There has been a complaint lodged against this blog,

accusing me of not updating frequently enough.  It was lobbied at me by my 18-year-old sister, who claimed that I am “sitting around waiting for other people to write” my posts.  To this I respond: No need to get snarky.  If you want to guest blog, just ask.

But really, I am fully aware that I do not tend to this site with true dedication.  If it were a plant, it would have to be a cactus, if it were hair it would be tangled, and if it were an animal, it would be a fat one.  (Because it would have to live off its blubber.  Because I don’t feed it enough.  See?)  On my previous blog, I often received the opposite comment: How do you manage to keep up with it so frequently?  How do you come up with enough stuff to say?

My problem is not a lack of fodder.  My boyfriend will readily attest to the fact that I have no shortage of “stuff” to say.  No, there are several factors at play here, the largest being laziness.  Writing, like any exercise, is easiest to produce when you are in a routine.  So to all you haters (I’ve always wanted to say that as of this moment): What was the last blog you daily maintained for longer than a month?  And to the bloggers who have daily blogged for a month, when was the last time you daily worked out at the gym for a month?

Alright, but I’m mostly being silly, and my tone is being quite a wriggly little creature.  The purpose of this post is a mega-life update: I’m moving to South Korea next month!  I say “South,” because an alarming amount of (alarmed) people have double checked with me that when I say Korea I do indeed mean South.  (Which is an upgrade on the responses I got when I told people I was moving to Sweden, as nobody mixes Korea up with Switzerland.  I guess they’ve distinguished themselves by acquiring some rocket goodies.)  Yes, I’m moving to South Korea, not North.  Though a tiny, repressed, journalist part of me feels  a small thrill at the idea of being in a potential warzone.

I will actually be moving to Paju, which borders N.Korea and hosts military bases (and has fences running along it marking the de-militarized zone).

Here is a map of where my school is.

And for all you worriers: my recruiter has assured me that I will be perfectly safe.  He only has a smallish financial interest in me accepting this job.  Furthermore, I have already lived through one war and am an expert at being evacuated.  (*Not entirely true.  Apparently I didn’t like the look of the C130 that was there to evacuate us, and I turned around and marched off into the other direction.)

Anyways, if this news is sudden to you, it’s sudden to me as well.  Last week my visa paperwork finally cleared and I had an interview with two schools.  I turned the first down, and am accepting the second one.

And now, the greatly anticipated sequel to the sequel of “Things my boyfriend and I have argued about.”

Things my boyfriend and I have argued about: Part 3

– His “cat allergies.”  “Allergies” are the excuse of choice for cat haters all over the world.  They reckon that a medical excuse legitimizes their fear/distrust of all things feline.  My boyfriend claims to have cat allergies, but is always belligerent when it comes to the suggestion of medicating himself in the event of any future potential cats I might own.  He becomes particularly defensive when I question the reality of the existence his or any person’s cat allergies.  And, yes, I might sound like I’m exaggerating, but I have met people with “allergies” who have unwittingly shared rooms with cats without any reaction.

– My flying phobia.  He mostly laughs at me about this, but occasionally he seems frustrated by it’s lack of logic.  It isn’t logical – that’s why it’s called an irrational fear.  To his computermathelectronicohsoevolved mind, irrational fears have no place in my daily life.

– My nail polish habits.  He is weirdly obsessive about me not leaving the remainder of my nail polish on my nails.  Once, under the pretext of holding my hand, he surreptitiously rubbed off the remnants of my nailpolish with his fingernail.  I now have no choice but to leave it on as a matter of principle (women’s rights, etc.).  Oh, and because I’m lazy.

This song has been in my head:

“Supposing he says that you’re sweeter in cream
And he’s gotta have cream or die? “

Guest Blogger: August Ludvigs

August Ludvigs is an 18-year-old Ameri-Swede who spends his days wandering around Stockholm and my apartment’s kitchen.  He has a predilection for colorful words and fancy trousers.

Two weeks ago I was at an art exhibition with my mom at Moderna museet, the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition, aptly named Turner, Monet, Twombly, consisted of paintings by the three artists arranged either thematically or stylistically on what were essentially large, white room partitions. The entire experience was a little odd. I suppose the first indication of this was the throngs of people coming down and walking up the path leading to and from the museum. I’ve found that enjoying art and jostling through large crowds are two disparate affairs that I haven’t yet managed to espouse.

