Sunday, 31 January 2010

Inspire me

What does one do when seeking inspiration? I can't speak for others but for me, inspiration usually comes from a variety of outlets.

Generally, it stems from the everyday - things that are happening around me; the people I meet; the stories I'm told; the experiences I encounter. In those times, the most natural impulse is to write. If I'm near a computer, I'll find myself tapping away in stream of consciousness, either reviewing the experience or sorting out my thoughts regarding it. But if trusty Bert isn't with me, the nearest napkin or notepad in my bag will do. I've forgotten my wallet at home, but never my notepad.

My point is, I don't usually go looking for inspiration because it's one of those things I find that just comes naturally. You have to recognize it when you see it or feel it, and let it move you.


If you haven't noticed lately, I've been having a severe case of writer's block. I see two main reasons for it. First off, it's blistering cold. I mean, 'not wanting to leave my apartment because the only thing to do outside is freeze and that's not an option' kind of cold. The second reason is something my friend, C, pointed out. I was beating myself up over not having written in so long, and she simply said, "You'll write when you feel something new."

And I guess she's right. There hasn't been a lot of 'new' in the past couple of weeks. But you know, I kind of like it. I didn't realize how fast my life moves in Seoul. There's always something to do or someone to meet up with. So, instead of experiencing 'new' and writing about it, I've been reading - spending quality time with me, and getting lost in the words of my favourite authors. And that's perfect for right now.

So dear readers, what do you do when seeking inspiration? Do you actively seek it? Or do you wait for it to come to you? And when you get it, what do you do with it?


Thursday, 21 January 2010

The world in my shoebox

Multicultural: adj.
1. Of relating to, or including several cultures.
2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

Having lived in Seoul for just over five months now, I think it's time I shared a little bit about the relationships I've formed here.

I always imagined that moving to a different part of the world would expose me to new cultures, ideas and people, and that I'd eventually make new friends. What I never expected, was to move to a new country, only to connect with people from all ends of the planet.

My journey in Seoul began with a fabulous perk -- a mandatory orientation where 100+ teachers from across the globe had to coexist in a dorm-style facility for just over nine days. When in a situation like that, one is bound to form connections and create relationships based on common interests, goals and backgrounds. You're sort of given instant friends. And that's precisely what happened.

Five months into my stay, I can truly say I've been blessed in that respect. The epiphany hit me a few weeks ago when a few of us gathered at my shoe box for some wine and chit-chat. I had stepped out of the room for a bit, and when I came back in, I couldn't help but pause and look around. There, in my little, dressed-up, Manolo shoe box, sat friends representing various countries such as China, South Africa, Iraq, Columbia, USA, Canada and Korea. We also have a representative from the United Kingdom from time to time, but she was away learning Korean on this particular evening.

I couldn't help but smile.

This is the essence of travel -- stepping out into the wide world and realizing that there's more to life than the status quo. It's about understanding that connections can be formed with people, regardless of language barriers, skin colours or geography.

Dear Readers, I truly wish you could listen in on some of the conversations that take place among us. They're filled with rich stories of culture and days long gone. We talk about values, traditions and our colourful families. One of us even told a story about her grandmother's 'witch' cousin, back home! True story!

All in all, I wouldn't trade any of this for the status quo, because the joy and absolute laughter that bubbles out of my little shoe box on 'wine and chit-chat' nights, is something that I'd like to bottle up and treasure for the rest of my life.

These are some of the simple pleasures that come when traveling with an open mind and an open heart.

Image courtesy of Google Images


It happened.

Dear Readers, it's finally come to this. It took me five months to get here, but it happened. Today, I woke up from a spontaneous afternoon siesta and realized it was time for dinner. Upon inspecting the choices for a decent meal in my fridge (eggs, bread, potatoes, tomatoes... Tupperware with questionable surprises), I intentionally opted for the following: scrambled eggs and a potato.

I made breakfast. For dinner. I made breakfast for dinner!

Now I know some of you are wondering what the big deal is... but please, hear me out.

As I sit here eating and typing away at this entry, I feel a delayed sense of satisfaction. I remember my friends in university -- the ones who lived on campus -- eating such meals as a ritual. Every night, the options were take-out, ramen noodles or breakfast.

