Published 12/30/2014 by

2014 - A quick review ~

This year was amazing. 
A roller coaster of feelings, travel and new experiences. And lots of growth.

Travel-wise it might have been my best year yet. Not only was I able to visit China, Korea and Japan in the short span of 6 months, I got the opportunity to do many minitrips within these countries. (Also worth mentioning: The hilarious family trip to Amsterdam earlier this year.)

Feelings... Falling in love through the net, chatting for hours, rejection, uncertainty, fights, understanding, romance ...quite an adventure! But through my faith I started to believe in 운명 (fate) and I learned to regulate heartache through into-love-tuning and am growing as a human.

As for the Body... I practiced detaching from bodily sensations and endured physical pain during sitting meditation which led to an incredible trance-like experience.

Here a small list of experiences/achievements in 2014:

☑ Celebrating New Year with a bunch of Lolitas
☑ Debut as a language teacher
☑ NLP Diploma course including activities such as spoon bending
☑ Magic fairytale-like experience in Amsterdam
☑ Adobe Illustrator crash-course

☑ Couchhosting and Couchsurfing for the first time!
☑ Monastic life in China, learning Gongfu
☑ Going from meditation newbie to 7hours-a-day meditation sessions
☑ "Three steps one bow" pilgrimage to Wutaishan

☑ Reverse-culture shock in Korea, Living in a HostelGosiwon and finally Livingtel
☑ Minitrips (Andong, Jeonju) and Hanokstay with Gu
☑ Successfully finishing beginner level Korean at KLI
☑ Guiding mother and brother around Seoul/Busan
☑ Hiking trip to Seoraksan with Gu

☑ First boat trip alone for Visatrip to Tsushima
☑ First overnight boat trip to Fukuoka with Gu
☑ Enjoying Pre-Christmas Season in Busan alone
☑ Christmas: Discovering Gu's city Ulsan and Gyeongju

Tomorrow I'm off for another new experience: ~~~ヾ(^∇^)♪

  Welcoming 2015 in a Won-Buddhism Meditation Center Winter Retreat.

. . .

How was your 2014?

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Published 9/08/2014 by

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival ~

Today is a very important holiday in East Asia, namely the Mid-Autumn Festival or Asian Thanksgiving! It's celebrated (albeit in different ways) in China, Korea, Vietnam and even Japan and bears different levels of importance in each cultural circle.

To honor the differences and similarities between the Chinese and Korean way to celebrate I played around with Adobe Illustrator (yes, it's been a while, remember my last attempt?) and created these similar-yet-different looking young ladies. Remember, the left one is China while the right one is Korea. 

I purposely kept their look and clothing color the same to emphasize a feeling of similarity. The Chinese girl is wearing a 嫦娥 (the Chinese moon fairy which is also celebrated today) inspired Han/fairy-outfit while the Korean girl is wearing a typical Hanbok.

If you're wondering about the food... Chinese eat 月饼 (Moon Cakes) and Korean eat 송편 (Rice Cakes) so I featured both. Aren't they cute? While I was working on this illustration I was eating the 송편 our Ahjumma gave to each Gos hiwon resident, so nice of her.
Here are also the matching holiday cards, feel free to use them~

 Did you notice the Rabbit on the moon?
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Published 8/31/2014 by

Update from Korea ~

Hello everyone! It's been 3 months...how has everybody been? Getting back to blogging after a long break is really hard. Still, I have SO much to share. I'll start by sending heartfelt greetings from Korea. ~
▲ Me re-exploring the Seoul subway system and also a half-assed OOTD.

As I'm writing this post I am sitting in a box, better known as Goshiwon and looking forward to a very, very busy autumn. This is my 4th visit to Korea, but I've only experienced Korean summer... last time I was sad to leave just as the weather started getting milder... this time I am really excited about enjoying Korean autumn! 
Also, there's lots of stuff in my agenda: My quest to find an apartment/officetell, friends visiting, Chuseok (Korean "thanksgiving"), trips to at least 2 traditional Korean cities with Gu, start of Korean classes at Yonsei University and the preceding placement test (I should get at least into level 2 or level 3) my mother & brother coming to Korea... and maybe, maybe even a short trip to Japan...
that would make 2014 my super awesome China-Korea-Japan travel year! (*≧▽≦)
▲ The way I see temples has changed and they have become a place to find peace in the hustle and bustle of the city

Even without a Japan trip I can say this year has been life-changing... i have been changing so much in the last 1 1/2 years it's really amazing! My experience in the temple... it's hard to describe it, it's not like I changed because of what I learned there, although I did experience and learn a lot, but mostly it changed my approach to things. I finally started implementing things that I had already read or thought about before. Also it gave me a deep sense of contentment and peace. It's really not easy to describe how much that experience influenced me without sounding cheesy. No, I don't have my life figured out and I'm not enlightened (:P) but the way I approach life has started shifting.

