Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Mid year review {June 2018}

[Slightly late in posting this]

With half a year already behind us it’s nice to take the time for sitting down and dedicating a few minutes to think about how things have gone so far – and even more importantly, how we want them to go in the following 6 months. Because honestly, planning for an entire year in advance is kind of optimistic. Many of the things we thought were important in January are no longer on the horizon by March, so readjusting and reevaluating is always a good practice.

I shared at the beginning of the year some of the ‘silly’ things I wanted to do in 2018, but I actually have four main areas of self growth in which I put my focus every year: language learning, health & wellness, books, and screen time (movies as well as tv shows).

I’m going to review each of them in order of increasing difficulty, meaning, from the activity that requires the least will power to the one that I almost have to force myself to do.

1. Movies, Asian Dramas, TV series

Paradoxically, this year my main goal in this sector was to watch less stuff. Last year I spent a lot of my free time with my nose glued on the iPad screen, only to feel disappointed in the end for not accomplish much in terms of Chinese and everything else (surprise surprise). Another goal of mine this year was to decrease the amount of American tv series I watch and start focusing more on Asian dramas.

I’m happy to report that I’ve been quite successful with both these goals. I now watch American tv series almost exclusively when I’m cooking / washing the dishes / ironing (I also watch them with my significant other, but not every night). I wanted to watch a minimum of 6 Asian dramas in 2018, and at the time I’m writing this I’m close to finish my 5th. I’ve also been watching more movies, something I used to do a lot in my teen years but for which I’ve kinda been lazy lately.

All in all, it’s a much welcomed change that has improved my life quality a lot, and has allowed me to find room for other more important and satisfying activities.

2. Books (novels and non fiction)

Reading is definitely the sector that has been more successful this year. In 2017 I barely managed to reach my goal of 25 books, and not because I didn’t have the time to; I was devoting my free time to the wrong activities (see above) and I wasn’t even making all that conscious choices in terms of what I wanted to read.

So I went for 25 books again in 2018, just to play it safe, and I actually reached my goal by June, 15th. Not only I have achieved it in less than half the expected time – I’m also much more satisfied by the reading choices I’m making. This year I finally read a lot of books that had been on my wish list for the longest time, I’m switching between genres and reading different things a lot more, and I’ve been keeping myself up to date with the latest trends and bookshop releases. Now every time that I go Waterstones or Blackwell’s I know the majority of titles that are on display, and I’ve often read a few of them already.

I don’t want 2018 to be a rare bird but rather to become the standard way I approach my reading time. It’s not so much about the numbers, but mostly about making intentional choices and be aware of how I spend my own free time.

3. Language learning

Here comes the sore point of this list. Despite my best efforts, I cannot honestly say that my language study routine has improved much since the lows of last year. I’m starting now to be a little more consistent with my study and to see the first serious progresses, but these first 6 months have been mostly trials and errors.

Honestly, I would have never though that self-learning would have been this hard. I was so motivated and positive when I fist decided not to go back to Chinese classes and to start the solo-journey – where has all that good energy gone? I’m still passionate about language learning but I’m struggling a lot in finding my own way. Which means that the road towards fluency is still very long.

On a more positive note, I can say that at least this year I’ve spend a lot much time studying that in 2017. It may not be extremely successful, but at least I’ve brought myself more times than not to do the work. Another good thing of 2018 is the fact that, after much toying with the idea, I finally started studying Japanese again. It’s only a 10 min daily practice on Duolingo, so definitely nothing mind-blowing, but for now it’s enough to bring me in touch with the language again.

4. Health and wellness

I like being healthy and I like the idea of being healthy, but sometimes I find it hard to keep it up to my expectations (especially when living with someone who craves junk food all the time). I’m fairly good at eating healthy [water intake, 5 a day, no refined sugars etc.] but when it comes to do physical exercise, except for walking, I have to really push myself to do it.

In January I had to investigate a potentially bad health condition which thankfully didn’t happen in the end – this was the much-needed wakeup call to finally face the physical activity issue and change my mind frame once and for all.

I can’t say that now I’m the queen of workouts and, yes, I could always do more, but since then I’ve been making a conscious effort in trying and being more active. A very important thing for me in this process has been finding the sort of activity that I actually like doing; so no gym, no I-want-to-be-slimmer workouts, not hiit – yes yoga, yes pilates, yes qi gong. I want to be able to enjoy what I’m doing, not just appreciate the results.

