My Five Favourite Things in February

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Holy crap, this year is going fast. March is less than 2 hours away and that also means the start of a new school year in Korea.

A few people from home have recently sent me messages asking if I’ll be moving on now that my contract’s about to end. I guess I haven’t painted the best picture of life over here in the last 12 months so I can’t blame them for wondering.

Well, I’m here to tell you now that in a couple of weeks I’m actually going to be renewing my contract for another year. That’s right. I ain’t going anywhere.

I don’t know what this year’s going to bring – there’s a hell of a lot of change happening in my schools – but January and February have been pretty fantastic so far so here’s hoping that this is a good sign for the next 10 months.

I’ll be doing a proper “one year in Korea” post a little closer to the time so, for now, here’s my February wrap-up with my five favourite things:

1. A Naju visitor

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For the Lunar New Year holidays, my friend Rachel came down from Donghae to spend a week in my rural city of pears and skate fish. I showed her a few of the (limited) sights, we hung out, got drunk, ate amazing food, and mostly just enjoyed the downtime.

I’ve got to give her major credit for being the ultimate houseguest though: Not only did she manage to unblock all my drains (something that’s been bugging me for months now because I’m an incompetent child) but she willingly pushed me out of the kitchen after every meal to clean because she “loves washing up.” (Who are you, Monica Gellar?)

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It’s always fun when we get together but later this year it’ll be time to say goodbye to her. In September, she’s officially moving on and away from Korea so who knows where our paths will cross after that?

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My Six Favourite Things in January

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January has come to an end already. That’s mad. Where have the last 4.5 weeks gone?

I do wonder if this is a sign for things to come. Is 2015 going to fly right by if we’re already into our second month? I kind of hope so because, as is tradition at the start of every year, I’m already planning my next adventures and future travels. (More on that to come. ;-) )

In the meantime, I’ve decided to bring back my end-of-month wrap up posts – the Five Favourite things of each month. (Well, actually, this month it’s six because I really couldn’t narrow it down.) That way, I can at least keep this blog present. There are so many things I didn’t blog about in 2014 that the last thing I want is for this space to become a backlog of past stories and trips. At least this series will give a little insight into what I’ve been up to in the last month.

Here are January’s top Five Six Favourite Things (in no particular order):

1. Boston

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Anyone who follows me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook will know how much I loved this city. It snowed so hard when I was there but that didn’t put a damper on anything.

The people were friendly, the architecture was gorgeous, and the atmosphere was just amazing. I felt so comfortable and at ease. While the snow made it seem like a beautiful winter wonderland, I got the feeling that Autumn would be the time that really makes the city feel magical. The oranges, reds and yellows of that season would give it an internal warmth that you just can’t get from summer.

I really wish I could have spent more time exploring everything it had to offer but I guess there’s always next time.

One of the most amazing things I did get to do while I was there, though, was finally meet up with my blogger friend, Amanda (from The Zen Leaf).

Amanda was one of the first people I ever met through blogging (back when we were avid book bloggers) around 7(??) years ago (That’s a wild guess) and was the one who left me my first comment (back when I was hosted on blogger; I can’t believe it’s still there).

It’s always strange to finally meet someone in person after chatting with them online for so long. You wonder if it’ll be awkward and whether you have anything in common to really talk about.

Amanda and I were like old friends though. The moment we met, we hugged each other over and over and just didn’t shut up. I could have sat there gabbing away until the sun went down. She was everything I thought she would be – So fierce and strong and so much fun to be around. I just wish I’d had more time to spend with her.

Ah well, there’s always next time, Amanda. (And you know that I’ll be moving a bit closer in the near future. ;-) )

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4 Koreanisms I Keep Confusing Americans With

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I’ve been travelling around the East Coast of the US for 2.5 weeks now and feel amazing. Even though America isn’t home, it definitely makes me feel comfortable and at ease when I’m here. I feel like me again.

