The moment I have been waiting for, since I left Montréal in January 2016, was the time I would once again eat ‘pierogis’. These are a Polish delicacy that I haven’t yet found in the UK and definitely scored high points when I visited Michael for a week just over a year ago. (I cannot believe such a short amount of time has passed since then…!)
My recent trip to Wrocław, in south-west Poland, in mid-march has completed this particular ‘food goal’. In the 48 hours we stayed in the city, I’ve had a taste and have reviewed the local food we endeavoured to eat.
I hope when you read the title you think of the James Blunt song that I am quietly singing to myself as I write this post. I like to write posts about monumental events or significant points throughout my time as a student and in life in general. I guess I’m writing a little post as a dedication to my car which, as of today, has been written off.
Long story short, I had a little bump at a roundabout on my way to my temporary job in Loughborough and the front was dented with the number plate hanging at a wonky angle. The other party involved in the bump managed to secure it with a few white cable ties so the plate wasn’t going to fly off anytime soon. Although I did have the pleasure (and panic) of a policeman walking past my car and notifying me that the number plate was falling off… I just nodded foolishly and hoped he wouldn’t say anything else!
It was dropped off at the garage in Uttoxeter on Saturday 3rd September and this evening (Tuesday 6th) at exactly 16:36 I received a call to tell me that my car has been written off as the damages are deemed uneconomical to repair. At first, I thought the gentleman told me that the car has been lost. Upon asking him to repeat the sentence to me, it became clear he said “total loss”. For those who don’t know this term, it is another way of saying that the car has been written off but not based on the car is completely un-drive-able.
Then the shock hit. I know a lot of people have been in all kinds of bumps. But I genuinely expected for the phone call to proceed as following:
Gentleman: “Hello, I’m calling to say that your car will be repaired ahead of schedule and you’re welcome to come and pick it up on Friday”
Happy Me: “Fantastic, thank you, I will be there!“
I’m writing a blog post because that car has been my best friend over the past three years. You hear about people marrying inflatable or pizza… I’m not quite at that stage but this black vehicle with a slightly bumped left wing mirror , that had a wheel stolen for no apparent reason, that has been a very likely candidate to be a makeshift bed numerous times, that has carted my friends and I wherever we go (late night Tesco trips), and has driven across this country more times than I can attempt to count… In small words: I’m gutted.
In my hectic lifestyle, it has been my one constant. I can’t explain how that feels to me. Nor did I expect to be so attached to a car. It is my little home that has carried me safely from place to place, covering many miles and let me have such an amazing time at university.
So buy-bye baby. I’m going to miss stalling (not often) and going on adventures with you.
The big event of July was my graduation on the 20th (although not quite stopped the couch surfing yet) and my parents came back to the U.K. from Canada to attend. I’m just going to post a few pictures to show the day in a nutshell! It was fantastic and is still odd to call myself and my friends official ‘language graduates’!
From there I worked then spent a week in Wales cut off from the rest of the world which was bliss. Sometimes one just needs to have no phone reception to let them escape from the domination of technology. Sad but true.
And then I had a weekend with my parents… also seeing Nicole, an old friend, for the first time in four years! It was such a good catch up and amazing to see where our degrees and lives have taken us.
And this brought us to Sunday 7th August…
Time has flown since I last took a moment to write something down. (written on the 7th August). I have neglected this blog and not scribbled down my outbursts and experiences for a pretty long time.
Today is a reaction to my parents returning to Canada. Like many people, my strong emotional response just makes me want to write out everything. I guess it’s one of my coping methods although I do also enjoy it so this is a highlight of blurting out my thoughts and feelings.
Once again my family headed in different directions. My parents drove off in one direction to Heathrow Airport, I drove in the opposite direction to Staffordshire to visit my grandparents and my brother cycled down the road back to the farm rolling a suitcase behind him (very comical bonkers moment)… I can’t describe how it feels to say goodbye. Well, it’s better to say a “see you later” as it doesn’t sound too ominous or sad. I feel like we’re used to this pattern of time together and time apart as they moved to Calgary a while ago! Yet I know that come the morning of their departure – or mine to return to the UK – my family still haven’t quite got the hang of our waterworks. I know that we’re very lucky as a family, that we’re all in good health, we have technology to keep us in contact, and the opportunities to see more of the world… But sometimes I feel like the kid who pulled the short straw. And I just can’t help it. As we change and grow up we make new homes for ourselves, leaving our parents behind in order for us to go off and explore the big wide world alone. I wear a bracelet on my wrist with my favourite quote “home is where the heart is” because 1. I am a very profound person who is at times way too emotional, and 2. because I’m still looking for that “home“.
