Exploring Sokcho – The cut-off coastline.

Settling into my life here in Seoul has been a bit hectic. I’m still not quite in the flow of things and last weekend marked a month since I moved here. I’d started to feel a little rundown and tired… I was stuck in a rut. I felt stuck and like everything was too difficult.

Then a friend recommended that I travel to Sokcho, a coastal city on the opposite side of the Korean peninsula. Sokcho is known for its mineral water springs, beautiful beaches and water-fronts and healthy, nutritious food. It sounded perfect. So I made plans to go and stay there for a night and 2 days.

And honestly, it was trans-formative. I felt like a new person by the end of the weekends and I was rejuvenated and energetic. The scenery was beautiful and the food was AMAZING.

Part of what made the trip so meaningful for me, however, was not necessarily so positive. Whether it was the number of army bases that I passed, the soldiers I saw, the high fences and barbed wire or the food and place names, I was constantly reminded of how close I was to the boarder with the DMZ and therefore how close I was to North Korea.

The mountains, fields and lakes in the area were stunning. And I was told that the land that makes up the DMZ is of of the most ecologically diverse and abundant areas in Korea, because of its lack of human intrusion. This environmental perfection is only tarred by the hidden land-mines from the Korean war.

The beaches were equally beautiful, but these too had constant reminders of the past and ongoing conflicts. It was sad in a way, that this beautiful country still had these lasting and prominent scars of its difficult history. In fact, when we drove up to the boarder gate of the DMZ, the closest a civilian can get to North Korea without paying money or needing to pass security checks, I almost cried. We had driven through a small farming town to reach our destination, and it was like someone had just cut the area in half. The village just stopped. It was a sudden and sharp division.

However, I didn’t cry. Because I saw how the people in the local area were just carrying on. Their lives hadn’t stopped. Life hadn’t just ended. And the situation has apparently been improving. More and more beaches have been taking down their high, barbed fences and those I met were positive about the improving relationships between the two Korea’s.

As we drove away and onto our next destination, it started to rain gently, while sun still shone through. A rainbow briefly appeared and made me think of how, although the division is difficult, there is still hope. Hope of reunification. Hope for a better future.

When I arrived in Sokcho I felt empty and tired. However, when I left I was hopeful, happy and I had fallen in love with Korea all over again.

If you want more updates from me, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @Connieunkiga

Loneliness abroad

Hello all. So it’s finally happened. I have moved to Korea. I’m just settling in and I’m making my little room feel as much like my home as possible. It all still seems a bit surreal and not quite real. Possibly more so because, at the moment, the campus is practically empty as its not term time yet. Which means I am currently feeling very alone.

Now I value my alone time. In fact, I often choose to be alone because sometimes I really just don’t want to be with people. Peopleing can be exhausting. But it’s my choice, I choose to be alone. Right now, I find myself alone not by choice, but by circumstance. I haven’t chosen to be alone.


Feeling lonely and isolated is normal I think when one moves to a new place. And it can be overwhelming at times. However, I feel like my loneliness will help me to value my companionship a lot more in the future. As well as allowing me to really appreciate the kindness I have been shown so far. For example, every night so far I have been bought dinner by someone else, and many of my seniors check up on me to make sure I am eating well and that I am doing okay.

I also think that by experiencing loneliness now, will be able to be more empathetic with my fellow foreign neighbours. Because I am staying in a dorm room on the campus of the university where I am teaching, I will be living alongside foreign students at the university and other Korean student who live far away. I hope that, while I am here, I can help them not to feel quite so lonely.

We never really know how someone is feeling. Loneliness can be a heavy, suffocating burden and can often prompt further feelings of inadequacy and sadness. I think for this week I want to encourage you, wherever you are, to reach out to someone who might be lonely. Whether in person or via text or social media, simply asking “Hey, how are you?” can completely turn someones day around. Little, random acts of kindness and friendliness can go a long way.

If you want more updates from me, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @Connieunkiga

The ‘I Weigh’ movement – why it challenges me so much.

