South Korea leads the world in themed cafes (cat cafes, board game cafes, design a doll cafes etc...) . I don't understand why this hasn't caught on in the West to the same extent. Probably because South Korea actually has a dating culture where people go out and spend time getting to know one another, in contrast to New Zealand at least, where for most, it involves lubricating your esophagus in half a pint of 42 Below, in a bar where your feet stick to the floor, before you can talk to someone (if, by that point, you can remember who it was you wanted to talk to in the first place and if in fact you can hear each other over the Britney-Pitbull remix).
Anyway, if you find yourself in Seoul, I have a themed cafe recommendation for those who like a little weird with their side of Hot Chocolate.
Princess Diary Cafe
Location: Take Exit 3 from Ewha's Women's University Subway Stop (Line 2/Green line), walk until you spot Starbucks, turn right and look up!
Weddings are a huge thing in Korea. The culture really expects you to get married. In New Zealand, a lot of my friends are married by my age (29) but a lot also aren't, and our society doesn't judge you for it. It's not "mandatory" and we are very open to different ways people want to live their lives, there is no "one way".
Not to say that Korea is intolerant, but that the norm is to get married between 28-35. It is highly unusual not to get married and the pressure to get married is keenly felt by those approaching and within that age bracket. There are a number of reasons for this but that is another blog post entirely.
With an incredibly high percentage of marriages happening here, you can imagine the Wedding business is booming. Hair, make-up, dresses, event halls, cars, caterers, photographers, flowers etc...
But for those that aren't quite ready to walk down the isle, why not visit the Princess Diary Cafe? Here you can try on a Wedding Dress (or a Hanbok - traditional Korean dress), choose short or long, strap-less or high-necked. Prices generally range from about 10,000 (low end) - 40,000 (high end) Korean won (about $9.50-$37.60US/$11.50-$45NZ)
It is mandatory to buy a drink but that is a fairly cheap affair (5,000-7,000won).
There are various props you can pose around with until your heart's content (including cowboy hats, a rocking horse, a piano, tiger ears, tiaras etc...).
It's a great girly day out. But you will also see Korean guys there from time to time with their girlfriends.
One hundred day anniversaries are really popular in South Korea and sometimes boyfriend and girlfriend will dress up in Wedding attire and get a photo to celebrate reaching 100 days in their relationship, 200 days, 300 days etc...
Here are some of my photos of me being my own bride, or as I said at the time "I married myself because I'm so awesome...".
Keep in mind I did purposefully choose the poofiest dress I could find for comedy's sake and this is not what I would choose to wear if I did end up getting married at some point.
Will I get married? The future is wide open. I'm open to it happening, I'm open to it not happening. If it's right, it's right, if it's not, it's not. I'm ok with whatever journey I take. I have a good life.
And let's be honest I have some quirks that make it a pretty hard task to achieve...
1. I have a resting bitch face.
2. I'm not the most social person so guys don't really get much of a chance to meet me, or me to meet them. (ie. I avoid clubs, pubs and most parties like the plague and yes, this resulted in me being unofficially labeled the "weird girl" through high-school and college - thanks...).
3. I'm quite a difficult person to get to know past any superficial level.
4. I'm shy.
5. I'm travelling.
Put those all together and you get: HELLO SOLO! : |
So at least I got to wear the poofy dress once, thanks South Korea. x
P.S. special thanks to my friend Kirsty who was my long suffering photographer on the day!
Who wants to read some rough-as-guts-writing? Me, me, me! You, you, you? GREAT. I'm a founding member of a local Write Night (writer's group) and I need to choose one of my past exercises to re-write and/or extend.
If someone is incredibly bored and doesn't mind reading some unedited work, then check out the below and tell me which one to re-write, in other words, the one you'd like to read more of, because I'm torn between the three.
The Regular (Format: For the page)
Punts is a pub just down from the Nandos on the corner of Windsor and Kitts. It’s the red, white and blue affair, a palette that belongs as much to the heyday of the British Commonwealth as it does to the Land of the Free.
The owner, Leeds born Dagesse, bought the joint six years ago after finalising a divorce to a lady I know only as “the blazing inferno”. Whether that nickname has something to with hair colour, temperament or menopausal flushes, I’m not brave enough to ask- there is a permanent happy hour discount at stake and, more importantly, Dagesse is descended from Rhonda Valley mining stock, those men are as hard as the rock they grafted.
