Books Read in 2015

Pathetic. The amount of books I read in 2015 certainly reflected my mental state which was pretty abysmal.

I started the year with the aim of reading 40. I read 8.

My Kindle broke over the summer so that did bring things to an even greater halt. But, something amazing did happen over the Christmas weekend: My parents told me that as a Christmas/Birthday gift, they’d bought me a new one. (On a scale of 1-10, my parents come in at a ’12’.)

Hopefully this means that I can get my reading numbers back up this year. (Don’t I say that every January?)

I’m already undertaking the ‘Reading My Own Damn Books’ Challenge which is going to last until the 19th of March. After that, I’ll probably end up on a book spending spree so here’s hoping I’ll actually read them instead of having them just sit there.

Anyway, here is my measly list …

1) Bossypants by Tina Fey

2) Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon by May Pang

3) The Kid by Sapphire

4) Nowhere But Up by Pattie Mallette

5) Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

6) Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

7) Freak Show by James St. James

8) Elvis and Me by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Books I Tried & Abandoned

1) The Shaman in Stilettos by Anna Hunt

1) Bossypants by Tina Fey

2) Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon by May Pang

3) The Kid by Sapphire

4) Nowhere But Up by Pattie Mallette

5) Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

6) Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

7) Freak Show by James St. James

8) Elvis and Me by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley

Books I Tried & Abandoned:

1) The Shaman in Stilettos by Anna Hunt

Favourite Reads:

+ Freak Show by James St. James

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+ Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

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My All-Time Top 10 Favourite Christmas Songs

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Four days before Christmas and I’m finally starting to get into the spirit of everything.

Even when I was working in retail all those years ago and coming face-to-face with crazy (and rude) Christmas shoppers, I’d never be deterred from celebrating it early.

Christmas just isn’t the same away from family.

Last year I decked out my house in decorations and threw a big party on Christmas Eve. This year, I’d just not been feeling it.

I was too distracted by the excitement of the next few months to even contemplate getting the tinsel out.

But, finally, this weekend, I seemed to have caught up.

I put up half of my decorations, bought a ton of Christmas cards, and watched The Family Stone and The Holiday back-to-back.

In the words of Bing Crosby (or Michael Buble), “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

One of the weirdest things about living abroad during this time, though, is not hearing the old Christmas favourites playing in every shop. Here, I’ve heard a few Christmas tunes. But they’re usually songs I’ve never heard of or they’re just not Christmasy enough.

Sure, who doesn’t love Mariah’s All I Want for Christmas? But, unfortunately, that’s not one that stirs warm memories of being at my parents’ house with my brothers and waiting for the extended family to come over. It doesn’t remind me of legendary work parties that we’d all rather forget.

So, as a way to mark the upcoming holiday, here is a list of my top 10 favourite Christmas songs.

(Beware, most of these are older than I am because the ’70s and the ’80s were holiday gold. Oh yeah, and, more or less, all of them remind me of my childhood, my family, and being back in Wales.)

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I Suck at Moving

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In 28 years, I’ve moved house a total of eight times. Two of those were to a new country.

Generally, I have no problems living abroad. I get a kick out of immersing myself into a new culture, meeting new people, and getting to explore a place from the inside out.

It’s the build-up to it that I can’t handle.

Anyone who’s known me for years has probably been witness to my pre-moving breakdowns.

It starts with sudden attacks of insomnia … which, for a high school teacher whose sleeping schedule has been firmly stuck at 8pm-5am for the last year, is quite concerning.

You haven’t seen midnight for months and then suddenly, one day, you realise it’s 2.30am and you’re still wide awake

And then it happens again. And again. And again. And, each time, you’re staying awake later and later.

And suddenly you realise it’s been 4 days since you’ve eaten anything. No, wait. You had some crackers 2 days ago. Any other food sounded horrible.

You should probably eat so you gnaw on the apple your coworker gave you as you arrived at your desk this morning.

