See this post for an explanation. And here are some things I love beginning with ‘R’…
1. Reading As an adult, I don’t read nearly enough – especially when you consider that, as a child, I was the biggest bookworm you can imagine. I always had my nose in a book. Usually an Enid Blyton one. Her tales of ordinary children having exciting escapades and discovering magical far-off lands appealed to my curiosity about the huge, unknown world, and my desire for adventure. As soon as I learned how to read, I was hooked. From the age of maybe 6 or 7, I read at least a book a day, holed up in my room, or sitting in the sun when forced outside for some fresh air, or in the car (explaining why I suffered from car sickness!). I perfected the skill of propping up a book on the edge of my cereal bowl with the rim holding it open at the right page, unable to put down my book for long enough to eat. Once, I finished a book and found myself struggling with a physical sensation I couldn’t quite identify. It was like hunger – I suppose, looking back as an adult, I’d call it what I know (from far too many kinds of experience!) to be a craving. I ate a snack and felt no better. Then I picked up another book, and instantly felt sated. I later told my mother: “Sometimes, I feel hungry, and I don’t know whether it’s because I want to eat something or read something.”
Nowadays, there are too many distractions. The internet is a huge one for me, as it takes some serious willpower for me to switch off the computer, ignore Facebook and my email, put my phone on silent, and focus for long enough to get started on a book. If I force myself to do it, though, I’m just that same, addicted book lover that I was as a little girl. Nothing can drag me out of the world I’m holding in my hands. Well, until sleep finally gets the better of me, and I wake up with the lights still on and an open book on my head. This has happened more than once over the past week.
2. Restaurants There are some restaurants I love simply because they hold fond memories for me, and because they are chilled-out, relaxing places to sit and linger over a meal and lots of wine with friends for hours on end. But in general, I love trying new restaurants. The downside of this in Korea is that more often than not, this involves sitting on the floor – such a fun, novelty thing to do at first, but my legs really do not cope very well with it! Women are supposed to sit on their knees, but sod that, I’d be screaming with leg cramps after five minutes. Even cross-legged, I have to shift position constantly to avoid seizing up.
I endure the discomfort, however, for the food. Korean restaurants are my favourite that I’ve experienced thus far in my travels. So cheap, so basic, but so, so good. The food is packed full of flavour, and there’s more of it than you could possibly eat in one sitting. Copious side dishes (banchan) cover every inch of the table – and they’re all free, with as many refills as you want. Many types of Korean restaurant involve sharing one meal that is cooked in the centre of the table – barbecued beef (galbi) or pork (samgyeopsal), spicy chicken in a pan (dak galbi), various soups and stews bubbling in a huge pot. They just keep bringing you more and more extras until you can eat no more.
I eat in restaurants far more often in Korea than I ever have before, mainly because here, I can easily afford to. It’s by no means a luxury – usually, it works out cheaper than cooking. Whether with friends as part of our socialising, or alone at little diners and ‘hole-in-the-wall’ places, I dine out at least 2 or 3 times a week. I’ll probably never be able to live like this again, so I’m making the most of it!
3. Robert Downey Jr. ‘Nuff said.
4. Ruins My favourite sites to visit when I’m travelling. Thousands of years old, like the ruined amphitheater in the mesmerising ancient Italian town of Aosta, or just a few decades, like the abandoned cottage that used to sit near my granny’s house, a rusty old teapot still on the stove. Ruins feed my imagination and stir my desire to seek out the stories behind what I can see. Who was here? What did they do? What happened to them?
5. Rice Despite where I come from, I’ve always preferred what my grandparents would call “foreign food” over the traditional staples of my own country – that is to say, the potatoes, the casseroles and the stews. My mum is a great cook, and she was always trying new recipes when I was a child, so I grew up with a pretty varied diet and taste buds that like a lot of different things. I would eat my bangers and mash, my shepherd’s pie, and my baked beans cheerfully enough, but they were never my favourites. It was the pasta and rice dishes that had me scraping my plate clean and asking for more. Spaghetti bolognese, chilli con carne, pasta bakes, stirfries, curries… anything with a bit of spice and sauce, nothing dry and bland. When I taught myself to cook, after moving away to university, it was first by following my mother’s carefully-written recipes for my favourite meals. After a while, I began cautiously creating my own pasta dishes and Chinese-style stirfries, and then – finally, in my tiny Korean kitchen – following and tweaking recipes for Korean food using totally unfamiliar ingredients. Just about every meal I cook or buy involves either pasta or rice. And it’s fortunate that I love rice, because in Korea, rice IS your meal. Everything else is just for flavour, really. The rice here is fabulous – sticky and soft rather than thin, hard grains like other varieties. I love it!
