#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.

Sometimes…

Even I run out of things to talk about. So one of my tasks today was to write a blog post, but sitting here (well, lying here, as today I am adult-ing from my bed) I actually don’t have a lot to tell you folks about. My draft posts either (a) bored me when I was writing them or (b) need a lot more information than I currently have to hand to make sense. It isn’t like I’ve been sitting around Netflix-ing either. I’ve actually had days where I haven’t even put the TV on. I went to Singapore for a weekend to meet a friend *Hi Raj Mistry* and last weekend there was a Ski Trip organised by IFEZ to Pyeongcang – home of the winter Olympics 2018. At the start of February I finally signed up to PT sessions (with an English speaking trainer) and am working on my strength and mobility (and hopefully some weight loss as a bonus) but that’s not an interesting journey for anybody except my older brother and my sister-in-law (shout out to my personal fitness cheerleaders in Vancouver). I recently applied for a 6 month contract position as an events consultant, but more on that if and when I find out what the process is like. The baking has stopped in honour of our ‘get healthy’ regime but I’ll pull it out for special occasions. I continue to Instagram pictures of food. Oh, and I started a secret project that I obviously can’t write about because then it wouldn’t be a secret. Also, even when it isn’t a secret I am not sure I can write about it because, well, its complicated. Let’s forget I said anything.

I guess I could tell you a little about the weekend’s ski trip to Pyeongchang, but there isn’t a huge amount to tell. As IFEZ organize everything, the sum of your responsibility is to turn up to the G-Tower for the 4 hour coach journey to Pyeongchang and choose the activities that you want to do (Ski lesson, snow board lesson, just hang out etc.) On the return, we stopped at the Olympic Ski Jump venue which was awesome but my general lack of attention span means I didn’t listen to the tour guide and just wandered about and looked at things. The main thing I learnt is that this particular resort has a high level of English, so if you wanted to book a weekend trip there, it wouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. Here’s some pictures to keep you going:

Ok, one of my daily tasks from the trainer is to get out of the apartment and hit 6000 steps daily, so I better get going on that. Luckily, it is starting to warm up outside so the thought of a stroll through the park isn’t too arduous.

Happy Tuesday everyone – and I promise I’ll come up with more interesting things to write about soon!

Social Media & The Expat

So at home in London, I was not quite so proficient at checking my social media (it was a task to be completed on the parts of my commute for which I had network) or uploading things to it. However, I quickly realised that we are so incredibly lucky to have such instant methods of updating and communicating with family and friends at home so I’ve become better at it. I regularly upload photos to my Instagram (which I prefer to Facebook because it has a more limited audience) and as I’ve downloaded Instagram for my mum, that means my parents can easily see what I am up to or the end results of things that we have spoken about. I’m using Twitter to find out information about things in Korea, but also as a source of news (yes, yes, I am being wary of fake news and the like). I mean, we are SO lucky not to have to wait 2 weeks for real letters to be delivered or to get a calling card and make 5 minute phone calls from pay phones with a bad connection so, I embraced technology when we moved and used the internet way more than I used to for personal usage back home. The biggest change in my social media habits is the use of Facebook. It is actually an amazing resource for getting information about different things here, and so I decided to make today’s post about the different Facebook groups that I have joined and pages I have liked since Raj signed his contract.

Below is a list of the pages and groups, with links to each on Facebook. A number of the groups are closed groups, which means that you send a joining request and the page admins will accept or decline your request as appropriate. Some of the pages require you to send a message to the admin to confirm why you want to join the page (this helps avoid the inevitable spamming) so be sure to read any pinned posts and follow the instructions!Hopefully the dearth of information that is available makes it worthwhile to have a Facebook account, even if only for the purposes of joining some of these groups! And it goes without saying that all opinions on the groups mentioned below are entirely my own.

