An Afternoon Out: Wolmido Island

It’s a very short post today about a little gem of a place called Wolmido Island. Around Songdo, there are loads of little places that are perfect day trips (especially when you have visitors) without having to make the journey into Seoul. A few weeks ago, I took our guests to Wolmido Island. Don’t ask me for directions – I just plugged it into Waze and followed the directions – with the unavoidable u-turns included of course. You can get there by public transport too – go to Incheon Station (line 1) and from there, take one of the following buses: 2, 23 and 45.

In Wolmido, you’ll find a little promenade – small scale Blackpool for you Brits reading, with an amusement park and various street performances. It’s right by the sea, so it can get nippy – although it being May, I was perfectly happy in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops. For the carnivorous amongst you, there are plenty of food options, but those veggie folk only really have a choice of one restaurant which has some pizza and pasta options. If you’re game to go on the rides, then you could easily while away an afternoon here, but even if you aren’t, just adjacent to the promenade is Wolmi Park. There are some beautiful gardens to walk though and if you are feeling active, you can take the short walk up to the observatory to get some pretty decent views. I didn’t make it to the observatory when I walked around – time was not on our side that day – but I definitely plan to go back.

Like I said, a quick note about one of the day trips that I’ve done. There are a bunch more than I intend to do and as and when that happens, there will follow a post. Until then, time to get exploring so that I have something to write about!

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Being Humankind

It is no secret that this blog doesn’t only address how to go about daily life in Songdo, but rather, it goes where my mind does. We’ve talked about social issues affecting expats such as cultural appropriation and how shocking the treatment of women is in Korea and also the rest of the world but that’s not where the story ends. Amongst all our talk of feminism, it is easy to forget to take a step back and actually think about what feminism means, or, dare I say, should mean, in today’s world.

For me, feminism is primarily about choice and the freedom to exercise that choice. Let’s face it, despite the rollercoaster of educational paths and careers that I have followed, I now live a gender stereotypical life in Korea – My husband is the sole breadwinner and I am the homemaker. The important thing is that the decision to move was a join one. Flashback to our first wedding anniversary when he told me he had the job offer. My first question was ‘when are we moving’ followed by a sidebar ‘are you going to be ok with the fact that me being able to work there is a very remote possibility’. His first concern was whether I would be happy not being able to do the work I love. Whilst I miss it sometimes, I am great at keeping myself busy, and he is great at supporting whatever my latest project is (ed. within reason. My desire for flying lessons has been met with a most vague ‘we’ll see’. I think he is waiting for this phase to pass personally – see Mr. B, I’m wise to your tricks, I just let you think I don’t know differently.) I also know that if I suddenly decide I’m not happy here there are options we can discuss: me moving abroad to take on projects for a few months at a time, or us leaving to a country that we can both work in. Choice and freedom to exercise that choice. I don’t like the kind of militant feminism that demands every task be a shared one – if there are ten things to do, we’ll take five each if that makes sense based on our individual time commitments, rather than each doing 50% of each one. Everyone should be as lucky with the men in their lives as me – grandfathers, father, brothers and husband.

Anyway, as usual I digress. Yes, feminism is important and there is a long way to go for women but equally important, and more often forgotten, is, well, it turns out it is such forgotten concept that I’m struggling to even find a word for it – feminism for men is what I guess I’ll call it.  I’m genuinely worried for both my future-male-and-female children that the world they are being born into is far from ideal. I mentioned in a previous post that women do get the short end of the stick a lot so I won’t go into that again now, but it’s not all easy for men either. Men are often depicted as tough to the extent of being brutish, lads who drink beer and scare old people as they thunder down the street. There is an expectation that they will conform to societal norms and refuse to wear pink, won’t cry in public, won’t hug one another and generally remain aloof and distant from people around them. I mean, it would suck to be born into that reality right? And sadly, those in power do nothing but propagate the myths surrounding manhood.

I’m sure you remember when Mr Trump dismissed one of his many misogynistic comments as ‘locker room chat.’ There were many voices, one of my most favourite being Michelle Obama*, that argued that accepting such a dismissal was simply offensive to all the men in our life who wouldn’t dream of speaking about women, or any human, using the tone and words employed by POTUS. So to all those shouting that it shouldn’t be OK for men to talk like that amongst themselves (and yes, I agree that it shouldn’t) let’s remember that NOT ALL MEN DO.  And you know what’s apparent? Amongst all the noise (I use the word in the kindest possible way)  calling for #genderequality, it is those good, kind men, those fathers, brothers, husbands, sons and friends who don’t have a voice, or whose voice is discounted for the simple reason that they are men – viz: ‘How can you know what it is like to be discriminated against – you’re a man and its easy for you!’ Those men, however, are SO important if we are to ever achieve a truly equal, or anything close to truly equal – until men can push humans out of their bodies it won’t be totally equal – global society.

And it is here that we see the point of this post.  There are so many of these underappreciated men in our lives, in the world, that an attempt to help them speak out needs to be celebrated and supported. To this end, my friends in London have created “Being Mankind”  – a photo-illustrated volume that gives voices to the kind men who are real role models. Men who truly define what it is to be a man. Who can share their emotions and throw off the societal-demand that they always ‘be strong’ and ‘be tough.’ Who will be house-husbands in a world where housewives are the norm. Who we aspire to be like, or raise our children to be like. Who will always share the task of being human with women.