You google “no appetite and can’t sleep” and remember that googling symptoms is the worst thing you can do because the internet always loves to tell you you have cancer.

Well, I don’t.

This happens every time I move.

The crying fits, the mood swings, the lack of sleep, the lack of appetite.

By now, I tell my friends and family how I’ve been feeling and their reaction is something like this:

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They’re used to it.

Same shit, different country.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m my father’s daughter.

I wish I could be like my mother – Cool and laid back about anything and everything. Instead, I’m like my father. I get anxious and stressed and worked up and worried about everything.

My mind will actually feel pretty sound and calm and at peace. But my body will react differently.

I try to stay calm and enjoy everything leading up to it but who am I kidding?

It’s never going to happen.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I simply suck at moving and that I’m nothing but a hot mess in the months leading up to it.

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The good news is that my students haven’t had to witness this. I haven’t taught for nearly 2 weeks because final exams are on the horizon and they’re all busy studying. (Ahahaha, “studying“)

My time in work is filled with preparing lessons for winter English camp and finalising plans for my winter holidays.

Ooooh, winter holidays. I can’t stop counting down the days.

In January, I’ll be backpacking solo around India for 3 weeks. After that, I’ll be heading back to the UK for 6 days to catch up with old friends and loved ones.

The combination of adventure and home comfort is too exciting. And a welcome distraction from everything that’s happening after.

Apart from that, there’s not a lot to report. I’ve been laying low lately (woo! alliteration!) to save money so in my recent hermit-like state I …

+ have recently developed a coffee addiction

+ have become addicted to the show Weeds

+ have finally found underwear here that will cover my fat arse (yayy for XXL Korean sizes!)

Don’t I lead the most exciting life?

Outside of the house, Naju is, as un-Christmas-y as every. Last year, it snowed for most of December which sent me into a holiday frenzy – turning my flat into Santa’s grotto and arranging a big Christmas Eve party.

This year? Barely a snowflake and I’m too lazy to put the tree up.

Maybe this is the year I’ll turn into a Scrooge.

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Reading My Own Damn Books

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I haven’t blogged about books for years, let alone tried to complete (and usually fail) a book challenge. Once upon a time I was a voracious reader. I didn’t necessarily keep up with what was hot and doing the rounds of the book blogging circuit but I did read.

In recent years my reading has slowed down. I blamed everything from travelling to moving across the world to ongoing battles with depression. Last year, thanks to my mother handing off her old Kindle to me, my reading mojo seemed to return. I read 34 books in a year and had plans to devour even more in the next 12 months.

And, here we are.

It’s December 2015 and I’ve read a grand total of 6 books this year. And one of those is a book of photographs.

Fail.

Nevertheless I do actually want to see that number increase.

Yes, I say it every year. “I need to read more.”

You know how most people say “This year, I’m going to go to the gym every day”?

Well, I’m like that with books. Except, this time, I actually have more motivation to get my nose back between the pages.

Right now, my TBR pile looks like this:

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That’s not including the 8 unread books currently sitting on my Kindle that I can’t access because this is what happens when you take your e-reader to the beach:

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In just over 4 months time, I’m moving again and I don’t plan on hauling this pile to another country. At the same time, I don’t want to leave these here unread. What a waste of money and (theoretically) good literature!

So, I have decided to join the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge that Andi‘s hosting on her blog.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware that my measly pile is nothing compared to the mountains that most of the book bloggers taking part are trying to conquer.

If any of you have somehow found your way over here, I apologise. I swear, I was once like you. (Haha, just kidding, the most I ever read in a year was 50 so I was always an amateur.)

Andi has also made it pretty clear that everyone can set their own rules for their own personal challenges so, while most book bloggers are doing this as a goal for 2016, this is only a 4-month stint for me. Here are my self-imposed rules:

  • My challenge runs from 1st December, 2015 – 19th March, 2016. This is how long I have left in my lovely little apartment.
  • I’m not allowed to buy any new books during that time* (which is going to be hard because my Amazon wishlist never get smaller).