6. Roast Beef Monster Munch This follows on from “Crisps” in the previous post, so you’re probably getting an idea of how much I love these various unhealthy snacks. Monster Munch have been around since before I was born, and even the sight of the packet takes me back to my childhood. The roast beef ones beat the other flavours hands down.
The generally accepted method for eating Monster Munch is to bite off one toe at a time from each monster paw, and then eat the rest. I used to be quite particular about following this procedure. Nowadays, in my crisp-deprived life, I tend to go a bit crazy when I come face-to-face with a packet of Monster Munch, and only manage to eat a maximum of three paws in this controlled, restrained manner before tearing into them and eating them more like the name would suggest.
7. Rain I think I may be a little unusual in this one, but I love a good rainy day. I love the heavy, dark clouds threatening to burst, and the dramatic, gloomy feel that the world has when it’s overcast like that. I love the tapping sound of the first few drops of rain as they start to fall, the tapping becoming soft pattering, then pounding as the downpour gets underway. I love the sound of torrential rain pelting against my window, and I love watching the streets become roaring rapids as people scatter for cover. I even love walking in the rain, providing I’m going home for a shower afterwards and don’t have to be anywhere looking presentable. I love the feeling of the cool rain on my skin, running down my face, particularly in the Korean summer when it comes as a blissful relief from the heat that torments me. And although I’ve only done it once in my life, I love dancing in the rain. That’s something I fully intend to do again!
8. Renting People always told me it was foolish, a waste, risky, money down the drain. You might as well buy, and be paying off your mortgage instead of your landlord’s mortgage. At least you’ll own something at the end of it! But they didn’t want the same things as me, I later discovered. Buying a house with my then fiancé was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. Instantly my life was transformed into something I had never wanted it to be. Possessions. Accumulation of stuff. Financial pressure and responsibilities. And above all, confinement. This house, this thing I had purchased in order to fill it with yet more things, this was my world now. This was where I belonged. And unlike most people, I was devastated at this realisation. No freedom, no chance to explore the huge world of possibilities, no adventures, no travel. Just a life of bills, restrictions, and suffocation under the mountains of “stuff” that I would gather over the years.
I won’t say I’ll never buy again, but for now, renting suits me down to the ground. I don’t need a fancy home full of proud possessions. I need a place to sleep, cook, shower, rest, write, and store my clothes, books, and laptop. That’s all. If there are any problems with plumbing or maintenance or whatever, they’re not mine to worry about – I tell the landlord and it magically gets fixed for me. If I decide to move to the other side of the world on a whim, I simply pack up my clothes and laptop, give away the books, and leave the rented apartment behind. I’m free.
9. Rest And I really could do with some of that right now.
10. Reminiscing There are some stories that I have heard, told, and shared with my family and friends dozens of times, if not hundreds. Some of them, I know word for word – my mother’s story of how she met my father, the funny stories my lifelong friend and I share about the things we got up to in Sixth Form, South African Friend Four’s regular retelling of tales about various nights out we’ve had. I never tire of them. I will listen to (and tell) the same stories again and again, because, for me, they are what I have to show for my life. Not possessions, not a house filled with stuff (see point 8). It’s about people and experiences and adventures and laughter. I don’t have a house, but I have the time I leapt in front of a moving bus in Korea to stop a crazy driver “kidnapping” my friend. I don’t have a car, but I have the Saturday afternoons I spent in the Blues Club with my parents and friends. I don’t have any furniture, collections, or ornaments, but I have the time I did vodka rituals in Mongolia, and the time I tried to calm down Irish Friend Two as she raged at a bus driver in Japan, and the time I dressed up for the Rocky Horror Picture Show with my university friends, and the time Becs and I got told off at the age of 16 for “playing with dollies” (!) in class, and the time I practiced my French with Le Flatmate in Lyon by watching dubbed X Files episodes with him, and the time I lived in a grand house with my own swimming pool and spa and drove my temporary Mercedes around Switzerland and beyond and learned (in French) how to take care of an entire roomful of parrots. I might not buy things, and it might look like I have nothing… but when I reminisce? I feel like I couldn’t possibly want anything more.