I collect EXO dolls and have even set up a dedicated dollstagram to show off my babies’ adventures. (*˘︶˘*).｡.:*♡
I’m certainly not alone in this hobby, as evidenced by the possible thousands of other dollstagrams out there. There are almost 200,000 uses of the hashtag #엑소인형 (EXO Dolls) as far and dollstagrams frequently get hundreds of likes on each post.
I always joke that doll moms are the fandom equivalent of being a tiara mom, and I’ve established myself as the resident crazy doll mom among my friends, so after what must be hundreds of questions about EXO dolls, I’ve decided to just create a FAQ dump. ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ
Somehow, it’s nearing the end of December! This is the first time I’ve spent the year end at home in maybe a decade and it really takes some getting used to. Christmas passed with barely a whisper and I think that was how my entire year went.
As always, I want to theme the year and it has to be “Reset”. It was a reset of the way we lived our lives, of the things we deemed important. 2020 made us go back to basics, as we reverted to our old hobbies and rekindled old emotions.
Everything makes me cry now, but in a good way, like a cathartic release of emotions. I watch Little Women and weep over the sisterly bonds of the Marches. I read about stories of hope amidst the pandemic and tear up over the strength of human spirit.
I didn’t even want to write a year end recap this year. What is there to recap when seemingly nothing happened?
It was rewatching Little Women that made me finally sit down to write this.
Amy in Little Women says that writing about things is what makes them important. The act of writing down these memories will make my year worth the year it was and I think that’s what I love about these reflections. It gives me a chance to take stock and think about what has been important to me, what I enjoyed and what I didn’t, when otherwise the days might pass by in a mundane blur.
I remember when I was much younger, when it was the day and age of pen and paper and I still kept a little diary with a lock, I wrote and wrote about every moment of my day, not wanting to forget about the small things in life.
These days, tweets and Instagram stories seem to have replaced my scribbles, leaving an arguably more permanent but nonetheless just as heartfelt inscription of my life.
So here I am again, thinking about how to capture 2020 in all its highlights and more common lowlights.
It’s the year 2020 and domestic tourism is all the rage! … Or rather, it’s 2020 and domestic tourism is all we can do with the borders all shut.
I haven’t been anywhere beyond a 15km radius of my house this year and after six months shut in the house, we decided to make a 3D2N trip to Rawa Island, Johor, which houses the prettiest beach and perhaps the most pristine waters on Semenanjung Malaysia.
The first thing anyone should know about Rawa Island is that you’re not here for luxury, and the hospitality does not even come close to even the cheapest islands you can find around the Thailand/Indonesia/Phillipines region. Malaysia really has much to work on the hospitality front, but we are blessed with nature instead.
While you might not get luxury bedding, a night life or spas, what you get instead is a small silver of nature and the illusion of a private island, even quieter now that there are no foreign tourists. In any case, Rawa Island was wonderful enough for me and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice my stay was.
I tend to do intensive itinerary research whenever I have a trip and no matter which travel site I went to, which vlog I watched on what to do in Tokyo, there was always that photo of tens of hundreds of miniature cat statues, lined up with their paws beckoning. Even on my flight to Tokyo, the screensaver for the flight screen was of these cats.
After maybe 10 trips to Tokyo, I decided it was finally time for me to visit Gotokuji, the cat temple.
As I’m approaching almost two months of not leaving my house due to the worsening Covid-19 situation, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder about life and mortality, about values and morality.
This is a monster of a blog post, you have been warned.
The pursuit of happiness
Yesterday, someone retweeted a translation that I did of EXO Kai, or Jongin’s interview in the July 2018 GQ magazine. The interviewer said that EXO has achieved so much, Jongin has achieved so much. “Do you think you have reached your peak?”
His answer was beautiful: “When I die, I want to ask myself. Was I happy? If I were happy, then my whole life would be my heyday.”
It had me thinking about my own happiness. In my annual wrap ups where I talk about what I did over the year, the pursuit of happiness has always been important to me. My resolve is to never forget the beauty in everyday life, to make my life as technicolour as I can, so that when I leave, I can look back at my days with fondness and not regret.