As far as I’m aware, the only woman in his life these days is Mary Bennett, a fox terrier whom whenever I see her, imbues me with a sudden sense of nostalgia and desire to dig out my late Grandfather’s HMV vinyl collection (a record label whose logo features a dog of the same breed).
Last Christmas I gifted Dagesse a 1962 Gene Pitney record from that collection so he could share in the reference. I’ve since seen he has thoroughly embraced it.
He’s framed the record and hung it over the dog bowl.
Unfortunately it’s at jowl level; so a mixture of coagulated spit and fragments of Hill’s Canine Ultra-Allergen Free have escaped digestion and partially obliterated the song title. What was once “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” has evolved into the gender flip, “a…ho…shot…bert…”.
Sometimes when it’s quiet Dagesse will join me for a Fosters, we’ll talk about José Mourinho's return to Chelsea, the shitty exchange rate and Cameron’s “millionaire’s tax cuts”- which (if we’re honest) we’d probably embrace, if we were in fact millionaires.
But we’re just two men drinking cheap beer, entertaining dreams of grandeur, in shoes we’d rather scuff than polish, in a pub called Punts.
Three Years to Go
Monologue: Character - Lisbeth, 32.
By the time I’m 35 I’ll either be dead or married.
Dead because what happens is that each time I get my heart broken, I leave.
And when I say leave…
I mean, I leave the country.
I leave everything behind.
Dead because I cast myself deeper and deeper into unknown lands and inhospitable landscapes; in the hope that Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Need’ will kick in and I’ll be so busy just trying to survive, that eventually I’ll never have to deal with anything. In between navigating unsealed roads on a 6th-hand Uralmoto to filtering water through the remains of a checkered keffiyeh, there’d be no time to process the petty. No time to wonder what went wrong, why they did what they did, why I did what I did and why I still do it.
Some questions are too difficult to ask.
Or perhaps it’s more, that the answers are too difficult to hear.
the Wadi Rum
Dead because my passport is a collage of stamps from countries people forbade me to visit, from my Mother to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But I never listened to them before, and can't see myself changing now.
Dead because, that'll eventually catch up with me.
In my absence, in the layer of silence I wear like a qiviut, I leave those I left behind with little but mystery, confusion, and a few megabytes of photos displaying a past they now question the authenticity of.
Ade, Leon, Vin, perhaps Daamin, they will monitor my social networks for the post of a song of shared significance or some subtle cry of despair that I can’t function in life without them.
The truth is I don’t. My lovers follow me like ghosts. Our histories, arguments and sweet words, knitted together, dragging behind me like a Bride’s train. From time to time, taking unexpected form, stealing my breath when I perform an archived e-mail search, or stumble across someone with a similar arch in their brows or slouch in their walk.
My disappointment when I register it's not one of them only serves to remind me there is another life out there. One I am simultaneously drawn to and run from.
And married, well...
Married because, it's always the unexpected which happens. Married because, it's so ridiculous it just might work. Married because, someone might finally convince me life is about more than just myself.
The Sale of Central Park (Format: For the page)
Everything is for sale. At the right price, in the right climate; especially in times of panic or greed. Where farcical suggestions, that on a normal day, would be dismissed on the scrap heap of incomprehension, suddenly become the beacon of hope - not because we think they are good ones, but because no one else proposes a solution.
Rising crime rates.
People are desperate. And if yours is the only voice speaking, then that is the one we will follow.
And so it came, that on this day Molly and I stood and watched the sun rise over the last hours of a national landmark. We were to witness history made by history lost.
Nothing lasts forever.
Not the things you grew up with.
Not the things you grow to care about.
Certainly not the things you love.
Molly has pockets stuffed with tulips and daffodils. She made a $50 donation to the Conservancy three years ago, she said she was only taking back what was hers.
I have a pry bar in my left hand, and my right, my right is protectively wrapped around an iron florette. It is attached to the arm of a bench I’ve “salvaged”. I think I can up-cycle the piece, and sell it on to a collector – once I re-stain the wood and remove the rusted donor plaque: “"C'est Lui Pour Moi, Moi Pour Lui, Dans La Vie" (in life, there is only him for me, and me for him).
She runs her finger over the brass inscription, with a longing I’ve come to recognise but learnt to ignore. That’s Molly. She thinks that somehow, as if, just by touching, she can transfer the passion of a past long gone and inject it into a hopeless present.
I wish I was a more willing subject.
I don’t know what happened.
I wonder if our relationship will endure much longer than the flowers suffocating in the depths of her polyester blazer. It seems a cruel and drawn out death.
