Book Review – 서평

The Nakano Thrift Shop:

By Hiromi Kawakami

Translated by Allison Markin Powell

In the ‘about me’ section of this website, I explain what my favourite quote is. For those of you who can’t be bothered to go to that page, do not fear. My favourite quote is this:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

― Alan Bennett, The History Boys

The Nakano Thrift Shop takes a while to get into. You have to really try to read it. Or at least I did. Because the characters and the narration are just so every day. It’s all very normal. There are no attempts at making things seem extraordinary, or ‘special’. While this starts off as difficult, eventually I found that it was this ‘every day-ness’ that was at the centre of this books charm.

There were so many instances where I was reading, where I had to pause and re-read the last paragraph or so, because I hadn’t fathomed that someone would be able to capture such fleeting, natural experiences and thoughts in such a clear and accurate way. I recognised myself in Hitomi, the narrator of the book, even though we don’t have that much in common (because I’m not a 30 something year old Japanese woman). I felt a sense of oneness with her, and recognised feelings which I had thought special and unique to me. The characters are offbeat and all have flawed personalities, and as they live, work and interact with each other, what we see is an accurate portrayal of human relationships.

The Nakano Thrift shop is full of objects for sale, as ordinary and un-extraordinary as the staff and customers that work with them. But each object, and each person, has a story. Whether fresh and trendy, awkward and not quite working properly, or old and falling apart, the reader is able to explore the significance of the initially insignificant. Mr Nakano frequently makes it clear that his shop isn’t for antiques, it’s just for stuff that people don’t want or need anymore. The objects aren’t of any obvious worth, and probably won’t create a significant profit. Each object in his shop holds many secrets; and you end up seeing the value in each of them if you provide a space to look for it.

One of my favourite parts of the book was where Hitomi, the young woman who works the register at Mr. Nakano’s thrift shop, and Takeo, her reserved co-worker, spend the night together. So, books these days try to show how important it is that the characters are having sex by describing it in such explicit detail and uses such erotic language that it creates the opposite effect. It loses its significance. Instead it become titillation, smut. Where often what the author was attempting was to describe the symbolic or emotional importance of the act of having sex. Whereas Kawakami chooses not to describe it. There are so many examples of purposefully noticed details throughout the book; The observance of someone’s posture, the movement of someone’s adam’s apple, the formation of ice on the ground. All of which gives an indication of how the character feels or what they are noticing. We see what is significant for them. Which is why, all that is said about Hitomi’s engagement with Takeo is this:27718417_10215657021168751_610967232_n

“We had sex, briefly.”

Which, in my opinion, was far more exciting and engaging as I paid so much more attention to the descriptions before and after this short sentence. I focused on how she described the process of them removing their clothes, and how she watched for his expression and response afterwards. It also left far more to the imagination, which is always a far more effective tool for writers to use than over-description.

Another worthwhile thing to note is that it is undoubtedly Japanese in its tone and style. It is quiet and self-contained; dialogue isn’t overly scripted and contrived, but rather takes an organically rambling path. I say rambling over flowing because it often isn’t a smooth path of conversation. There isn’t much “action” in the plot, however by the end, you feel that you and the characters have gone through a lot emotionally, even if in reality not much time or action has passed. It’s almost like an act of meditation. You focus so much on the little, repetitive actions that you find significance within them, as well as the occasional realisation.

In Japan, there is a word, omote, which refers to the public, formal, and conventional aspects of behavior – where and how one stands, how to greet one strangers or business partners etc. There is another word, ura, which refers to the private, informal, and unconventional aspects of culture. This mode of behavior is seen as more valuable and meaningful, however, one only acts this way with close friends or family members. The Japanese value outside appearances very much. This is not to say that they do not value what is private and hidden, but much importance is placed on one’s presentation and appearance. In The Nakano Thrift shop, we are given an opportunity to witness omote but experience ura. 

27661436_10215657538141675_284076083_nThis book is captivating because it tells a story. In fact within the story, there are many smaller stories. It’s a work of fiction which identifies and highlights the significant aspects of human relationships and how, to a stranger or after a great period of time, symbols of these relationships seem insignificant. But one can find importance in the unimportant.  The beauty of this novel comes from the fact that it is all so refreshingly ordinary.

As I said before, it is difficult to get into at first. But as you grow accustomed to the routine of the workers and customers of The Nakano Thrift Shop, you fall into the same rhythm as them, you walk the same steps, and you find the beauty in the every day little things.

