Wednesday, September 30, 2009

요구르트 빙수

After a few wordy posts, here is one picture post finally. Below is one of my favourite desserts during summer - Yoghurt Bingsu. I think I will eat it even if it is snowing outside. A bowl of good dessert cheers me up.

Yoghurt Bingsu, big enough for 2 persons, selling for 7,000won at Caffe Ti-amo (Ti-amo means 'I love you' in Italian). The bingsu in the picture was not specially prepared for photo-taking but yet it looks picture-perfect.


The CRT television in my dormitory’s room has a lot of problems.

Sometimes, for no reason, the screen would suddenly shrink to a line of light. But after a while, the line of light would usually open out to give a full screen. I wasn’t bother much by this problem because it wasn’t frequent.

However, the volume control was very problematic. More often than not, there would be no sound until I turned the volume level to 50 and above. Of course, when the sound came, it would be thunderously loud since the volume level was set very high. But when I tried to turn down the volume slightly, silent would return. Usually, I have to do a few iterations of up and down before I could get the TV’s speaker to work properly.

The problem doesn’t end here. Sometimes, the volume button would turn into a channel button. When I mean is that, when I pressed the volume-up button on the TV, the channel would increase by one number instead of volume and vice-versa.

The channel button was also not spared from problem. It could function or malfunction as a power-off button although I believe it wasn’t an intentional design. When I tried to switch channel using the TV’s button, the TV would just switch off automatically after a few presses.

If you are curious about the brand of TV, it is actually Sam*ung. You probably won’t be able to associate Sam*ung with poor quality TV since it is now the leading brand in LCD TV worldwide. But like what my teacher had said, “Who don’t have a past.” Perhaps, this may be a reason why Sam*ung had chosen to sell its LCD TVs in Korea under the brand name “PAVV’ instead of ‘Sam*ung’.

I am fully aware that I am making several assumptions and loose connections here. The problem with my room’s TV might just be an isolated case and that Sam*ung’s marketing strategy to sell its LCD TV under a different brand name could well have nothing to do with its past. So just take what I write with a pinch a salt.

What I want to say here is, although I have been living with a ‘broken’ TV, at least it is still functioning albeit some irritating faults here and there. At the end, I am still grateful with what I have because many students don’t even have a TV set in their room.

“우리 남편”

Men from Gyeongsangdo (경상도, 慶尙道) are known to be ‘무뚝뚝하다’. In other words, they are anything but interesting guys. Despite such unflattering association, most of Korea’s previous presidents and current president are hailed from this very region, which include Busan, Daegu and Ulsan as its major cities.

There is a joke about Gyeongsangdo’s men. When a man returns home after a day of work, there are only 3 things he will say to his wife - “아는” (how’s our children?), “먹자” (let’s eat) and “자자” (let’s sleep). This joke exaggerated the difficulty which Gyeongsangdo’s men have with their words and is no less due to their ‘무뚝뚝함’.

However, ‘무뚝뚝함’ is not just restricted to Gyeongsangdo’s men if my Japanese classmate has a say in it. She has this to say about her husband who is also Japanese.

“We went out for a date at a café. I left my seat for the toilet but when I came back, I saw he had ordered himself a cake and was eating it. I was mad because he didn’t even bother asking me if I would also like to have one. It seemed to me that all he cares about is himself.”

“One day, after we were married, I decided to make him a cake. (My Japanese classmate doesn’t speak Korean to her husband but I am using Korean below because that was how she said it when she was relaying her story.)

어때? (how is it?), I asked as he was eating the cake.
응…(umm), came his reply.
어때? I asked again hoping for something more from him.
안 보여? 나 먹고 있잖아. (Can’t you see, I am eating), came his blunt reply.

기가 막혀(I was dumbfounded). I spent so much time and effort making the cake. He could have at least said that it is delicious or thank you or some nice and encouraging words but all he could utter was can’t you see I am eating.”

What is not apparent above is why my classmate still considers her husband a nice guy albeit doing badly in the department of sensitiveness. Her husband is supportive of she pursuing her interest even though she has to be away from home for a long time to study in Korea. When he missed her, he would travel all the way from Japan to her dormitory without prior notice. My classmate said, “I didn’t even know that he was coming until I received his phone call saying that he is already below my dormitory.” At that moment, words were unnecessary.

My teacher also has much to 'complain' about her husband.

“We don’t quarrel over big issues like world peace or global warming; we quarrel a lot over trivial things. I can’t understand why he has to press the toothpaste from the centre despite telling him so many times to press from the bottom. I also can’t comprehend why he can’t walk a few more steps to put his laundry inside the laundry basket. He just likes throwing his laundry centimetres outside the basket and on the floor.”

