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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hanging with the gals . . .

As those who know the Kiwi know, and casual readers probably suspect, although she can scrub up okay, she's a bit of a boy at heart. She's much rather talk bikes and boats than makeup and manicures and finds cowgal boots a lot more practical than heels. Most of her friends are male (she makes a great wing-gal) but she makes a point of cultivating their better halves also so they'll be allowed out to play.

The one huge exception to that is at the Kiwi's volunteer job, at the Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop on Yongsan Garrison. The store is run by the American Women's Club Thrift Shop Association and affiliated with the American Women's Club. Given that, it's not surprising that almost all of the volunteers are female, though a couple of husbands hang in the "boy shed" out back at times, supposedly checking donated electronic equipment.

Another women's organization here in Seoul that the Kiwi has had dealings with (she was a guest speaker at one of their evening events some years back) is the Seoul International Women's Association. Formed in 1962, the organization includes members from about 80 different countries and has two major fund-raisers each year to raise money for the many charities it supports. For one of these, it partners with embassies to throw the Annual SIWA and Diplomatic Community Bazaar. (The brochure given out at this year's 33rd such event stated more than 40 nations on the front but listed only 29 on the back - the Kiwi didn't go around counting.) Held in late autumn, the bazaar is said to be a perfect place to source unusual holiday gifts not easily found elsewhere in Korea. But, despite having spent a number of years based in Seoul over the past decade, the Kiwi had never attended.

Until last week, when she boarded the courtesy shuttle bus (happily alongside two new friends she'd made just days earlier at a wine tasting - great minds DO think alike) to the Grand Hilton Seoul hotel. The Kiwi's main mission was to get some good New Zealand wine, as she's been told the embassy always donates some.  But also to look at what else was available, perhaps write a story and network with the "ladies who lunch" (a large part of SIWA's membership is made up of the wives of corporate executives, embassy personnel and officers - not the Kiwi's usual social set).

Mission accomplished! Despite a little jostling from a combative ajumma (in the hierarchical age-conscious Korean society, elderly women feel justified physically pushing aside anyone in their path), the Kiwi captured a Babich Pinot Noir and a Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc, both from the Marlborough region of Te Wai Pounamu (The Waters of Greenstone is the Maori name for Aotearoa's South Island). She also reconnected with the embassy Public Affairs Officer and met the ambassador's wife, as well as a good many other contacts. She was highly tempted by the possum/merino gloves and scarves but decided they were a little too pricey and probably not sturdy enough for her ruffian lifestyle. The wine was not inexpensive, but still great value for money.

Amanda Valentine and Michelle Mann (wearing a beautiful pounamu pendant) at the New Zealand stall. 
Olga, Elina, Viktoria, Andrey and son, Mark, at the Ukraine stall.

Jayme Heywood, the daughter of a Greek mother and an Australian father. Jayme's grandmother made this outfit for Jayme's mother when she was a child.

Kristina Meeks, of Norway.

Three young members of Dance Group Moscovia play spoons.
Having achieved her main purpose, the Kiwi wandered around taking photos, watched a lively performance by Dance Group Moscovia, caught up with a few of her fellow thrift shop volunteers and sampled a variety of different cuisines. Nom, nom, nom. As did the many, many others who attended. Not having access to a corporate or embassy salary, she found the prices of most  items rather high, but appreciated that the proceeds all go to needy Korean charities. Having served as treasurer on the Thrift Shop executive board some years ago, and therefore been both part of the Welfare committee and the person who got to actually give our donations to the charities, the Kiwi knows all too well the good work charities here do.

Thanks for a fun day SIWA and Seoul's diplomatic community, thanks for the wine Aotearoa!

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