Let me know what you think in the comments! 당신의 의견을 저에게 알려주십시오. 코멘트해 주세요!

follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga

Cooking with Connie – 코니와 함께 요리하기

My Dreamy, Creamy Mac & Cheese

If you have never had Mac & Cheese before, I’m so sorry that your culinary experiences has been lacking thus far, however I am here and I am prepared with a recipe to CHANGE YOUR LIFE… or y’know, to give you something tasty to try.

Now this is just how I like to cook Mac & Cheese, it might not be how you make it or you may want to add or change something, but that s entirely up to you. Feel free to tweek and adjust any recipes I post and then please do let me know what you did. Post a comment bellow or tag me in a picture of your culinary creation on line. You can find me at @ConnieunKiga and if you use the hashtag #CookingWithConnie I will be able to find you better.

Ingredients – 재료

(Serves: 4)74332745.jpg

3 slices good-quality bread
225g macaroni pasta (can use others is you don’t have macaroni)
55g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
475ml milk
225g grated cheese of your choice and a thumb size amount of Parmesan cheese

*add spices as desired*

**6 slices Streaky Bacon, diced, if you want some extra decadence**


Method – 조리법

1. So first of all you are going to need to warm up your oven. My oven works to Degrees Celsius, and I set it to 200 degrees. For different ovens it should be 400 DEGREE F,  or gas level 6, so you want it moderately hot.

2. Next, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Cook the macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, this should take about 8 minutes. Then drain and set aside for the time being.

3. Melt your butter in a separate saucepan over medium heat; and gradually stir in flour, salt and pepper (and any spices you might want, I like a bit of paprika and a tiny pinch of chilli powder) until smooth, this takes about 5 minutes. DON’T dump all the flour in at once cause not only will it make a little flour mushroom cloud, which will go all over you, but it makes it more likely that your roux will get lumpy and there will be dry clumps of flour in your sauce… I learned this the hard way…

4. Slowly pour milk into butter-flour mixture while continuously stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbling, again this takes about 5 minutes. Emphasis again on the slowly. Nothing worse than lumpy sauce.

5. Add your cheese to milk mixture and stir until cheese is melted. Now you can use any cheese you like for your own recipe, personally I like a combination of Cheddar and Gruyere. It is important that you grate the cheese beforehand as it helps the cheese to melt smoothly and avoids clumps and burnt bits at the bottom of the pan. It will take  2 to 4 minutes for the cheese to melt.

6. Fold your cooked macaroni into cheese sauce until coated with ooey, gooey, cheesy loveliness. Then pour the cheesy pasta into casserole dish.

7. If you want to include bacon, start cooking your diced bacon in a frying pan until crispy. Remove from the pan and pat dry any excess oil with a paper towel. Sprinkle half the bacon pieces on top of the macaroni and cheese. Stir slightly to combine and then sprinkle the remaining bacon on top.

easy-sourdough-bread-vermont-bread8. Toast your bread slices in a toaster or in the oven until lightly golden in colour. I like using sourdough bread as it makes especially crunchy toast. Tear into pieces and then blitz them, and the Parmesan, in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor you can buy ready made breadcrumbs and finely grated Parmesan and mix them together in a bowl. Sprinkle your breadcrumb/Parmesan mix on top of the macaroni and cheese and then put the casserole dish in the oven. For extra flavours I sometimes add halved cherry tomatoes on top of the macaroni before sprinkling on Breadcrumbs. You could also cooked spinach if you wanted. Bake until browned on top, about 20 minutes and then transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, if you can bear to wait that long, and once cool enough serve.

And there we have it. My recipe for Dreamy, Creamy Mac & Cheese. It’s perfect to eat out of a bowl, curled up on your sofa watching something rubbish on TV. It’s the ultimate comfort food.

Let me know what you think in the comments! 당신의 의견을 저에게 알려주십시오. 코멘트해 주세요!

follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga

10 ways to socialise, and still save money. – 사회화하고 여전히 돈을 절약하는 10가지 방법.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found this year, even though it’s not even February yet, has been trying to save up what little money I have. I need money in order to securely move abroad; to afford plane tickets, insurance and such, and it’s difficult. I don’t have a job, I’m a student and, let’s be honest, spending money is fun. It’s how you get new clothes, tasty food, and how you get to go to nice places and enjoy yourself with friends. It’s especially difficult to save money if, like me, you have friends who live far away. It’s a general assumption that being social cost money. However, I am determined to keep in touch with my friends, have a good time and save as much money as possible.