Songdo Expat Community : The very first group I joined and also the one I have used the least. I find it a difficult group to navigate and as a result, questions/comments posted often go un-noticed. When we first arrived, landing on a Sunday with a fair amount of luggage and nobody meeting us at the airport, I posted a question about the best way to get from the airport to The Prau and got no answer. I mean, sure, we worked it out, but for a group professing to make life in Songdo easier for expats, I don’t find it very helpful. Still, I’m loathe to leave it just in case I miss something golden…

Anglo Info Seoul : News, tips and advice for life in Korea. This is one of the groups that I let post to my newsfeed and I usually read an article a day. It’s where I learnt about the recent governmental troubles and protests taking place in Seoul, about the Chicken Flu outbreak of 2016 and other day to day news that I would have normally obtained from the free dailies on my commute. Similar to this group, but less active in my opinion Everyday Korea and Community Korea

Ourshop India: Indian groceries online. And before the opening of Costco in Songdo, also a useful stop for ordering a few Costco goodies online. Delivery is quick and efficient once payment is made (and they have a variety of ways to pay). There are other online Indian grocers but I haven’t used them so haven’t included them here.

Employment groups include  Jobs in South Korea , Jobs: South Korea and Non Teaching Jobs in South Korea all of which facilitate posts from prospective employers and employees alike.

Waeg Farm is a group for those of you who can’t do without your goat’s cheese – especially when it is made fresh and delivered straight to your door!

Korea International Nanny Service is not just for childcare, but cleaners / housekeepers often post here as well. Great if the 3 hour minimum call from the Incheon Cleaning Service  is too much for your needs

Korea Heritage Society  a group to share and enjoy in the rich culture of Korea, with regular posts on activities and events taking place across the country

Used Cars fro Foreigners and Koreans Check out my post on driving here for more information on why this group is so useful!

Expat Grocery Gurus Korea: New Products, Discounts And Clearance Sales featuring tips and advice on where to buy products, when there are sales etc. Everyone here is super helpful and friendly so if you are looking for the source for a particular product, don’t hesitate to ask!

Particularly useful for expats are:Every Expat in Korea,British Expats in Korea,  Indians in Korea and Expat Women in Korea. I mean, you get the odd douche (excuse my French) on all of the groups but by and large the communities are helpful, friendly and supportive.

Not one I’ve had much need to use but always a good to have around is Expat Healthcare in South Korea.

Cooking in Korea is a great resource for sharing recipes, gleaning inspiration, asking for tips and advice and, as I find when I’ve achieved something new in the kitchen, a bit of validation from others who are also navigating the world of Western Style cooking in Korea.

For Incheon/Songdo specific groups, these are a few that I have found:

Incheon Global Campus and Yeonsu, Incheon, South Korea features interesting events and information from our locality

Incheon-Songdo Photography for all the photo lovers in the area, with some really stunning shots of where we call home!

For buying and selling second-hand goods check out Songdo Flea Market and Incheon Flea Market.

Songdo Girl’s Night Group is a community for the ladies of Songdo with at least a monthly event planned

For the exercise conscious among you, check out GCF Yoga which is a beginners Yoga Class, taught in English 3 times a week at the G-Tower for GCF employees and their families and Zumba in Songdo , which is about, well, Zumba classes in Songdo.

Road Tips ideas for trips and events for the expats of Songdo, by the expats of Songdo.

I’m sure new groups will come along sooner or later, but for now, that’s all folks.

The Weather

Weather is weather, right? You’ve got Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and you know what to expect from the seasons. Not so in Songdo. Here, the weather is absolutely-off-the-charts-mental and you pretty much have to be prepared for every scenario.

Just last week (penultimate week of August) I was planning my days to make sure that I stayed indoors, with the lovely lovely AC, between midday and 5pm, just to avoid becoming one big sweat bucket the moment I left the apartment. Even at 9 or 10pm, it would be a sweltering 29 Celsius (Real Feel in the 30s) and that was supposed to be ‘cooler’ temperatures. Today, I’m sitting here watching buckets and buckets of rain top down and listening to the 90km/hr wind whistling outside the window. It is so strong, that I can’t even open some of the windows in the apartment due to the pressure! Our building receptionist just told me that this weekend is going to go back to be crazy-hot. Mental I tell you.

And let’s talk about the temperature swing while we are at it: from -20 Celsius in the winter up to a real feel of 40 Celsius in the height of summer. A full 60 degree swing is not something I have ever experienced before and, judging from the reactions of our friends here who hail from all over the world,  I’m not sure there are many countries that have the same temperature swing. People here are convinced that coming from London, the winters here must be nothing new for us but that is so far from the truth I don’t even know where the truth is when I look back.

