The real face of COVID-19 in South Korea

We’ve all seen the memes, repeated the same jokes, experienced similar thoughts and feelings… and together we can conclude 2020 has been one hell of a sh*tshow. From the potential start of WWIII, to the death of one of basketball’s greats, Kobe Bryant, 2020 has had it all. But nothing compares to that monstrous C word.

COVID-19 has, quite literally (and unfortunately), taken the world by storm, and yes, everyone is tired of listening to the multitude of rumours, the daily number of new infections, the promises of governments to ‘flatten the curve’ and get us back to our normal daily routines. The exhaustive list just goes on and on. But the way I see it, the British people (and those others in countries suffering massively from ‘rona) need to STOP listening to the daft, old governments and take things into their own hands.

Manchester (my hometown and one of the UK’s larger cities), has recently been plunged into the tier 3 lockdown procedure. For those unfamiliar with the UK’s (ridiculous) 3-tier plan, refer to https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/15/tier-1-2-or-3-englands-three-stage-covid-lockdown-rules-explained for more details or basically understand it as tier 1: medium risk, tier 2: high risk, tier 3: very high risk with each tier coming with its own limitations and restrictions.

Busan (my home away from home) has NEVER been placed into lockdown. Let me repeat that: Busan, the second largest city in South Korea, with a population of almost 3.5 million people, has not ONCE, since the first confirmed case back in January 2020 emerged, faced a barrage of (ridiculous – refer to the UK’s 3-tier plan) lockdown procedures.

Why is this, you may wonder…

Well for starters (and I don’t mean this offensively, I really don’t), Koreans can be quite the hypochondriacs. Indeed, when this virus first appeared on the Korean scene, I found myself influenced by their nature and was immediately wiping down my groceries with anti-bacterial wipes on my return home from the store. Necessary? Probably not. However, I deemed the slight possibility of droplets present on the surfaces of the items I purchased enough to act with caution.

This is only just the beginning.

Let’s take a look at what South Korea has done RIGHT thus far:


Quite the polarising subject, although I don’t fully understand why…

I have been wearing a mask, AROUND THE CLOCK, for the past ten months.

Is it a nuisance? Kind of, especially when running late and only just realising, after leaving the house, that I forgot my blasted mask.

Does it get in the way of my speech or breathing? No, it does not. It is a thin piece of cloth covering my nose and mouth.

Has it helped South Korea’s own personal battle with COVID-19? Undoubtedly. Just look at the figures for proof; SK currently stands at 25,424 cases TOTAL since January… the UK has clocked around 20,000 DAILY this past week.

Further proof to be found in the pudding… back in June, a Russian cargo ship docked in Busan and 16 of the 21 sailors on board tested positive for the virus. More than 170 people came into contact with the infected patients and were immediately placed into quarantine HOWEVER no positive test results came back after they underwent screening. Guess why… because they wore masks.

Simple as that.

Me and my mask 24/7

Temperature checks

The most telling symptom for COVID-19 is a fever.

Therefore it seems only sensible, and logical, to install thermal imaging systems, or at the very least a thermometer, to allow people to check their temperature upon arrival to a building, be it company offices, a restaurant or even the cinema.

My workplace installed their cameras back in May. A thermometer has sat by the front desk for longer still. Every person who enters the building is required to check their temperature, note it down on a form, and check to state they are happy to be contacted if necessary.

I visited a department store in my neighbourhood late last week where a security guard greeted me at the door and gently asked if he could take my temperature, to which I agreed, before directing me over to an area where hand sanitiser was provided.

No issue, no disagreement, no complaints. I throw away my right to ‘privacy’ each and every damn day and I couldn’t care less if my footsteps are tracked (they are always watching you on social media anyway!) because I am doing it for the good of others.

So, stuff your Donald Trump’s, your Minnie Mouse’s and use your real name and phone number. You don’t realise whose life you could save.

A thermal body camera implemented at my place of work. Hiiiii meeeee in the camera!