Happiness has become all the more precious to me in these uncertain days. I am appreciative of all that I have, of the roof over my head and the warmth of my family. I was giddy with joy when I ordered a batch of gourmet cookies and bit into gooey goodness. I planted chives with my mom and then shaped them into pork and chives dumplings with my whole family. I had a cheese platter picnic with my friends over Zoom.
On Christmas morning of 2019, I woke up to a perfect view of gently falling snow.
We were staying in Fujiginkei Hotel right by Kawaguchiko Lake, with what I had researched to have the best view of Mt Fuji. It was much too early for Mt Fuji to make an appearance but the lake still looked beautiful in the early morning fog.
I made my way up to the rooftop onsen just after dawn and took a dip, catching snowflakes on my tongue while basking in the warmth of the onsen. It was early enough that there was no one else there and this view was all mine to savour.
Surrounded by a serene silence that was only broken by my splashes in the water, I thought there really couldn’t be a better way to start my Christmas day.
In July, I was lucky enough to be able to go to the first week of EXplOration. Thinking back, I really wish I blogged that trip because it was so much fun, filled with good friends, good memories and good food.
What I remember clearest is the feeling of glee and awe as I watched the EXplOration racing VCR for the first time, then the rush of affection when they started joking around during the ment.
I knew that I had to watch the end of this tour no matter what it took.
In between, I went to a few more EXplOration stops – starting with a crazy month of Singapore, Bangkok and Taipei in September, then Malaysia in December.
I had planned a family holiday to Tokyo way earlier and when I heard of the rumoured dates for Dot in late October, I was crushed to realise it clashed with my Tokyo trip. But I always said I have unbelievable luck when it comes to fandom, and somehow when they announced the actual dates, I could make it to the second and third day of EXplOration Dot.
And so I planned another crazy trip of just 72 hours in Seoul, hopping off my return flight from Tokyo straight onto my flight to Seoul. I barely had time to meet Naz at the hotel and drop off my luggage before I had to leave for the stadium, but it didn’t matter! I was going to EXplOration Dot!
Last Christmas, I broke my tradition of finding the most non-Christmassy locations to spend the day in by actually having a white Christmas!
We decided to spend a family holiday in Tokyo this time, but it was a little tricky to plan because my sister and I have been to Japan numerous times but for my brother, it was his first time to Tokyo.
I settled on Christmas in the Fuji Lakes region because none of us have been and I just needed a nice, good onsen soak to bleed out the stress of the year.
There were some hiccups when our flight was abruptly cancelled on the day itself, but we managed to reroute our flights to include a Hong Kong stopover and a tiring 12 hours later, we were on the roads in our rented car.
If I had to theme it, 2019 was the year of change.
As I write this in December 2019, I have to say I am a completely different person today than I was in January or even just six months ago. I went through a mindset change and a lifestyle change. The people around me has changed, the things that I love are different. Change is scary but change is necessary, and I suppose it is inevitable that my world would evolve as I push further into the latter half of my twenties.
I’ve noticed that whenever I split these yearly sum up posts into two, it ends up being for very good reason as the mood completely shifts halfway through the year. The first half of 2019 can be read here and it was a very happy six months indeed!
While I ended my mid-year check in on a happy note, the second half of the year was brutal, filled with sickness, stress and tears. Things mellowed out towards the end of the year and now I feel like I can finally breathe again. I firmly believe that good and bad luck come in alternating waves. With my unhappy second half of 2019, I can expect to see a happier 2020.
By the end of this year, I will have gone to 10 EXO cons and 12 trips to 13 cities. Seems like 2019 was a hell of a year after all!
In typical impulsive fashion, my friends and I were queuing for hotpot when we saw an ad for flight promos. Let’s go to the beach, one of us said, though thinking back, it was probably me. And so on my birthday weekend, we went to Krabi, Thailand for a long awaited friendship trip. This was my third island of the year but it was just as fun to clink too many glasses of cocktails and take vanity shots for the ‘Gram. We went on a day tour that was so cheap we expected it to be a scam, but it was a long packed day ending with a lovely sunset picnic on the beach. Just goes to show that cheap doesn’t necessarily mean terrible on these touristy islands. I turned 26 to a sip of soju and a heartful of thankfulness for the friends beside me. Another birthday well spent.
