Tag Archives: shallow thoughts

Blurring Borders

I was just thinking about how last time I was in Korea no one was using Twitter yet and people I knew were just starting to use Facebook. Instagram wasn’t a thing. Tumblr was, but I didn’t know anyone using it.

No one had a smartphone. Or a tablet. Wifi wasn’t everywhere because there was no need for it to be everywhere. We weren’t nearly as connected in 2007 as we are now.

My blog, emails and Skype calls of the shittiest quality (so bad that video was pretty much useless then) were the only ways I could share my experiences. It usually meant taking photos and notes and waiting for a block of time when I felt like uploading photos from my camera and sitting down to write out blog posts lengthy enough to actually be blog posts.

Now, I can share on the fly. In real time. And with pictures or videos, no less! Quickly, easily, and from just about anywhere as Korea is rocking the WIFI IN ALL THE PLACES thing.

It’s both wonderful and strange.

There is a bit of a downside to all this sharing shizzle though, I think. Even when I was here in Asia seven years ago, I was thinking then about how much of the mystery – the romance, if you will – of travel has dissipated. With how much easier it is to get a flight these days than it was 50 years ago, it’s much less strange to know someone who’s travelled most of the way around the world.

And now with the changes to how we communicate, I feel as though we’ve lost even more of that mystery. Gone are the hand-written journals. The long letters sent home that would take months to arrive. You might still get a postcard these days, if you are lucky, but you’re more likely to get a Snapchat of someone pulling a duck face on a beach somewhere.

Borders are blurring as more people share their experiences more often, with more immediacy, with a much broader audience.

Five years

>It was never meant to be this long. I had only intended to go teach in Korea for one year and come home.

But one year was so fun it turned into two. But part way through the second year, I realised that it was wearing thin for me and I wasn’t keen to stay for a third year. The big question for me is: Why didn’t I go home at that point?

I get asked “Why Korea?” a lot. And “Why London?” a lot. But only a few people have asked why I didn’t go home at the end of the second year. I think other than my moms, I am the only other person who really questions that.

Let’s start with “Why Korea?”. It was more the case of “Why NOT Korea?”. I didn’t really mean to go to Korea… I just meant to leave Canada and there Korea was, providing and easy out. Someone else sorted my paperwork, flights, job and accommodations. My new life prepackaged. I just had to show up.

So that’s “Why Korea?” answered. Easy breezy lemon squeezy. Now, “Why London?”…. that’s not nearly as easy to answer. Difficult difficult lemon difficult.

As I said, I knew I didn’t want to stay in Korea beyond my second year. But I wasn’t feeling the go-home feeling either. So I started looking at other options.

At first, things weren’t looking so good. I may be educated and good at what I do, but I definitely do not classify as a “skilled worker”. I was also past the magic “holiday makers” visa age already. I had already decided that if I was leaving Korea, I was leaving Asia, so teaching in another country around there wasn’t really an option.

That’s when I discovered that my dad’s mom was actually born in Scotland, not Saskatchewan as I had always thought. Suddenly, I was eligible for a five-year ancestry visa in the UK. So I applied for that and started scheming.

My schemes had nothing to do with what life would be like in the UK. I was too busy thinking about how I was going to get here (the blog entries regarding the Epic Train Journey of Epicness haven’t moved to this blog yet – as soon as I get that done I’ll link) and not so much what I would do when I got here. Because I honestly had no clue. I didn’t even have it in my head yet which city I was going to live in, or what I would do for a job, or anything, really. No freaking clue.

So… that’s “Why the UK?” answered, I suppose; but not so much “Why London?”.

I suppose I chose London because it felt right. I also really like Belfast and Glasgow, but I was pulled here. And I’m (most days) happy that I was. I’ve met amazing people, have had great experiences and I’ve been able to live in one of the greatest cities on the planet. As your man (Samuel Johnson) said: “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” I ain’t tired of it yet.

I’ve got just over two years left on my visa, and that means I have a decision to make fairly soon. I get the feeling that I’ll stay in London for the remainder of that time… although I’m aware that, as the consummate opportunist, I’ll move if compelled to move.

After that? Who knows. Depending on how life is in the autumn of 2012, I’ve been thinking of another year teaching in Asia (I did miss seeing Japan, after all) and then re-applying for another visa and returning to the UK. If I do that, I doubt I’ll come back to London though. It may be Ireland or Scotland that has to learn to love me upon my return.

What I can’t imagine right now is going back home at that time.

I left Canada because I was miserable. No need to go into detail. I wasn’t happy. So I left. I needed to change, so I changed… everything. Flair for the dramatic, me.