My experience of the first day in August 2013 my mum and brother left has slightly tarnished my subsequent reactions and behaviour towards any situation that relates to my parents moving away. To be frank, I don’t trust anyone to open up to. Not because I don’t have trustworthy friends – but who the hell is going to understand me? Close to none. I thought I had a friend on that day that I could trust in to just get me through the day and help with the waterworks. Instead, they had to be asked by their mother to hug me. Really? That’s what I get? All those years of friendship and support for this?
It’s difficult because many of my friends feel disassociated from their childhood homes and can say they only see their parents a few times a year too. Therefore, I found myself in a rut a year after my parents had moved. I am one of those people who manages to accidentally and completely unexpectedly (even to myself) pick the time and place that involves many friends and family bunched together in a static caravan to basically… have a little breakdown. It will never happen again (I promise parents) and although it’s cringy to look back on, it was going to happen at some point. I can’t ever explain to any of my friends how it feels when my parents leave to fly 5,000 miles away. It never gets easier not knowing when I’ll see them next, how the time difference sometimes gets in the way of the day, how the few moments we have together right now add up to what feels like a day. When, in fact, it’s been three Christmases, a summer and their visits back to the UK. Does any of the above that even make sense? Most likely not. But that’s okay 🙂 This is the last post I think I’ll write about my parents being abroad because I believe the dust has finally settled. Us four are good no, great. And the future is full of opportunity, love and enjoying life.
as of last Wednesday evening… my couch surfing days are over. (For now, I don’t want to jinx myself!) I’m looking forward to not have to sleep in tiny caravan beds, sofas, other people’s bed or even the last resort option of my cars back seats! It’s the August Bank Holiday weekend here so I’m sure many people will be out in the sunshine enjoying their free time… So I hope you Brits are too! And to everyone else, have a lovely weekend.
As the ten days flew by in a blur, leaving little time to sit and write about our adventures, I only managed to take it all down in note form. So instead of a story-like blog post, I’m going to share my top five reasons as to why we had a great time but also why South Korea is one of my favourite places in the world.
#1 ~ The scenery:
Danny and I visited a couple of temples and the main palace: Gyeongbokgung, as well as other scenic parts of both Seoul and Busan. Seoul is a surprisingly hilly city (similar to Sheffield in the UK) as it is surrounded by mountains with peaks as high as 836 metres. I love the fact that in many parts of Seoul there are lookout points down over the city or looking up at the mountain ranges that surround it. It doesn’t felt like you are separated from nature like I feel in other major cities like London.
This also means that there is a contrast of seeing older, traditional buildings against a modern backdrop. My favourite parts of the city to pass by were the gates, Namdaemun and Dongdaemun that sit at the centre of major roundabouts in the heart of the city.
Another highlight of the city is the Han River. It is massive and thankfully compared to some Chinese rivers, not brown! The best part is that you can walk or cycle all the along the south bank with the opportunity to use various outdoor gym equipment sites. It is also very common for Koreans to gather there on weekday evenings, or mostly Friday and Saturday nights to have chicken and beer and chat until the early hours. This is also done in Busan (more likely to be seafood with the beer though) by the seaside looking at Gwangandaeyo Bridge that lights up every night from 8pm.
I could go on and on… but let’s move on to number two!
#2 ~ the streets:
This one is basically expressing my love for the orange taxis. I feel like it is a sign that I do need to live in Korea at some point… if I can nail the language during my master’s degree…
The streets are large and wide, Seoul and Busan are both quite spacious cities for quite a small country. 7-Elevens, CU’s and other small convenience stores called Storyway can be found on almost every block and were so so useful for Danny and I. Most days we bought our lunch there as we weren’t starving but needed enough to get us through to our big evening meals. We normally bought a sushi roll called kimbap that was available in a variety of flavours like egg, tuna mayonnaise, spicy tuna, pork bulgogi, and kimchi. In my opinion, it is definitely better than any sandwich. But then again, I am Asian-biased… It’s busy as it is a capital city but the pavements are hardly ever as cramped as London and New York etc.
#3 ~ food & the markets:
From the image on the right, you can see we had quite a few Korean delicacies! The most popular meal is Korean BBQ, among other known dishes is a ‘bibimbap’ which is a hot rice bowl with cold thinly sliced vegetables and an egg on top that you mix together to cook it.