▲ Ah Yonsei University! Still pretty as ever, although the main entrance is under construction - seems like construction work is all around me - after leaving my mothers place which was being renovated...the second temple in China was also having construction work done ;)

Coming back to Korea after the temple stay was a mild shock... I felt overwhelmed with all the superficial pop culture here and am still struggling to keep the mindful mindset we trained in the temple. Another big struggle is living alone. I've never lived alone before. I lived with my father, in a dormitory with roommates, shared an apartment with friends/an old lady with my own room... right now I am living alone, not knowing the other people in this Goshiwon and only relying on myself and Korean friends who don't live nearby. I have to /gasp/ go out and eat meals alone... I don't know if it sounds ridiculous but entering a restaurant (not a coffee shop)  and sitting down to have a meal (not a burger) alone still seems like a strange thing in Korea. Eating out is a social thing. I might write about this topic in more detail in another post...

▲ Yes, I made it to Busan! I stayed 1 week and will definitely visit again this year! So much more to explore. Busan dialect is adorable, erm I mean, badass! ( ´∀`)

Anyway, there are SO many pictures from China and Korea to share, stories to tell... will you bear with me? m(._.)mアリガト
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Published 5/28/2014 by

Last month in Switzerland ~

Fear, uncertainty and discomfort are your compasses towards growth. 
~Celestine Chua

My last month in Switzerland has started. I nearly can't believe it since I still have so much to get done before leaving. Exams, Papers, Work, Packing, Selling stuff, seems like there is no time for mental preparation. Also, many important things aren't even certain yet. I still have to write my finals and no idea if I'll be able to graduate. Although I just applied to Yonsei GSIS I don't know if I'm accepted yet. Because of that, I haven't organized any place to stay in Korea. Not even mentioning the money issues... but I'm going with the flow. Whatever happens, I have a one-way ticket to Korea. 
Uncertainty is ruling my life now. Renovations are being done in our apartment. That means no kitchen and bathroom and no privacy. Well, at least I can still crash on my sofa (bed) at night, surrounded by by clutter that I will have to sort into 1) packing and taking to Korea 2) packing and putting aside to be sent later 3) giving/selling away 4) maybe...leaving at my mom's house without knowing if I'll ever see it again.
I'm totally stressed out and excited at the same time. Just one more month.

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Published 4/17/2014 by

Spring is in town ~

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. ~Harriet Ann Jacobs
Recently I have been working on mindfulness and gratefulness.
These weeks I am experiencing a new life lesson: Giving thanks for what is (and being able to take part in it, even if it's not "yours") helps relieve a grieving heart. In other words: A heart full of veneration and gratefulness has no space for anxiety and sorrow.  I would love to write a longer article about this topic but I'm gonna keep it short for now. While listening to 김동률's song 감사 (Thanks) I practiced both my watercolor and "hand" drawing skills. These are my 3 newest artworks:

Anyway, although I'm struggling with some sentimental "problems" I thoroughly enjoy this early and warm spring. Last year we had grey weather and snow up to April, this year spring started as early as February... what a bliss! Here's a compilation of some wonderful flowers I snapped in Zurich:

On another note, this Easter I'll go to Amsterdam with my family! Really looking forward to discovering a new country/city and take loads of pretty photos!

Today we had our first *free* absolute newbie Illustrator class. I was so happy because it was booked out and there was a waiting list but in the end I managed to grab a place! We did super, super basic stuff, like learning how to use the pen tool (we didn't learn coloring yet) and I really had a lot of fun and am looking forward to the next lesson. After class I went home and tried some more, so here I not-so-proudly present my first "finished" picture in Adobe Illustrator. (yeah I allow you to laugh)

Have a lovely Easter holiday ~
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Published 3/26/2014 by

Woodenfish China 2014 ~

So...what have I been up to until now? Nothing much, really. I am busy with university courses (Japanese and Psychology), teacher training and teaching (free) German classes. I'm also putting together all documents for my application at Yonsei university in Korea. Plus I've started reading many books about Zen Buddhism, mainly Thich Nhat Hanh and D.T. Suzuki's works. These days I try to live in a more mindful way, which means that I try to enjoy the present and not overshadow certain moments with worries about the future or memories from the past. 

Today I received the confirmation so I can finally announce other cool news:
This summer I will spend 1 month in a Chinese Buddhist Temple.

The Woodenfish Project or Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program as it is called, offers the opportunity to live in a buddhist temple, attend lectures about Buddhism and experience various cultural aspects of traditional Chinese arts. It also includes seven-day silent meditation retreat and a cultural tour to Wutai Shan, one of the 4 Sacred Mountains in Chinese Buddhism.