So how am I assessing the achievements in this sector for the first half of the year? I’d say that I can and I want to do more, but I’ve also made important progresses and I now feel a lot more engaged in my overall health and wellbeing. In the end it’s a kind of holistic practice – I can’t really be healthy if I don’t take care of my nutrition as well as physical exercise as well as self love and self care. You know the I treat my body like a temple meme? Exactly, just, for real.

Others

Blog. I’ve been more relaxed about blogging this year, which sometimes has turned out as ‘I would like to write this on my blog but naaaah‘, but in general it’s worked better for me. I often think about giving up since I’d rather spend time actually studying than writing about studying, but for now I can’t really bring myself to do it.

Instagram. I’ve been a lot better this year. I’ve had my good share of non-active periods, but I’ve kept it up fairly well and I’ve shared a lot more compared to 2017. I love the language learning community there and it’s definitely one of my main source of inspiration for when I’m feeling down (LL-wise).

Things that I would like to implement in my routine

Photography: it’s always been a great passion of mine and I also have a super classy sassy DSLR camera waiting for me to release my inner artist (much inner), but I just seem to never find the time for it. It’s actually a bit of a controversial point, because I know that, when it come to focus and attention, less is more – but it’s also something I really really want to do, so I’ll definitely take it into consideration.

I’ve been also quite good at my simple life project this year (there will be a dedicated post on this topic), so for the rest of 2018 I hope to be able to declutter even more and to be able to streamline my routines by cutting down all the different time-wasting activities I still carry out.

 

2018 has been a surprisingly satisfactory year so far, and honestly I think this is the first time I feel like I’m really getting closer to where I want to be in life. I think that reflecting on how things have gone so far is extremely useful, and it’ll help a lot in making the right choices in the upcoming months.

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HSK 3 Preparation Progresses – II

Focus of the last 7/8 days:

  • 20/30 minutes of listening practice every day. There’s no way of escaping this, listening is my weakest skill in all languages and as usual only practice can make you perfect (or at least a bit less crappy);
  • past grammar review + new grammar points: I try to review a couple of pages of grammar notes in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook + cover two new grammar points from the list of Chinese Grammar Wiki on one day, and review everything the day after. Usually I also try to use the grammar studied so far in my Instagram posts captions for practice’s sake, but that’s not always the case;
  • review new vocab from the listening tracks. Right now I’m using the Chinese Conversation series from Nihao Chinese yt channel; the dialogues are pretty short and informative and I usually can follow them quite easily (which helps giving me some confidence). They also offer the pdf transcript of all audio tracks on their website Learn Chinese 888, which is awesome.

What I plan to do next: finish reviewing all past grammar points & finish listening to the audio tracks of Chinese Conversation; keep going through A2 grammar points; keep going with daily listening practice; focus on reading and vocabulary for about a week.

Feelings, memories and rediscoveries

I’m in a mood for sentimental, cheesy posts these days.

I’m watching Reply 1997 on Netflix at the moment, and I’m freakin loving it. It’s rough, it’s sassy, it’ hilarious – everything that I’m looking for in a drama that should be fun and entertaining. It also stars my beloved Seo In-guk from the glorious times of Hello Monster, who is not as beloved as Park Bo-gum, but he still ranks pretty high XD

Plus in the first episode they make a brief reference to Infinite whilst there’s The Chaser playing in the background, which happens to be the only K-pop song that I know by the only K-pop group that I know, lol. Let’s bring those fangirl feelings out.

[EDIT: Hoya is in the cast of R1997, so maybe that explains everything XD]

Watching this drama is bringing me back to my own high school years – especially, for some reason, to the spring 2003 (yes, I’m that old), a particularly happy period of my teenage life. I remember hanging out after school with friends (I was still a sociable human being at that time XD), popping in and out of bookshops and stationery stores, eating ice creams and granita on the bench in front of school.

I remember getting excited for the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, reading Fushigi Yuugi and Mint na Bokura (Cuore di menta in Italian) after class – and Slam Dunk on the MTV Anime night, my first Japanese learning book (it was a 1945 grammar that belonged to my grandpa – apparently it runs in the family) and me filling in sheets of paper with kana practice.

If I look back, life seemed so much easier back then. (But maybe it wasn’t. You only get what you can endure, right?)

What surprises me the most though is to see how, all in all, things always remain the same. Even at 16/17 I was happy when I could hang out like-minded people, and immerse myself in Japanese culture(s).

Nothing much has changed over the years 😅😅😅

Thinking about starting to watch anime again (for the Nth time… I always say that without actually doing it), though I generally feel much more drawn to older shows rather than the newest ones… Something like Elfen Lied (it’s on Netflix) or Black Lagoon, or even older stuff like Slayers 🤪

 

Glimpses of an Edinburgh life

Last week we were in Edinburgh for a house hunting session (dreading dreading dreading), and being the first time we were in the city after having been notified that this would be our home for the next 3 years (at least), I couldn’t help but looking at it under a new light.