A man behind me touts the virtues of the site’s future plans to a confused tourist with an old city map. I silently refute each point:
“…the proposed construction will create jobs” (temporarily)
“…and include a set of residential buildings” (for the rich)
“…plus, without a central meeting point, it will decrease crime in the inner city” (pushing it out to the suburbs)
But the tourist nods, believing him to be true. Most would. He has a voice of a politician, steady and even. He has conviction. Me? I say nothing, as is my way.
The man examines the out-dated map and points the tourist in the direction of the Museum of Modern Art.
Molly takes ten paces to the left and tilts her head towards the growl of diesel motors, her dark eyes searching.
“This is it” she says needlessly, as if I can’t see what’s right in front of me.
Who are you if you walk away from everything you know? The daily rituals you've come to depend on, the rungs on the ladder you've climbed, the day-to-day social network(s) you've acquired over a number of years, with no idea when or if you'll be back, and if not, where to from here.
For me it was the only way I was really going to see what I was made of.
Would there be anything left?
No knowledge of past achievements or past glories.
Just another face on the street.
And I knew I would only really find out if I did it alone.
Everyone should have an opportunity at some point to draw on themselves as their only emotional support. Yourself as your back-up, your best friend, your life coach, your Zen Master General. On the point of solitude though I am well qualified, as I have done most reckless things in my life on my own.
It is a dishonest life, in my opinion, when you do not push yourself, when you do not test and challenge your boundaries. Because, in what other life are you planning to take risks?
In some way or another I've been running towards fear for a number of years. If it scares me, I'm going to go over and pat it on the head, shake hands with it, sit down and talk to it.
Fear and I. We are good friends.
I'd like to introduce you to Kate "Smurf Shoes" Morris. This version of Kate appears when I forget to bring my indoors shoes to work.
In Korea, most public elementary schools require you to change from outdoor shoes to indoor shoes. I no longer leave my indoor shoes in a cubby outside my school because my last pair got stolen, so I bring them with me each day. Today I forgot.
If you forget, then you have to cover your outdoor shoes in light blue tissue paper hair nets, the same as you might find worn in a food preparation service. Fortunately mine had working elastic in them today, because this is not the first time I have forgotten my indoor shoes and if you get hair nets with no elastic/snapped elastic, they come off every three steps. This is very annoying.
Here is a photo of Kate "Smurf Shoes" Morris:
(Un)Fortunately as school was out and I am desk-warming, only one other person got to see me in my fantastic blue shoe covers.
I mean, if you are going to make me wear shoe covers, at least make them out of fabric that is good for sliding across floors in and I could have spent my day pseudo-skating up and down the halls to keep warm.
When I was little, birthdays used to be a thing.
SNAPSHOT EIGHT YEARS OLD:
- Dunedin, New Zealand.
- Invitations and RSVPs
- Pretty dress, patent shoes
- Hair tied back with a ribbon
- Infamous birthday cake (one year I had a swimming pool, the next a horse's head)
- Orange wedge jelly boats and fairy bread
- 10 other little girls running up and the down the hallway screeching and popping balloons.
- Pass-the-Parcel and Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey
SNAPSHOT FOURTEEN YEARS OLD:
- Dunedin, New Zealand.
- I'm too cool for birthdays and have decided it's something other people celebrate but not me.
- My friends throw me a surprise sleepover birthday party anyway.
SNAPSHOT 29 YEARS OLD:
- Gwangju, South Korea.
- I slipped over in my apartment and have bruises all down my left arm.
- Almost forgot my birthday.
- I buy a candle from Paris Baguette.
- A slice of cake from Starbucks.
- Light the candle, eat the cake, by myself, in my apartment.
- I watch five episodes of The Office (US) on my laptop (which sounds like a lawnmover because the fans are broken).
- Then write my favourite Great Gatsby quotes over all my dinner ware.
At some point during my life I lost the point of celebrating my birthday. My question became: Yes, it's my birthday - but why are we celebrating it? All I've done is complete another revolution around the sun, a feat which I'm definitely not alone in.
I am also extremely uncomfortable with days which have social expectation and celebration attached to them or me as the focus. Think Birthdays, Christmas, Graduations, Weddings, Valentines etc... there is an expectation they are supposed to be happy-happy-dance-around-the-maypole type gigs. I spend the entire day holding my breath waiting for the one thing to go wrong and break the illusion, because in my experience 99% of the time it always happens. In many ways it's easier to not participate in the illusion at all than have it fail and disappoint.
