Thursday, 16 October 2014

Guilt be Gone

I love my blog.
I hate my blog. 

Today I realised something monumental about my blogging issues. Each post can be as big or small as I want, and I can post regularly or irregularly, it's up to me. The lack of boundaries poses a major problem. Being someone who relies wholly on goals, list fulfilling and timescales,  I have recently been feeling continually guilty about my blog posts (or lack thereof). I haven't had much to say of late. Korea just doesn't make me angry enough to want to write about it.  
When I haven't blogged for a while it hangs over me, worse the longer I leave it. It's annoying.

For the most part I enjoyed my blogging experience. It was fun to put stuff out there and tell of my funny experiences. Now I want to do other things.

The problem is that this is not a finished piece of work, and never can be. I'm therefore stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of guilt!  How can I let it go (or at least have a break) without it bugging me?
I don't want to feel guilty. I want to be free to write something when I want. Or not. It's so different to creative writing, which has a tangible end, a time where I can stop. Having a break at the end of a draft doesn't feel like quitting. But stopping a blog really does.


I won't call this giving up, I'll call it "allowing myself to be happy in laying my blog to rest for a while."
I may well change my mind and be back next week. Or not. Who knows?


I am hereby cleansing my aura of guilt.

No more.

Screw it.

I'm off to Bermuda!

Thanks for reading. 

Oh yeah, one last thing. I got my grades- a distinction for the dissertation and merit overall.
I made it, I'm a Creative Writing Master!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Quirks and Talents

Today I've been reflecting on my love/hate relationship with teaching children. They are so annoying but I would certainly miss them if I didn't work with them anymore. They mess around and fidget and fight. They tell the teacher on each other, "Teacher Cunning!" being their way of informing me that someone is cheating during a game. They pick their noses all the time. They don't listen, they argue and bicker and swing back on their chairs until they fall. 
Then there are the funny, quirky things. Like this morning, a boy took the stairs four at a time, stretching each leg out as far as it would possibly go, just for fun. Another boy "swam" across the floor to his team line. They laugh at my stupid jokes and are enthusiastic about games and stamps and winning. Boys and girls will scream and immediately stop arguing with each other if I ask if they are boy/girl friend (whilst making a heart shape with my hands).  They emphatically inform me they are bery bery bery hungry! or moan when another student cuts the lunch line Teacher, sejegae! (bad spelling).

But my favourite thing about kids, the thing I would miss the most, is how happy and in the moment they are.
The other day we had a talent show. Being someone who only plays the piano in a shadowy, deserted room, I'm always amazed and delighted by the willingness of Korean kids to showcase their talents. They love to dance to K pop (with its wonderful set dance moves- so regimented, so Korean). They love to sing. Sometimes they play instruments and other times they act. I've seen all sorts, and naturally the ability ranges from wonderful to painful, but in my eyes the students who suck are to be more admired. To be able to stand up on stage in front of your whole school and sing a shaky, way-out-of -your-vocal-range rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Le Mis is no easy task. Well done, I say! Seriously though, somewhere down the line I developed this idea that I would only do something if I was good at it, and even then sometimes I wouldn't want to. I love that these kids just go for it, whatever their ability.
This week's talent show was extra special because we had a surprise performance from the entire school, aka more than a hundred kids dancing in a regimented mass. It was amazing.

 How can I ever say my job is boring?

Last week Lee and I went to the Asian Games, to watch a women's semi-finals cricket match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It wasn't the most spectacular thing I've ever seen but nonetheless it was fun and I improved my (albeit almost non existent) cricket rule knowledge. The crowd was sparse to say the least, outnumbered by cameramen 2-1, meaning that we were filmed quite a lot and probably have now appeared on Bangladeshi prime time TV. It was a wonderfully sunny beer-filled day, so perfect that I even had a little snooze halfway through the game. Afterwards we walked around the stalls outside the main stadium, so Lee could play on the games and make new friends.

It was tense, I can tell you
Can you spot the boys in the crowd??
Lee's big win
In the moon
Lee's buddy

A grand day out!


Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Break from Beyond the World

I finished my masters! Phewf. 

In the interests of sanity at the end there, I had to put blogging on the back burner. I promised myself when I started this blog that it would never become a stress or chore, and for that reason, there came a point during my dissertation where I had to let myself leave it alone. 

So here I am, returned!