The book itself is a stunning depiction of several real-life stories that will take you through a gamut of emotions, and for every book that is bought, another is donated to a school where young men (and women) will have access to it and be inspired say no to outdated stereotypes in favour of being kind, confident and empathetic human beings. And the best bit – you can totally help!

In order to increase the print run of Vol1 and launch Vol 2 of the book, they’ve got an all-or-nothing-Kickstarter campaign that you can read about here that only has 3 days left to go. If they don’t reach their target, they don’t get any of the funding pledged to date, so it really is a case of every penny counts. Any donations, pledges or shares of the kickstarter campaign website are all welcome – you’ve got the links above, but here are the websites in full if you want to share them on!

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1914102455/being-mankind

Being Mankind Website: https://www.beingmankind.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beingmankindorg/

Let’s take a stand and make a difference that counts. #genderequality #beingmankind #beinghumankind #kickstarter

Being Mankind

*It would appear that the post script is becoming a more regular feature of my posts. Luckily I know you will only read on if you are particularly interested. Now Michelle Obama is a great feminist. Educated, ambitious and driven, but with everything she does oozing class and grace. I’m given to understand (correct me if I’m wrong)  that the First Lady (or First Husband) is required to give up her/his career whilst his/her spouse holds the position of POTUS and I defy anyone to say that this action is anti-feminist.  Never once did you get the feeling that she resented being the wife of  ‘the most powerful man in the world.’ I mean, she is his wife much like he is her husband. No ownership implied in the possessive pronouns, just a statement of fact – neither of them can be anybody else’s husband/wife whilst they are each others after all.  Rather, she supported him in his job and pursued the agenda for hers whilst together they raised two equally fabulous children all within the public eye. She didn’t eschew the need to look incredible at all times in the name of feminism and personally, I think she is everything a leader should be. If it were up to me #michelleforpresident2020 would be a given. Now excuse me whilst I go and think about my most serious girl-crush….

 

#Riverdale

I watch so much TV that it was inevitable that I would start reviewing shows and movies. The main problem with this lays with the fact that I am so behind on a number of cult shows (I only finished watching Breaking Bad in April 2017, and don’t even ask when I’m going to watch Better Call Saul) that not many people would find my reviews of any use or interest. That’s where the #netflixoriginals come in. A few weeks ago, I binged watched the first five episodes of #Riverdale and each week since, I have been waiting for the latest episode to be released – Friday America time, so it is usually Saturday morning before I get my fix.  And yes, I am hooked.

The initial pull came from the fact that it is loosely based on the Archie comics of my childhood. Hands up if one of your favourite things about a trip to India was being let loose in the bookstore to carry as many books and comics (Archie, TinTin, Asterix) as your little arms could carry? Flashback to Sydney 2016 when Raj found me after 10 minutes alone in a bookstore sitting on the floor surrounded by books and almost in tears trying to decide which ones to cull. I guess some things you never grow out of. Anyway, I digress.

So Riverdale. The show is set in the same town as the comics and the main characters share a name, and some basic personality traits with their literary counterparts but therein end the similarities. The TV show has been given a definite update for the 21st Century, with a healthy injection of film noire and modern-day anxieties and crimes running rife. Gone are the Dawson’s Creek type high school worries and in come changed identities while on the run from violent ex-partners, murder, embezzlement and psychiatric breakdowns. Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Veronica, Betty, Moose, Midge, Ethel. They are all there but fighting a whole different set of battles. Interestingly, the show has also jumped on the diversity bandwagon and many of the lead characters are #poc or at least have some ethnic ambiguity.

The first episode was a little strange I must admit. I kinda wanted to see the old school Betty and Veronica rivalry over lovable goon Archie, while Jughead sits in the side-lines  scoffing burgers and running from Ethel. Moose and Midge fighting, Reggie causing trouble, Archie’s parents being picture-perfect and Veronica’s dad being the over indulgent spoiler that every little girl deserves. But actually, whilst the sweeter than sweet version worked in pen and ink, I don’t think it would have translated well to the screen. So once I got over my expectations what I got was actually way better. Betty isn’t just the nice girl next door and Veronica is much more than the entitled rich bitch that everyone wants to be in with. They are forming the kind of ‘hos over bros’ friendship that goes beyond frenemies and you know that they have each others backs and Archie is not going to get in the middle like he always does. Veronica’s mum is totally present and figuring out how to fit herself back into her previous world and supports her daughter. Fred Andrews (er HELLO Luke Perry, your comeback to the screen is so very welcome) is figuring out life in a single parent world and the Coopers are hiding the truth about their elder daughter’s illegitimate pregnancy by calling it a mental illness. Underlying the entire series is the classic ‘Who dunnit’ storyline – who killed Jason Blossom? I’ve basically suspected every character, so I am looking forward to finding out who the killer actually is – and I really hope that they don’t make finding out a cliff hanger into Season 2.

