insist on trying to live on an indigestible foodstuff. They clearly have no will to live and if the forces of natural selection could have their way, they would be long gone.

As some notable naturalists have pointed out, if all the money spent on ‘saving’ the panda were redirected it could be of huge benefit to other, more pressing, ecological causes. But us Westerners with our sentimentality and our weakness for insufferable cutesiness… I suspect the pandas may just have become the victims of my displaced rage towards these cutesy and unreasonably sentimental types, though. And this weekend, I became one of them…

I picked up a 2013 calendar of pandas, chuckling shamefully to myself, thinking what a great Christmas present it would make for my friend who also hates pandas. And then I looked at the pictures on the back and suddenly felt really, really, terribly guilty for all those vociferous, anti-panda rants I’d subjected my colleagues to. Look at them, wee silly bumbling things, just trying to make their way in this grim world. Ach they’re cute, are they no?

[image: chinapanda.org.cn]

Now that I’ve abandoned ship, (see Goodbye, hello!) I’m realising just how much communication now actually depends on being connected to facebook. Mild frustration has arisen at having to rely on people to pass me information by mouth, and at being excluded from certain founts of information, especially as I prepare to emigrate to South Korea (see posts in coming weeks).

And when I take photos of friends I think, ‘but who’s ever going to see these now??’

And after four years of compounding my life into a daily soundbite, my brain is only just starting to disengage from status-composition.

The overwhelming feeling that remains with me, though, is one of freedom. And I cannot emphasise enough how pleasant it is to open an inbox of messages from people with interesting things to say, and who know how to compose a proper sentence. Aaah…

A photo otherwise unseen…

I am so relieved to see the back of this year. It felt for a time like it would never come. This has been straight up one of the most difficult years of my life, if not thee most. Not the worst, mind, but the most difficult. Financially, emotionally, physically. Mostly emotionally.

We moved into the House of Doom right at the beginning of the year – that certainly got us off on the wrong footing. Senile barking dogs, mosquito infestations, unbearable breezeless heat, builders with man-sized speakers belting Jesus-themed country and western, the Loudest Van in the World that roared up the hill every a.m., the loopy man-obsessed drug-addicted Quebecois drama queens next door, insomnia, scheming sociopathic flatmates, inadvertently becoming the ‘party house’, the falling apart of friendships and relationships…

All that before we even got to the shooting incident, the ruination of my ankle (still quite ruined), further disintegration of House of Doom-based relationships, dwindling funds, and a whole swilling island full of crazed and broken souls, some of them my dear, dear friends and indeed an inadvertent boyfriend who I did my best to look after.

A broken heart (the most acutely painful to date), a deportation, the death of my grandmother, a sorry retreat to my sorry hometown, another half-broken heart, the death of a once-vivacious aunt, a forced return to retail (oh woe!), a royal fucking-over from Canadian Immigration, and yet another bit of heartache later, I thought 2011 had finally spat all it could at me. Until this week. A final twist of the knife had to be had…

It’s not just me though. This year has been a motherfucker for numerous friends. And people seem to have been dying off all over the place, almost as if they are getting out while they can; they sense the change coming… The world is revolving – revolution in the Arab world, the killing of Gaddafi, Bin Laden,  the death of Kim Jong Il; the continued economic decay of the United States and the European Union; the rebirth of powerful public dissent in the West as well – both civilised (the Occupy movement, especially in the States), and feral (the UK riots – see my earlier article); not to mention an onslaught of destructive climatic events – earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding…

It would be nice to think that this was just a blip, but I have the foreboding feeling that in 2012 it’s about to intensify… I don’t believe that the world is going to end on 21st December 2012, or that the aliens are going to come, and I certainly hope that the planets aren’t going to align and cause a freak gravitational event whereby we will all float up off the earth and explode (as Dado, my old boss, is expecting to happen)… I’m not prone to airy-fairy notions but I do think there may be something in this Mayan shit. Not that we are facing the End of Days, but an End of Days. Things are afoot. Things feel different. Change be a-coming…

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In terms of the world order we’re about due a change, and if that makes our lives in the West more difficult, so be it. We reap what we sow. Hopefully our new condition will jolt our society out of its stupor (I like to think the signs are already showing).

On a personal level, I did say that though 2011 has been exceptionally difficult, it has been far from the worst year of my life. So many lessons learned and new things experienced and things figured out and falling into place and FUN had and god damn me for being sentimental but so many good good friends and, for the first time in my life, I have found myself looking to the future with something that is not fear.

Hello 2012…