Meet the Reader: Eva
Meet the Reader is a series where readers in Shanghai talk about their passion for words and books.
Originally from South Korea, Eva sees herself made of the six different countries in which she has lived (U.S., Ecuador, Israel, U.K. and China). Until recently a tech journalist, Eva is about to embark on her adventure where she’ll cycle from Shanghai to London.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
My earliest memory of reading was when I was about 8 years old. Our town hall organized after-school activities for the children whose parents worked late. There was a little library there, with beautifully illustrated children’s books. I was the oldest, and I would read stories to the other children. We’d read stories about princesses and fairies, and choose our favorite book.
Why do you enjoy reading so much?
I think I have too many thoughts. I need an echo to reflect upon. While movies show images, reading asks for your creative participation, you can imagine how a character looks. When you watch a movie, you merely observe the characters. With reading, you can become that character. The experience of reading is very different from other mediums.
If someone wrote a book about your life, what would it be called? What would the book tell?
I’d call it The Five-Colored Marbles. In Korea, mothers have “conception dreams”, mysterious dreams that symbolize conception or the upcoming birth of a baby. In the case of my mom, she dreamt that a doctor threw marbles at her. She hid behind the wall, but accidentally swallowed a marble. The marble had five colors. Shortly after that dream, she had me. The title also goes with my philosophy that you cannot judge a person by just one color: smart – not smart; pretty – not pretty. We need different nuances to describe a person.
As for the content, I’d rather want them to write about my teenage life. My twenties were exciting but my childhood was tough. By merely looking at my twenties they would get a very superficial judgment of me.
I lived in the U.S. as a child for a period, and when I came back I already spoke good English and had an American personality where I expressed my ideas freely. Some kids didn’t like my differences and shunned me because of them. They told me it was a shame that I was not like them. This made me always want to go to other countries. Not forgetting my English became really important. It was my only key to get out of South Korea.
At University, I finally went to the UK for an exchange program. I told myself: “You’ve been considering yourself as different since you were 10. If you’re really that different, then show it in the UK.” The program was only for 3 months, but I promised myself to get the most out of it. I went out every day, joined 5 societies, did volunteering, got my first serious relationship, and I realized I did not have to be defined by just one color. I was made of several colors and should live life as I wanted. I went back to South Korea, much more confident than before, but at the same time also feeling frustrated. I was back in a society where I had to live life with different masks. When I found the opportunity to go volunteering, I went for one year to Ecuador. I was suddenly surrounded by people who did not value me for what I could do, but simply for me. They loved me no matter what.
Throughout my life, I felt I could not escape from who I really am. I always remembered who I was by writing my stories down. I started writing at age 10 as part of the homework, but have never stopped. It helped me to look at my life and myself objectively, to find myself mirrored on paper.
When you watch a movie, you merely observe the characters. With reading, you can become that character. The experience of reading is very different from other mediums.
What’s your favorite genre? Why?
I love novels because they are full of emotions. There is a famous Korean writer who said that in the Korean military, guys get taught to trash their emotions. When they go back to real life, they look for those emotions in movies, in friends, to be reminded that they are human. Just like those Korean soldiers, I look for them because emotions and stories are the only things that can heal me. In novels, so many more difficult things happen to the characters than to me. I empathize with them and can relate to how they feel.
I use the word “healing” not necessarily in relation to my own experiences. I feel that Shanghai has healed me fully. I use this word because I get to look back at the tragedy in my country. Koreans have a deep sorrow in their hearts. We’re born with it, it’s something we cannot explain. This sorrow comes with our country’s history and our current societal situation. Koreans are living in a stressful society. You have to give your best shot in everything: appearance, studies, performances…it’s a constant race.
Who’s your favorite author? Why?
My favorite author is Murakami. I think there is something pure in Murakami’s writing. Pure creativity. His novels create strong visual images. I love his characters because they’re always obsessed about something, childish in some way. I can relate to that. I feel that his characters are living around me. They’re that close to me.
Which book has impacted you the most?
