Songjeong Beach: A Mini-Vacation and An October Swim

Hey so, we now live in a beach town! I’m so excited about it, because I’ve always loved the beach and never lived near one. Even though we’re working a lot of hours at our hagwon job, we can go to the beach on a weeknight if we want to. It’s a bit like a mini-vacation any day, with free beaches and very cheap treats from the GS25 convenience stores.

But sometimes the most famous beach in Korea (Haeundae Beach) is just too busy. Sometimes Gwangalli is just a little too foreigner-y despite its endearing grungy edge. Songjeong Beach (송정해수욕장) is a quiet alternative that we tried out today as a belated 29th birthday mini-trip.

It’s easy to get there, and very quiet compared to the bigger city beaches downtown. We took the subway and then a city bus, and it took only about 45 minutes from our apartment. Songjeong Beach is clean, very quiet, and friendly. It feels like a real beach town, with a Northern California vibe. The beach is packed with surfing shops and clubs, and people were in the water all day long catching waves and teaching lessons. We will definitely give surfing a try while we live in Busan.

Due to a minor health complication I hadn’t been allowed to swim for a month, so this was the first opportunity for me to go into the sea and not just look at it longingly. We drew some funny looks from the Korean surfers since we weren’t in wet suits, but it wasn’t really needed unless you wanted to take a long swim. To be fair, it is mid-October and the wind was pretty chilly, but the water wasn’t all that cold and it was really nice to take a short dip. Much, much warmer than a summer’s jump into an Icelandic Lake.

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If you come to Busan (and you definitely should, as it kicks arse), you should give a thought to spending a day at Songjeong Beach. You can apparently hike there from Jangsan Station as well, which we will post when we have done.

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I’m so excited to live in a beach town.

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How to get to Songjeong Beach: Take Line 2 (Light Green) to Jangsan Station. Use Exit 9 and take the 139 or 180 city bus. Listen carefully for the stop, since it is all in Korean. It’s the first one after the tunnel. You can also take the 1001 express bus or the 100-1, but as I’m not too sure where the stops are for them I haven’t included instructions here. 

Sometimes You Just Gotta Jump Off A Bridge in Iceland

These photos were taken by my lovely sister-in-law during the second of three jumps from this bridge! Beautiful weather that day in early August.

jumping

Carpe diem. Memento mori. 

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I’m having weird struggles with wanting the sterile, suburban, isolated, expensive life I thought I chose to escape when I graduated high school. I’m also trying to fit a life into three bags to move to South Korea on Thursday. I needed to look at these photos this week in order to steel my nerve and remind myself that I am able to do extraordinary things.

My dream is not to live in the perpetual zombie apocalypse that suburban Colorado feels like at times (Where is everyone????????). I’ve chosen a different life and I have to keep choosing it.

They say that some of the happiest people on Earth spend time every day contemplating their own death.  I try to live for my eulogy and not for my resume. I know, I know…it’s a TED-talk infused hackneyed soundbite-y thingy. I still use it as a mantra. My Travel Mantras have morphed into life mantras at this point. There is no honour in putting off what you want to do today for the fickle promise of Tomorrow.

I’m not ready to give up this broad and beautiful life, that I chose when I was so young.

On to the next adventure!

I’m Sick of Curated Online Personae

I’m from Louisville, Colorado. It’s not unique to L-Ville, but a great many people from my hometown are super into making their Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and general online persona look as perfect as can be.

Many people I know get professional photography done, in just gorgeous lighting, with all the derpy faces removed. For like, every single occasion imaginable. Anniversary? Better shell out a couple hundred dollars to get those portraits. Pregnancy? Time to pose pensively with a large belly.  Grocery shopping? Here I am with the canned beans, just chillin’. Wedding? Don’t even get me started.

At our wedding, the photographer didn’t believe me when I told him again before the ceremony, ‘Thanks, but we only want shots from the ceremony itself. We will not be available after the ceremony.’ He did a fantastic job and the photos he returned to us that very day were beautiful. But there was no posing after the ceremony. There wasn’t a professional photographer in the room while I got ready to be a bride. There were no professional photos of the rehearsal dinner, much less the reception.

I have an online persona. I generally curate it well. I post well-lit, well-exposed, heavily-processed shots of myself when I put them on the blog, and they inevitably end up on Facebook these days. But I think the desire to have a professional take one’s photos and post them on social media, as if they are just how you look all the time, is deeply flawed. It’s as if we are trying to project an image of our lives that is perfect; it is what we wish life were instead of what it is (BOOM subjunctive in English hahahaha). I find in my bare-bones psuedo-ethnographic analysis of the women of suburban Colorado that the pressure is huge to maintain a certain image not too dissimilar to that of our early-20s selves.

Many of the women I know have all but disappeared from social media as their bodies have changed in motherhood and aging, such that I don’t even know what they look like anymore. Women are constantly told that if we aren’t young, ‘unspoiled’ by pregnancy, and perfectly beautiful…well, we simply aren’t worth looking at at all.

I know that my great-grandchildren will probably be able to see a lot of unflattering photos of me online (assuming that it hasn’t become an existence like The Road by Cormac McCarthy). There are photos of me on the web being a dork, pulling stupid faces, and doing things like drinking in the Campo of Chile. I will have to be more open about these things than any previous generation. I think that’s a good thing. Why take the path of hiding everything I did that’s normal?

