Butterflies in my mind

I have collected foreign newspapers since 1998.

As I typed that, I realize how far back that habit has gone. Almost twenty years! More than half my life! What a... sad life it must have been.

I mean, you're probably asking, "why are you collecting newspapers?" I wasn't sure, really. I think it was for the design. I did handwritten newspapers as a kid, after all. Folded sheets of bond paper, fanciful stories which are also grounded in reality, and imagined television schedules, when I was terrible at making up imaginary television shows. I wanted to see how other countries did it.

The first one was in 1998. That was the first - and last - time my aunt visited to the Philippines after she got married to an American. No bad blood happened since; things just got in the way. She sent over a newspaper from Atlanta, and it introduced me to how complicated newspapers from that country can be. "How can it change names on weekends?" The Journal merged with the Constitution but remained separate newspapers, except on weekends, when they became the Journal-Constitution. Now there's no such confusion: the newspaper industry is, as they say, dying.

I felt an odd pride over that collection, even if I was really terrible at it: no proper storage place, some torn up by age and mishandling, the oldest ones now in some landfill, including that one from Atlanta. When I was in elementary school, and I had friends over for some school work, I'd show my collection off. I don't think they were interested.

That interest held. Sure, there is the Internet now. If I was in it for the design I can just look up front pages online, or go to news design websites and see which ones are celebrated. And that's partly why I collected less. (That, and I really do not have space for them now.) But old habits die hard. I was once at Changi with Shalla - it was our layover from our Kuala Lumpur trip, which reminds me, I haven't written about that! - and I was struggling with not having a belt, because it broke at the hotel room. Imagine me, holding a copy of The Straits Times, pulling up my pants while waiting for a transfer vehicle from terminal 3 to terminal 2.

Tonight I ended up having this conversation with Clarissa, another one of Shalla's friends from KL, about newspapers. Here I am, showing off my collection of foreign newspapers again. Incidentally, I have a couple from exactly two years ago - two Malaysian newspapers commemorating the country's declaration of independence. I took them from a hotel lobby. They were complimentary, I assume.

And then I dug up some of my other ones.

I have five from our trip to Seoul a couple of years ago. A bunch of them were taken from the plane, but at least a couple of them, I bought from a newsstand just outside our hotel. That meant me picking out a newspaper from the shelf, giving it to the old lady running it alongside a thousand-won coin, and failing to say "감사합니다" with a convincing accent - something Shalla always poked fun at.

Three of those five are in Korean. I usually don't get newspapers in a language other than English - I want to be able to read the newspapers too - but, well, I take what I get.

Two years later, I'm a bit too immersed in Korean pop culture, and even if I still can't read hangul (no matter how much Shalla teaches me) I can see photos, and I now know who they are.

Oooh, two guys from BTS.

Oooh, Jae-suk from Running Man.

Oooh, the Knowing Brothers boys. Yeah, 따르릉.

Oooh, Hani from EXID. Only this is an English newspaper, and they actually misspelled Hani as Honey. Like, why. You got Nana's name right elsewhere on the page! Also, 나만의 허니 허니 허니, 돌아서야 하니 하니 하니 - and listen how, as Shalla would point out, their pronounciation of "honey" shifts.

Anyway, I prefer her hair black.

And your responses...

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