The top left picture is of the food at a restaurant called Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자): it is a noodle restaurant located near Myeongdong Cathedral that has been in business for about 40 years. The restaurant is known for their knife-cut, handmade kal-guksu (noodle soup) which is its main menu item. Next to the noodles is the mandu (which are dumplings). It was also served with kimchi.
The pictures below are bibimbap on the left and Japanese pork rice with yellow radish on the right. Below is my favourite and must try if you ever venture near South Korea… Chicken and beer!! It’s a tradition to have it delivered to the river side and eaten with beer, soju and only a small torchlight or similar to be able to see. ❤
The first dish on the right was taken when we were waiting for the main event… It was in Haeundae, Busan at a very traditional Korean restaurant where they sit on the floor at low tables. The main dish was freshly barbequed/stir fried eel with onions and spring onions cooked in a spicy sauce… We survived the spice! The only thing that Danny and I did not expect was the fact that when the dish was first served uncooked, the chopped eel would still be moving and wriggling to show how fresh it was. Eek!! It was not for the faint-hearted…
Below that is a tamer dish called 보쌈 (pronounced ‘bos-sum’) which is boiled pork belly (which tastes amazing) thinly sliced laid out in rows. It is served with cabbage leaves, garlic, a spicy sauce, kimchi and a salty dip as well. The method of eating 보쌈 is to put a cabbage leaf in your hand, pick up the meat with your chopsticks and season it how you want, then place it in the leaf. You can add garlic or kimchi for added flavour…. Then you attempt to fit it all in your mouth! It’s not a meal to have on your first date if you’re wanting tofu to be the impression that you’re civilised and have table manners… It can be a little messy. Nevertheless, it was fantastic.
And finally, we come across the famous Korean BBQ. We had pork belly and beef (the pork is so much better) and it was soooo delicious. Maybe it’s because we drink beer and soju with these meals so anything starts to taste fantastic… but I think that Korean food is really unheard of and I would love to see more Korean restaurants in the UK in the future. Danny’s favourite is Bibimbap. I feel that my heart is torn between Chicken and Beer and the meal we had on the final night.
So there you go, a small introduction of Korean dishes and a display of why the food is part of my top five reasons for loving South Korea.
#4 ~ Culture:
Korean culture isn’t one to jump out at you like Indian or Chinese with colours and impressionable quirks, habits or events. Out of the three, China, Japanese and Korea, it is the dark horse. Koreans live in their own little bubble that works happily within itself without the outside world influence or opinion. They live in a work hard, play hard society. I guess being tourists means we experienced the play hard side of life and that’s a lot of fun! We could be out late in the evenings and be able to sleep in the next day… Many Koreans are awake and working from 8am to normally 8pm with the occasional early exit but a more common later night. Many South Koreans find the lifestyle tiring and sadly aren’t the most content people with their lives. Many students we’ve met will openly tell you that they don’t like South Korea… Yet I feel the culture, like any nation, keeps them together and does make it a fantastic place to live despite its disadvantages.
Korea is actually a really safe country. Many people have mentioned that is it safe to leave your laptop and belongings at a table in a coffee shop to go to the bathroom and return to find nothing missing. Who would’ve thought!? I felt that Danny and I were safe no matter where we were and were able to trust the Koreans around us.
One cultural thing I picked up on… and then an American friend Abbie pointed out… is that Koreans disapprove of bare shoulders. It is very uncommon to see a young adult or teenage Korean girl or guy wearing tops with straps of any kind. Instead, their tops halves may be covered by their backsides could be on show as short shorts are not frowned upon… Odd? I think so. I felt guilty wearing anything that bore my shoulders to the world when I am normally so accustomed to being aware that my skirt or shorts are above mid-thigh-ish.
I think the fact that I have yet to study Korean culture in depth and greater understanding always comes with language learning… It’s exciting!