So I’ve come up with a bunch of ideas where you can socialise, enjoy good times and good company, without breaking the bank:


Picnics are a cute and thoughtful way to dine out with friends or family and save some pennies in the process. You get to choose and prepare the food, so you know you’ll like it, and you can eat it wherever and whenever suits you. You could even prepare a picnic as a surprise for a guest or visitor as an alternative to eating out which would be a personal, considerate activity sure to make anyone smile. This tip can also be used day to day by making sure you pack a lunch for yourself, rather than buying one everyday. It really does make a difference.Brand-Me-Crypto-currency-logo-design-Daniel-Pfeifer-5 (2) - Copy

 Make the most of Local Landmarks and Destinations.

Galleries, Museums and Libraries are great places to visit and absorb regional, national and international culture and history, and are often free of charge. Manchester has a whole list of activities to do that are completely free. There are always fun and interesting things to check out, and it can be an especially good idea for people visiting from out of town. Who says being cultured has to cost?

Brand-Me-Crypto-currency-logo-design-Daniel-Pfeifer-5 (2)Dinner Parties.

Hosting people at you own home takes away the stresses of expensive dining and out of control spending. By planning, buying and preparing a meal, you can stick to a budget and enjoy good food and drinks all without having to go to a restaurant or bar. Your guests could bring food of their own to the dinner party to, to even out the cost even further and share multiple courses. I’d advise making it even more special by designing the night around a theme! Dress up, make decorations or try and cook a particular cuisine.

Games day.

Whether outside or in, a games day is a great way to engage your brain and have fun, while saving money. If the weather is good, go to a local park and throw about a Frisbee, play a game of cricket or rounders (a dangerous choice for my family as we have been known to let our competitive side get the better of us). Or, throw back to your childhoods and have a game of Hide and Seek or a Brand-Me-Crypto-currency-logo-design-Daniel-Pfeifer-5 (3) - Copyscavenger hunt with a prize at the end. Or if its simply too cold, or if you just want to stay inside with a regular supply of tea, get out your best selection of board games, pop the kettle on and roll the dice. Board games are a great way to entertain and if you have bowls of snacks and nibbles handy, you can make a day of it.

Movie Nights.

One of my favourite options out of them all, a movie night is a classic way to be social while on a budget. Whether with a large group, or just with one other person, a movie night is an intimate, relaxed way to get together and have a good time. A particularly fun idea is to have a movie marathon, if you have the time, and buy the snacks, sweets and drinks you might typically have at the cinema from your local supermarket so you can have a luxury cinema experience for so much cheaper. Plus, you could wear your slippers for the whole thing if you wanted…

Stop impulse buying. Plan ahead.

Brand-Me-Crypto-currency-logo-design-Daniel-Pfeifer-5 (4) - CopyDo you ever head into a shop and end up with bags and bags of stuff that you didn’t actually want or need? I am frequently guilty of meaninglessly spending just because I can, or because I’m bored. I’m particularly guilty of this when I’m hungry in supermarkets, or when I feel depressed or down and I want to cheer myself with something new to wear. However, a great way to combat this is to plan before you head out to the shops. Planning before you head to a shop, or creating a list of things you need or that you want to save up for means you can look at your shopping trip objectively, with something solid in your hand to remind you not to buy stuff you don’t need. It sounds too simple to work, but the process of planning and then ticking items off keeps you focused and on track.

Shop Smarter.

Don’t be afraid to use discounts, deals and coupons when you do have to spend. Be thrifty. Use loyalty cards and vouchers. If you’re a student, you have plenty of discounts available to you and you can, and should, use them. You can also take advantage of reduced sections and sales; food that is perfectly fine to use, but is close to its sell by date will be drastically cheaper, and if you find clothes or products that are slightly damaged – but repairable – you can often buy them for less and then repair them at home. Get that sewing kit out guys, make do and mend.

Find ways to do things you’d usually pay for, for free.

You may not realise just how much money of yours is being wasted on stuff you simply don’t use. Yes you may say that you will use that gym membership eventually, but in the mean time cancel your membership and just go for runs outside with a friend or exercise at home.Brand-Me-Crypto-currency-logo-design-Daniel-Pfeifer-5 (5) - Copy

Reuse or Recycle.

Remember that sewing kit I mentioned before? Time to put it to good use and repair and tailor older clothes, or turn them into something new. An old pair of jeans, or a skirt, can make a great custom cushion cover. Glass jars and old coffee canisters make great containers for bulk kitchen storage items, desk organisers or bathroom containers. Old towels, clothes and bedding can be cut them up and turned into washable cleaning cloths. Refinish or reuse old furniture or disassemble them and reuse the wood. Try to re-use and recycle items as much as possible, use a little imagination and you can cut down on your ecological footprint, save your pennies and re-purpose your rubbish.

Remind yourself of your targets (and why its worth it).