I have to admit that I felt kind of underwhelmed at first by the sheer amount of fellow countrymen and women I found there -.- then I guess that being Edinburgh a highly touristic city I shouldn’t have expected anything less [I had already noticed the same thing all the other times I was there tbh]. It’s by no means a major issue, of course; let’s just say that after two year living in an almost Italian-free environment, hearing my mother tongue spoken so often on the streets is kind of unsettling 😅

[nonsense ranting ends here]

But after a couple of hours strolling about (a bit more far away from the city centre and the main tourist attractions), I just couldn’t help but falling in love all over again.

The thing what I probably love the most about Edinburgh is the incredible amount of local cafes, bars, restaurant and bistros that it offers; I hate when you can only find standardised food offers [the usual Starbucks/Costa/Caffe Nero on one side, Nandos/Pret a manger/Bella Italia on the other] and I’m all in for local or traditional small-scale business.

There’s also a huge huge huge selection of ethnic food, like, real ethnic food (no Pizza Hut and the likes). We had the best pitagyros ever there, and I’ve been to Greece so I know how a pitagyros is supposed to taste. The choice is just amhazing. I’m a foodie so, yes, feed me please!

There are of course tons of other cool stuff for which is more than worth living in Edinburgh, but the original subject of this post (before trailing off talking about food) was something else.

Edinburgh is actually great for a language learner and Asian cultures lover like me.

Just to let you have an idea, the first thing I noticed after 5 minutes we got off the train was a poster advertising a course to learn playing taiku. Can you even start to imagine it??

There are language learning courses, culture exchange clubs, bookshops, food (of course!) and everything else a language learner can dream of. This comes in handy specifically for me, after almost two years of complete isolation in terms of study pals [except for the lovely people of the studyblr community on Instagram].

I really hope this can be the right chance for me to 1) exit my comfort zone of books and dramas once and for all 2) feel more connected to both my purpose and the overall learning community.

Oh, almost forgot: amazing Asian supermarkets everywhere!!!

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Edit: I also have a mini video here 😀

HSK3 Preparation Progresses

Subheading: very slow but very steady, too.

I would be lying if I said I’m making huge improvements in my Chinese overall, but I’ve found a stable study routine and this is helping a lot (even just from a psychological perspective).

My study process revolves around few simple steps:

  1. Duolingo for vocabulary and sentence pattern (currently, 93-day streak)
  2. Hello HSK vocabulary and sentences list: for, well, vocabulary of course, and also characters practice
  3. Hello HSK listening practice (super good, because it’s really similar to the pattern you find at the actual test, but people speak at a faster pace so you get the chance to really train your abilities)

And that’s it. I know I should be reading more, writing more, listening to more diverse content but hey, I only have so much time I can dedicate to Chinese everyday and it has been a while since I realised I can’t do everything at once.

I’ve also started a new weekly revision project so I’d rather see how that goes and if I’m able to keep up with that before having dreams of grandness.

Plus considering for how long I’ve struggled to find a good and sustainable studying routine (a couple of years at the least) I’d rather savour the moment and go on with what I feel it’s good, even if it’s not much.

Glasgow Trip [January 2018]

Non Language Learning related (and, let’s be honest, also a bit useless) post.

I went on a trip to Glasgow back in January (yes, hello good timing), and I’ve been willing to share the few things I got in that occasion ever since 🙂

The reason why I’m particularly proud of this mini haul is that Glasgow is like WOW when it comes to shopping and retail (even better than Edinburgh, IMHO), so despite having billions of different kind of temptations, I managed to keep my shopping to a fairly low level 🙂

So these are the few things I absolutely couldn’t resist buying:

  1. Harry Potter tote bag with Hogwarts insignia (Primark)
  2. Pusheen unicorn thermos mug (Paperchase)
  3. iPad case (Paperchase)
  4. A6 lilac lined notebook (Paperchase)
  5. Harry Potter cauldron-shaped mug (Primark)
  6. Pusheen stickers (Paperchase)
  7. Unicorn blue dust pendant BECAUSE SERIOUSLY (Paperchase)
  8. Staedtler fineliner and crayon, both in pink (Paperchase)

Always on my journey towards simplifying and decluttering, I also took the chance to bring with me a few beauty samples (mainly body lotions) that have been sitting in my bath cabinet forever and to use them up. It was actually a good batch, I liked them so much that I’m planning to try out a few in full size!