Emergency & Public Safety Alerts

Back in March, my phone was all abuzz with emergency alerts. I couldn’t go five minutes without my phone making its LOUD blaring noise alerting me with an update regarding to COVID-19. They dictate where infected patients have visited, specifying the time and date, as well as reminding the residents of and visitors to South Korea to constantly wear a mask, keep their distance socially and wash their hands.

Some people may argue it is a little too much, or too invasive, however it has had a remarkable impact on South Korea’s track and trace system.

Indeed, back in August, I went to a pizza restaurant in the Nampo neighbourhood of Busan. All was fine; I was seated upon a platform, away from the masses, enjoyed my meal, and didn’t think twice about ‘rona.

That was, until a few days later, I received an alert to say an infected person had dined at the same restaurant, on the same evening, albeit an hour before myself.

Well, I was all in a tizz. I panicked, wondering if I needed to be tested. If possibly, the air droplets containing the virus, could have been spread throughout the restaurant due to the air conditioning system being on full blast as we were still in the throes of summer.

After a solid one-hour breakdown, I spoke with my dining companion, who is Korean, who rationalised that if we were in any sort of danger or suspected to have the virus, the Korean government would have been in contact with us to tell us we needed to get tested. The government would have been able to locate us both as we both wrote our names and numbers on the form, as well as taking our temperature, upon arrival.

This is something governments around the world should immediately replicate. It is so useful and helps people determine whether they should get tested.

Just an example of the alerts I receive daily in South Korea… yes, I know they are in Korean but I can understand Korean and also there are translation apps

Two-week self-isolation

This one really isn’t that hard… if you have recently arrived from abroad, have come into contact with someone suspected or confirmed to have the virus OR suspect you, yourself have symptoms, then self-isolate. Watch some Netflix, read a book, do some DIY, but STAY AT HOME.

Now I know it will be boring and will, at some points, make you want to pull your hair out, but it is only for two weeks. That is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I was meant to be travelling back to the UK for a friend’s wedding next month; initially, before COVID-19, I would have been able to stay for 4 weeks. This changed once South Korea stipulated arrivals to the country must self-isolate for 2 weeks to avoid potentially spreading the virus and I knew I would have to cut the trip to 2 weeks to accommodate that regulation and be back in time for work at the start of December.

One thing I must point out here is that South Korea did provide care packages for all people in self-isolation. They included food, drinks, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes. I’m not sure if they are still providing these but they were a hell of a lot better than the tosh the UK government provided which consisted of expired products and numerous unique ingredients.

Back to my case… self-isolating for two weeks was no problem in my eyes. I was ready and prepared to do this; I had accepted that it would just be part and parcel of my trip home however due to other circumstances, my trip has now been cancelled (☹).

Please, please, please stay at home if you think you must or have recently arrived from abroad. Get a lot of food in, ask your family or friends to deliver some groceries if necessary, just constantly dwell on the fact that you could help others by doing this.

In conclusion…

I’m not saying that different countries should copy each and everything that has been practiced in South Korea; I merely want to highlight the things I believe have made a difference and kept the figure down.

I also, obviously, know most people have been following the rules as necessary and I implore people to continue doing so. Don’t travel unless absolutely necessary, wear a mask at all times when outside and in public spaces, keep your distance socially, regularly check your temperature and self-isolate for at least TWO WEEKS (COVID-19’s incubation period can last this long).

You could really save a life or two.


My weight loss story…

The latter half of December, the ‘holiday season’, Christmas and New Year bundled up within an 8-day time frame – the perfect time to binge and enjoy all of the delicious food, savory snacks, chocolate selections and alcohol one can consume!

Don’t hate yourself for it – relish it, revel in the freedom, the festivities, the familial and friendly dinners and outings before the old ‘new year, new me’ trope is splashed all across social media and openly exclaimed by the masses once 1st of January 2020 becomes a reality.