Am I happier now? Well, hard to say. Things aren’t great right now, to be honest. But I feel more in control of it. I’m a different person in a million different little ways now, so I guess I feel differently about the situation that I’m in. I guess I know now that if I want to, I can make a huge change and survive. Fuck. Survive? More than that. I can rip that shit up and roll with whatever the changes bring – good or bad. And knowing that you can handle it is a powerful thing.

And although I am not perfectly content here and I need to work on some changes (and I AM working on some changes); I know that being back home wouldn’t make any of it better. It’s the only thing I’m certain about.

Besides, a wise woman once told me that it is never worth taking a step if it is taking a step back. So I don’t plan on moving backwards at this point; I’m going to keep looking forward and stare down my future.

>Life Currency

>I just finished reading a book called “Errornomics – Why we make mistakes and what we can do to avoid them” by Joseph T. Hallinan. Hallinan is a Pulitzer Price Winner and I wonder if he knows that he shares his surname with the cook in The Shining.

The book was good. Some interesting information. Like all books that deal with micro-economics (and moreso those that deal with people’s brains) you have to be wary of their bias towards, you know… proving their point. Still, interesting.

There was something at the end of the book that I found particularly interesting. I just completely killed the spine of the book (iz mine, I pwn it, I can haz spine bust if I want) in order to share with you guys the last bit of the book. It is paraphrased from pages 220 and 221:

“The currency of life isn’t money, it’s time. When people make major life changes, like moving ot a new city or retiring from work, one of their biggest mistakes is not changing the way they use their time.

It takes determination and discipline to re-craft a life — which is why … so many retired people end up going back to work. The mistake they make is that they spend their time doing the same old things they’ve always done and not the new things they thought they were going to do. [I]n the end … it’s not where you live that makes you happy; it’s how you use your time.”

I think I’ll blog about this more later. I’m thinking about this right now though. About time. You can always earn more money, but time is in limited supply. Am I doing the most with what I have?

>Signs of (in)compatibility

>I could never be close to someone who couldn’t at least be slightly amused at the juvenile humour of your average bumper sticker. Even though they are the lowest form of wit (sitting well below both ‘yer ma’ jokes and puns), sometimes it feel good to laugh at things that aren’t supposed to be funny unless you are ten (see also: farts).

Then again, I can’t imagine having much in common with someone who could unironically attach a “Horn broken – watch for finger” bumper sticker to their vehicle either. What would you talk to them about?

The ironing is delicious*

I was walking along Bethnal Green Street (first impression: Dodgy. But in a very cool way) on my way to view a flat when I saw the fattest kid in the universe** playing a Nintendo DS and facing a Weight Watchers advert that was not a foot away from him . That kid was awesome.

See, this kid is fatter than the one I saw.
And infinitely grumpier.

*I’m deeply in love with you as a person if you got the title of the post without having to look it up. You are obviously one of my favourite people.

**This is probably not true. He was a porker***, but I’m sure he wasn’t the fattest kid in the universe.

***Heh heh. Porker.

>Push the button

>Last week I was told a story about a guy at work who pushed a large, red button… knowing full-well what the button did and that he would lose his job if he pushed it.

He pushed it anyway.

When later asked why, the button-pusher said that he knew what the implications where of pushing that button… and he pushed it anyway.

I fully understand why this guy had to push that button. I think that every day, at least once, I get the urge to do something completely irrational and potentially destructive. I have trouble walking past cars without thinking about running my key along them. I get the urge to randomly punch strangers. I’m not afraid of heights but I do tend to avoid them because I have difficulty thinking about anything but jumping even though I know the consequences of doing so. I get the urge to throw my wallet into the river. Sometimes I want to hold up a bank. Make a crank call. Tell someone important off (for no reason, mind you). And so on.

But I don’t. Or perhaps: I haven’t yet. But perhaps there will come a day when I will do something completely irrational and entirely self-destructive. Because maybe everyone has a snapping point. Perhaps some people snap sooner than others.

I wonder if a lot people get those irrational urges, and I wonder why. Is it because we are innately self-destructive? Or because there is some kind of (albeit twisted) power in acts of random violence and/or destruction?

Regardless of why, I’m just happy I haven’t had my “gotta push the red button” day yet. And I hope that if I do come to that day before I die, whatever my “push the red button” act turns out to be, hopefully it gets me featured on Fox News.

>But being hard on myself is what I do best!

>Someone at the pub on Friday night brought it to my attention that I run myself down a lot. Which I do. And I know I do. I’m good at it. In fact, I’m better at that than I am at anything else, really.

Since someone else thought it worth mentioning it to me, I’ve been thinking about it over the weekend. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it is no big deal, as I know exactly why I do it.