People love to imitate my accent here and point out the differences in the way we say things, and it’s hilarious. I can get away with a lot by being the ‘weird foreigner’ but, much to my surprise, there are a few Koreanisms – Korean cultural mannerisms – I’ve manage to pick up that are also shining through.

1. Bowing

I keep going to bow when saying ‘thank you’ to people and then suddenly halting when I realise what I’m doing. It just ends with me hunched over and staring directly at the person in a kind of deer in headlights way.

2. Greeting everyone when I walk into a place

Last night I walked into a 7-Eleven and exclaimed “Good evening” to the two people at the checkout. One frowned and the other looked at me as if to say, “Oh great. The crazy lady’s here.”

Hellooooo, everyone! I'm heeeeeerrrre!!!

Hellooooo, everyone! I’m heeeeeerrrre!!!

3. Removing my shoes

I traipsed through Cerena’s mother’s house in my boots yesterday and it felt so wrong. I felt rude and dirty and just uggghhh.

Today my boots are also right next to the hotel room door. I had no idea this had suddenly become a thing for me.

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4. Being overly girly when flirting

So let me introduce you to me: I’m a tough ass chick who can hold her own anywhere. I don’t really change a whole lot when I flirt except to perhaps be a bit more friendlier than normal because my theory is, if you like me, you like me for who I am normally.

Then why am I suddenly turning into a dainty, bashful girly girl when I flirt these days? And everyone who’s lived in Korea knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the same overly-feminine daintiness that girls there are brainwashed into doing.

Someone ought to slap me.

Twenty Eight

mosiac1A few days ago, I celebrated the beginning of my 28th year.

In the morning I got to visit and tour around the Yankee Stadium – Something which I had to keep restraining myself from squealing over. I never thought I’d become a huge sports fan. I was raised with football in the house (living with die-hard Liverpool F.C. supporters) and in a country where rugby is everything. And while I have total respect for both games, I never really followed and enjoyed it enough to call myself a big fan.

But baseball? Oh boy.

The Kia Tigers are my local team in Korea and the Yankees are my main team in America. I was in baseball heaven.

Afterwards, I was treated to lunch at the famous Serendipity 3 restaurant on the Upper East Side. Around the holidays, the wait to get in to that place can be anything from 2-4 hours. Luckily, this time, we only had to hang around for 40 minutes and it was definitely worth it.

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Witnessing the difference in attitudes between residents of The Bronx (home of the stadium) and the UES, however, was a hell of a cultural lesson.

Watching the way the customers at Serendipity interacted with the staff and each other was like watching a film and I couldn’t quite believe that people like this actually exist. I always assumed that films were full of caricatures but the fact that they’re closer to reality than we think is a little startling.

The Bronx had a grounded, almost at-home feeling about it in that the people reminded me of Port Talbot – full of good humour, a little fire, and, most of all, a sense of normality. The Upper East Side was full of WASPS carrying around their Little, Medium or Big Brown Bags, swaddled in furs and diamonds, having the most mundane conversations imaginable.

It’s an interesting look at two very different worlds that’re so close to each other. But I guess the same could be said for a lot of cities.

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9 of my Favourite Things About New York City

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I am awake at a ridiculously early time this morning given that it’s the first Monday of my vacation and I was up late last night playing drinking games. The subway trains are chugging by outside and I can already hear neighbours leave for work.

In case you didn’t know, I’m in New York. It’s winter vacation and I came to visit a few friends in America for most of the month of January.

Being back here gives me a different feeling than last time. I’m no longer wandering around wide-eyed and in awe of everything around me. When I first came here two years ago, I was overwhelmed by the fact that everything looked just the way I imagined it would be; Just the way old films paint it. This time I knew what to expect and that’s actually pretty comforting.

