Book Review: Escape From Camp 14

So as part of my New Years Resolutions, I committed to reading more. I thought an achievable goal was 1 book a month – seems easy right? Well let’s just say it’s the end of February and I’ve only just finished my first book of the year Escape From Camp 14. My best friend lent it to me with the advice “if you read this before bed, you’re going to struggle to sleep.” And as I write this review and pass on a recommendation, I will also leave you with the same advice. Plus maybe have something joyous to do after you’ve finished reading for the day because this book is indeed intense, dark, confronting, confusing and troubling.

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Source. 

Based on a true story, this gripping book tells the complex, dark, courageous and crazy journey of Shin, who was born and raised in Camp 14, a labour camp in North Korea. Before reading this book, I honestly didn’t know much about the atrocities that happened in North Korean gulags. You just assume it would be horrible, but hearing not only what occurred there, but how he thought and felt was truly horrific. North Korea is obviously a place that we don’t hear about in the news. If we do, it’s because Kim Jong-un has conquered a mountain, or had an elaborate birthday party. We rarely hear stories and voices of those from outside Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea).

What I really took from this book is the power of the mind and media. Born and raised in a labour camp, Shin had never heard anything about an outside world let alone seen what was over the fence. He believed what he was told by camp officers, because – well… what else is he to believe? Like the famous, quote ‘if you control the media, you control the mind,’ and I think that whoever wrote that quote had been to North Korea. It was fascinating to read just how far the government go to control and suppress its people.

A Chinese-made portable media player, which North Koreans call "Notel", is seen in Hunchun city
A Chinese-made portable media player, which North Koreans call “Notel”, is seen in Hunchun city, China. Source

Blaine explains how bad quality American DVDs such Charlie’s Angels  or South Korean and Chinese TV shows, were smuggled into North Korea from China and that for many North Koreans, this was the first time being exposed to the outside world. He states that DVD’s and DVD players are actually owned by a lot of working class people as it was a way to make sure that the party can control what the people are viewing. This is something that has stuck with me and something I don’t think I could ever forget.

There are a lot of things in this book that I don’t think I will ever forget. The brutality endured by Shin and the thousands in labour camps, plus the oppression of an entire nation is absolutely horrific and I hope that freedom can come to the people of North Korea in the future.

Thank you to my friend Zina for recommending this book and thank you to the author and to Shin for bravely sharing his story.

For more information, I’d definitely recommend reading the following article by Reuters. 

Do New Years Resolutions Work?

This time last year, I wrote a blog post 15 Things I Want to Achieve in 2015 (read here). I’ve always been a big believer in goal setting, but it’s one thing to write it in the back of your diary, another to publish it on your blog. Reflecting on my post and my year that has been 2015, I feel like I’ve done a pretty damn good job. But, there’s areas that I epically failed. I’m a big believer in self reflection and taking the time out to think and rethink, evaluate what’s important, how to overcome and to move forward. So here were my New Years Resolutions for 2015 and my reflections and how they all turned out.

1- Read everyday

OK so that one definitely didn’t happen. As much as I love reading books, being bogged down with study and work, I just didn’t get the time. In saying that I did read some pretty amazing books – with my favourite being Lena Dunhams Not That Kind of Girl. I also managed to (mostly) keep on top of my uni readings and study aswell. I think this is something I can definitely work on for 2016.

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Get it and get it now

2 – Write in my journal everyday

Well that lasted a whole 3 months or so. I meant to, but like the reading goal above – I just didn’t have the time! I know, pathetic excuse, but I feel like my blogging has become a form of diary.

3 – Spend less time scrolling

I feel this is half achieved. I feel like I realised just how much I rely on my computer and the internet. I feel like I’ve spent less time aimlessly scrolling, but more time scrolling to achieve great things

4 – Renew my gym membership

Done!

5 – Do yoga at least once a week

Close, but not quite. Sometimes I did it three times a week, other times I’d go three weeks without going. Again, I think it was because I was so busy. Definitely something to continue for 2016.

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Yoga fuels the mind.

6 – Reduce the amount of alcohol I drink

Done! Firstly, I really couldn’t afford to drink a lot this year, but I’ve also made more of an effort to look after myself and my liver. Whilst I like going out, I’m really not the biggest fan of going out to the same places, with the same people listening to the same music over and over again. Instead, this year I found myself in cool bars with even cooler people. I’d prefer to build connections with people over conversation and intellect rather then slut dropping over the dance floor.

7 – Save Save Save!

Done! And to be continued into 2016. You can read more about my money saving tips here.

8 – Be productive and prepared for uni classes

Done! I think that my C, 2xD’s and HD speak for themselves.

9 – Hike Mount Kiera

Done!

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Hiking Mount Kiera, Wollongong

10 – Launch my new section of A Worldly Addiction

OK well kind of. I changed my mind about reviewing cafes etc. I figured I could just do that through Instagram. Instead, my blog has definitely grown beyond my expectation. I’ve launched a Facebook Page (here) and Instagram account (@aworldlyaddiction). My friend also created a promo video that I’ll be launching next year. And… I got to meet my blogging idol Brooke Saward which you can read about here. Overall it was a big year for my blog!