In the later years of my teens and my early twenties, I found myself to be the first person every year proclaiming change; a change in lifestyle, a change in outlook, but most of all, a change in eating habits. I’d stick to something for a week or two, eating healthier meals with a fruity snack in between whilst waking to the sound of my mother’s whistle, ready to accompany me to the gym.

I would initially enjoy it and take comfort in the fact that I was doing something positive but eventually, old habits die hard, and I found myself repeating a very familiar cycle. The Christmas/New Year binge eating merriment, not simply restricted to an 8-day period, but a way of life all year round!

I cannot lie and say I didn’t love it. I was easy, open to eating and drinking absolutely anything with no regards to my waistband, the number on a scale nor my health. Two poached eggs with three slices of buttered toast for breakfast? Why not! A Tesco meal deal lunch consisting of a cheese triple sandwich, prawn cocktail crisps and a 500ml bottle of Diet Coke? Delicious – especially when topping the cheese sandwich off with a layer of crisps. I’d also award myself three chocolate bars whilst walking the 25 minutes’ home from work every day. Finally, a double helping of whatever dinner was on the table that evening? What a great way to polish off the day!

The weekends were even more indulgent; dinner outings with friends where I would normally order a three-course meal, egging on my companions to do the same or nights out spent pre-drinking with Sailor Jerry spiced rum mixed with Coke before heading to bars where I would polish off four or five sugary cocktails.

When it came to eating and drinking, my body was a free-for-all; no restrictions, no limitations, no calorie counting. I was a girl possessed, controlled by consumption, getting fulfilment and joy out of food and drink.

My unhealthy relationship with food got a giant kick start once I left the family home and went to university. The ‘can’t be arsed’ attitude was strong in this one; I’d always put off cooking dinner in favour of the chippy down the street or a frozen pizza from the Sainsbury’s local downstairs.

On the odd occasion I would cook dinner, it would consist of either a pan-sized serving of spaghetti carbonara or a plate half laden with rice, half covered with lamb curry, a jar of which can feed a four-person family or cover dinner for an individual for 4 days but would be demolished by me in 2.

My problem, undoubtedly, was portion control. At university, I allowed myself to overeat on a daily basis, unknowingly stretching my stomach to such an excess that I’d rarely feel full. For six years, I continued to overeat, enjoying my food so much whilst ignoring the girth of my waist, and most importantly, the detriment of my health and wellbeing.

Another thing I would ignore, although it was extremely hard to do so, were the comments and jibes I would get from strangers. “You’re the size of a house!”, “How much do you pack away?” and “Fat (insert expletive here)” were the more common slurs thrown my way. Admittedly, my weight problem was my own fault, I know that, I get it. But does that give people the right to insult me? Does that mean people can freely roam about spitting vitriol to people they don’t know, making comments about their bodies, their weight, their appearance without actually knowing what that person has been through in their life or what medical conditions they may have?

The immensity of my problem came to a head after an evening with friends in London back in September 2016. We had attended a street food festival, tried a number of different dishes, drank a few beverages and said our goodbyes to catch a night’s sleep before reconvening the next day.

I’d opted to stay in a hostel in the Shoreditch area. I arrived at my destination and was fumbling for my key to get indoors when a group of lads walked past. I didn’t clock that I was the subject of their conversation until one of them exclaimed “Eurgh… not that fat bitch!”. I turned to see them all looking at me and I felt humiliated, I wanted the ground to swallow me up.

It was at exactly that moment that I decided enough was enough.

I designed my plan of attack on the train back to Manchester the next day. I researched healthy salad recipes, ordered lunch boxes and a water bottle to take to work with me and made a commitment to myself that I would start walking to and from work.

The beginning of my journey was tough. I’d made a decision to reduce my daily calorie intake from 3000+ to around 1500. I’d start my day off with a bowl of warm porridge, topped with honey, fresh fruit and flax seeds. I’d enjoy a snack a couple of hours later, usually nuts, a piece of fruit or a protein bar before tucking in to a homemade salad at about 12:30pm (I can do a future post about the more delicious salads I would make – let me know if anyone would like to learn more in the comments :)).