The next odd thing happened at the ticket counter. If you’re 18 or younger you get in for half price. As we stepped up to the counter, the middle aged hipster behind it cooly inquired about my age. I told him was 18. He then demanded that I provide identification so as to prove that I wasn’t older than 18 . It’s perfectly reasonable, I suppose, but seeing as I’d only ever been carded in alcohol-related situations, and only to prove the opposite, it was undoubtedly a little bemusing. I tentatively handed over my ID.

“Ha-ha! I see that you turn 19 this year”, exclaimed the man in a tone of voice you might had you narrowly caught a visitor trying to sneak an artwork home.

I pointed out that my birthday is in November. The logic seemed sound.

* * *

The exhibition was excellent. A lot of Twombly’s paintings, unlike Turner and Monet’s, were covered in writing and nonsensical text, and it struck me that the fundamental problem with modern art is this: Today, art is defined as being something that challenges your perceptions. Traditionally, art has been defined as being something aesthetic. I think Twombly’s train of thought goes something like this: Text is usually associated with scholarship, and, consequently, text on a painting challenges your perception of art, which is generally associated with beauty. However, art based on such principles must constantly redefine itself, which is the only way it can justify its own existence. Inevitably, art of this nature quickly degenerates into the many despicable examples of “art” we’re left with today.

The exhibition was excellent, for the most part.

“Do you have a baby in your tummy?”

Four (and a half!)-year-old Tim asked me curiously.  He and younger brother Teddy were looking at me intently.  I resisted the urge to glance down at my shirt to see if my stomach was pooching through.

“No,” I replied smiling.

“But…but…but…Do you?”

“No,” I replied, with a weaker smile.  (But I’ll never wear this shirt again.)

“Do you have any children?”

“No.”

“Are you still a kid?”

I wanted very badly to answer affirmatively, but didn’t.  Instead I turned the questions around on him (Journalism training ftw).

“Do you have any children?”

As it turns out, Tim had a 29-year-old son named Caleb and Teddy had a 22-year-old son named Penny (his mom’s name).  Tim asked if Caleb was older than I and I assured him he was.  I’m not at a point in my life where I feel the need to be set up with imaginary boyfriends.  Especially when the father is so nosy about the state of my tummy.

**

Thailand was an absolutely marvelous experience.  Koh Samet is the type of place you don’t want to brag too much about because you don’t want an influx of tourists jacking up prices and booking out hotel rooms.  Still, it’s hard to refrain from mentioning a few things in Thailand/Koh Samet that I could have gotten used to:

1) CHEAP stuff.  Not just knickknacks: restaurants, accommodation, grocery stores.  My Thai main course at one of the beach restaurants was 80 Baht (less than $3.00).  Our double room (spacious with bathroom) was $25 a night (per person).

2) FOOD everywhere.  Everywhere.  At one of the giant malls I went to, every floor had some form of food court (international food court, Thai food court, random food stalls, grocery stores etc.).  There were at least eight floors.

3) Fresh fruit.  Yummy, cheap, in all the stalls.

4) Roti.  This is a thin Indian bread that can be found at outdoor stalls in Bangkok and Koh Samet.  They cook it in front of you and top it with deliciousness.  My favorite topping was sweetened condensed milk.

5) Sunshine.  I imagine it can be unbearably hot during the summer, but Thai winter weather is perfect, especially if you’re visiting from the icy tundra (Sweden). 80 degree January?  Yes please.

While I enjoyed all of these things about Bangkok, Koh Samet had its own particular charms.  White, soft beaches with vividly blue water.  Vendors wandering the beaches with henna tattoos, sarongs, souvenirs, fresh fruit, meats, etc.  Nightlife that is extremely affordable and relaxed.  Affordable: No entry fee, crazy deals on drinks (flip a coin to see if you pay or not).  Relaxed: jean shorts and tank tops.  People wandering in and off from the beach.

The one visual mar on the whole experience was the plethora of large European men in tiny speedos.  Natalia and I discussed this eyesore at great length.  Our conclusion: Neither of us has ever met a female who finds speedos attractive.  Girls don’t work like that.

