Okay. I’m gonna come clean. When we were preparing for our move to Korea, the first thoughts that entered my mind were: but what about cheese and what about books? How will I surviiiiiiiiive?!
At some later point I thought about missing my family. Soon after, I turned back to cheese and books and cried a little again. Then I decided to stick my head in the sand and think about it another day and I made myself a delicious halloumi cheese salad and sat back and read a book I’d borrowed easily from my local library.
The next day, I was like, okay. Time to face the facts.
For where we live in Korea, it’s difficult to get real cheese (it’s possible, it’s just EXTREMELY inconvenient and thus we don’t bother except for special occasions like birthdays). My local market has this horrible 99% plastic cheese, but it gives me nightmares so I didn’t buy that stuff a second time. I'm really skeptical about whether it contains actual milk.
However, a good side effect of not having cheese at the tips of your fingers every day, all day, is you magically lose weight. Who woulda thunk it?
So I have made my peace with cheese. Let’s not talk about it anymore cause I think I’d kill for an apple slice with a piece of smoked gouda on top.
My other concern was reading.
So it’s no secret that I love to read. This isn’t a book blog – unfortunately, I just don’t have time to blog about the books that I read – but I think I talk about reading in almost every post. Basically, it’s my favorite thing to do. I think I like it even more than writing, but the two have an ongoing friendly competition for my #1 hobby. I do try to keep track of my reading on Goodreads, though I don’t rate books anymore. To be honest, I mostly just use it to keep track of books I’ve read and ones I want to read. I don’t do much else on the site. Once again – time is precious.
Here in Korea, my favorite place to read is out on our veranda, in the wee hours of the morning, with this view in front of me.
Complicating matters is that back at home in the States, we were super spoiled with our hometown library. The San Diego County library system is one of the best in the world. I had access to almost any book, even rare graphic novels that are sometimes hard to find via library.
This was (and still is!) magic to me. Being a poor young adult with student loans, my husband and I rarely bought books – 99% of our books came from the library. I was at the library every Saturday to pick up my requests and then I would spend time browsing new arrivals and staff picks. It was grand.
I left that all behind.
So --- if you read a lot, I’m talking like 4-6 novel-sized books per month, what’s a girl to do? I can’t afford to buy that many books per month. It just ain’t in the budget. There are three things that I do here in Korea to help satisfy my craving to read.
#1 – I bought an e-reader.
Before our move, I didn’t own an e-reader. I wasn’t against them or anything, just never had any use for one. But when my hometown library started growing their e-book collection, I researched all I could and soon chose the Kindle Paperwhite. With my e-reader, I read a variety of books. Most of them are on loan from my hometown library, but also…
#2 – I buy more books now.
Some books are purchased through Amazon. Plain and simple: I do buy more books now. DEFINITELY NOT ALL OF THEM, still can’t afford that. But what’s nice is that many of my family members know I’m always in desperate need of books, so they send me Amazon bucks for birthdays/Christmas and then the purchase is just click away. Almost 100% of my gift money goes to buying books – with occasional music and a movie rental or two.
Once or twice we bought books via What the Book? and Book Depository (both are excellent!), but we don’t get any gift card money for those places and physical books will eventually need to be shipped to America when we return. So that’s why we have leaned toward e-books for now --- though I always prefer to have the physical copy.
#3 – I do utilize the local library.
We are lucky enough to actually have a free English library relatively close. It doesn’t have near the collection or services my hometown library does, not even a tenth of the size – and the loaning restrictions are crazy – but it’s definitely better than nothing. The biggest disappointment is that from the time of publication, it takes about 10-14 months to get a new book in. So, if there is anything new I want to read, I can’t count on the library having it. But, I do read a mixture of new releases and old and rely on their collection for stuff that’s been out for at least a year or two. (In fact, I recently borrowed Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan – the library here bought three copies. Very deserving of the Newbery Medal. I bet fans of Charlotte’s Web love this book.)
In short, my husband and I have had to get a little creative. But we have survived thus far – a big benefit of being here is that I have more time to read, so in actuality, though the book collection is more limited, I am still reading more.
I’ve learned a lot of things – countless things – by living abroad, but one of them is to always, always cherish and be grateful for the wonderful libraries in America (and San Diego in particular!) I will never take them for granted again.
PS: On a totally unrelated note - I hope you guys haven't missed my husband's awesome comic, A Bounty of Slaughter, about what it means to kill the meat you eat.