The month of August was hard. I chugged away at my story, going through fazes of loving it, loathing it and feeling like it would never in a million years be ready or good enough. I wrote the essay, then had a sleepy epiphany that its focus was all wrong. I started again. I finally made it presentable whilst affirming what I already know, which is that academia is not my strength.

Then last week I handed everything in. 

Everyone asked me if I felt relieved, if I felt free. But the truth is that I'm a writer, which means I'm never free, I'm never finished, I'm never 'off.' And this is certainly not the end of this particular writing expedition. I've only written the first third of Jack Beyond the World, so I have a lot to do. For starters, before I go on with the next chapter I want to go back and do the planning and world building that I didn't have time for during my masters.

But not right now, not in September.

September is a time for other things.  

For blogging and guiltless reading (I've finally started the Jack Reacher books). For jogging, cycling, watching films and hanging out drinking beer in the still-warm-enough evenings. For catching up with old friends and making new ones. For playing the piano and who knows, even picking up the ukulele again?

September is a time for being free.

Bring it on! 

Looking most cool with my new bike along the nearby river


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Those Final, Happy, Holidaying Days

It feels like a long time ago since we were in Brazil (so much has happened between then and now!) but I'm gonna do my best to relay the tale of what we got up to in those last few days. 

As if the climate knew of Brazil's impending doom in the world cup, the sky grew thick with clouds in the hours before the game, the heavens opening as Germany rained down the goals. For the next few days it was as if the weather were in mourning for it's country, and we had to make ourselves some new, rain-friendly plans.  
It was a random few days, with some things not working out at all as we'd thought they would.

We went to an art museum that had a Salvador Dali exhibition, choosing the small queue rather than the big one, because obviously "those people were there for something entirely different." We soon got into the part of the exhibition for which we had been waiting, to find it was a room made into a face.
Sometimes I hate art.

The botanical gardens were pretty spectacular. I enjoyed just wandering around being amazed by how truly cool nature is. The bored security guard in the orchid house also took some pictures of us in, under and around the orchids. Funny. 
We went to a samba bar that we'd read good reviews about. It was quirky with old theatre artifacts on the walls and a lift exactly like the one on the Titanic, but unfortunately all the staff were rude, pretentious w*nkers. I'm sorry, I don't care how 'cool' the place is, if there's a bad atmosphere then I'd rather not bother. On a brighter note, we did meet some nice people to hang out with on the streets again! 

Another day we got up early to go on a favela tour. This one had been recommended to us as being a good walking tour of one of the biggest favelas, led by a man (well, boy, really) who'd grown up there. We waited, hungry and thirsty for twenty minutes at the meeting point before he showed up. Then we got into his van. He talked to us for a little while then proceeded to have about a million conversations on his two phones, as if he were some sort of dealer. The driver, too, spent a lot of time on his phone. We stopped and waited twice more, then were told that the trip would be cut short due to traffic. Lee questioned the guy about his non-apologetic attitude to being late, which didn't go down too well, leading to a heated debate that ended in an ultimatum. The boy-man told us we could basically either shut up or get off the bus. So we got off the bus. Luckily we hadn't paid any of the overpriced cost. Finding ourselves at an unexpected loose end, we then went to the fort on the hill at the end of the beach, which apparently does a great brunch. After walking all the way up, we found out that the cafe is shut on Sundays. On the plus side we saw a great view and also the life size bear statues that were up at that end of the beach, each one decorated to represent a different country of the world.
We were so starving by that point that we ate a massively huge and disgusting inch-thick-cheese-with-no-tomato pizza, then felt so sick that we had to walk the length of the Copacabana just to begin to feel over it. There we sat drinking beer and perving on Ian Wright, Glen Hoddle and the rest of the ITV pundit gang. Good times.

Our absolute food highlight was visiting a churrascaria, aka Brazil's most famous dining experience. It had the best salad bar ever, which was just a side to the big slabs of beef being carried around by the waiters. You could choose which part of the cow you wanted, or have a different meat entirely. Lee left his cardboard circle on 'green' for a few minutes and looked like he was in heaven as the meat piled up on his plate from various sources. It was so good that we went again in Sao Paulo on our last night!

