On Spring Cleaning & Tiny Houses

Tiny-Home-Movement-Threatens-to-Go-Big-VideoIt’s that time of year again, when the temperature leaps from -4 degrees celsius to 20 in the space of a few days. The cherry blossoms burst open in all their pink loveliness and that North Face puffa jacket that has been like a second skin over the past few months gets tossed into the back of the closet.

And then the Monica Geller-worthy cleaning frenzy starts, with old clothes and random bits and pieces finding their way to the ‘charity clothing bin’ across the street, which means they’ll end up in a clothing market in Uganda.

Luckily, I don’t have much to clean or get rid off. Material things have never been important to me and don’t gel well with my nomadic lifestyle. I’ve never had my own car or TV. I have fewer clothes and lady-things than most middle-class women. I have an old MacBook and a decent SLR camera. I have a lot of books and have traveled more than the average bear.

Most expats/migrant workers who live in big Asian cities get used to living in rabbit warrens. Unless you work for the government and/or military, you won’t have a garden, yard, and in many cases, an actual bedroom. You may get lucky as I did and score a balcony. The upshot is that you realize you can live comfortably in a small space and all the money you save by being able to live in a Tiny House (they’re a thing, see image above) when you repatriate, you can spend elsewhere.

And thus, I hereby declare my membership to the growing Minimalist movement (yes, also a thing). I came across this concept when I read about The Minimalists – basically two rich, white dudes who wanted to break the cycle of working hard and spending harder. They started to understand the relationship between time and money. They began to realize that maybe happiness doesn’t lie in working 80 hours a week in order to have all the latest gadgets. Revolutionary, I know. Having built their new lives around this movement, they’ve thought long and hard (they now have the time) about what is entails. In their own words:

At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions. Eliminating. Jettisoning. Extracting. Detaching. Decluttering. Paring down. Letting go. But that’s a mistake.

True, removing the excess is an important part of the recipe. But it’s just one ingredient. If we’re concerned solely with the stuff, then we’re missing the larger point.

Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. Rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth and contribution and contentment. More freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.

Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which actually aren’t things at all.

So, as life as we know it hurls towards disaster (we consume too much, we work too much, we destroy the planet far too much), wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in the privileged, developed countries turned over a new leaf?


This Guy

norris-mainI don’t know much about sports network ESPN, except that once I saw in an article that some American had worshiped it so much that they named their kid after it. However, a few days ago I came across a great article from them via another news site. Not much of a sports fan, I read it anyway and was intrigued. It told the unconventional story of a rising baseball star, Daniel Norris, apparently the top prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays (I’m assuming Toronto’s baseball team?)

At only 21, he already has a couple of million in the bank but chooses to live in an old van, and live off the $800 dollars a month his financial advisers feed into his account. He buys simple food from the supermarket and cooks it in his van, wherever in Florida or another state he may be parked.

He told ESPN, “It’s like a yin-and-yang thing for me,” he says. “I’m not going to change who I am just because people think it’s weird. The only way I’m going to have a great season is by starting out happy and balanced and continuing to be me. It might be unconventional, but to feel good about life I need to have some adventure.”

The article goes on to state that, ‘HE HAS ALWAYS lived by his own code, no matter what anyone thinks: a three-sport star athlete in high school who spent weekends camping alone; a hippie who has never tried drugs; a major league pitcher whose first corporate relationship was with an environmental organization called 1% for the Planet. He is 21 and says he has never tasted alcohol. He has had one serious relationship, with his high school girlfriend, and it ended in part because he wanted more time to travel by himself. He was baptized in his baseball uniform. His newest surfboard is made from recycled foam. His van is equipped with a solar panel. He reads hardcover books and never a Kindle. He avoids TV and studies photography journals instead.’

Instead of living the bling life with his teammates, he goes back to his van after practice to cook, think, surf and write in his ‘thought journal.’

As quoted in the piece about him,'”Research the things you love,” he wrote one night. “Gain knowledge. It’s valuable.”