Dear Men Who Wear Speedos,

I am not sure who created the concept of using a tiny piece of stretchy material to cover your special area.  I know that there are probably many reasons for wearing a speedo: better tan lines, faster swimming, etc.  However, if you are wearing yours because you think women find it attractive to see such a barely hidden display of your bits, you are mistaken.

Women have varied physical tastes when it comes to men: some like hairy chests, some like bare.  Some like tall, some like short.  Some like skinny, some would prefer a little extra.  BUT, I have never met a woman who finds speedos attractive.   In fact, we generally find them repulsive.  Perhaps, as a man, you think that because you prefer less to more, women feel the same way.  We don’t.  Even if you have Matthew McConaughey’s body, we don’t want to see your area bulging like badly packaged meat in saran wrap.  Please stop assaulting our eyes.

Sincerely,

Women

P.S. Animal print is NEVER alright.

Men at grocery store in Koh Samet.

Downton Abbey is like crack.

No really, it is.  It’s supposedly a show that appeals to a primarily female audience, but I’ve met quite a few males who are hooked.  Here’s a promo which makes it look much more dramatic than it actually is:

My current beef with the show (aside from the fact that I wish I’d discovered it 5 seasons in so I didn’t have to wait for new episodes) is that it doesn’t let me properly hate the nastier characters.  I’m sick of shows and movies that don’t allow the audience to have proper Disneyesque villains to hate.  Sure, I believe in redemption and realism (even bad people have good parts?) but occasionally I’d like a proper representative of evil in my fiction.  Like Voldemort and Cruella De Ville.  Also: stop trying to redeem people after they have been murderers.  (Heroes is very guilty of this).  You are a murderer.  Fine you had a bad childhood.  I know plenty of people with bad childhoods who manage to take it out on their therapists and spouses instead of killing people.

Oh, but I love Downton Abbey.  The details of the set, the beauty of the house, the historical aspect, the love triangles and drama and comedy and character development.

**

I don’t drug myself when flying even though I have a mild phobia.  My logic is this: If you are going to crash and burn, you will likely wake up anyways, so why not enjoy the free entertainment?  (The free entertainment being not the crashing and burning but the personal mini TVs international flights have. Trivia games against other passengers?  Yes, please.) Also, occasionally people survive crashes, and it would be a bummer to be the one left behind because I didn’t actually wake up from my drug-induced coma.

How to deal with flying when phobic:

1) Before flight, use credit card to purchase chosen seat close to exit.

2) If desired exit seat is not available, when on plane constantly count seats between you and exit row.  Both ways.

3) Be only person on flight to read Flight Safety information.  Stare at confusing diagrams.  Subtlety feel around with hand under seat for life jacket.

4) Make friends with seatmate.  Laugh while telling them about mild phobia and every single turbulent flight you have been on. Include story of flights that have EXIT signs blink on.

5) During turbulence add numbers, read magazine, pretend you are David Bowie.  Do not acknowledge imminent death.

And that’s it for now.  But a note to people who don’t understand their friends phobias: planes are bits of metal hurtling through the air.  Their maintenance and direction is under fallible people and easily broken machines.  This is different than your fear of non-poisonous creatures that are 1/100th of your size.

Also, don’t tell someone with a flying phobia that planes are safer than cars and elevators.  This may be true, but it’s more likely that they’ll accept your logic by developing a fear of driving and elevators rather than eradicating their own fear.

 

**

Sweetened Condensed milk is also like crack.  Cats agree.  (Their digestive systems do not always.)  (I made that digestive bit up.)

How do I know so much about crack-ness?  In college, my roommate Emma Cole was a psychology major.  One of her psych friends didn’t know my name, but referred to me as the crackwhore because I was pale and skinny.  Also, I didn’t always brush my hair and tended to wear a lot of hoodies.  He also told her not to tell me his nickname.  Boys don’t understand girl secret code hierarchy (classmate<roommate.)

He and I later bonded over our overly competitive responses to “Catch me if you can” – a campus wide water gun game.  Participants get a slip of paper with a target’s name on it.  Once you hunt and “kill” your target (Facebook, class lists, word of mouth), you get your target’s slip of paper.