If you haven’t heard of the ‘I Weigh’ movement, in a very brief nutshell it’s  a body-positive social-media movement launched by Jameela Jamil. It’s a campaign which highlights the importance of our non-physical attributes, critically challenging  “how women are taught to value themselves. In Kg”.  Jamil makes sure to make it clear that taking time to shift our focus from our looks to our accomplishments, our support systems or any other feats that we hold dear to our hearts needn’t necessarily mean a complete rejection of some of the more physical aspects of beauty, nor should we feel ashamed about wanting to be healthier and fitter . “By all means take pride in your appearance”, she says. “Enjoy your looks, and your clothes and your sex appeal, but don’t make it your number-one concern and selling point… We aren’t supposed to all look the same.”

One of the key parts of her campaign is striving to make editing and photo-shopping peoples bodies a thing of the past. Jamil expressly calls for all images taken of her to remain unedited, and as part of the #IWeigh story she calls other people to share unedited images of themselves.

“How wonderful!” “So brave!” “Let’s all embrace our true beauty!” you hear the masses cry, and while I agree I have not yet joined this campaign. And the reason for that is because, honestly, I’m absolutely terrified of it.Body Image

Not many people know this about me, but I used to be quite seriously bulimic while I was at university. I rarely ate healthily, and I always immediately felt guilty about eating and would force myself to throw up whatever I had eaten. I was loosing weight rapidly, but still felt huge. Whenever anyone commented on my weight loss, or how my legs or my body was looking slimmer, I felt encouraged to loose even more weight. I look at photos of myself now and I realise just how sick I looked. I wasn’t healthy, but I was desperate to be skinnier. I hated how big I felt.

Honestly, I’ve had issues with my body since I was a young teenager. I was very tall, and started developing very early. I was aware just how much ‘bigger’ I was compared to my friends. On top of this, boys seemed to only like my skinnier, smaller friends. So, I began to wish I looked like them. I hated the size of my hips, the fact that my arms weren’t toned, that my stomach wasn’t flat and that I didn’t have a gap between my thighs… Everything I wanted to be, everything I wanted to look like, wasn’t me.

Now I’m 24, I look back at how I looked in my teens and I’m so aware of how warped my self image was. I was slim, strong, and I definitely wasn’t fat. I was healthy. In fact, I was still healthy in sixth form. But I still saw myself as big.

After I got seriously thin, I worked hard to break out of the habit of making myself sick,

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My Thinnest

but I still ate unhealthily. This meant I rapidly gained weight, which led to my self esteem, my confidence and my self image dropping rapidly. Now I hated the way I looked because I actually was big, or at least I was bigger than I wanted to be, and I was bigger than was considered to be healthy. Truthfully, I am still bigger than I want to be, and in order to be healthier I need to live a healthier lifestyle. And I am loosing my excess weight, slowly, and I am trying to live a healthier lifestyle, but I am so afraid of looking at myself in the mirror or in photos because of how I feel about the way I look. It doesn’t matter to me that I have a BA in Drama and will soon hopefully have an MSc in Public relations, it doesn’t matter that I have skills and friends and family and talents and other positive non-physical attributes. Because all I can think about is how fat I look.

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My Biggest

How sad is that.

And I mean that literally. The fact I can’t enjoy being in a photo with my family, or that I hate having my photo taken at memorable or important events like friends weddings or parties makes me so sad. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. But honestly, I just don’t. And it’s hard to remember a time when I ever did.

How I see myself is a work in progress. I’m very good at building others up, and I hope I remind my friends and family how beautiful and brilliant they are on a regular basis, but I find it so hard to build myself up. While not everyone experiences eating disorders, I think to an extent everyone finds it difficult to be fully body positive. I wanted to be completely honest in this post, about how I see myself and how challenging it is to be positive about yourself. But I want to commit to being more positive about myself, and being more honest and confident with how I really look… but also how I feel about how I look. I hope that this commitment to positive change comes through in my posts on here and on my other social media profiles, especially my Instagram. And I want to encourage anyone reading this who feels similarly about how they look, please don’t think about yourself as all the things you want to change, and try not to only value yourself by how you look. Because you are so much more than your image. You have value regardless of your weight. Lets all work together to be both happy and healthy.

 

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Reasons I am thankful: My reflections on this year on the first day of Chuseok – 내가 고마워하는 이유: 추석 첫날 올해에 대한 나의 생각은

It’s been over a year since I decided I wanted to move to the other side of the planet to live and work in Seoul, South Korea. I’m now in Korea, I’ve been here for 4 weeks and I have just over 2 weeks left before I head home. From today until Tuesday it’s the Korean Holiday Chuseok, the autumnal harvest celebration where traditionally Korean people would thank the spirits and their ancestors for the autumnal harvest. This is why Chuseok is commonly translated as “Korean Thanksgiving” to English speakers.