First, if I’m making fun of me, chances are no one else is. And if I’m doing it, I control what is being made fun of. I never go after my *real* flaws, I go after the ones that I can handle being mocked. There’s control in being the one to make jokes about oneself. And if other people make fun of me too… again, at least I’ve started it and can usually control what is being mocked. This way I distract people from my real flaws… and trust me – there are a lot of the freaking things.

Secondly, if I didn’t make fun of myself, chances are I would make fun of other people. Now granted: I already make fun of other people. But I would probably do it more often and to a much more hurtful extent if I wasn’t constantly making fun of myself. Nature has given me a safety-valve, and I think everyone should be thankful for that. I know I’m thankful for it: if I was as mean to other people as I was to myself, I wouldn’t have any friends.

Lastly, I deserve it. I mean, being 99.5% pure turbotastic awesomeness could go to my head if I didn’t bring myself down every once in a while. Could you imagine if I didn’t run myself down all the time? Then I would have a caustic personality AND be thoroughly (instead of just “mostly”) highly conceited. Ew! There would go the few friends I would have left after I made fun of everyone else.

I’m just happy that this particular person doesn’t read my blog. If he thinks I’m hard on myself in real life (as it were), he should see me at the keyboard. That’s where I shine at kicking my own ass.

>One step. Another. And if you aren’t careful, you end up where you need to be

>For how much thinking I seem to do, I don’t actually analyse things much. I don’t overthink the majority of my actions. I just go with what is happening, and trust that it will work out the way it should.

Which is why I’ve gone to church with Colin a couple of times now.

Don’t get too excited – I’m still full of sin and more prone to skip the church on Sunday than the pub on Saturday night. But near the end of June when Colin asked if I wanted to go, I agreed to go. I had nothing to lose. It was an interesting experience but until today I hadn’t been back as I’m still a little nervous about going on my own because I don’t know what to expect nor entirely how to behave.

Last night Colin sent a text asking if I wanted to go today and I agreed. It was very nice, and although the focus of the sermon was on how to pray, there was also a lot about making the important things in life a priority that I found very interesting. On the way home, Colin and I talked about how although it is good to be flexible in life, to have the ability to “go with the flow”, it is still very useful and worthwhile to have goals and a general direction to head in. Otherwise you just float through life completely unmoored.

I agree that having some sort of vision in life, some sort of goal, is important. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and of belonging. However, I do think if you try to achieve that by swimming against the current, you will be too exhausted to enjoy it once you get there.

I’ve been just going where the tide has been going for a long time now. It’s served me well, but I am getting the sense that I may be missing out on the something more that may (or may not) be out there. I’m not going to stop going where life is taking me… I just think I need to start doing it with my head up and my eyes on the horizon a wee bit more, instead of with my eyes down and focused on my own navel. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to trust that I will end up where I need to be. Like today.

After church, Colin and I went back to Wimbledon for lunch. I took the train back to Fulham with the intention of going back to the Brompton Cemetery to take more photos. Now, bear with me here for a few moments: this is going to be banal but for a reason. I stopped in the drugstore… wandered back out… into a clothing store… back out (empty-handed both times)… decided against the cemetery because my bag was heavy and I wanted to change my hoodie (I spilled coffee on myself earlier)… I stopped at the bank machine because I decided I wanted houmous but didn’t want to use my card to pay… went into M&S to buy the houmous… decided that I really do need to stop dressing like a bum at work and maybe there would be something in the charity shops along North End Road so wandered down that way… looked in some windows but didn’t go in… decided that maybe I wasn’t really in the mood so I would just cross at the next pedestrian crossing and head back… when I heard the most awful noises: Squealing tires, a time-stopping thud, and a heart-breaking scream.

Like so many others, I just stopped, hands over my mouth and tried to process what had just happened. I’m thankful that I couldn’t see the person who had been hit. Two children were standing partway through the crossing and I herded them back to the crosswalk (opposite of the action) as their mother had ran to help (the children were a wee bit older, just shocked at what had happened and therefore standing in the street). The woman who had been driving got out of the car and around to where the injured person was. I couldn’t see what was going on… but people started to get angry. I still don’t know why, but there was a lot of shouting, and then pushing, and then a fist fight. Meanwhile, someone was on the ground, broken and crying.

There wasn’t anything I could do. I didn’t want to stay and stare. I didn’t want to be in the way. I didn’t want to watch a group of people turn into a pack of animals. So I started walking home. And I started thinking.

How random was it that I was there? How fortunate that I wasn’t there 9 seconds earlier, as the accident happened when I was less than 2 feet from crossing that same road? How is it that my day now seems steered so that I would be there at that moment to witness what happened? But why?