“Be kind. Be courteous. Love others and be happy. It’s that simple.”‘

I like the example he sets of living a life on one’s own terms, however unconventional it may be, as well as doing things for the sake of doing them, rather than for a purpose or rewards dictated by society. It brings to mind another celebrated baseball player whom is close with a friend of mine. This young, seven-figure earning player grew up impoverished in Latin America, became a baseball prodigy and has played all over the world. On the off-season, he makes films. Not for money, obviously, but for love and passion. While I can’t love baseball, these guys are inspirational both on and off the pitch.

Capoeira: An Expat’s Best friend

cdo chicoteInstructor Zumbi, the leader of the Capoeira group CDO Seoul recently wrote a really great blog post for the group’s website. As an expatriate in Seoul who has survived living in this often harsh and isolating rat race, I agree completely with everything he wrote. I have been an expatriate for a number of years and it is embarrassing to realize so late in the game that being involved in some kind of group activity and belonging to an organization, group, team or community is key to thriving in an environment where you don’t have any family, don’t speak the language, and are not part of the society in the way you were in your home country.

Being part of a group in a foreign country is also a kind of spiritual practice. Due to the transient nature of the expatriate scene, as well as the Capoeira scene (people are often inconsistent with training and because it’s not easy, quite a few give up), there is a constant ebb and flow of giving, receiving and letting go. Over the past few months, I made a lot of new friends in our group. We had students of all ages from different parts of the world training. I went away for two months and come back to find that there’s a new batch of students while some of the more experienced have left back to their home countries, are taking a break, have become pregnant, are moving on to new countries etc. As the saying goes, change is the only constant in life. At least there is a Capoeira family, both close and extended, old and new, to help buffer against the turbulence of life, especially in a foreign country.

This is the post in its entirety in Instructor Zumbi’s eloquent words:

Expats often arrive in Korea and feel isolated within weeks. They feel cut out of mainstream society and opportunities to grow and progress. It doesn’t matter whether the expats are English teachers or business consultants for Samsung with Wharton MBAs. All expats are immediately thrown into a battle against a shrinking social circle and opportunities for genuine bonding.

Having survived six years in Korea, I am acutely aware that I would never have been able to do it without the help of my Capoeira group. Here are five reasons why Capoeira helps expats integrate into Korea.


Capoeira is a community-oriented art. Each Capoeira group has a certain identity that its members embrace. Some Capoeira groups want to build a community of great fighters that regularly challenge each other and fight ferociously to sharpen reaction times or improve their ability to do combat with other martial artists. Other Capoeira groups focus on efficiency of movement. Yet others focus on preserving a cultural heritage that survived centuries of oppression. Irrespective of the focus of an individual Capoeira group, group members rally round each other to ensure that the organisation’s goals are met. That is why Capoeiristas identify with a group and think less about the differences within the group.


Capoeira was practiced by people that were denied the rights of regular citizens. Consequently, Capoeiristas go out of their way to be inclusive as they know how terrible it is to be excluded from society. Consequently, members are actively working on breaking down cultural and language barriers. For example, in our Capoeira group, expats are encouraged to learn Korean to help bond with the Korean members of the group and vice-versa. Taking the time to study another language and open your mind to another culture that is very foreign to yours is challenging. Yet, since all members of the group are burdened with over coming language and cultural issues, it immediately becomes something everyone forms strong bonds over.


Capoeira values diversity of thought and behaviour. Capoeira is a form of bodily expression where the individual becomes an artist, and the roda where he or she plays Capoeira becomes the canvas. Capoeiristas are addicted to expressions of beauty, skill, and especially creativity. They love nothing more than seeing something new unfold in the theatre of the roda. Consequently, Capoeira values the individual and what they bring to the community, irrespective of background.


Capoeiristas take time out of their busy schedules to bond with each other. They actively seek out any occasion to be with each other. This often gives Capoeira a cultish feel. However, once you try Capoeira you’ll begin to notice that members of the community simply like spending time with each other and joyfully organise events, tours, birthday parties, and other social occasions to be able to connect more deeply.


Capoeira gives feedback right away. The minute you step up to add value to the group, the minute you get recognition. Capoeira groups rapidly embrace people from all walks of life that want to improve the group in some aspect. There are many ways to contribute. You can help by planning events or opening your home for a potluck. Even training every class or putting all your energy / passion into making your movement perfect for rodas will never go unnoticed. Almost any action with the purpose of making the group a better Capoeira community is celebrated.