On the day of the final the weather brightened up and we joined the masses on the beach to watch the big screen. Apparently 100 thousand extra Argentinians drove to Rio over that weekend and the roads were lined with their camper vans. The beach was a sea of sky blue and white shirts. I've never seen so many tattoos in my life- I never knew it was so acceptable to have a footballer's face inked onto your shoulder blade...
We left the beach after the Germany goal, in an attempt to not get beaten up for originating from a country in the same continent as Germany. 
Then, after our final bout of partying on the street, it was time to leave. 

And that, folks, is all. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Rio, Rio, Rio!

A city I have wanted to visit for so long has not disappointed me. It feels like we've been here for ages and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do justice to the things we've seen and done, but I'll give it a go.
We've been staying in a gated community for Brazilians, which despite being noisy has allowed us the opportunity to speak to the local kids. On arrival we were pleasantly surprised at being given the only room with a private bathroom.
The football has gone by in a haze of beer and shouting at a big screen; a blur of excitement and being whipped up with the crowds, and the inevitable desperate disappointment. I can't say 7-1 wasn't a bit of a kick in the teeth. We were at the Fan Fest on the beach at the time, and everyone just started leaving. Bloody Germany! (Although now I'm rooting for them in the face of the alternative- I don't think the Brazilian population will cope well if Argentina win the world cup). I've finally plucked up the courage to wear my England shirt and even joined in with some boys one evening in a rendition of "I'm England till I die..."
We travelled in a van up the tiny winding road to Christ the Redeemer, and had a perfectly clear sky for the view. The next day we took cable cars up to Sugar Loaf Mountain, which to me was even more impressive. We sat for ages on a bench (and made friends with a little monkey) entranced by the view. There's something truly beautiful about this city; the mix of trees and mountains with skyscrapers, the shiny buildings interspersed with grotty.
Without realising it, we managed to rent a place right in the popular area of Lapa, famous for its white arches that run across the main street, and its serious night life. The place gets so busy that people can't even get into the bars, instead drinking in crowds on the street, drinking caiprinhas from vendors. We've met so many people, listened to so much live samba and drums, the only downside being that the place often stinks of p*ss.
As with Sao Paulo, in Rio it's impossible to ignore the massive problem of homelessness, and the scariness of many people's complete lack of acknowledgement for the desperate circumstances others are in. One situation that stands out in my head is when a group of heavily armed police laughed at and mimicked a man walking past, dirty and barefoot. The sad thing is that it can be scary and sometimes threatening to be approached by someone asking for money, and often helping one person leads to having ten more come your way. I did get a bit unnerved one day when Lee gave money to a boy, to which many more then came running, grabbing at the notes Lee held out, fighting with each other over it, or crying desperately because they didn't get any. I hope that this holiday has taught me to be kinder and not to ignore the suffering of others with some justification that it's not my problem. 
I've seen more police here than ever before in one place. They are mostly military police, armed to the absolute teeth with body armor, batons and guns. We even saw a man jogging up to Christ the Redeemer holding a machine gun! To which the driver said, "He's a policeman" as if that would reassure us.
We've discovered so many gems in this city. It's easy to walk past the ugly as hell cone building in the centre of town that resembles an industrial chimney, missing the beautiful cathedral it is on the inside. We discovered the Escadaria Selaron steps which are brightly tiled with pictures representing countries from around the world, from the ground all the way up to the monastery at the top. We walked across the disused railway line that runs across the white arches of Lapa. We visited three different beaches and discovered hidden roads, restaurants and random markets. We've gone swimming in our underwear and even jumped the waves next to David James!
As I said, it's hard to do it justice in writing. Hopefully the pictures will do a better job.


Friday, 4 July 2014

Sao Paulo and Football Mania

So what's been going on? My week in Sao Paulo was one of more football than I ever thought I could stomach. We spent a lot of time at the Fan Fest area in the centre of the city with a huge screen and masses of dressed up and face painted fans from all over the world. Seriously, I might not find such a mix of people during the haj in Mecca. Funny how religion and football can be so easily compared- there are definitely a fair few people here at the world cup who worship their team and bow down to their players. 
For the first time ever I got to experience what it’s like to win a penalty shoot out- as an honourary Brazilian. I was even mistaken for a Brazilian girl so I was pretty happy with that! I’ve also fallen in love with the entire Costa Rican team (Greece- Costa Rica, amazing game), comiserated crying Mexicans and had my head squished between two crazy celebrating Argentinians.

Melting into the crowd??