A similar snack followed in the afternoon before a soup dinner at about 6pm accompanied by a bread roll. I also started walking the two miles to work and back every day, initially taking me over an hour with at least three stops along the way. It sounds drastic, it seems extreme and I’m not saying everyone who wants to lose weight and see change has to follow suit but it is what I needed to do to tackle my weight.

I dropped three stone during the first two months; my face became more structured, my clothes more loose, my walking speed increased whilst my lust and cravings for unhealthy food grew less powerful. The visual and physical changes I was witnessing in myself proved to be more than enough drive for me to continue. So I did and I upped the ante.

Before my porridge, I introduced weight lifting and squat workouts (Blogilates ‘Call Me Maybe’ squat challenge, easily found on YouTube, was my normal go to), alternating between different focus muscle groups each day. I continued walking to work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, gradually shaving minutes off the time it took whilst opting to cycle on Tuesdays and Thursdays using the Strava app to challenge myself and attain new personal bests every week.

By June 2017, I was down seven and a half stone. My family and I were invited to a wedding and I had ordered a floaty pink number, adorned with flowers and beading along with a pair of silver, strappy stiletto heels. I curled my newly cut hair, applied my all-time favourite cat eye makeup and fully enjoyed the experience of feeling like a very pretty girl for the day. I’d catch sight of myself in mirrors or windows around the venue and feel very much surprised by the reflection staring back at me. It was a wonderful feeling and a milestone moment.

A year after my journey began, in September 2017, I had lost a total of 9 stone. I was able to buy skirts and dresses I’d never considered wearing, my tastes had changed, my mood was elevated, I felt so extremely happy and, more importantly, healthy!

I loosened the reigns on myself and the strictness of my regime after that first year. To this day I still walk everywhere and anywhere, taking pride in seeing an average weekly step count of 80,000 or more. I enjoy hiking the many mountains of Busan; I love the climb up to the top of a mountain, the feeling of using my own body to attain a great height and a wonderful perspective of a city I love.

I do still watch what I eat but I do not calorie count nor partake in any of the numerous fad diets we hear so much about in the media. I also allow myself treats, not depriving myself of my favourite foods and drinks such as a burger and chips, a pizza, a hot chocolate on a cold day or popcorn when I go to the cinema.

My new eating lifestyle is based off the saying everything in moderation and it has proven to be key. Three full years after beginning my journey, I reached the goal I set back in September 2016 in September 2019.

Here are the figures:

Start weight: 23 stone / 322 pounds / 146kg

Start dress size: 26 (UK)

End weight: 11 stone 10 pounds / 164 pounds / 74.3kg

End dress size: 12 (UK)

I’ll have some people thinking “Oooooh she is still not at the weight she should be for her height/at her age!” etcetera, etcetera. I honestly thank you for your concern, but as it is based on my body and how I feel, I can say that I am extremely comfortable with my current statistics and see no need for any further change.

My goal now is maintenance. I aim to continue living my life as healthily as possible, both mentally and physically. I hope I am able to inspire people, those who would like to lose weight, others who may need some encouragement to reach a different goal, to never lose hope, always keep going and ultimately enjoy life to the fullest.

You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it 🙂


Spare a thought for Palestine today and every day going forward…

This post deviates away from the norm I usually post about and despite the plethora of writing I have planned about my current time and experiences in Korea, being half Palestinian, I cannot ignore this topic as it is something I hold dear to my heart.

Yesterday, 14th of May 2018, the US unveiled their new embassy in Jerusalem, an event that has been planned since December of last year after the almighty Donald Trump (insert sarcastic standing ovation and round of applause) made the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem is a city, a holy place that is so integral to not only one, but three worldly religions. Christianity, Islam and Judaism alike hold Jerusalem in high regard so why designate it as the capital of a Jewish state? The bloodshed such a decision has caused is painful to contemplate. To read stories about so many Palestinians, children and disabled included, suffering and being killed for protesting against something they deservedly have the right to fight against is mindboggling. So spare a thought for those people today, consider their plight and the daily struggles they go through. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel if you are consistently denied basic human rights and ultimately punished for believing you should combat such oppression. I cannot fathom the idea myself personally and I write this today in the hopes that one day, all people, no matter race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, etcetera can feel and experience an unbiased and uniform kind of equality, for not one person or group of people are worth more than another and therefore should not be treated better or worse dependent on what they are, what they believe, where they come from or what they stand for.