Moral of the story: Be prepared for everything. You need to have:

(1) Thermals (100 denier tights, gloves, hats, scarves, coats and I love my trusty Uggs)

(2) Sunscreen – in the winter I can (and need to because the climate is super dry) use it in addition to moisturiser, and in the summer, in place of (more than one layer of product is not going to work well for anyone in the peak of summer humidity)

(3) Hats – for both hot and cold weather. And to cover up a bad hair day, you know.

(4) Umbrellas, and if you are going for true Korean-Style, you can use these as sun protection too, and for when it is too windy for an umbrella, rain jackets (NorthFace. Always NorthFace) and if you are a backpack carrier, a rain cover isn’t a bad idea.

(5) Sandals, trainers and rain-wear.

And you need to have these things year round, because you never know where the crazy will take you next.

Top 5 Things About (my) Life in Korea

So to continue the series mentioned in my last post, I’m going to write about my favourite 5 things about being in South Korea. The 5 things are going to be particular to my life in part due to the fact that the first few months of our time here were too cold to really get to grips with the country and what it has to offer. I’m slowly discovering more and more but there is a way to go yet, so I’m keeping it ego-centric for now…

(1) Not Working

Yes, I know – this was one of the things that I miss about home but the other side of the coin is that I am really enjoying having this slightly extended break from pre-production/production matters. I have had a chance to explore some old hobbies – knitting, writing (both electronically and in my diary) and every day I come up with a new career plan that Raj, wearily, voices his support for – knowing that I will have a new plan the next day. I’ve had the time to meditate at least once a day – I would like to increase this to twice daily but Raj isn’t the meditating type and I have a tendency to fall asleep post meditating so in the evenings, I choose to hang out with him instead. (*Pats self on back for being a good wife*). I’m learning how to cook – and how to adapt a recipe to what is available in the local market, without compromising on taste. I would like to say that I have added working out to the list of things that I do now, but I’m not there yet. I bought a skipping rope and my sister-in-law has a bunch of at home work out videos on her website (www.rocofit.com) that I need to get to grips with. All in good time. I am sure that eventually I will want some kind of work to keep me occupied but for the moment, not having to work rocks.

(2) Learning a New Language

I like learning languages. I like writing and learning lists of vocabulary. I like the new grammar rules. I like trying o start a conversation and working those grammar rules in as I go. I’ve never learnt a language which doesn’t have a Roman alphabet (my mother tongue isn’t written, only spoken) so it is a first for me and I’m enjoying it. I know my Hanguel alphabet and I have lots of words that I am trying to learn. I am in the second semester of my class and sentences are making an appearance. I have class twice weekly and I try to be conscientious about doing my homework but it is definitely the toughest language I have ever tried to learn. Hopefully I will be someway towards proficient by the end of our tenure here!

(3) Making a House our Home

Here in Songdo, Raj and I have had the opportunity to make our very first home together and fill it with the things we like in a way that suits us. A lot of our furniture is from IKEA but we have all our trinkets and souvenirs from our lives separately, and our lives together filling the nooks and crannies. The coffee table in our lounge is perfectly suited to how to spend our time – a hidden section under the table where we can hide our laptops when dual screening is not an option (House of Cards requires concentration!) My little OCD mind has filled cupboards and drawers in particular orders and Raj is learning to follow the rules for putting things away – or leaving things out for me to do, which to my mind is better than it being done wrong. Although we’ve only lived in this apartment for 2 months it feels like a perfect little home and I’m already attached to it.

(4) Being a Tourist on my doorstep

I love wandering around my local area and actually looking at everything and taking it in, rather than the head-down-earphones-in-fast-paced-trot that was my go to walking style in London. I like taking pictures and using them on social media/my blog/just for me to look at. I like being a tourist and going on hop on hop off buses without having to travel for the pleasure of it. South Korea is never a country that I have known a lot about and I’ve learnt so much already and am looking forward to what there is to come!

(5) New People

So I know I wrote about missing having independent friends of my own age but I have met several of really nice and interesting people here and the hope is that as more people are hired, more families will be arriving here to increase our social circle. Little things make you bond (BACON! One of the local stores had a huge bacon delivery on Friday so Saturday saw a Bacon party at someone’s apartment. Amazing!) I’ve made random friends on various Facebook groups that I am now a member of, and, something that I never did at home, I interact with people on these various Facebook groups. I have a little community of people who offer tips and advice or just share in the my pleasure of having achieved something new, even if it is just a little win. I’m still in touch with my friends back home (thank you internet!) but there is something nice about a new bunch of people from different walks of life that I can now call friends.