Back to birthdays: So I decided to downplay my birthday as much as possible and my rule became I'll only REALLY celebrate when something cool happens. 'Cool' usually meant I won a writing award or something like that. But when that happened I didn't celebrate properly then either because I thought, I'll celebrate next time - when I climb another rung up the ladder.
And now? I haven't written anything of note in a while. So if that was my rule for celebrating then my life has become one unbroken nothingness devoid of celebration.
Maybe I need my birthday celebrations back again just to break up the nothingness.
These days when my birthday rolls around I make a goal - something concrete I can achieve which doesn't rely on anyone else (otherwise the goal is potentially impossible).
In 2012 my goal was to be in a different country by the time I turned 29. GOAL: ACHIEVED. I am in South Korea and although from time to time it can be isolating and has the expected frustrations of living in a non-English speaking country, I genuinely like my life here.
But 2014... I think my goal might simply be to celebrate my birthday again. Properly. As much as that idea makes me feel uncomfortable, it's probably time to bite the bullet and get over myself.
When I first moved to Wellington in 2007 I lived in an area called Kelburn. It's an upmarket suburb where people have status dogs and buy houses they can't afford so they begrudgingly rent out spare rooms to post-grads and young professionals.
On my walking route to University each day, I passed a twenty foot tall concrete retaining wall on which someone had spray painted in green:
"You adore me. Run come save me."
I hope that message is still there.* I have no idea who wrote it, how long it has been there or who it was meant for. To some extent, who it was meant for is irrelevant because to all that noticed it, it became theirs.
It became mine.
I always wondered why Wellington City Council didn't make an effort to get rid of it. Technically it was graffiti and in a suburb like Kelburn, you'd expect it to be dealt with rather swiftly. But it was allowed to stay, and to the best of my knowledge it's still there.
It got me thinking about the effect words have when they're decontextulised in unexpected locations. "You adore me. Run come save me" became like a teaser from a story I wanted to know the end of - and the beginning - and the difficult second act - and what my role was in it.
As a writer myself, I recently began thinking about ways I could provoke thought in strangers via decontextulised messages. So I decided to start leaving messages (on paper is the rule - but any type of paper) in random places and it turns out travelling provides many opportunities to do this e.g.
I call them (in honour of my recent visit to Tokyo) Shinobi* Memos. Here are some examples:
1. Shinobi Memo on the plane. Write on the barf bag and bookmark it in the in-flight magazine or behind the tray table. I left the following paraphrase on a barf bag bookmarked in the in-flight magazine. It is from the film 'Before Sunrise':
"You know what this makes me think of? All those people you briefly intersect with, maybe make eye contact with and then pass by. Now it's like... no matter what happens, we have met."
2. Toilet Roll Gag - I did this at my hostel.
3. Napkin Memo - Don't be afraid to be silly. I left 'Don't cry for me Argentinaaaah!' at Shakey's Diner in Harajuku.
4. Bunk Bed Slats - I left this note in my bunkbed at a hostel in Tokyo.
Want to leave your own Shinobi Memo?
> Take a book from the book-swap shelf in a hostel and write a message in pencil in the margin
> Take a book in your local library and tuck in a piece of paper.
> Write on the next leaf of toilet paper in a public toilet.
> In hotels, leave a few words on their feedback pad (but don't give them "feedback")
> Take a serviette from the pile in a cafe, put down your thoughts then replace it, hidden in the middle.
> Write on the barf-bag in an aeroplane.
> If you're in a bunk-bed hostel, leave a message tucked into the slats.
Any other ideas? Comment on this blog.
And if you take a photo, show me!
Leave the message in a place where the cleaning staff are unlikely to find it.
Don't get caught. Don't let people see you leaving it. Anonymity is key.
Why do this?
'Why' anything. But I suppose:
Maybe because it might break the monotony of routine in someone's day.
Maybe because by fluke it might be the words someone needs to hear.
Maybe because it will be a good story to tell their friends and family.
Maybe because it might make them smile or laugh.
Maybe because it might make someone feel privy to a secret.
Maybe because it might make them feel special.
Maybe because it might make someone stop for a second.
Maybe because it might remind them they're not the first person to have slept in that hotel room or to have pulled sheets from that toilet roll dispenser.
Maybe because it might remind them they're not alone.
*If anyone has a photo of "You adore me. Run come save me." in Kelburn, Wellington, please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll update this blog (with you as the photo credit).
*A ninja (忍者)/shinobi (忍び)
Update: We checked Google Maps streetview and the phrase 'You adore me. Run come save me.' , is no longer there. Sad. Thanks for the heads-up though Catherine!