Sometimes, you’re going to have to say no to stuff, and other times people will try and convince you to spend more than you should. “Go on, treat yourself. You deserve it.” At these times, remind yourself why you want to save your money, and how spending that little bit extra will effect your plans. Be sure to celebrate how well you do when you save, and use that pride and that excitement to motivate you to continue saving. It is possible to save money and still have fun, you just need to keep your resolve.


Finally I will say this, money can be a big cause of stress and anxiety for many people. We are pushed and pulled towards spending and splashing out everyday with slogans telling you that ‘you’re worth it’. Saving money can help you feel more financially secure, and its a useful habit to get into. However, if a situation arises where spending is necessary, don’t feel guilty. Unfortunately most things in this world cost money. But I hope this post helped you realise that having a good time with loved ones doesn’t have to cost you anything at all.

The best things in life are free after all.27157602_10215517302755878_936480128_n


Do you have any other ideas for ways to stay social and save money at the same time? Let me know in the comments.

사회적인 동시에 돈을 절약할 수 있는 다른 방법이 있나요? 코멘트 해 주세요.



follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga 

Why I want to work in South Korea – 내가 한국에서 일하고 싶은 이유

**WARNING – This post discusses suicide and mental health. Please be aware of potentially upsetting content.**


So, what are your plans for the future Connie?

These days I seem to give a very long answer to such a short question. While what I’m sure people expect to hear is ‘oh I’m doing this and that,’ or ‘I’m going on holiday in a few months so I need to save up‘ or even ‘nothing much, just finishing my studies‘, what I end up saying is “Well I finish my masters in September, so I’m working on that, and then I’m getting a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification before the end of 2018, because I’m planning on moving to Seoul in 2019. Oh so, I’m also learning Korean and saving up all my money for the move. What about you?

After this, understandably, I’m always asked “… why?”

To this, I’m afraid, is an even longer answer.

I can’t really say I’ve always wanted to live and work in South Korea, because that wouldn’t be true. In fact, I never really thought about living and working outside of the UK at all until last summer. I have, however, always wanted to visit Asia, specifically China, Japan and the Korean peninsula because I find the history and cultures in each of these places fascinating. Members of my family have lived and worked and travelled throughout South Asia, and I have never been. But hearing about these places, watching documentaries about the various art forms, trying as much traditional food as possible, studying their cultures and learning about their individual (and collective) histories was enjoyable for me. I loved learning and immersing myself in something entirely different. When I was in high school I had my first taste of South Korean culture, thanks to the marvel that is K-pop. I loved watching the music videos from Girls Generation, Super Junior and SHINee with my friends during breaks and trying to learn the dance moves – often failing miserably in my case. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t much of an insight into the real Korea, but it was a seed that grew and grew into what is now a wider appreciation of South Korea, its arts, culture, history and lifestyle as a whole.

While this gives a bit of context as to why I am interested in South Korea, it doesn’t explain why I am planning to move there. That, interestingly, started from my love of food and watching cooking shows. Anyone who has lived with me will know that my go-to guilty pleasure for daytime TV is watching food network and learning new, and often decadent, recipes. During the summer of 2017, my favourite show was called “Korean food made simple” and was hosted by Korean American professional chef, writer and television personality Judy Joo. I loved it. I was obsessed. Having eaten Chinese food and Japanese food frequently, and having attempted to cook Chinese and Japanese cuisine at home, I was embarrassed to admit I hadn’t tried ever even heard of most of the food she mentioned.  I had seen Korean restaurants but had never tried the food. But there it was, on my TV, with recipes and ingredients and information that was all new to me. Watching this show gave me a brief glimpse into everyday life in Korea, as well as snippets of history, culture and the Korean language – which sounded beautiful. I wanted to learn more, and so I did what any millennial would do. I looked on YouTube for videos about South Korea.

And boy oh boy, did I fall down a rabbit hole. I found so many videos. Music videos that I hadn’t seen in years, new groups and bands and artists that I adored, Korean dramas and movies which I became unexpectedly invested in, YouTubers who made videos about living in Korea like Megan Bowen, My Korean Husband and Eat Your Kimchi. I was finding out about Korean education system, Korean fashion, jokes, superstitions, drinking games, what it was like to live, eat, shop and work in Korea. It was so interesting. 

And then, I watched this one video by Eat Your Kimchi. It was part of their TL; DR Wednesdays video series, and it was called Suicide in South Korea. I hadn’t seen many videos on such a serious topic, and as I have an interest in topics surrounding mental health I was curious. Watching this video is what started the process of me deciding to move abroad. The first line of this video was “For the 11th year in a row now, Korea’s number 1 in suicides for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) according to a 2015 report.” That in itself was a very shocking statistic, but as the video continued I could feel myself becoming more and more heart-broken by what I heard. At the release of this video suicide was , and still is, the number one cause of death in children, teenagers and young people in South Korea. The video also shared how the pressures of schools and tests is so severe that access to school rooftops must be locked during exam season because student have been known to leave exams, go to the roof and jump off.