#5 ~ the transport:
I only have a little to say about the transport in South Korea and that is: it’s great! Danny and I were able to catch various buses or metros to where we wanted to go easily and never had a problem. Using tickets in Seoul is more of a foreigner/tourist thing as everyone has the Korean version of an oyster card; a t-money card. Another fantastic thing I loved was that if your journey involved a metro ride then a bus or vice versa, you were not charged for the individual vehicles rather the whole journey. Such a good feature! 😀
The KTX trains to various parts of the peninsula are all modern, clean and efficient with free wifi and big chairs. Our two and a half trip journey down to Busan was really easy. Another reason why Korea is a trusting nation is that there wasn’t one ticket barrier nor someone checking tickets on the train. We (as honest citizens) had bought tickets but I was curious to know how many people get on those trains having not done so… I would like to think none 😀
We really enjoyed going to both Seoul and Busan over the ten days and this photo above (that Danny took) really captures what it was like for me. Who knew transport could be a highlight!? Luckily we didn’t have any journeys that went wrong so thumbs up to our Korean transport experience! Hence, that is the fifth reason why I love South Korea.
And, in one way or another, that’s our ten days!
Hope you enjoyed and maybe want to google more about South Korea, K-Pop, the language and even the delicious food… 😀
I’m back to blogging. Well, I hope to post more regularly than I have as I am now free of responsibility (at university) for the next three months! It also helps that I’m going on an adventure too.
It’s Saturday 11th June. (Well, imagine it is anyway…)
The title has been chosen because it’s Seoul’s newest attempt at making the city a cool place to be. They have the saying in huge letters by the Han River near Yeouido that many instagrammers have already taken many selfies with. (It has been widely criticised by young Koreans for being the worst slogan ever… hehehe)
Today, on the 11th June, I woke at 5am to catch a plane from London Heathrow that would take me to my first stop: Amsterdam. I’ve never heard Dutch being spoken in front of me before and it was fascinating to listen to. A university friend of mine has been studying it and I have to say that I’m impressed she says. It sounds like a “fluffy” language that is a mix of sounds and the word “-argan” and I love it. (Sorry for stereotyping the language but that’s all I’ve picked up so far!) The first flight was about forty-five minutes long and I spent the whole journey talking to a chap called Lindsay Reau as he was travelling on business and was a chatty American. I think I must have an approachable aura when I get on planes because I do end up talking to serious businessmen… Sometimes couples too. He was from California and we bonded over experiences in China and travelling. It was great as it meant I didn’t notice us take off or land. Once we were off the plane we bid adieu and I went to find the gate for my next flight. I had a two-hour stopover in Amsterdam to them board my next flight to Guangzhou (广州) in Southern China. I was dreading getting on a packed A330 plane but I surprised myself. Maybe it’s because I have a mum who’s hypnotherapy tapes help me sleep (or at least rest) or the fact I had bought drowsy cough medicine in an attempt to lower all risks of catching a bug on my long exhausting journey. (I’m thinking it was the sedative.) Anyway. As I hadn’t had much sleep due to celebrating at our Graduation Ball on Thursday night, the last thing I wanted was to get ill… Nevertheless, I managed to dwindle the long eleven hours down to just under seven. Even though a Chinese lady enjoyed waking me up for food and water which, for once, I ate ravenously (it was a really well-made chicken with rice and broccoli) then went back to dreamland. The entertainment was also pretty good. I managed to watch a Korean movie, a Chinese movie and of course, Zootopia. Although the second half dragged, I finally landed in the world of China.
Guangzhou was boiling and humid. I was so glad that I had decided to pay to go into the normal airport lounge to shower before I boarded my final flight to Seoul. It was the best thing I’ve had in ages. Considering what has been going on in the past two weeks, that’s how relieved I felt to be clean and fresh after almost 24 hours of travelling. It also meant I didn’t arrive looking like a wreck in Seoul to meet Danny. The final flight passed somewhat quickly. I tried to sleep as much as possible… Even though I think I ended up drooling on the guy to my left as I was knocked out asleep… It was enough to sort me out for the rest of the day. I arrived before Danny and decided to take my time walking to the passport control desks. I sat down on the side of the corridor to wait for him to appear… After twenty minutes I thought I’d better join the queue….
The queue took a really long time and somehow we ended up missing each other. As there was no wifi in this part of the airport I had no idea where he was… And, as I am silly, got increasingly worried that some disaster had happened. Once I was finally through to baggage I found my bag off the reclaim belt by the side of the hall and managed to connect to the wifi. Eventually, I found Danny on the other side of arrivals and voilá! We have been reunited ☺️
It was really nerve-racking in the moments that I walked up to the arrivals double doors. After a long seventeen weeks and eight days, many skype conversations, battling time difference and our ridiculously busy lives, and still in the process of getting to know one another… it was worth it. Y’know when you get those moments that all your brain seems to process is “what on earth is going on? how did this all become to be? am I really halfway around the world right now? and to see a boy!?”