And before I receive any hate (fingers crossed I don’t – the internet should be regarded as a place for free expression after all!): my belief that people should care more about the Palestinians and their sufferings does not make me anti-Semetic in the slightest. Instead, it simply highlights my humanism, my decency and my compassion for everyone who feels slighted, ignored and abused by governmental regimes.

Peace: an achievable concept if we all open our minds and our hearts and work together to make our world a better place for everyone who walks it.



Manchester: the ultimate busy bee!

Manchester: a city that stands united.

Sadly the above sentence was borne out of a tragic event; the suicide bombing that occurred ten months ago at the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande concert. Manchester was thrown on to the world’s stage as a place shrouded in grief; it’s citizens were locked in a state of utter turmoil and despair following the wake of the atrocity and Mancunians (myself included) could just not understand how or why something so awful could happen to their beloved city and why so many innocent people had to lose their lives due to one person’s senseless, selfish actions.

annes square

The abundance of flowers in St. Anne’s Square – in memory of those we lost ❤

But despite it all Manchester pulled through…

When the initial reports started filtering through the media that something had happened during the concert at the Manchester Arena, hundreds upon hundreds of people were sharing information, doing their utmost to provide help, transportation and lodgings to those who left the event disorientated. I would refresh my Facebook timeline every thirty seconds and see dozens of new posts offering a sofa for people to rest their head or listing the names of children and teenagers they were keeping safe amid the chaos. At that moment, I could not have been prouder of my birthplace, my home, my Manchester and so I decided to write this post dedicated to the best city in the world!

Things I LOVE about Manchester

  1. Number one should be kinda obvious if you read my introduction… it is the PEOPLE! The wonderfully warm and wacky people nicknamed Mancunians! They are the beating heart of the city, the essence that gives Manchester its notoriously friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I love going for walks with our Lazza and being greeted numerous times by fellow walkers; a simple ‘good morning’ is SO refreshing these days considering the majority of people live their lives behind a screen and thankfully Manchester has not kicked the ‘old age’ tradition of speaking to people face to face.
  2. The endless varieties of food on offer! Arabic, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Korean… Manchester has it all and none is in short supply! I loved my time working in Rusholme because of the available food options; I would shuffle over to Falafel for some creamy hummus and warm pitta or make my way over to the Afghan Cuisine for a steaming kobeda kebab. Akbar’s on Liverpool Street is my go-to Indian; they have the most flavoursome seafood balti and supersized naan breads that come to your table hanging further than the length of a 30cm ruler. Yard & Coop is the place to go for some fried chicken! Marinated in buttermilk, it is super juicy and tender whilst the batter is amazingly crispy. Dazzling Café is a fairly new place but it has the most awesome collection of pizzas! I tried the pesto duck pizza the week before I moved and it was so tasty. The pesto was super green meaning it was freshly made and the duck complemented it well. I also tried their honey toast for dessert: a massive mountain of sweet bread, smothered in hazelnut sauce and cream…yummy! Almost Famous has an eclectic collection of burgers and fries; some include frazzles, there is bacon rain…it is every Burger Queen’s heaven! Ultimately Manchester is the place for all the foodies out there!

    dazzling pizza

    Dazzling Cafe’s amazing duck pesto pizza!

  3. The weather! Always a bone of contention for most Mancunians but not for me. I have always preferred the colder season of winter back home; nothing better to me than being snuggled up warm at home on an early dark evening listening to the pounding rain outside. Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy the days of sun we do get during summer, feasting on my dad’s exquisitely marinated BBQ food or by strolling around one of the many parks, however winter is my buddy! So much so that the first time it chucked it down over here in Busan, I simply sat under a shelter and enjoyed the sight, smell and sound!