Lees new Brazilian buddy

But enough about football, what of Sao Paulo? 
It’s been an exciting and sometimes scary place to explore, which I think would be made much easier by knowing someone in the city to show you around. We arrived in the evening and got a taxi to our slightly out of town 'love hotel' (it was cheap, OK?!), feeling a bit too edgy to venture out into the surrounding quiet streets that night. 
It soon became clear that we've been become so accustomed to visiting countries that speak English well that we forgot that perhaps learning some of the native language might be useful. Hence the overuse of the word obrigado! in answer to everything. Oh the ignorant English, *shudders of embarrassment*.
On our first day we went to one of south Americas largest city parks, Ibirapuera, where you can see the skyline of Sao Paulo in all its glory in the background. At the park we drank coconut water and cycled around the lake, admiring the vast variety of big trees. 

In between the many football games, we've trekked the good, the bad and the downright ugly (or should I say scary) streets, taking in the sights and visiting a random selection of bars and restaurants. We've uncovered the joy of the 'weigh your plate' buffet dinner, which I think should have the tag line- "A balancing act between piling your plate as high as you truthfully want to and facing the shame of taking it to the lady to weigh it." 
After reading bad reviews about the hotel we've booked for our last night in Brazil, we decided to go and check the area out in advance. I'm so glad we did, as even in broad daylight I've never felt so uneasy! It was a street lined with motorbikes in various levels of disrepair and cluster after cluster of men just hanging around, with a spattering of police vans and prostitutes. Needless to say we're not gonna bother staying there. 
We walked around the large business district of Paulista, where people in suits bustle around importantly. We had wine at the Skye Bar, a luxurious rooftop bar on top of a boat shaped building, with amazing views of the city. The menu was actually reasonably priced, except for a bottle of Rockafella white wine which was over a thousand quid, for goodness sake! 
Both Lee and I felt that the rich side of Sao Paulo was a little hard to enjoy, when there is so much poverty in the city. At night, homeless people line the doorways of the city centre and huddle in sleeping groups outside the cathedral. This city is certainly the worst place we've been to in terms of the gap between rich and poor. It saddens me to know that I live in a world like this, where people- including me- enjoy nice wine and nice food while other people starve. It's madness. 

The cathedral of Sao Paulo
The luxurious Skye bar.  Unfortunately we're still working out how to use our camera so the pictures from the top weren't very good.

Then, after a rather terrifying six hour bus ride with a mad driver intent on bullying every other vehicle on the road and overtaking everything in sight, we've arrived in Rio. But more about that later!  
What would a blog about Brazil be without a little graffiti?

Monday, 23 June 2014

Oh the Agony!

*Warning* This post is somewhat football heavy.

Part of being an England fan means being all too aware that the world cup will be a tense and sick-inducing time. We always start with the hope that somehow we are magically better than we are, followed by praying that we can scrape through a game on sheer luck. And finally the all too inevitable demise, probably involving penalties. Not to be a pessimist or anything, it's just we all know that the famous year of 1966 is getting further and further away into the past. I remember the first time I got into watching football- It was 1996 and I was 12. England got to the semi-finals of the Euros, getting beaten by Germany on penalties. I couldn't believe it. I thought that if I wanted it enough then we would win. That was my introduction to the pain and anguish of what it means to be an England fan. And we haven't got that far in a major tournament since.

Here is a little snapshot of the English desperation, as early as the first game. Lovely.

I knew that buying a ticket to Brazil for after the group stages was a heck of a gamble where England are concerned, but to flop out in this pathetic manner-the first time we've been knocked out in the group stages since 1958, and the earliest we've been knocked out ever- feels like a personal insult! It wasn't what we had in mind when we imagined getting on the plane, but hey ho. Needless to say I'm leaving my England shirts at home. What we have to remember is that we're still going to party in Rio in the lead up to the final, which is hard to feel bad about. I'm now an honorary South Korea fan- it's nice to feel some closeness with another team, to at least have a decent reason as to why you're supporting them. Alas, after last nights result against Algeria, I fear for them too.

 ANYWAY, enough about that. In much more positive news, my sister got married last week. It was a perfect English wedding: beautiful setting by a river, beautiful bride, nice weather we never thought we'd get, lots of drink, food, cake, dancing and of course the dodgy speeches! One of my favourite parts of  the day was when the high heeled 'single ladies' battled it out to catch the bouquet. What a tradition!

Congrats you guys!