In thinking about it now, I suppose I needed to be reminded that plans are all fine and well, but that plans change. Sometimes drastically. And I’m not trying to suggest that God (or fate, or… whatever) caused an accident to happen so that I would think about certain things in a certain way. But I do think that it was important for me that I was there. Because now I feel very grateful that I have been so fortunate. I’m grateful that I could walk home from that and sit here and share this story. I’m grateful that it isn’t my life that was drastically changed today. I’m grateful that even if I don’t always have a plan in mind, somehow I’ve been fortunate enough to always end up where I need to be.

>Toilet money

>

There is an interesting bathroom situation here at work. On our floor there is only one toilet and it is clearly marked as a man’s toilet. However, it is actually a unisex toilet and everyone uses it. (Unless they have to poop, then there is an unspoken law that one should go downstairs to the less-oft used “Poo Loo” to do their dirty business. Note: not everyone abides by this rule.) Perhaps that isn’t really a man on the door… maybe that’s just a chick wearing trousers. I mean, I certainly don’t wear a triangular-shaped dress or skirt every day. I’m not wearing my triangle skirt today, for example. So, I try to ignore the fact that I have to use a boy toilet every day. But I can’t ignore the penny that is in there.

The penny has been in there forever now. I’m curious as to why. No one will take it, not even the cleaners. It just sits there. And of course, each time I see it, I ponder its bathroom existence and I’ve come up with a tri-theory as to why no one will take it:

First of all… it is only a penny. Not really worth much. If you had a load of them, it still wouldn’t be worth much. Perhaps the payout is not worth the effort of taking it. I wonder if it would have disappeared by now if it was a pound coin. I would test this theory, but I can’t be arsed to pay a pound to see if the perceived worth of the toilet item is directly proportional to how quickly it will be moved or not.

Secondly, perhaps no one will take it because no one thinks it is their penny. I mean, you should not take what is not yours. I seriously doubt it is my penny, do I have a right to take it? Perhaps I just work with the most honest people in London.

Thirdly, it IS in the toilet beside the sink. It may have, at one point, been on the floor. The toilet floor. That penny is definitely not your cleanest penny. Perhaps no one wants it because it has been living in the toilet for so long.

I shouldn’t think about that penny so much, but it makes me think about human nature a wee bit. I, of course, am tempted to toss it in the toilet and make a wish.

PS: There is also a wee bottle of perfume that someone abandoned in there ages ago but I understand that one: it smells like insect spray.

>Walk unafraid

>Tonight I went out to King’s Cross to see a friend from university. I didn’t get there until after 11, and didn’t bother (I’m a dillhole) to check the tube schedule. Turns out my last train home ran at about 11:30. Oops. Because I was in the pub with Mary until 00:15. When I got into the station, all the lines were closed. I asked the train dudes what I should do, and they told me to take a bus to Trafalgar Square and then a bus home from there. Well, I ignored them, because obviously I understand the tube better than they do. I took a risk and got on the Hammersmith line to (duh) Hammersmith. I was hopeful that there would be buses from there… and if not, that I would be close enough to home that the price of a cab wouldn’t kill me. Turns out – I’m a genius. I’ve been to Hammersmith before (I knew it sounded familiar) and technically (but not necessarily “safely”) it is even in walking distance of home. So I got off the very last train and hopped on a night bus. Home from the tube in less than 10 minutes. Awesome. I rule.

While on the train, there was a guy (about my age, I reckon) who was looking at a tube map. He muttered something and I said, “Pardon me?” He was actually speaking to himself, but then he asked me for directions to Heathrow. He was asking the wrong girl – I’m HOPELESS (98% of the time) on transit. I get on buses and go the wrong direction (true story). I could tell him for sure that the Piccadilly line was done though… and that there *might* be a bus from Hammersmith to Heathrow (there was, I’m completely awesome). If nothing else, I assured him, he could take a cab from Hammersmith and at least it was closer to Heathrow than King’s Cross.

During our chat at one point he said, “It must be pretty scary riding the train at night alone.” And I disagreed. I mean, I suppose it could be scary, but I wasn’t feeling frightened in the least. I never do. Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t do (very) stupid things. I’m very cautious. But I’m very rarely afraid when moving about the city (or about a country, for that matter). Never have been (okay, I was vaguely frightened in Moscow, but I chalk that up to exhaustion at that point). I’m not sure why. I just never feel worry that I’m going to be a victim. Again, I’m not dumb… I know that bad things happen to good people (then again, I’m not always “good people” so maybe that’s what’s keeping me safe – HA!). But I don’t see the point of being afraid and worrying about things that haven’t even happened. And I’m glad I’m like that… my attitude and my ability to “walk unafraid” has allowed me to do some crazy and wonderful things over the last few years.

And now I’m glad I’m home safe and it is time for bed. You can tell I’m tired when I blog if I use a lot of parenthesis. And I have a new mattress pad that I can’t freaking WAIT to try out. If it is rad, I’m definitely blogging about it tomorrow.