July kickstarted the EXplOration tour and along with it, my life was filled with EXO again. This time I made it to the second week of EXO’s fifth tour and it was strange to see how things were changing. There were only six EXO members and along with it, my friendship dynamics felt different as I dealt with the aftermath of long time friendships falling apart. I tried my best to have fun all the same and we went all out silly at the SM Museum and COEX Aquarium. I really did enjoy myself and I love that Seoul always feels so familiar and warm. One day I will go back and discover the non-EXO charms of Seoul, but it won’t be anytime soon.
As I struggled with failing relationships and failing health, I cropped off my hair to hopefully lighten my burdens. It didn’t work, but I did discover I liked how I look in short hair. Little wins?
August was rocky. August was probably the lowest point in my recent years. Malaysia was shrouded in a cloud of poisonous haze from Indonesia’s forest fires and with it, I fell sick too. I actually completely lost my voice for the first time in my life! I was miserable and bedridden for much of the month, and had plenty of time to wallow in dark thoughts. My parents came down with the mosquito-borne tropical disease Dengue and we belatedly realised that I might have had it and recovered on my own.
At least there was a fresh breath of air when I threw my friend a bacholerette party. My team also won a new client in an industry that I adore and I went on my first overseas work training to Singapore. Unfortunately, I was still weak and coughing and somehow walked straight into a traffic cone, leaving me with a deep dark bruise that had me limping throughout September. Oof, August you couldn’t be kind on me just one bit?
I jokingly say I went on an Asia tour with EXO in September and it turned out to be quite true. I think it was desperation to recover from August that had me lining up a different trip every weekend. I started out the month with an extended weekend family stay in over-the water villas at Avani Goldcoast and sipped cheap wine while taking bubble baths that overlooked the sea. There was nothing to do at the villas except take long strolls by the beach but I think that was exactly what I needed.
The following weekend I went back to Singapore and finally, finally broke free from my sad bubble with a much needed Epik High concert. It helped that I went to the first EXO concert of the month the next day and had a blast despite a squishy mosh pit. Singapore was of course made perfect by the company. I really can’t believe how many years I’ve known so many of these fandom friends!
The third stop of my Asia tour brought me to Bangkok because I simply had to attend Jongdae’s birthday concert. Bangkok does fandom so well, from its amazing fan projects to setting out an actual outdoor market for fan goods. I enjoyed this concert the most out of all the stops I’ve been to too because I had a pretty good queue number and the stadium was so small. More than the cons, Bangkok is always a joy to shop and eat in. I walked away with only one new dress this time so the damage was minimal and even fit in three massages.
I ended up wearing that dress to Taipei the last week of September! I unexpectedly found a travel companion when I bumped into A at the airport and we did the touristy night markets and even the Rilakkuma cafe. Taipei cons are so nice and calm. It was a lot more intimate than the Seoul cons as the boys got used to a new setlist and were more generous with fan service. Chanyeol ripped Junmyeon’s shirt with his bare hands. By the end of September, I was calmer and finally felt the cloud of gloom lift. Even if my approach was a little drastic, I guess an Asia tour was what I needed after all.
Following my whirlwind September and months of heartache, I ventured out of my comfort zone in October. I was determined to find new interests and try harder than ever to fortify new and old friendships. It ended up being a nice happy month as I attended a string of weddings and cultural events that left me thankful that I was surrounded by good friends. After a good few months of questioning my self worth, I think October was absolutely necessary to restore some of my confidence. It was spooky season too and I had fun dolling up for a party and again for a work outing to a theme park.
Mid-way through November, something just changed. The clouds lifted. Suddenly I was filled with a jovial mood and started being productive again. Maybe it was the beginnings of the festive season and all the carols in the air just brought my mood up along with it. At one point, I realised I was happy and was immediately overwhelmed with thankfulness. I went art-hopping and! and! and! Two of our campaigns actually won an award! Seems like the second half of the year had some hidden surprises too.
Alongside a whole lot of catching up with friends for Christmas parties this month, I spent the last two weeks of December in my favourite city, Tokyo. We spent Christmas eve soaking in hot springs in the Fuji five lakes region and spent a lot of time chasing after Mt Fuji. It was brother’s first time in Japan, while it was my 9th trip to Tokyo, but we had a lot of fun exploring tourist spots that he wanted to go to and the niche activities I chose.