26943112_10215490671370110_1720474450_nI struggle with depression and anxiety, I was diagnosed with both when I was 18, and I have been hospitalised after I had attempted to take my own life, so I know first-hand what it can be like to reach that level of desperation and depression, but this was unbelievable. I couldn’t comprehend that these statistics could be correct, or that the stories that I had heard were realistic. School had been no picnic for me either, but even from primary school we had been encouraged to talk about and share our feelings with someone, and I was always told that there was someone to talk to. I’d also lost friends to suicide and knew of many other people who struggled with poor mental health, but never in such a severe scenario. So, I did some research of my own and, honestly, I was shocked by what I found.

South Korea still has the highest suicide rate in the world, with an average of 40 people committing suicide every day. About 1 in 4 Koreans experience a mental health disorder at least once in their life, and only 1 in 10 pursue professional help. As mentioned in the video, suicide is the No.1 cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 30. For people in their 40s, suicide is the second most common cause of death, after cancer, but the difference is very small and among the older generations, the numbers are even more worrying, with the elderly committing suicide to avoid being seen as a burden and to escape their own loneliness.

After the Korean war, South Korea achieved considerable economic transformation in a relatively short period of time. However social change in the country did not keep pace with economic change which has lead to massive social implications. From what I have read and heard from friends, Korean society produces a huge amount of expectancy to achieve and ‘be successful’ and is the daily driving force for most Koreans. From childhood, one is expected to aim to be the best. Get the best grades, go to the best school, get the best jobs. This seeps into the rest of their lives beyond school, with social pressures and demands leaving over 90 percent of 7,000 people surveyed by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs said that they were under some form of stress, while a quarter said that they were under high stress. This strain can lead to self-destructiveness and reliance on vices  with many Korean workers saying how alcohol allows them to open up to co-workers and bosses as well as students explaining how heavy drinking is their way to de-stress from South Korea’s hyper-competitive society (South Koreans were the world’s biggest consumers of hard liquor as of 2014, drinking 11.2 shots per week on average).

I feel very strongly that I can and should use my experiences, my skills and my interests to help other people. Specifically, to help people who struggle with mental health issues and to encourage discussions about mental health and how you can live with it, as well as helping people support those with mental health issues. I’ve done this even before I was diagnosed myself and, after I took time to help myself, I did so after I ended up hitting rock bottom. But there is no way I would be where I am now had I not had help from friends, family, medical experts, councillors, co-workers and significant role-models in my life. So, when I heard of the severity of the needs of Korean people, my instinct kicked in and I thought ‘what can I do to help?’

I know that I’m not going to be able to help everyone, and I know that there are people26942931_10215490493765670_844550843_n that need help in the UK. I’m also so aware that South Korea will be a huge culture shock and that before I can contribute in any way I need to learn as much as I can about life in Korea and adapt to the lifestyle there. But that many people shouldn’t feel that they have no option other than to end their own life. It’s heart-breaking, and it is wrong. South Korea has a unique culture and style of life, there is a huge family focus and a sense of loyalty and respect that I feel could do with being replicated in many other places. But where I can help with social growth, to support as many people as possible, I want to help. I also have the good fortune to be comfortable talking about mental health, I can empathise with many people with how they are feeling, and the skills and abilities I have could work towards positive changes. Let alone the fact that not only am I someone who could help, but I actively want to. I want to go to South Korea, so I’m going to work my butt off to get there and get started.

UK mental health support hotlines 

US mental health support hotlines

ROK mental health support hotlines

List of international mental health support hotlines 


follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Connienkiga 


Sources used

Crude Suicide Rate by Country 2017 –

Avoiding psychiatric treatment linked to Korea’s high suicide rate – By KH디지털2 – Jan 27, 2016

Korea neglecting mental health issues: experts – By Anita Mckay – Jul 10, 2017

‘In Korea, there is no mental health’: Barriers to treatment – Chris Juergens – June 29, 2017

Funerals for the living in bid to tackle South Korea’s high suicide rate – Justin McCurry 15 Dec 2015

Student Suicides in South Korea – Kristine – 2011. 06.06

Why Koreans commit suicide – Ranjit Kumar Dhawan, 2015-12-20

South Korea’s Struggle With Suicide – Young-Ha Kim APRIL 2, 2014