    Cheeky summertime BBQ!

  4. Northern Quarter! Is there any where better for a cheeky couple of cocktails and a slut drop extravaganza than Manchester’s very own NQ?! No, there is not. Favourite place to let my hair down on Fridays and Saturdays has to be Lost in Tokyo! Decent drink prices and a blend of RnB and Pop music. Majority of the time I stumble over to Twenty Twenty Two’s once LIT kicks me out for a few tipsy rounds of ping pong! The nightlife does not end here however… there are countless bars in the NQ where you can just enjoy some drinks and a chill with mates. I’m always either in Affleck & Brown (awesome cocktails) or The Freemount (awesome live music to tap your feet to). Also the NQ has served as a filming location for Peaky Blinders and Captain America in the past!

    twenty twenty twos

    Twenty Twenty Two’s! 😛

  5. Afflecks Palace! Integral part of the NQ! A fantastic, multi-storey complex where you can find one-of-a-kind clothing, buy unique barbells or hoops for your piercings, or get a new tattoo. My favourite thing about Afflecks is its inclusivity; it does not judge, it does not hate and it states this the moment you walk through the door. It’s anti-phobic stance is emblazoned across the stairs going up to the first level from the Short Street entrance. Anywhere that treats everybody as equal feels like home to me!


    Afflecks Palace FTW

  6. Royal Exchange Theatre! I have seen countless shows at the Royal Exchange (‘Macbeth’, ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘A Streetcar named Desire’, ‘Helen of Troy’) and so far none have failed to disappoint. A personal favourite would have to be ‘Fatherland’; a brilliant performance fulfilled by 13 cast members about contemporary fatherhood and how the past has shaped it and what hopes there are for the future. Although the entire cast were phenomenal, the standout performer for me was Tachia Newell; Manchester born and bred, he was a student at Xaverian College (incidentally where I worked before moving to Busan) and he starred in ‘Waterloo Road’ for a few years. During ‘Fatherland’, my eyes were instantly drawn to him each and every time he was in the centre of the theatre. His performance was so raw, organic and he is definitely one to watch!
  7. Surrounding areas! There are so many nearby areas to venture out to if you ever want to get away from the city for a little break. Lyme Park is in Cheshire and it is such a wonder patch of land to go for a Sunday stroll. There are quite a few, cosy and dog-friendly pubs nearby as well serving delicious food! It also served as Pemberley in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; I like to picture Mr. Darcy waiting for me there! Formby beach is just over an hour away by car; we always take Lazza there as he loves the feel of the sand underneath his paws. There are also some amazing country spots where you can go for a long walk. Ladybower Reservoir near the Snake Pass is beautifully picturesque at any time of the year and Mount Shutlingsloe is lovely but make sure you wear the proper sort of walking shoes as it gets quite steep once you reach the top. I, of course, wore Nike Air Max and was slipping and sliding all over the place. There are so many other places to explore which I have on my to-visit list once I return! 

    laz on the beach

    Lazza on Formby!


    Ladybower reservoir!


    On the top of Shutlingsloe

Honourable mention: iFly! Before I traded Manchester for Busan, I went to iFly near the Trafford Centre with my family to do indoor skydiving! It was such an awesome experience, a mad adrenaline rush and it has made me want to experience outdoor skydiving! It has been added to my bucket list!



Any Mancunians who think I’ve left something vital off this list? Anyone ever visited Manchester and have a favourite place to walk/shop/eat? Let me know in the comments! 😊


Welcome 😄


I’m Emma.

A self-proclaimed film nerd, food critic and avid traveller.

Welcome to my life!

This blog will detail everything and anything to do with my quest to find groundbreaking films, my mission to try and recreate delicious food from every country in the world and my travelling adventures around Mother Earth.

For now I will leave you with a collage of my life so far… I hope you enjoy!