I'm super looking forward to this unique experience and hope it will feed me both intellectually and spiritually. It also seems to be at a great timing, right after graduation and before my fresh new start in Korea.

The application is still open until the end of April so if you're interested, check their site for more information: http://www.woodenfish.org/
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Published 2/13/2014 by

Honmei chocolate, Books and Starbucks creativity ~

Homemade chocolate
Do you know that in Asia it's a popular custom on Valentine's Day for women to gift chocolate to their beloved ones? In Japan there are two kinds of Valentine Day's chocolate, the Honmei Choco (本命チョコ) and Giri choco (義理チョコ). One is the "true feelings" (and often homemade or expensive) chocolate for a significant other/crush and the other one is the "obligation" (cheaper) chocolate which is given to co-worker etc as a courtesy.
February has been a sweet month until now. Nekochan and I tried making our own pre-Valentine Day chocolate. I have a long tradition of making Valentine Day's chocolate for (one-sided) crushes or my whole (uni) class or beloved ones. I know it might seem like an idealistic thing to do, but I believe we change our surrounding with our actions. So spreading a bit of joy and romanticism around Valentine's Day instead of only expecting gifts (as a woman)  seems like a nice thing to do for me. Unfortunately, Nekochan and I were not as diligent as in our last Gyoza cooking session. So 1/3 of the chocolate was made by her bf while we were chit-chatting. Still, isn't our homemade chocolate lovely?

Brocki safari
My mother and I visited a local Brockenhaus (secondhand shop) and I spent hours browsing the book shelves and uncovering lots of gems... Do you understand or even share the joy of being surrounded by books? I sat down and flipped through books who already have a history or even a dedication on their first page... it's an amazing feeling. I sat down and flipped through books who already have a history or even s and ended up buying lots. 
Can you see all the books next to lazy Levi? Most of them are my new gets from the secondhand shop. It's true... "show me your books and I'll know your hobbies". Most of my books were psychology, self-help, Zen philosophy and some Asia-related books. I thought about my introduction as a "Swiss girl with a special interest in East Asia and Psychology" - spot on! haha

Starbucks event
Yesterday Nekochan and I were invited to a lovely Starbucks event. They introduced the Starbucks Reusable Cups and invited us to add a unique touch to our own. So together with an amazing Starbucks artist called Karolina we got creative and decorated a few cups while chit-chatting with other bloggers and trying a new delicious new coffee blend called Verona, which is pretty dark and amazing if enjoyed with chocolate (brownies). <3

Nekochan tried a Matcha Latte and I got my favorite Caramel Macchiato and then we started drawing on our cups. I drew some Manga babes and then went onto making some special requests (A bearded man for Glenn and a Manga-self for Tabea). Drawing on the cups is harder than it looks! 
Thanks Starbucks for the nice evening and Tabea & HedrikeGlennMi-Ji, Valeria, Nicole and Shirley for the nice chats, hope to see you all again next time! ^_^

. . .
Actually today I inaugurated my unique Starbucks Reusable Cup and the staff at Starbucks was super amazed and it got lots of compliments. Well, it's not only environment friendly but also an eye-catcher for sure! ~
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Published 1/31/2014 by

Happy Horse Year ~

For the first since she returned from her long Japan Trip I met up with Nekochan. We had thought about the possibility of cooking together and coincidentally our meet up just fell lunar New Year's eve. I just realized it the very day itself so I hurriedly prepared my yearly 倒福 sign to post on the door. Today marks the start of the Green Wooden Horse so I decorated the sign accordingly.

I proposed making gyoza/jiaozi/mandu because it's one of the traditional food prepared in China during Lunar New Year. Nekochan was a bit skeptical about the expense of making them but I was able to convince her since I'd already prepared Kimchi mandu a while ago. So we bought groceries in our local Asia store, mixed all the ingredients and started making our own gyoza.

The gyoza making turned to be an entertaining activity because we kept telling each other funny stories. Although we had two packages of Gyoza skin we used them all and ended up making some cabbage rolls too. After cooking we proudly declared our creations as delicious, even Nekochan's bf said they were great. Super proud!

After cooking we went on a huge camwhoring session but since that part is very, very image heavy (yup, we were enjoying ourselves) I'll reserve it for a separate entry...
My Korean friends seem to be puzzled by the reversed luck sign, I kept explaining that I am not a Chinese character noob but that it's Chinese custom to hang up the reversed luck (倒福) sign as a wish for luck to come (到福). For those who aren't convinced yet, in Korean it's called 도복 and in Japanese とうふく. Google it! =P
Wishing everyone a prosperous new year! 
Hope all your wishes come true~
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