On the same day I returned from Tokyo, I flew off to Seoul to catch EXplOration Dot and countdown to 2020 with EXO. I’m so, so glad to be able to spend the last days of the year with EXO, who have been a symbol of pure happiness and escape for me. The boys cried a lot on the last day, and as I cried along with them, I felt so thankful for all the opportunities we have had together.
And that’s a wrap for 2019!
2019 has given me a chance for me to relook at myself and decide whether I am comfortable with who I am and the people I allow close to me.
Looking back, it was a year of growth and I think I am the best version of myself that I have ever been. I’m not perfect nor the most tolerable but please believe me when I say I know my faults and I’m trying. At least I’m a little more self aware and actively trying to be kinder to everyone and myself.
I needed this humbling year, but I can only hope 2020 will be better. To a brighter 2020!
Hello! Everyone keeps asking me where is the best view of Jongin for EXplOration so I figured I would make a very quick, crude post 🙂 This is long overdue because there aren’t that many stops left, but hopefully everyone gets to see lots of Jongin 🙂
I marked where I stood on each of the seat maps, and linked the corresponding fancams to give you a better idea of what the view is. Sorry for the many links, but embedding everything would make this post too heavy!
EXPLORATION IN SEOUL – X1, O2, E2 (all fancams compiled here)
Day 1, X1 was my best view of Jongin, as Smile on My Face and Power were right in front! His interactions were mainly here, or facing the seats at 13/11/6
O2 was good for watching the centre stages – namely 24/7, Ooh La La La and hoo boy, Love Shot. His scooter pops up at the back of this pit, around seat 7
E2 was good for Confession and the main stages, because he dances RIGHT in front of where I stood (and also Chanyeol’s What a Life)
EXPLORATION IN SINGAPORE– C (all fancams compiled here)
I chose to stand more towards the left because with this layout (no back stage), his interaction stages were there. I would say this is the prime spot for Jongin! SO. MUCH. JONGIN.
The only downside is that he doesn’t really do interaction here, but we have a prime view of Junmyeon ripping his shirt off for Been Through and lots of Chanyeol/Baekhyun/Jongdae?
EXPLORATION IN TAIPEI – A, C (all fancams compiled here)
Don’t buy A for Jongin……….. unless there’s carts, but you have to pray he looks at the pit? On day one, he faced the pit but for day two he faced the seats. If there are no carts, his scooter time ends up here. He gets off the carts on the right side (neart 2D/2E) and does the encore songs there.
You can still see Confession, but not any of the main stage Jongin because he dances to the far right.
Buy A for Sehun tho. Definitely. Please. So much Sehun.
For day two, I started out on the right side of C for 24/7 and Loveshot. Gravity is facing 2D.
Finally I ended up at the left for Smile On Your Face and the ment
If there’s carts, he gets off at the right side, near 2E, for On the Snow
This was a messy and quick post, but I would generally recommend pit C because it gives the best view of everything and most of Jongin’s interactions faces it if there’s no back stage. He interacts on the left, and dances on the right.
But! Pit C is notoriously squishy, and I’ve had less than stellar experiences being pushed around in the pit. I usually end up being pushed to the back of the pit, and it’s hard to see with everyone holding their banners, lightsticks up.
I enjoyed myself much, much more in pit B, where I could see Confession upclose, as well as all the lovely main stage dances. If you move towards the back of pit B, you can also see Jongin’s interaction stages. You’ll just be looking at butts quite a bit, but at least you can breathe.
Good luck! It doesn’t really matter where you go in the end, because they move around a lot! You will see Jongin anywhere you go 🙂
You can drop me more specific questions on my curiouscat or just dm me on Twitter.
I can’t believe we’ve reached a point in the year where it’s time for the mid-year check in! The more years I work on this yearly wrap up, the faster time seems to go. (201520162017 2018 1 and 2)
I’m pleased to say my fifth yearly wrap starts off on a pleasant note. For the first time ever, I sat here looking at my screen wondering what to write because I haven’t had any job changes or life changing shake ups; just stability and a slow, steady pursuit of my career and happiness.
The past few months have been spent trying to find my personality, not wanting to let hobbies-that-are-really-just-obsessions define who I am. The answer that came to me was just that nothing makes me happier than my hobbies, and I don’t think I really care about living my life the way someone else thinks I should be anyway. Or maybe I’m just a boring person. You be the judge.