Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Korean Gift Exchange has begun!

I've been reading about how much Koreans like to exchange small gifts with friends and I had mentally prepared myself to buy a stash of stuff in preparation for the move. I did not, however, expect this gift exhange to begin whilst we were still in Arusha!

My husband Jouni works for the British council, and teaches English at different levels. Turns out some of his students and Korean, and he received a brown paper bag filled with these snacks and instant coffees from one of them last week. We spent a long time thinking about what we could send back: since I had just returned from England and was well stocked in the snack department, we sent some different English chocolate bars and a postcard from London.

This culture of giving and receiving gift for no reason will be an exciting part of our lives very soon!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Korea in August!

SO, I am now moving to Korea in August instead of December. My job has been pushed forward! I'm all kinds of scared and excited. I'll pretty much finish this job, hang out with all the wedding guests, attend my wedding, then go to Korea (I need to be there by 12th August and the school opens at the end of August). My husband Jouni doesn't know yet if he'll come in August or join me in December.

SOOOO. that means I will have a couple of weeks to prepare my classroom and stalk K-Pop bands. I have a lot to do but mostly learning Korean: I'm reluctant to start because I sort of want to use my language learning efforts to consolidate my Swahili before leaving. But I'm pretty excited to learn the writing part!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Back in Tanzania

So I came back 'home' to Arusha. 'You look good', was the first thing my co workers said to me. 'Your skin is like a baby, and you look more fat'. To which I responded, 'Thank you'. Because thank you is the only appropriate response to 'You look fat' here. To be fat is a good thing. It means you've got extra money to spend on extra food. A lot of Tanzanians don't have that extra money, therefore they are thin, whether they like it or not.

 While I was away, my husband Jouni got new glasses. Here is is modelling them, delighted to have his picture taken. They cost around 30 dollars, including the eye test, case and a bunch of coatings. He got them from Sunbeam Optical Centre in Arusha. Maybe I'll get some too!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Top Ten Teen Angst Books

A while back I posted a list of my Top Ten Underrated Teen Angst Movies. Actually, though, I don't watch a lot of movies. I mostly read books.

I've thought a lot about why I never outgrew teen fiction and I've come to the conclusion that most of the time, a 35 year old will write as a 15 year old. The resulting fiction will read like a 25 year old has written it. And maybe that's why I like it. Or maybe it's just that I'm a writer (I've written two books for non-adult people). Anyway. Here is a list of my ten favourite teen angst books and why I like them.

10. Why We Broke Up- Daniel Handler
This book is a super long letter from a girl highschooler to a boy highschooler, all about their relationship from beginning to end. It's beautifully written: the girl is super-quirky and the boy is a conventional. Since it's written from the perspective of the girl, you get to see how the jock boy is actually weird (to quirky people) in that he doesn't think about stuff very much. I don't usually like books where a male author writes as a female or vice versa, but in this case, it works.

9. How To Keep a Boy as a Pet- Diane Messidoro
 This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. It's about a girl living in a small English town and her plots to get a boyfriend. It reads authentically and you can't help but root for her (on one occasion she learns that the boy she crushes on likes horses... so she tries to subtly dress like one). It may not actually help you to keep a boy as a pet, but it will help you feel less alone in the world, and happy that Diane Messidoro and her lovely brain exist.

8. Gingerbread- Rachel Cohn
This was my favourite book when I was fourteen and I've never really stopped liking it. It's about an angry goth girl who carries a doll with her everywhere. She moves to San Francisco to live with her Dad and is completely herself even though he doesn't enjoy her personality very much.

7. Rookie Yearbook One- Tavi Gevinson
A bunch of teenage girls writing about what it's like to be alive and female. It's like a magazine only a lot less stupid, because it's full of long essays and beautiful art and it isn't trying to sell you anything. It takes hours and hours to read the whole thing, but they are hours well spent and you will come out the other end feeling smarter and better informed. There's also a rookie mag website, which is great, but I prefer reading the long, long articles in print format.

6. Looking for Alaska- John Green
This book is written from the perspective of a completely geeky guy who doesn't really have any friends, until he goes to boarding school. His roommate is one of my favourite characters in literature and the best thing about it is, the main character doesn't really undergo a major personality transplant halfway through: he's still a completely geeky guy who doesn't really understand people.