Obviously, it is positive bewilderment at my life and the series of events that are happening around me. My racing heart told me that.
Once he came into view I was able to breathe out a breath I didn’t realise I was holding in. And from there it was all a bit of a blur… We had an easy journey to the centre of the city on the “Airport Railroad” metro train that took us to Seoul Station, where we then changed to Line 1 to head to a station called Sinseol-dong. Upon arrival, we realised we hadn’t saved a screenshot of the hostel’s location and asked a gentleman in a 7-Eleven next to the station if he knew where to go. (A 7-Eleven is like a Tesco extra here, it’s really popular and full of just snacks and drinks and other basics. There other stores for the same purpose as called GS-25, CU and Storyway.) The guy behind the counter hardly spoke any English but pointed around to the left then said “Kitchen!” so we thanked him and left on our quest to find this little hostel. We followed the direction he pointed and knew we had walked too far so turned back to then realise there was a restaurant on the corner that would have a kitchen! So we followed the alley in between the buildings and turned a corner to catch sight of a white and pink sign bearing the name ‘Unni House’ on it. Woohoo! We had made it.
The hostel was like a little Korean house which had a main lounge/kitchen with rooms going off it that were a mix of dorms and bedrooms with double mattresses on the floor. There were three young Chinese sat at the table in the lounge area who we spoke to briefly in Chinese rather than English before I wanted to collapse on the bed from my rather long 6,000-mile journey. As it was about 6pm and we knew we needed to eat dinner, we headed out into the city for our first adventure.
Dongdaemun was the destination of choice. It was only two metro stops away from ours, Sin-seol dong, and I knew it would be bustling and lively in the evening. On one side of the plaza there is the old ‘East Gate’ and across the car-filled road, there is a newer construction called the Dongdaemun Culture and Design Plaza which is an attempt at good architecture… but it instead a massive silver building curved in the shape of a massive bubble that comes out of the ground. (Picture below to help with awful description:)
The one really lovely section of it is a small area filled white roses lit up to create a sea of pretty lights. It’s one of those places that you just get to stand and watch the world and life just unfold around you. I have a lot of those kinds of places and moments in South Korea which I think makes me love it just a little more than I thought I did. For a very busy city that is alive pretty much 24/7, there are moments of peace that manage to capture you when you need it most.
And that’s only the first part of my journey so far. If you wanna have a little go at Korean, this is what Danny and I have nailed saying:
안녕하세요 : ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo = Good morning/Hello
아니요 : anee-yo = No
네 : neigh (i’ve written how to pronounce it in the most english way possible) = Yes
Conclusion number one: Seoul is rising in my “places I want to live in” list… 😀
*warning: this was written at 02:00hours following the consumption of a beverage or two.. and may contain overly emotional or cheesy parts. enjoy*
Many people probably have those “movie moments” where a certain song comes on when you’re driving in your car or got your headphones in. You may feel you can conquer the world, you’re having that epiphanic moment in a movie where everything makes sense, or you’re grieving for what you’ve lost. I’ve had a few of those recently. Imagine if our lives were movies, what soundtrack would we have?
Tonight was the University of Nottingham Graduation Ball. None of us expected fireworks but we got them. They were fantastic. It was a beautiful culmination of a whole group of students coming together to watch the same show. It doesn’t matter what we’ve studied, what we’ve done with our time at university nor what lays ahead now we’ve finished… More that we, as a collective, have done it. I met many faces in the crowd tonight that I haven’t seen in forever, or faces that I met on the first day that I moved into Lincoln Hall on campus. Each have their own meaning, each have their own adventure.
Working and studying simultaneously during a really stressful exam period in your final year of university isn’t the easiest thing to do. Of course that’s why I’ve ended up doing it. I love doing things the hard way. Not on purpose of course, but I swear I never leap for the easy option. It turns out I quite like a challenge instead…
As I sat on a Paisley (and comfortable) sofa today in front of one of my very wise lecturers, I felt as if I was in a little lonely canoe rowing upstream a roaring river.
But this post isn’t a woeful one. At least, I’m not going to let it be.
A few hours later, during my break at work, I found myself sat outside on the bench of the University Park Sports Centre enjoying the fresh air and couldn’t help but watch a guy doing a few exercises on the outside training equipment. (I’m not meaning to sound creepy but the equipment is directly opposite me..) He wasn’t doing anything particularly strenuous: just a few press ups and a few box jumps among other things.