Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Beauty is in the eye of the Nation

When I spend time at home now I feel thoroughly left behind by the fashions and make-up. In England the trend is to be tanned (sometimes teetering on orange) and of course to strive always to be mega thin. In other countries, however, the idea of what beauty is may be totally different. In Korea I was called fat on countless occasions (boohoo) because girls-and often boys- are pint sized there. In Saudi Arabia many women are overweight and men seem to prefer them that way. So now I'm skinny!
In Korea white skin is favoured, to the point where some people actually put white make up on. Skin whitening products are also readily available. In Saudi Arabia, there's a tendency to look down on people with darker shades of skin.
In terms of fashion, Koreans like to dress the same as each other- short shorts, t-shirts (no shoulders please!) and high heels no matter what the occasion or weather. Here is Saudi there's a mega obsession with designers and expensive jewellery. It's all about how you look and what you're wearing, ironic because most of the time all that is seen by others is a burka.
Eyes are another interesting area. Often in Korea I saw adverts for eye surgery and it's common knowledge that most celebrities and a fair few regular people too have it done.

In Saudi the eye-related beauty measures are less extreme, but still entertaining. They wear loads of mascara and even more eye liner and I think it's maybe because this is one of the only areas where they can express their personality and show an element of individuality.

They also have big eyebrows, often pencilled in or with the lower hairs bleached blonde. A bit weird, but I still prefer it to the 'plucked to within an inch of your life' eyebrows that some girls opt for at home.

I guess what I'm trying to say in all this is that beauty is subjective, and that there really it's just silly to feel pressured into follow a certain fashion or idea, because often one countries glamour is another's shit. Just go to a different country! And on top of that, a nation itself is constantly evolving in terms of what's fashionable or beautiful, and if you've cut half your eyelids off in the quest then you're gonna find it a bit problematic to change them back when the time comes. Just sayin'.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Day at the Races

Last Friday we went to Riyadh equestrian club (sounds so posh) to watch the horse racing. I've never been to a racetrack before so it was quite exciting. It was nice to see something aesthetically pleasing in this city.
The track complete with fountain 
We had an amazing buffet lunch in the V.I.P area, where us girls were allowed to take off our abayas. A dear diary moment! Although a little strange as all the Saudi men down on the ground could see us...

Betting is, naturally, illegal in the KSA so we had to have a little bet of our own on our table. The lucky winner was to become the proud owner of the carrot of glory, the horserace guidebook and about 4 riyals (less than a pound). Exciting times!

I was like- who's that weird guy? (it's the king)
 One does have to wonder exactly what the point is of a racecourse without gambling? I'm not the biggest fan of gambling but I can't deny it does spice things up somewhat. Otherwise, who really cares who wins?
We soon realised that gambling would be a bit pointless anyway, even if it wasn't haram (forbidden). The winner of the first race we watched was a horse called Hattrick. We looked in the guidebook to see who it was owned by. Can you guess? Yes, it was in fact one of the Kings horses. A lucky coincidence? We paid close attention to the next few races and sure enough, the Kings horses won all of them. Takes the edge of the excitement somewhat, and also renders betting pointless. Evens anyone?
I was reminded very much of one of my favourite Disney films, in which everyone has to make absolutely sure that a certain Queen wins the game of croquet, for fear of losing their heads. Could a similar situation be going on here? The King winning all the races. Check. People getting their heads chopped off. Check.

All in all it was a really great day out. Nice company, a change of scenery from the four walls of our prison, and some lovely food. I think if you search hard enough, there are some things here that aren't entirely hateful :)

Thursday, 7 March 2013


I wasn't a blogger when I lived in Korea, and in some ways I regret that. Mainly because I have a terrible memory, and blogging is like a sort of diary. I'm sure I've already forgotten half of the funny and weird and great things that happened in the 14 months that I lived there.

So, Korea, this post is for you.

What I miss:
  • The Karaoke rooms
  • The fact that the karaoke rooms were open 24 hours
  • Kimchee Chigae (sp?) and all you can eat bbq
  • My friends- oh how I miss my friends!
  • Hanging outside convenience stores drinking soju
  • The snow
  • The mountains
  • The leaves
  • I sometimes miss my job. Having to dress up as an air hostess and lead the kids into a plane cabin, or putting on a newspaper fashion show, or playing dodgeball.
  • The cats we looked after: Gingee, Maul, Bo and Harry. You were so evil but so cute.



Quirks I miss:
  • That all KPop music has set dance moves that the kids loved to perform in our talent shows.
  • The obsession with never showing your shoulders, but wearing shorts so short your (little Korean) bum hangs out.
  • Children gasping at my 'white face' or being pleased with (and touching) my 'big nose.'
  • Korea's still developing acknowledgement of special needs. For example sending a boy in a wheelchair to the airplane class, where the only options for getting into the cabin were to a) climb the stairs or b) get someone to push you up the steep emergency exit ramp (which the students enthusiastically offered to do)
  • Bars that buy a red wine fridge with the sole purpose of keeping red wine nice and chilled

Things I realise I loved, now that I live in Saudi Arabia:
  • Freedom not to wear an abaya!
  • Going to football/ baseball games
  • An array of cocktails (and alcohol in general)
  • That the kids were mostly angels
  • Talking to men
  • Having men look me in the eye
  • Not being told off for waiting in the street
  • Being able to buy a Christmas tree
  • Feeling like I had a life
So that's it really. Maybe I'm looking back with rose tinted spectacles, or maybe my feelings are purely situational, but I have to say- Korea, I miss you!