5. Stargirl- Jerry Spinelli
My favourite book when I was sixteen: a new girl moves to town and shes not like anyone else in the world. It's almost like she exists on a different plane: she's so weird, but she doesn't even seem to notice. She tries to make the world better and then she's gone. If this book was written in the sixties I'd say she was an alien, but she's not: she's a strange unworldly girl and the boy narrator gets sucked into her world.

4. The Lover's Dictionary- David Levithan
I used to be obsessed with the concept of shuffle novels: I sort of wrote one, although the last few chapters are all in their proper place. The Lover's Dictionary reads like a novel which has been written, chopped up, and put back into an arbitrary order based around the alphabet. It's about a relationship, from start to finish. What's clever about this book is that it reads almost universally: it could be about any relationship. It could almost be a relationship dictionary.

3. Rose of No Man's Land- Michelle Tea

Rose of No Man's Land is about a girl who is doomed in an almost Shakespearean way. Not many novels write about poor white people: most novelists are middle class. Rose lives under depressing circumstances: her mother doesn't leave the house, her mother's boyfriend steals stuff. They are super poor. Her sister, the 'normal' one, gets her a job at the mall. Within a few hours it becomes hopelessly apparent that Rose cannot fit in. She goes on this whirlwind adventure, where things get worse and worse as the night progresses. And then she goes back home.

2. Love Lessons- Jacqueline Wilson
It continues to surprise me that Americans don't read Jacqueline Wilson. In Love Lessons, her least popular book with parents since 'Waiting for the Sky to Fall' (1983), the main character (a fourteen year old girl attending school for the first time) falls in love with her art teacher, who happens to be married with children, and they have a relationship, of sorts. She's lonely and self-centered and not very happy, and sort of reads like she was born in the 1950's. But I like her anyway, and it's perhaps Wilson's bravest book.
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky
If you read this book, it will change you. You will come out at the end of it as a different person than the one you went in as. So full of love it almost hurts.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Awesomest Library Ever: Amsterdam Schipol Airport Library

This literally stopped me in my tracks on my way back to Tanzania. A library. At an airport. It was a beautiful use of space and one of the most perfect things I've ever seen.
 They had books in all different languages that you could read whilst waiting for a flight, and well as a series of different seats and places to watch videos about Amsterdam on Ipads.

There was also the most beautifully designed children's playroom, which sang birdsong.
The whole place was wonderfully empty. Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was coming across this professional pianist, playing a grand piano in a small corner of the library to an audience of two.
The experience made me question why we don't have more spaces like this in the world, and why more people don't use them.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tea and Wedding Dress

I went to Guildford with Debbie and Louise and my Mum and Dad. We drink tea in a super cute tearoom and I bought a wedding dress. It's nothing like what I had in mind of like those other pictures I posted that I thought I was going to buy. I really wish I could post a picture of it, but I will just have to wait until the wedding to show you!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


 I went to Chinatown with my lovely friend Crystal. We ate Chinese food and gossiped. Then we went shopping for Chinese goods. It was all very delicious and made me think that maybe I should be moving to China instead! London, I love you and I'm feeling sad to leave.

Monday, 22 April 2013

It Never Rains: A Play

 My friend Shaun put on a great play. It wasn't his first, but it was the first time I was in the UK to actually go and watch one of them. The play was about a couple who had split up. There were only two actors. It was awkward and funny in a good way. Have you ever written a play? I wrote a radio play one time. It was hard!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Retro Bowling

 Leanne and I went to this awesome retro Bowling alley called All Star Lanes. They had retro music and lots of cocktails. It made me want to move back to London. London has way more fun stuff happening than Tanzania! Tanzania is beautiful and I love the empty open space. I know I'll miss it when I move away. But I miss living in London right now.
After the bowling we went for a long walk. Apparently this big thing called 'The Shard' has been built since I was last here. Huh. It looks sort of funny.
 London, one day I will move back to you! I don't know when, but someday!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Thatcher's Funeral

I happened to be passing by, and this is what I saw. The police had prepared for a much bigger crowd.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Awesome Graffiti

When I come to England I get to see many of my favourite people, which makes me feel warm and happy inside. One of these faves is Leanne: a real life Londoner! She took me to brick lane to hang with the cool kids and there was so much wonderful graffiti!