As the episodes progress, darker issues rear their ugly heads causing concern about the newly-lovable characters but helpfully, it is a kind of concern that I can put aside for a week at a time without worrying too much. I think, given that I’m a girl who’ll read the end of the book first so that I can prepare myself for the worst, that this lack of concern is what they call progress.

I’m currently on episode 11 and we are no closer to finding out who the killer is but Polly is living with the Blossom’s (family of her baby-daddy) to do some snooping whilst it appears that Jughead’s dad has been framed for it, Betty & Jughead’s burgeoning relationship (I know!!)  has hit the rocks,  and it looks like Archie and Veronica might be taking real steps towards being together… Watch this space I guess.

If you’ve been taking a break from Netflix binge-ing, order in, get your fat pants on and binge away – totally worth it!

My #nuclearholiday #YVR

Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve come a long way mentally from the last stream-of -consciousness-post that I sent your way and I can now make fun of myself and my mini (ed. Ahem) panic attack. As you know, I decided that while Raj was travelling, I would travel too, and booked a trip to Vancouver to see my brother, Kesh, and sister-in-law, Rosa. Sidebar: have I mentioned recently how lucky I am that Raj is SO indulgent of me and my over-active imagination? I don’t think many people would have accepted my need (and my mother’s need!) to not be in Korea at that time and gone along with plans which were a complete over-reaction, but he did and, with regards to this, will, I believe, continue to do so. Definitely a lucky girl.

Anyway, once I landed in Vancouver, it only took a few minutes with my joker of a brother – I call him this to his face, it’s ok and truly, Kesh is the funniest person in the world – for me to accept that my panic was probably uncalled for and for him to coin the phrases, subsequently developed into hashtags for my social media needs obvs, #nuclearholiday and #falloutfun. Some might consider these in bad taste, but I defy those who say that to experience my levels of panic and then avoid attempts at humour to make yourself feel better about it.

I was spoilt in Vancouver. Rosa and Kesh live super centrally to everything – all my needs were met within a 15-minute walking radius of the house, and #keshcooks became an oft-used hashtag on Instagram. Kesh has always enjoyed cooking (you know my feelings on that already) and Rosa and I are more than happy to clean up, which he hates. The sun made an extended appearance during my stay and long walks to see the surrounding area, excellent food and copious amounts of salted caramel ice-cream were the order of the week. I was able to do the usual ‘buy-things-that-I-don’t-get-in-Korea’ easily and catch up on a couple of zombie/sci-fi films that haven’t made it out here too. I finished reading my current collection of psychological thrillers – Mr. B is SO thankful for that, as it is helping to temper my ‘what if’ scenarios that I wake him up with – and I learnt a couple of things as well.

(1) My brother and I are more alike than I realised – I have emergency plans in place, he walks a different route every day so that in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse he has escape options. I look at buildings and wonder how easy, or otherwise, they would be to scale (up or down, need-based) and he always sits facing the room in a restaurant so that he can deal with potential assassination attempts more easily.

(2) I talk A LOT. Rosa was away for the first two days of my trip, and I talked my, somewhat quiet, brother’s ear off non-stop. When Rosa returned, she and I jabbered on endlessly. Kesh said that the word count of the apartment had increased by 5,000 words a minute and he really couldn’t get a word in edgeways even if he wanted to.

One pretty important thing that came out of my trip is that I finally know what I want to do with my time here in Songdo. Apart from the obvious perks of being an expat-wife, Kesh suggested that I should put my crazy imagination* to use and do a creative writing course. I mean, it’s so simple but SO GENIUS I am surprised that none of us thought of it earlier. I’m on the hunt now for a suitable online creative writing course that I can do from Korea so that I can embrace my future career as a writer. It might even mean that some of my previous, as yet unseen by the world, musings and writings might make it into the public eye. Who knows. At the very least its a fabulous way to keep busy. So, readers, if you have any hints for any courses that I could look into, please do leave a comment with the details and I’ll get searching. This might mean that my somewhat-erratic blogging habits become even more erratic, but I will try not to let the one affect the other. Here’s a couple of pictures of beautiful Vancouver as an ending….

*Here’s another example of the way my mind works, just in case you hadn’t figured it out already: The return to Songdo has been hectic. Landing on Sunday, one overnight guest on Monday and then Raj’s cousin, wife and six month old arriving on Tuesday for a visit. We have a few fun things planned so I hope to share a bit more about the local area and things to do in the next couple of posts, but all this is by way of setting the scene for an amusing anecdote. On Monday, we borrowed a travel crib and car seat from a colleague of Raj’s for the aforementioned six-month-old. I made our overnight guest (who reads this blog – Hello!!) fix the car seat into the car on Monday night- having two children of his own, I determined that he possessed the appropriate skills to do this correctly. On Tuesday morning, I get into the car and get the fright of my life – I forgot the car seat was there and all I saw was a big red blob behind me, which became a serial-killer who snuck into the car during the night and was going to stab me and leave my decimated remains in the car park. Well, I quickly realised that wasn’t the case, and whilst waiting for my heart-rate to come down, I texted Raj. He laughed. I moved on with my day, but I will always remember the time that I was nearly a goner.