The book that impacted me the most is Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. This book is one of the reasons why I’m going to cycle from Shanghai to London in a few days. The book tells the story of a man in his 30s, an intellectual elite who had read all the philosophical books. He met a man called Zorba, who was double his age. Zorba was far from an intellect. He lived his life with his body: he farmed, made love to many women, had been fighting in wars. Zorba had a lot of life knowledge and shared openly his experiences and feelings with the protagonist. The protagonist was a baby in comparison to Zorba. He had always observed life but didn’t know how to really live his life, how to see the beauty of the world and life. Thanks to Zorba, the protagonist learned to live.
This book inspired a lot of travelers to start their journey, and it has inspired me to start mine. I worked as a journalist in the technology industry for five years, but I feel that there is more to life than just sitting in front of a computer, obsessing about the knowledge we can get in cities. There is something we can learn from actual life, where we get sweaty, where we get into uncomfortable situations and live adventures we cannot imagine. There is something we can learn from life.
I hope to be like Zorba, inspiring other people by living my life. Since a very young age, I told myself I don’t want to be a journalist. Instead, I want to be the person journalists want to interview. I want to be the heroine. I believe I am special. I’m destined to have a special life. I’m created for a purpose. I have to manifest something. It’s my mission in this world to inspire other people because I’m walking a path different from other people. I cannot live other people’s lives. I can only live my life.
I think there is something pure in Murakami’s writing. Pure creativity. His novels create strong visual images.
Do you have unusual habits related to books and / or reading?
I have to lie down to read, and I should have a pencil, not a pen, in my hand. This feeling of holding a pencil and reading a paper book is an important ritual for me.
If you were the interviewer, which bookish question would you definitely add to this list and what would be your answer?
Have you ever ripped your book? I ripped my books three days ago. Not out of anger, but out of necessity. I had to give away a lot of books since I’m moving, but there were some pages that I wanted to keep. So I ripped them out of my favorite books. I hope my friends who receive books with missing pages will understand me.
What’s your favorite place to read in Shanghai? Why?
My favorite place to read is in my room on the bed, in the morning at about 6.30. That’s when I’m the calmest. It’s my favorite reading time. The second favorite is at the slow reading sessions.
Thanks to Zorba, the protagonist learned to live. I hope to be like Zorba, inspiring other people by living my life. I believe I am special. I’m destined to have a special life. I’m created for a purpose. I have to manifest something.
Shanghai is a hectic city, when and how do you find the time to read/ when do you read?
I implement reading in my morning ritual. I brush my teeth, do meditation, and then sit on my bed with a paper book and a pencil, and start reading. I need this sequence; otherwise, I’m not ready for my day.
Are you doing interesting projects that you’d like to share with us?
I wrote a draft about my life story. I interviewed my parents, took excerpts from my childhood diaries and translated everything into English. I think people will be interested in it because there is a beauty to the truth. I think it is important for everyone to document their life.
My next project is to cycle from Shanghai to London. Our trip is sponsored by several companies, and along the way, we will hold events and talks. I feel cycling was my only option. I wanted to get out of the technology industry. Things have been too speedy around me. I wanted to move, but not by airplane. Biking was a speed I thought was good. That’s why I say cycling was the only thing I could choose. When you’re taking upon such a big challenge, you grow a lot. I want that. Life in Shanghai has been too good for me. It’s time for a new challenge.
Follow Eva’s cycling adventures on social media:
Do you want to share your passion for books and words by answering some bookish questions? Would you like to be featured so that fellow book lovers can contact you? Do you have a bookish project you’d like to share with Shanghai? Contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get featured in this series.
We’re Books in Shanghai, a community project where we celebrate our love for books, reading, and Shanghai.
We’ll share with you where you can exchange / buy books, we’ll gather bookish locations in Shanghai, we’ll post and organize bookish events, we’ll try to connect readers with other readers,… We’ll make Shanghai a bookish place.
- To receive more info on our events
- To donate your books
- To promote your bookish events
- To contribute as a writer. photographer, video maker
Wechat channel: Booksinshanghai
Wechat group: Contact us to be added to our chat group!