We also explored the city in terms of its culinary offering (did I ever mention that I’m a foodie?) and we were definitely not disappointed 😃 Glasgow is actually a very vibrant and colourful city, and the fact that is less than an hour away from Edinburgh makes our move there even more interesting 😀

I shared a few photos from that trip on my personal Instagram account (like this one), in case you’re curious 🙂

/END OF USELESS POST/

June plans

After 10 days spent visiting family and friends, I’m now back to Scotland and kind of ready to face the most stressful time of the year for us – house hunting, job hunting, house move, travel across Europe and everything else.

I’m trying not to get completely swallowed up by all these technicalities and to still find time for my language studies, yoga and reading/drama watching time.

With only 178 days to go before HSK3, I know that this is the time to get seriously serious about my preparation. Either I do it now, or I don’t.

But I still have to attend to all these other grown-up matters so planning, timing and prioritising are essential skills right now. Things to focus on during this month will be:

  1. find a house in Edinburgh, something that should be exciting but is actually boring and stress-inducing. I hope to be done with it asap
  2. complete decluttering process, as I don’t want to waste time packing crap I don’t even use anymore
  3. go on a trip to Edinburgh with L. (house hunting, again) and try to enjoy it rather than stressing out
  4. keep up with Duolingo for both J and C (I’m currently on a 84 day streak)
  5. empty the freezer
  6. manage to complete my Goodreads challenge of 25 books by June 30th
  7. go on a cinema & Burger King date with L. (though our schedule is so packed it honestly won’t be that easy)
  8. finish listening course on Hello HSK

I’ll try to come back to this page every couple of days to keep myself as accountable as possible. Plans don’t really work if you don’t constantly reference back to them.

On a completely different note, we’re having the best weather possible here in Scotland and I’m feeling so blessed 🤩 I have a huge window in my living room with a seatable (? it’s probably not a word) windowsill on which I spend most of my afternoons looking at ducks and herons. Summer was already setting off while I was in Italy, but here it’s like the perfect endless spring at the moment and I’m so loving it ❤️

Listening to: FM Attack – Astrowave [full album]
Weather: sunny and windy
Drinking: champagne and apricot loose leaf black tea

Current focus and routine implementation

Following this post and this post, I’m still in the process of refine and redefine my study workflow for both Chinese and Japanese (though Chinese is the main focus at the moment).

A few steps I’m trying to implement right now:

  1. keep my language learning log updated; I started countless times to keep a record of what I study and when, but I’ve never managed to keep up with it properly. Being able to see what I’m doing day by day and week by week is not only inspirational but also essential in the forming of study patterns and routines. I moved my LL log to OneNote so that I can have all my J and C related stuff together and available even on the go; so, come on, this should’t be that hard.
  2. exit the challenge mindset and keep focusing on my progress; I have to admit, I got caught in the ‘wanting to be the first in my club this week on Duolingo’ syndrome, which is just plain silly, since doing 6x times a certain skill is not necessarily what my study level needs at the moment. I was always one of the best in my Japanese and Chinese classes (please note: this doesn’t mean that I was the one who actually knew how to use the language with proficiency; I simply got the highest scores), so it kinda hurt my pride to see other people climbing the ladder higher than me, but hey. Seriously? Time to move on.
  3. review, review and keep reviewing; especially characters, since I may have forgotten that I need to be able to write 600 of them by December 1st, if I wanna pass HSK3. So instead of going on and on, let’s have a look at what I’ve covered so far and try to strengthen it first.
  4. more listening practice, I’m begging myself; really, I started off good and then derailed yet again. It’s a pain in the neck and it constantly reminds me of how much I still suck at the language, but it will just keep increasing if I don’t do something about it right now.

With only 193 days to go before HSK3 😱, setting up a solid study routine that I can keep up with in the upcoming months seems even more compelling. I’m starting to feel the pressure, but maybe not even enough 😣

Small adjustments

Following my spring cleaning manifesto, I started making order around me – including in my language learning process.

I tried to analyse my study behaviour and discovered that 80% of the time I study languages at a place that is not my desk (bed, windowsill, coffee shop etc). This means, I seldom have the chance to use pen and paper to jot down grammar and vocabulary notes.

I said this before, but I’m just not able to write properly if not while I’m sitting at a desk. I wish I could be one of those amazing people who can just write everywhere in a super neat way, but I’m not, and I hate to read from a sloppy handwriting.

So, rather than forcing myself to change my study routine, I’m simply changing the way I take notes. I still need to do some note-taking by hand of course (plus character practice!!!), but I discovered that the majority of the time I can easily write things down digitally on OneNote.