So, as I’m trying to get back into blogging more regularly this year, I thought I’d very quickly attempt a list of some of my favourite things about the Big Apple:

1) Being able to order good food at any time

Right now it’s coming up to 8am and I’m about to order us breakfast. My darling bestie, Cerena, is sleeping soundly and I can only imagine how big that hangover of hers will be when she wakes up (We drank a lot last night). Rather than have to get dressed and ready for the day before we finally get some starch and caffeine in us, I’m letting the food come to us and ordering it online.

I love this. You just couldn’t do this in the UK. But here? Food available from somewhere 24/7.

And the take out here is nothing like the takeaways back home. Back home if you want food delivered, you get pizza or some substandard version of Chinese or Indian. Here you get real food. An actual restaurant will deliver real meals to your door. Heaven.

If I lived here, I’d never cook again.

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Books Read in 2014

For the first time in years, I finally got down to reading again. (Thank you, Kindle! And thank you to my mum for giving me her old one.) I haven’t read this much since 2010 and, even though I lost interest in the written word for a while there, I still managed a good amount. This year, I’m hoping to increase that number even more and make it to 40 books.

1) I Forgot to Be Famous by Almie Rose

2) John by Cynthia Lennon

3) Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (re-read)

4) Almost French: A New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

5) Korea, Are You at Peace?: Tales of Two Women Travelers in a Troubled Land by J. A. V. Simson

6) Pink Bits by Kat George

7) I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner

8) Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed: And Other Cracked Tales by Bruce Lord & Elisabeth Richards

9) Kurt Cobain: Journals

10) I Met the Walrus by Jerry Levitan

11) Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething’s (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood by Alida Nugent

12) Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd

13) Threepenny Memoir: The Lives of a Libertine by Carl Barât

14) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

15) Unfaithfully Yours: Confessions of a Cheating Bitch by Chrystal Rose

16) Paper Towns by John Green

17) Black White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker

18) Once Upon a Star: Celebrity Kiss and Tell Stories by Peggy Trentini

19) Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby

20) The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

21) The Fault in our Stars by John Green

22) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

23) Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

24) Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

25) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

26) I Me Mine by George Harrison

27) Skywriting by Word of Mouth by John Lennon

28) Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions by Christian Launder

29) Through Gypsy Eyes by Kathy Etchingham

30) A Date with a Beatle by Judith Kristen

31) Miss O’Dell by Chris O’Dell

32) #YesAllWomen: A Collection edited by Ella Ceron

33) Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

34) Push by Sapphire

Tried & Abandoned (but will also try again in 2015)

1) Just Kids by Patti Smith

2) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Favourite Reads of 2014: 

+ Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby

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+ Miss O’Dell by Chris O’Dell

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The End of a Generically Awful Year & Some Awfully Generic Resolutions

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Well, here we are.

2014 is coming to a close and, if I’m honest, I’m happy to see the back of it. This year hasn’t been the best for me and, for the first time, I’m going to let you in on why this blog came to a bit of a standstill in the last 9 months.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I lost my writing mojo. Any idea I’d had for a piece of writing was quickly dismissed by that stupid dark cloud I let follow me around for the majority of the year.

Yup, ladies and gents. I don’t mind saying now that I may have been suffering from a touch of depression.

Crying fits; Waves of constant exhaustion; Dread at leaving my apartment; Irritableness; Complete lack of interest in anything; More crying fits.

It hasn’t been pretty.

I don’t really know what brought it all on but I do know that it can’t have been helped by a few factors: The mountain of bad personal events that happened within the first few months of my arrival; Getting physically ill for most of the summer; Gaining a lot of weight; And experiencing quite a bit of extreme culture shock.

And the worst thing was that I was scared to tell anyone the truth. I didn’t want to admit defeat and that I could feel myself spiraling back into the depressive state from 8 years ago. Not after finally growing up to become a confident, self-assured adult who was ready to take on the world.

Every foreign teacher I met here was having the time of their life; Korea was the bees’ knees for them. Friends from back home would write me about how brave I was and that they wished they could go off and do something like this.

But, for me, it was like the clichéd nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. Dramatic, eh?

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