Having never experienced that, save for the times I'd go to a restaurant and knowingly order the 'all day breakfast' special, this feels like a small victory.

I think I get it though. You know, the whole idea of cooking breakfast when in doubt? Breakfast is... easy! We almost always have eggs in the fridge. And eggs can be cooked in more ways than we can count. It makes sense.

In any case. A small triumph for a newbie out on her own in the big, wide world.

Or perhaps, this could be the beginning of bad behaviour? I start off by breaking rules concerning meals, and the next thing I know I'm. . . ahem!

A delayed reaction, no doubt... but a joyous one for now, nonetheless!


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Thinking about life

I hate to think I'm jumping on the bandwagon, and I hope you won't think I am. But I must say something.

These feelings I'm experiencing, they're the exact same emotions I feel when I find out a loved one has passed on. They're the same symptoms that take over me when I feel like I have no control over something. These are the same feelings I had in December 2004.

When those fatal earthquakes and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean destroyed thousands upon thousands of lives... I felt helpless. And despite my helplessness, I couldn't stop sitting at my computer, crawling websites that listed the names of loved ones... lost. Gone. I would sit there, reading the pleas for help. I'd look through the traumatizing photographs of the reality at that time. I'd feel ill... and then I'd become numb. I did this for close to a month.

It wasn't sadistic or because of some weird sense of satisfaction. Not at all. I just couldn't stop looking, even though my heart was breaking. What was happening there was real. No news medium could ever make something like that up. The lists posted on these websites... the photographs... they were compiled by loved ones... who lost loved ones. This was reality media without the editing. Photojournalism at its best.

And today I find myself doing the same with Haiti. Not more than hour ago, I clicked a link posted on Facebook by a friend of mine in Japan. He mentioned that the link contained images that weren't for the faint of heart. I clicked it anyway. As I scrolled through the images of the devastation... the chaos, those same feelings began to surface. Some images were so graphic that they came with a warning, before you could view them. I did it anyway.

So... I started wondering what was wrong with me. Obviously, something had to be, if, despite getting upset, I found myself still clicking for more. But I realize now what it is about these photographs that draw me to them. It's this whole idea of fighting for... life.

This is a photograph of a search and rescue team made up of people from Brazil and China - countries from opposite ends of the earth, working together for a common cause... life.

This is a photograph of a Russian emergency worker rescuing a young child from a building, down to rubble... she's alive in his arms.

These examples are similar to what happened during the 2004 disasters as well. And it happens with mostly every natural disaster that takes place on our planet -- the whole world comes together to fight for life.

So I guess I'm wondering... why is it okay to bond together and fight for life, when we're battling Mother Nature? And why is it not okay to do the same, if we're fighting against ourselves? Isn't life worth fighting for everyday?


Images courtesy of The Boston Globe

Thursday, 14 January 2010


I could go for a healthy dose of some good ol' fashioned gumption right about now.

According to studies, it takes 21 days to break a habit. My friend J calls this process I'm putting myself through, a twisted version of AA. And I suppose it is. I've enlisted a daily reminder to help with the process. If I progress, I go up, and if I screw up, I'm back down to zero. But it has to be done. Don't ask what habit I'm trying to break. Chances are, you already know. And if you don't, and curiosity's gotten the best of you, please read back-entries. You'll get the idea!

In the past few days I've taken up to watching episodes of Mad Men. What. a. show! Aside from the fabulous eye-candy that is Jon Hamm, (whose character, Don Draper, I've recently started to despise), it's the women characters on the show who have me addicted. Now they... they had gumption!

I always imagined that being a woman on a mission in the '50s and '60s -- whether it was climbing the corporate ladder, or working around the clock to secure a husband -- would be a tedious and exhausting role to live up to. But these women did it... and in stilettos and corsets, no less. This idea of being a woman in a man's world truly grew from that era, I think.

But in order to get anywhere in that time, they needed to put their emotions aside and think like men, while never losing the allure that defined them as women. "Stop dressing like a school-girl and use your ankles," said Joan, the head of the secretarial pool in the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency.

Amazing stuff.

I think it's helpful to perhaps revert to the essence of those times, ladies. Thankfully we now live in a world that enforces equal opportunities (or so we hope, anyway). But this idea of not letting emotions manipulate our moves... I think that's something. Men do it all the time... so why can't women? It could dissolve so much unnecessary heartache.