I believe we spent a few hours staring out the window of psych building (safety indoors) monitoring the entrance of the cafeteria for our victims.

I was by far the whitest person at Koh Samet,

a small island four hours from Bangkok.  Of course, I am often the whitest person in any given situation (thanks Irish-Scottish heritage), so that description is hardly helpful.  Basically the island was consumed by tourists in shades of beige to mahogany.  If you were filling them in a coloring book, you would be using oranges, reds and browns, and you wouldn’t be pressing lightly.

My friend Natalia who took me to the island is in a dontwanttobealeatheryoldlady phase, which meant that we spent our days slathered in sunscreen, wearing sunglasses (and a hat), and sitting in the shade.  This ensured that my freckleswillonedaymashtogetherinmassiveglorioustan plan was thwarted and we remained the two whitest inhabitants of the island.  She used to be quite a fun little sun bunny too.

Naturally, the first fellow to approach and offer us drinks was a drunk Swede.  I remove myself 20+ hours and multiple countries away from the tundra dwellers, but they still manage to find me.  I told him I was also Swedish and used my extensive “Jag bor i Stockholm” type vocabulary on him.  This confused him.  He asked where we were really from and we said California.  He thought it would be hilarious to insist that we were from Ohio, until we started referring to him as Norway (yes, we’re clever).

**

More on Thailand later.  I’ll leave you with this video:

Also, check out some of the paintings at the Museum of Bad Art. 

 

Shopping in Hong Kong

beats shopping in Sweden.  The thrills of happiness that kick in with each new purchase are vivid reminders that I can be a rather materialistic person.  It’s not an innate sort of materialism where I sit at home daydreaming about new things or spend hours looking through catalogs and websites.  It’s a materialism that is thrust upon me by shops and advertisers: I don’t have the desire until I am in a mall.  Kind of like when you aren’t hungry until you smell/see a delicious BLT.  Of course, my clothing hunger at the mall could be a result of store starvation in Stockholm.

Stockholm is generally an expensive city to live in.  It made 19 on a list of the world’s most expensive cities (though the pricing seems off, in my opinion.)  I don’t know how many cities there are in the world, but 19 isn’t a great position.  Number 2 on the list is neighboring Oslo.  But, prices aside, I don’t find Stockholm to be a shopper-friendly location.  It just doesn’t have the variety of stores that can be found in other international hubs and capitals.  (Lack of variety goes for food shopping as well).  I will admit, though, if you’re ever in need of an H&M, Stockholm is the place to be.

Stockholm also houses NK, an expensive department store which always has awesome storefront windows.  For Christmas this year, they were decorated with various Santa scenes, like this one:

But enough about Sweden.  I’m in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong is one of the world’s most densely populated cities, and holds the number one slot for amount of skyscrapers.  So, when I flew in and arrived at the apartment on an (suburb?) island called Discovery Bay– 20 minute ferry to Hong Kong island – I was pleasantly surprised by the natural beauty.  Mountains, beaches, and general greenery abound on DB.  Oh, and Disneyland.  That’s here too.

All in all, my experience of Hong Kong has been a strangely familiar one; a mesh of my life experiences.  Once again I’m in a land where foreigner is written on my skin (in Sweden I try to keep my mouth shut as long as possible to avoid the label).  I’m being reacquainted with the mild, humid winters that I miss.  I’m eating meals that are laid in large dishes and shared by the whole table (albeit this involves me fumbling with chopsticks, instead of the Arab method of tossing it in with your fingers).  The outdoor markets seem Middle Eastern, as does the bargaining.  The crowds and apartment living are Egypt, the shopping and buildings are Dubai, the weather and beaches are Oman, Disneyland is California, and the shoving without apologizing is Sweden.  The monopoly money is Hong Kong’s, as is the island hopping.

Unfortunately I have not been here long enough to get a good grasp of Hong Kong.  Cultural attitudes, social issues, passions, and values – these I do not understand.  I don’t know what it’s like to walk through the city alone as a girl here.  I don’t know my way around, or what food not to eat off the street.  I’m not used to being “just acquaintances” with a city.  I feel fickle.  I don’t know if I’ll call.