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Brooke and some very inspiring readers

11 – Be an avid environmentalist

Done! This year I’ve been involved with the AYCC and Oxfam combatting Climate Change and took part in the People’s Climate March in Sydney. Definitely something I will be continuing into 2016.

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12 – Continue having coffee dates with my family and friends

Done! In fact, I don’t really think I need anymore encouraging with this one but yep I definitely nailed it.

13 – Go camping

OK so we actually went Glamping – we were meant to go camping but it was forecast for rain so we went to our friends holiday home down south. We still spent the whole time at the beach and just chilling out. There was also no water so I guess it was kind of like camping.

14 – Have a weekend away

Check check and check! I spent 5 days in Melbourne  (you can read about it here). It was so amazing… I’m heading back there for New Years. I also managed to make it to Port Macquarie, Sydney a million times, Newcastle and back to Port Stephens.

15 – Share something with you guys at least once a week

I’ve definitely been blogging A LOT this year and with all of my exciting plans for next year, I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon!

Plus my added resolution of being happy. I’m pretty damn happy with how this year turned out. Sure it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, some pretty shit stuff happened along the way. But as I say, everything happens for a reason. Set backs make you stronger and the hard times only make the good times even better.

So to answer my question – do New Years Resolutions work? 11/15 ain’t so bad. And the other things I didn’t achieve, I’ll be striving to keep up. So watch this space for some more New Years Resolutions for 2016!

What’s your New Years Resolution? Did you achieve yours this year? Let me know in the comments below!

where I’ll be discovering new and wonderful local cafes and posting all the details and photos as often as possible. Watch this space for updates in 2015!

COFFEEEEEEE!
COFFEE!

11 – Be an avid environmentalist – Recycling paper and plastics, donating my old clothes, not using the clothes dryer, turn lights off… Anything I can do to help our planet out more!

12 – Continue having coffee dates with my family and friends – If I’m going to keep up to date with all my uni work, then I’m going to have to keep up with my coffee hits. And what better way to do that then keep catching up with all my coffee buddies at uni and exchanging gossip, troubles, concerns, advice and friendship!

13 – Go camping – I went on an awesome camping adventure this year and it was AWESOME! So, this year I definitely need to do it again! Preferably on a nice, hot, sunny weekend where we can camp near the beach or go hiking around waterfalls. Either way, an escape from reality and technology with some close friends and sleeping under the stars sounds awesome to me!

When I had a weekend away in Sydney with my boyfriend
When I had a weekend away in Sydney with my boyfriend

14 – Have a weekend away – I haven’t been on a plane all year and I’m craving the excitement of landing in a new and exciting place! I’m thinking of either spending a weekend in Melbourne or on the Gold Coast, with a close friend and just explore and have fun for a weekend!

15 – Share something with you guys at least once a week – 2015, expect to get lots of notifications saying that I’ve just added a new post! Whether it be more photos, quotes, attempted poetry, my opinion on something, a report, tips, memories… I’ll be sharing it with you! So be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss out on a single post!

And one last big thing which will keep me going throughout the whole year… BE HAPPY! Be with my friends and family as much as possible and always with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart!

What are you hoping to achieve next year?

xxx A

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These Are A Few of My Favourite Things: August

The last month of Winter! Winter I love you, but I won’t miss you at all.

Running the City2Surf. Something I’d only been dreading for months finally happened and I couldn’t have been happier at the finish line! Just helps motivate me to push my comfort zone and never stop daring to achieve something great!

At the finish line soaking up some sunshine
At the finish line soaking up some sunshine

Banks. Goddess. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this album is the real deal! Definitely helping me get through those study blues.

Sad airport trips. This month we had to say adieu to two of our favourite English exchange students. These boys know how much we’ll always love them, but it really does suck not seeing them every morning and every night. I look at the photo below and am so grateful for everyone’s unconditional friendship. You guys make me feel at home, safe and completely loved. Cheesy I know but deal with it.

Our beautiful little KB family
Our beautiful little KB family

Adventures with the family. Sadly I don’t get to see my family all that much. So when they come and visit for the weekend, we truly have the best time. We went out to the Sea Cliff Bridge which is an absolute must! Plus a lovely tour of Wollongong’s best restaurants and bars. Please come and visit more!

My sister and I on the Sea Cliff bridge
My sister and I on the Sea Cliff bridge

How to Be Parisian. One of the most beautiful little books that I own. For more reasons why I love it, read here.

My favourite French things; Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, red and black nailpolish and my gold plated Pierre Laniere watch I bought in Paris for my 19th birthday.
My favourite French things; Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, red and black nailpolish and my gold plated Pierre Laniere watch I bought in Paris for my 19th birthday.

Orange is the New Black. I have a problem. I’m addicted. Like seriously. I watched 2 seasons in just under two weeks. For anyone that’s been thinking about checking it out and has put it off (like I was) DO IT!!! Though it’s definitely not recommended during the middle of session when you have a million assignments due. But honestly, it’s such a quality show and I’m loving it!

So that’s about it from me. I’ve been ridiculously busy with work and uni so I’m glad I got to squeeze in this much excitement. September is looking even more scary with many assignments due but… just keep pushing on!