Or perhaps it's just something for me to adhere to anyway.

Gumption: n. Informal
  1. Boldness of enterprise; initiative or aggressiveness.
  2. Guts; spunk.
  3. Common sense.
  4. The ability to make sensible decisions.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Writing voice

One of the greatest and strangest things about being a writer on the Internet, is the idea that people can read your work from anywhere in the world, with the simple click of a button.

Straight From The Curls has been alive and thriving on the WWW for over two years. Never would I have imagined in July 2007, that there'd be people from places such as Iran and Tunisia, stumbling towards my words and getting to know parts of me. Its thrilling and nerve wracking all the same.

But what's even more interesting is me, as a writer, stumbling across blogs by my fellow readers, and noticing that they've adapted parts of my writing style to their own work. I tell you, there's nothing more surreal than reading a blog that's not your own, and noticing your flow of thought with someone elses words. Or even your shorthand and 'isms' that make your blog your own... living on a different page. I had this experience the other night, and it took me all of ten seconds to realize I wasn't anywhere near SFTC.

Upon talking to the writer, she admitted that she does read my blog a lot and likes my writing style. She even said she knowingly adopted the style, because she wanted to protect the people she mentioned in the post, and liked a technique I used at SFTC. Fair enough, I suppose and I do feel honoured.

I guess the thing that got me thinking, is that it's taken me a while to find my voice on the WWW. People now come to SFTC expecting a certain tone, flow and train of thought that's uniquely mine. So... I guess I've become protective of it, as a writer. I'm at a place now where my readers get it. I can simply sit at my computer and type... as it is in my mind. And from feedback, you, dear readers, tell me that you hear my voice in your heads. I think that's the biggest compliment that I could ever receive at this moment. So, thank you!

If you're writing... find your voice and make it your own. It will take time, but you'll be glad you did!


Sunday, 10 January 2010

Toasty toes and toasty buns!

I'm starting to get restless.

I'm sitting at my desk at school, feeling terribly cold, and am dreaming of tropical escapes. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? But moments like these make me wonder what I was thinking when I decided to move to a country that experiences a similar winter to that of Toronto.

Well, I guess this wasn't the case always. Seoul is known to have winters where snow falls to the ground and melts away at once, because of all the pollution. But, this year, for some strange reason, we were given heaps and heaps of it, with no price tag at all. Well, maybe with a 'freeze your behinds off' price tag. Literally... you freeze if you're outside... and if you're not already frozen by the time you come in, you're guaranteed a frozen kaboose when you sit still or even lay on your bed inside.

This is where I need to express my thankfulness to two fabulous inventions in Korea.

First - Ondol floor heating. As someone who has cold feet 365 days of the year, I take full advantage of the amazing pockets of heat emitted from my floor. There's no better feeling than laying a pair of socks on apartment floor, only to wake up in the morning, put them on, and have instantaneous toasty toes. Ah-may-zing!!

Second - The bidet. Not for it's flushing purposes, because, believe me, the last thing I want is to have the toilet attack my... uh... special places. BUT, you know how in the winter you dread going to the bathroom because it's so frigid, so you end up holding everything in until the last possible moment? Well, you don't have to do that if you have a bidet! It has a seat-warming function! Absolutely serious here... you sit, and the next thing you know, you've got toasty buns!! Fabulous if you're suffering from the above mentioned frozen kaboose.

All that aside, I am looking forward to warmer temperatures. I miss traveling, and have been confined to Seoul for way too long. It's not that I can't travel through the rest of the country, it's just that I'd rather not, seeing as how everything is buried under a thick blanket of snow.

I must admit that this country is absolutely beautiful in the winter -- all the ancient gates and architecture, perfectly covered in snowy white... it's a sight that will be preserved in my memory for a long time to come. But I cannot wait for warmer days, so that I can really relish in all that Korea has to offer in terms of sights and scenery.

(I'll probably be eating my words here, once I start sweating buckets in the humid summer months.)

But until then, I will go on planning my tropical escape in February - destination to be determined.

Stay tuned.

This is a picture I took from my window a few days ago. I woke up to some giggling outside, and all I saw once I drew the blinds was this. Sadly, I don't share the same amount of enthusiasm for the cold as this lovely artist. But I am touched by the sentiment.