Recently, I decided to take a bunch of the most unflattering photos of myself from the last couple months and put them into this post specifically. In one place, I hope to dispel the notion that my life was perfectly lit and always well-posed. I hope to show that I didn’t always look nice, and that I sometimes had the misfortune to be caught mid-blink by the shutter. This blog is a self-portrait in progress, after all.

Thus explained, here I am. In all my glory. Laugh along, friends, and appreciate that life isn’t that perfect picture we all might wish to put on Facebook.

My London: 1

I’m supposed to be writing my MA dissertation, but I can’t. I’m wondering what the hell happened to my WordPress interface…

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WTF

A bit of fanangling and it’s better. But still eh.

I’ve not been writing much since I moved to London. I feel in many ways as if I’ve lost the spark to do so, drowned it in the Thames or the rain or the overwhelming desire to drink a beer that thinking about how much money I owe for a rather useless degree brings on.

I want to capture what my life is for posterity. It sounds stupid. Vain. Recently, I spent ages on the internet trying to find out who lived in our Victorian terraced house when the Great War broke out 100 years ago this month. I found them, a whole family of emigrated Scots by the name of Kenzie. A son who was 22 when the war began. A daughter who was 24. Surely, surely, the war touched them closely. In Dagenham last year, we found the gravestone of two grandparents who required a living and grateful remembrance of six grandsons who fell in the Great War.

London 2013

London 2013

Six grandsons who fell. A generation lost.

I’m of a somewhat lost generation, too…though not through war and machine guns and chlorine. I graduated in 2010, in the midst of the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. I’ve travelled the world. My life is so much better than my ancestors could’ve imagined…but we are still in a transitional economy. I’m still working for less than £7 per hour while I finish a £30,000 degree. I’m still living in a house with eight people and a single toilet. I’m still spending what money I have on practically two things only: rent and food.

I’ve been watching the Great War Diaries, a series on the BBC that puts the words of those who lived through that Great War in action. It’s haunting. I still feel a thrill of terror whenever I hear bells ringing wildly like in the opening scenes.

I want people to hear my voice in 100 years, for my descendants to hear my stories and my world. But I’m not on the Western Front. I’m not in Armenia. I’m sitting around in my room all day, every day. The details of life are strange.

A pack of Mayfair cigarettes in the gutter of East London. The DLR’s aching grind while a couple from Texas break the code of silence on the city’s transport. A pack of venison delivered from the butcher, cheaper than beef of the same weight but with the warning “MAY CONTAIN LEAD SHOT” on it, almost an apology. The droning of the night bus along the periphery of Hackney Marshes at 4AM.

I am 26 in 2014. I’m a student and a bar maid. I live in the converted front room of a Victorian house in East London with my fiancé and our small collection of material possessions. I read about the world every day, in the form of stories about Gaza and Ukraine and Ferguson…and the many Spanish, French, and Italian-language news I read since I studied and lived abroad.

We eat well. I get one craft beer each shift at the Brewdog bar I work in, and have one or three more in the shift includes idiots wanting Auchentoshan as a shot. I wear old clothes with holes in them, because I don’t want to buy into the global system that weaves blood into the very threads we carry on us. I can’t escape it, of course. Try as I might. So I am trying to stop buying any clothes at all.

And this is my London. I want to photograph it in a different way. Show a different side. What I live in. Not necessarily the big gleaming tourist capital. This is the first in a series of posts about my London, and my life here. I hope to continue once I finish my dissertation.

 

Long Week, New Lipstick, Accidentally June Cleaver

November 2013

November 2013

It’s been awhile, friends. I am working diligently on the latest instalment of the Great Accent Shift, which should be up later on today. My MA programme is taking up every available second of my life, and this week was particularly frustrating. Our lecturers are working on submitting their first 2014 publications or have other commitments and have left many (most?) classes flapping in the wind a bit, with the poor PhDs trying to cover as many lectures and tutorials as humanly possible. The fact that one or two snapped at us a tiny bit this week tells me I ought to bring them chocolates or at least a card for their efforts. Maybe even a “Sympathies on the Loss of Your Free-Time, Social Life, and Sanity” one, if I can find it.

By own sanity has been at stake this week. We moved house. My parents were visiting. I had three (four? I don’t remember anymore) extra classes in addition to my usual full-time schedule. My boyfriend’s parents met mine for the first time ever. I was told to study harder in a class I’m already spending about 12-15 hours per week on. I screwed up my quizzes royally. I couldn’t find my usual beer at the store. I can no longer properly sleep in past about 7AM. I now have less than three weeks until the end of the term. I’m over-budget on the month already.

Where did all the time go?

So today, as a reward for getting through these last insane weeks…I bought a coral lipstick. Actually, the name of it is, “Shocking Coral.” I spent a long time walking about in the Superdrug and I’m pretty sure that the staff thought I was just shoplifting because I left to check prices at Boots and then returned to loiter another 20 minutes. I decided to bake this afternoon in the new kitchen, and use the apron my parents got me while they were here, forgetting that I was also (by chance!) wearing pearls.

And BLAM, I’m suddenly June Cleaver. Er…some modern, pierced, wearing jeans version of June Cleaver.

Pearls and…gauged ears?

Pearls and…gauged ears?

New kitchen, new apron!

New kitchen, new apron!

At least I wasn’t vacuuming…