This morning I went to Church, as I do every Sunday, and I found myself thinking about all the things I am grateful for. Part of making one celebrates every Little Victory, I think it’s important to constantly and openly remind oneself of what makes you thankful or happy and what can motivate you further. So here is my Chuseok 2018 list of things I am thankful for.

I am thankful for:

  1. My Family
  2. My Friends from home who I have known for years
  3. The new Friends I’ve made who I hope to know for years to come
  4. My Education, and all I have learned in school, sixth form and university
  5. Finishing my Masters
  6. The opportunities I have had to be Creative and to enjoy my hobbies.
  7. The opportunities I have had to Work and Earn money
  8. My amazing Church in the UK
  9. My amazing Church in Korea
  10. The support and care from those who part of my wider Christian family
  11. My Health and the continual journey I am on to be healthier.
  12. My current state Mental Health and my support network for when my Mental health isn’t so good.
  13. The fact that 4 years ago I was unsuccessful in ending my own life, and the experience scared me so much I decided to help others who feel that way.
  14. That my calling to Korea has been met with encouragement, support and opportunity.
  15. That I can see how far I have come
  16. That I can see how far I could go
  17. That I feel comfortably out of my comfort zone.
  18. That I have a worldwide support network who make me feel so welcome and loved.
  19. All the experiences I have had that have led me here.
  20. For my blog, and for an outlet for me to share my thoughts in a creative and fun way.

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I hope you all have things you are thankful for, and I encourage you to comment them below. When you feel your worst it can really help to find something to be thankful for, even something little. It can put things in perspective and can help you feel motivated to keep on going.

So these have been my Chuseok #LittleVictories, what are yours?

추석 즐겁게 보내세요! Have a happy Chuseok.

If you want more updates from me, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @Connieunkiga

Am I annoying you yet? – 제가 아직 당신을 귀찮게 하고 있나요?

One of the harder things about travelling alone, or living and working abroad alone is that you’re… well… alone. You don’t have someone to spend every day with, or go around visiting places, or share your excitement over every little thing. In my case a lot of my friends in Korea have full time jobs, and therefore aren’t free except for evenings or weekends, and even then you can’t see them all the time ’cause, y’know, they have a life beyond you. 

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Now I love spending time by myself, I like being able to explore and experience quiet time, but I also love being around other people, I enjoy company. Especially here in Korea, company is commonplace. It’s rare to see people eating or drinking alone, you either see people in pairs or groups laughing and talking together. Naturally I also want to hang out with people, and chat and eat and drink together. However, I get so worried about annoying the friends I have here, and worrying about seeming needy or helpless, I’m reluctant to message them and ask to hang out.

I spoke to one of my friends about this, he knew that I wanted people to hang out with and that I was worried about becoming a burden, and he reassured me that even though people might be busy or working that they would always get back to me afterwards. He42329638_235625337104818_7502272894957780992_n said “you don’t to be or think about it so seriously” and reminded me that just how if I’m busy and a friend texts me, I might not answer straight away, but when I can I always message them back or call them to see whats up.

I found myself thinking about how often we decide not to message someone, or ask to meet up or chat because we are worried we might annoy that person by seeming needy or pathetic. I have done it so many times, when I’ve felt sad or lonely. I wanted to talk to someone, but didn’t.

And yet at the same time, I’m constantly telling my friends to contact me whenever they need someone to talk to, whether its day or night. I tell them this because they are my friends, I care about them, I love them. And if they need someone to talk to at 3 o’clock in the morning because they feel sad, you can bet I will always be willing to answer the phone, as well as sleepy probably.

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When your friends with someone, if they need you, or if they want to be with you and spend time with you, its nice. I mean, don’t get me wrong of course there are times where people can be annoying, but honestly, I’d rather be annoyed by my needy friends everyday than spend my time completely alone. I think we all need to be a little less scared of being annoying. Being considerate is of course a good trait to have, but asking your friend how they are, or how work was, or even asking them if they want to get a cup of coffee and catch up isn’t annoying. It’s nice.

 

 

For more updates on what I’m getting up to, follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @Connieunkiga