*The only exception to the no buying rule is that I’ll be ordering a beginner’s guide to Mandarin in the next few months because hello? Moving to Singapore! :P

As for right now, I’m currently reading Freak Show by James St. James. I don’t tend to read books by male writers (with the exception of Stephen King) (I know, I have issues) but I’m actually loving this so far.

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It’s been months since I’ve been able to pick up a book and really get into it so I’m so glad I finally found something I can sink my teeth into.

Here’s to the next 4 months. These waves of depression really haven’t helped when it comes to staying motivated lately but this is something I would love to complete. These tiny little stepping stones – even if they’re something as small as a book challenge – are all contributing to the road of recovery. So wish me luck! :)

That Time I Was 20 Feet Away from a Beatle

Anyone who follows me online or has met me in real life knows that I have my fangirl moments.

I spent a year and a half relentlessly stalking Diego Luna in Mexico City before he eye-fucked me and then divorced his wife.

I happily became a part of the Thirty Seconds to Mars Echelon for a few years before the band continued to warn their fans to get “parents’ permission” for things they were offering to which I realised … wait, I’m 28.

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And last year, my teenage students here turned me into a Bruno Mars fangirl. (Which I can happily say is still an ongoing thing.)

But one fandom I’ve been a part of since I was about 16-17 is the Beatlemaniacs.

Yup. I’m living in the ’60s and still screaming over one of the world’s first boybands.

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The Beatles was the band I consistently listened to during my hippie, tie-dye phase (yup, that actually happened) and was essentially the group that led me away from today’s mainstream pop charts and into the older rock ‘n’ roll/psychedelia I listen to today.

Last year, due to a shitty introduction to Korean life, I treated myself to a ticket to see Paul McCartney in Seoul.

As much as we all know that his voice isn’t what it once was, I didn’t – and still don’t – care. He’s a Beatle, he’s in his 70’s, and he’s still touring. That was more than enough reason for me to go. Plus this was going to be the first time he’d ever performed in Korea.

Unfortunately, before he could start any of the Asian leg of his tour, he came down with a virus in Japan and had to cancel everything.

I was kind of gutted but still relieved at news that he was slowly getting better. (Because, as much as we don’t like to talk about it, he’s … y’know … getting older and older bodies find it harder to fight that shit off.)

When the cancellation email came through, there was a message from Macca that said he promised to return at some point. I held out hope that he’d make it back over here before I left but wasn’t holding my breath.

How cynical of me.

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My Decision to Leave Korea & Move to Another Country

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I debated talking about this until closer to the time but you know what? It’s on my mind 24/7 so I have to just let it out.

For a long while, my plans had been to renew my contract in March and stay for a 3rd year. That was what I told my friends, my family, my colleagues, my students, and anyone else who happened to ask.

I reasoned that by the end of this contract year, I’d have paid off all my credit card debt so why not stay for a 3rd year and get a nice amount of savings?

There was no reason to leave. I mean, I’m pretty settled into my nice big apartment; I know where all my local markets and supermarkets are, how to send presents home, how to connect my Korean and British bank accounts; I have a ton of school holidays and am paid a nice amount every month.

I’ve got a good thing going here.

So why have I spent the last 12 months obsessively checking ESL job listing sites?

I reasoned that it was just interesting to see what was out there for when I leave Korea. It was curiosity.

But then I began to apply for some, just to see what would happen.

I even interviewed for a few.

And, all the while, I told myself that I already had the better deal here. Nothing was ever going to come from them.

It was all just a cute game.

And then I was offered a job.

Something big. Something different. Something exciting.

In a city.

A city that had everything I’d been missing … like live music, theatre, subways, zumba classes, multiculturalism, REAL vegetarian food … just crazy hectic city life that I crave and long for.

And the job?

Teaching. But not ESL.

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