Image courtesy of StraightFromTheCurls

Friday, 8 January 2010

Stop crying your heart out

I've mentioned Leona Lewis in past posts. I really like her as a singer and even more, with the way she carries herself as a celebrity. I recently had a chance to listen to her latest CD, Echo, and am absolutely in love with it. Among the songs on it is a cover of "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" - originally sung by Oasis. Here are links to both the versions, found on YouTube. Absolute brilliance. I love the lyrics and the meaning behind the song.

"Cause all of the stars have faded away,
Just try not to worry, you'll see them someday.
Take what you need, and be on your way,
And stop crying your heart out..."

Here's the video and song, originally sung by Oasis:

This is the version, sung by Leona Lewis. In the video, she's performing on Britain's The X Factor. Her voice is bewitching... I feel like I'm floating when I hear it. Cheesy, I know... but it's been that sort of day!


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Hope and forward movement

"I'm moving into 2010, leaving what happened and who happened behind in 2009," I said.

"Don't you think that's kind of extreme?" she asked, with a shocked expression on her face.

"Kind of... but it's a new decade, so why not, right?" I said, thoughtfully. "I brought a lot of baggage with me into 2009, and I'm tired of lugging it around. So whoever wants to come along, can meet me in 2010. I don't mind! I'm just not carrying anything around with me anymore."

We did something on new year's eve this time. After the clock struck midnight and we shared our kisses, we headed out into the streets, lighters in hand, and burned two pieces of paper each. On one paper, we wrote something we were saying goodbye to, and on the other, something we were looking forward to. I'd never done anything like this before, so the thought of visually seeing something disappear and welcomed into the new year thrilled me to no extent.

It was a lot easier to write out those two statements than I thought it would be. Just before December took its final bow, I had pretty much made up my mind about what I wanted out of my life... and what I wanted in it.

There were no resolutions made this year. Just statements... filled with hope.


I've come to realize that it's not luck or love or money that makes life move forward. Sure, all those things can make life better and more comfortable... but the foundation and reasons why we move forward... those things are based in hope.

I've broken almost every resolution I've ever made, looking back as far as I can. Sometimes, it's within a month... and sometimes it's just before I make the next resolution. So this year, I decided it was time to take a different approach.

I like the me I've met in Seoul. I want to take her back home with me. Back to the constant life I lead, among the constants in my day to day. In the four months I've been here, I've learned very different lessons than I have in my entire life - both, while in India and Canada.

I've needed to learn these lessons, and I can only imagine what the next few months have in store.

But even through the hard times and lulls, the one blessing I always have with me is my hopefulness.

Without it, I would be... lost.

So the general idea through this journey is to not let my hopefulness overtake my present. Hope means looking forward with optimism that everything will turn out alright. Now, whether that 'alright' is the kind of 'alright' I want, or the kind that the universe wants... well, that's yet to be determined.

But all I can do in 2010 is continue, in hope, that what will be... will be.


Image courtesy of Google Images

Sunday, 3 January 2010

From a page

I wrote the following a few minutes ago... on paper. Funny enough, I find myself wanting to share it with you on here... which involves typing on a keyboard. I'm moving with the times, but holding on to the romance of old.
Stream of consciousness... It's always been my favourite part of writing, from the time I learned to put pen to paper. I still remember feeling excited about receiving my first fountain pen in the third grade. "Now, I'll be a writer," I thought. Something about taking what's floating around in the mind and allowing it to become a thought... then taking that very thought and channeling it from the mind, to the muscles, to the bones in the fingers, and, finally, to the pen and letter-pad... seeing the thought become a visual. Something about that has always brought me peace. I've described it to friends as de-cluttering my mind. Sort of like cleaning an untidy room... except in this case, I'm not putting things back where they belong, but, rather, removing the unwanted and tossing it out. OR, taking what I like and making it have substance. By putting it into words, it becomes concrete. Here it rests on the paper... words from my mind, in a particular place and time. In this case, 12:29 a.m. on Monday, January 4th, 2010. Right now, perhaps nothing exciting or Harlequin-worthy -- but still entertaining, nonetheless. I am thankful for thoughts tonight.
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