Et voila. My top 5 things about living in Korea so far.

Tourists for a day or two (part 1) 

Now that the weather is improving (slowly.. the nights are still jacket-worthy) we thought it would be a nice plan to spend a night in Seoul so that two full days of touristy activities could be completed.

Staying in one of the two business districts of Seoul meant that we were walking distance from the first point of interest – Gyeongbokung Palace (in Korean, the ‘kung’ at the end actually means Palace, so calling it Gyeongbokung Palace is somewhat redundant but anything else sounds strange in English). One of the two largest Palaces in Seoul, Gyeongbokung is a must-see on your to-do list.

Tickets to enter the palace are 3,000 KWR per adult – there is a combination ticket as well, 10,000 KWR for four palaces and a shrine. I’m not sure which shrine and they wouldn’t let me buy this ticket at the Gyeongbokung ticket counter. I was in a bit of a hurry so didn’t push the matter. The combo ticket only permits entry once into each of the palaces, so do your research and figure out how to buy it! It is also worth visiting the websites of all the palaces at least a couple of days prior to your visit, as you can book access to some of the restricted areas of the palaces as well.

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There are English language tours taking place throughout the day too, so it is worth timing your visit according to the season – there aren’t tons of explanation boards around, so having someone share  history definitely adds something. You’ll see a lot of people in local dress (Hanbok) in the Palaces – these will just be visitors to the Palace like you or me. Wearing local dress gains you free entry to the Palace, so don’t make the mistake of some tourists of stopping these people for a photo – imagine how you would feel. However, the tourguides are happy to stop for a photo if you ask nicely!

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Here are a couple of interesting tidbits learnt on the tour – one reason that you will see so much Chinese Writing on all the old Palaces is that prior to 1443, Korean was only a spoken language and any writing was done using Chinese characters. The King developed the Hangeul characters to consist of 10 vowels and 14 consonants in the grounds of Gyeonbokung, to ensure that “even a stupid person could learn them in 10 days.”

Also, the Palace was entirely rebuilt in 1867 and with the rebuilding, came under floor heating – keeping Royal toes toasty for over a century!

If you leave the Palace through the North Gate, you can pop outside the grounds and see The Blue House – where the current President of South Korea lives. Re-entry into Palace grounds is possible as long as you’ve kept hold of your ticket.

Your palace ticket also gives you admittance to the Folklore museum, which we didn’t have time to visit this time.

Leaving the Palace through the main gate leads you directly onto Gwanghwamun Square, displaying a glorious statue of the King of Signs. The square symbolises the new direction of the country, towards humanity, openness and mutual  ticket you can gain admittance to the folklore museum as well (we didn’t have time)

When you come out of the main entrance you’ll immediately find Gwanghwamun square, with a glorious statue of the King of Signs -the square symbolising  the new direction of the country – towards humanity, openess and mutual respect 💖

Gwanghwamun is also the start of the hop on hop off city bus tour – we didn’t do it this weekend, but I have done it previously. It isn’t like the tours that you would go on in other cities – there are headsets on the bus and you get a brief history of the sights, but to actually catch a glimpse of the various sights, you have to get off the bus and continue on foot.

After a visit to the D-Tower and the BEST pizza we’ve eaten in Seoul (Big up Paulies…) we made our way over to Namsan for a cable car trip up the mountain.

The cable car costs 8,500 KWR for a round trip. It was super foggy, so the views weren’t great and in the tower, the ticket clerks (going up to the observation tower is a separate ticket) advised us not to go to the tower. Instead, we wandered around the Gift Shop – which was awesome. Nice qualtiy and interesting items – I’ll definitely be going back before I make a trip back to London! The queues to get down the by cable car were pretty long and we just made it onto one of the last cars. Getting a taxi from the cable car station back to the hotel was easy enough, but the non-metered taxis wanted to charge a huge mark up on the metered taxis, so be careful!

All in all, a successful day one in Seoul!