What I do is basically

  1. study things on the iPad (Duolingo, Decipher Chinese, Youtube etc.)
  2. take notes on the iPhone via the OneNote app while I review materials

Then, when I have the time and the will, I go to my desk and format my notes to make them look a bit prettier and more organised. But it’s by no means an essential step, I can easily leave them as they are if I just can’t be bothered (most of the time).

This goes to show you (me) that sometimes the solution to a problem is just within a hand’s reach, we only have to let go of certain aesthetic ideals (beautifully handwritten notes) and useless external interferences.

___

I’m finally (drum roll please) on episode 15/16 of Strong Girl Bong Soon and plan to finish watching it by tonight. It started off well but lost its appeal after a while. I really liked the female lead (for once), she’s strong in all senses and she doesn’t let other people boss her around. Still, there are too many gender issues and feminine disempowerment attitudes that bug me too much.

Plus the romance was super cheesy, too many absurd plot choices, very badly written male characters – and, for goodness’ sake, does every single male lead have to be RICH AND HANDSOME? Can we have a *normal* love story with *normal* people for once?  Seriously -.-

Maybe I’m just watching dramas that target a different audience. Still.

On other news, yesterday was my birthday 🙂 and I spend the day reading, studying Chinese and setting up the AMAHZING iMac that I received as a gift 🤩 Overjoyed!

 

Spring Cleaning

A few days ago I went back to Leo Babauta‘s blog and read a few posts on simple living and goal settings. It had been a while since I read something from Zen Habits and honestly I felt super rejuvenated and motivated afterwards. I immediately started craving for a simpler, less cluttered life (again).

A couple of days after that, I read this post from Inhae which hugely resonated with me and it felt a lot like the kick in the ass I just needed. I want to stop the junk from coming into my life and fogging my thoughts with its looming presence.

And I can’t deny that one of the reasons I’ve often procrastinated with my language studies in the last couple of weeks was the fact that I didn’t feel like I had a clear enough space around me to do so. Go figure.

So, it’s time for spring cleaning.

  1. Anki. I haven’t used it in a while since I started studying both C and J on Duolingo (which is a sort of SRS in its own way), but I really feel I need to go back to it. I have way too many decks and a lot of cards that I don’t use/review anymore. Time to clean things up drastically, and also to read the complete manual once and for all as by talking with Inhae I discovered I’m missing out on a lot of cool features.
  2. My stationery/Language Learning basket. I bought a rectangular white-with-black-stars stationery basket on Amazon back in February to keep my notebooks, planners, pens etc organised. It has worked fine for a while, but as it often happens it has recently evolved into a messy den in which i just dump everything I might need to use soon. Time to clean it up but also to re-evaluate what I need to use and what not, which brings me to the next point.
  3. Studying and planning workflow. I’m always on the lookput for better, quicker and simpler ways to do things, so I want to review both resources and processes and have a better system in place.
  4. Stationery boxes. I have a lot of stuff, too much really, and I definitely don’t need everything right now. I keep switching between some notepads and pens, but a lot of other stuff can honestly be just stored away.
  5. Bathroom hanging organiser. I take my skincare and shower routine very seriously, not just as a conscious effort to keep my skin clean and clear, but also as an act of kindness towards myself (it’s one of my favourite self-pampering moments). I want to re-organise the content of my pouches and declutter them from everything I see I don’t really use for a better and more satisfactory skincare experience.
  6. Closet. I’m leaving a huge clothes review and declutter session for when I’ll be in Edinburgh, since I still have to figure out how the weather is going to be there (though I doubt things will be much different from here). Still, there are a few worn-out clothes and shoes which I know I can’t keep anymore and that I definitely don’t want to pack and bring with me in my new house. So, yes. Another thing to do.

I also want to seriously start selling some of my stuff online. I have quite a few things that don’t really fit my lifestyle or that I simply don’t use anymore – but as I’m also worried and concerned about waste production and environmental issue (some of them are also pretty new), I’d rather not throw them away. Any suggestions on which platforms are best to sell stuff in the Uk would be highly appreciated 😁

I still have a huge decluttering project that I need to tackle: the review of my digital space. Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, Mega, external hard disks – they’re just a huge huge huge mess and I don’t even recall what I’ve stored where exactly. This is definitely not something that I can manage in one sitting so I’ll probably leave it to a less hectic moment in the future. In the meantime, I’ve completed a big cleaning of my macbook and I’m also progressively clearing my iPhone of all photos (I prefer online storage and backup for those).