But again, what is not apparent when my teacher spoke about her husband’s shortcoming, is the depth of their relationship. Her husband took a very long time to win her over because he had never been her ‘이상형’ (ideal type). After more than a year into marriage and a decade of courtship she has these words of wisdom to say, “When you take a long time to love a person, correspondingly, the love will last longer.”

In reality, there is no way to tell with certainty what love is, but, what is certain is love cannot be measured by what a person say or not say, men and women alike.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


The airport limousine bus left Cheongnyangni at 3:15pm. On its way to airport, it took me through the familiar roads of Jongno, Ewha, Sinchon and Hongdae. My heart was reluctant to leave.

Once the bus hit the expressway leaving Seoul behind, flashback started. It wasn't a flashback of the last nine months but last four years. There was a sense of accomplishment but no sadness. Even that, my eyes were still damp.

At Incheon Airport, check-in and security check was swift and smooth. I looked at my alien registration card for the last time before surendering it. More than an hour later, my flight left the runway into the night sky.

6hr 20min later, after two and a half movies and a late night dinner, the flight touched down at Changi Airport Terminal 3. It was early in the morning and I have come home to a new life that is awaiting me. I am excited to be back for Chuseok.

Using the airport's free wireless while waiting to check in

Waiting at Gate 124 in Incheon Airport

Arrived at Terminal 3 in the early morning

Friday, September 25, 2009


I didn't get many farewell treats because I was quite reluctant to inform all my friends and teachers that I am leaving. All in all, I had 4 treats although I was only expecting probably one. I really like to thank all my friends who made the effort to meet up with me.

Long after saying my last goodbye, one thought continued to linger in my mind. "Will we ever meet again?"

I think we will and I am thinking very hard ...

Last farewell treat at Iguana Deli House in Daehangno

Last coffee treat at Jubilee Chocolatier, also in Daehangno

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

이별 준비

It's time for me to prepare to leave Korea. I want to be home before Chuseok.

Preparation started with emptying of all cupboards and cabinets. All my belongings which I no longer need were packed into a luggage.

Then, it was off to post office to 'EMS' (express mail service) back my pile of books and notes. Post office here is impressively efficient. There was no queue and the staff gave me a lot of help in packing my box. My box came up to 13.5kg and the mailing cost was 60,200won. A few hours later, it went up a plane bound for home.

Next, all unwanted items were separated into those which are to be disposed and those to be given away. For items to be discarded, I put them into white disposal bags before dumping them at the rubbish collection point. As for the books which are to be given away, I dropped them off at 'Areumtaun Shop' (아름다운 가게) for recycling. I also donated away one bag of 'almost worthless' 1-won and 10-won coins at the shop. My unwanted clothing and shoes were dropped into a collection chute at one corner of a street.

After which, my room was given a good clean up. From floor to table to cupboard and cabinets, all were given a thorough scrub. The toilet was also scrubbed clean. Toilet bowl was washed and disinfected. Hairs clogging up the strainer were cleared. Toilet mirror and glass panels were also wiped clean.

Finally, water melon skins and apple cores which were kept inside the fridge were cleared away. They had been kept frozen so that I could accumulate enough food waste to fill up one orange disposal bag (every bag costs money). Then, the fridge's power supply was disconnected and left to defrost. Water formed was subsequently wiped dry

My room is now clean and tidy, all ready to be handed back. After living in the same room for 9 months, I see it as my own room and not a rented unit. I can’t bear to leave a mess behind for other to clean up.

추억의 엘범

The class video which I created and uploaded to my school's website has since been deleted by the site's administrator. In an attempt to 'resurrect' it in this connected world, I got it uploaded to youtube. Memories have never been so good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

알게 된 한국

There are many things I have come to know about Korea after living on this land for almost a year. Instead of writing about big and important things, I wish only to write about something trivial and insignificant or should I say my simple life in Korea.

1. Underpasses don't go underground, they go straight. Roads are built over underpasses instead of underpasses going underground beneath the roads.

2. The button at the traffic light is not meant to activate the green man. Instead, it activates voice assistance which is meant to help visually handicapped cross the road safely.

3. There is no need to give detailed information when approached by people for direction. It is adequate to point in the right direction and say "쭉 가세요" (go straight). Because anyway, Korean will ask the next person at the next corner for direction again.

4. The word 'complex' (콤플렉스) in Konglish doesn't mean complicated or shopping complex. It means lack of confident. For example, 'face complex' (얼굴 콤플렉스) means lack of confident in one's look.

5. Patbingsu (red bean ice) is more expensive than ice cream. A tub of ice cream can be bought for 3,000won or less but a bowl of patbingsu can cost 5,000won or more. Depending on how you look at it, ice is pricier than ice cream.

6. Stock prices rise is indicated by red up arrowhead while drop is shown by green down arrowhead. I thought this is an ingenious way of warning people to prepare for drop while the stock prices increase and stay calm while the prices ditch.

7. There are more Dunkin' Donuts outlets than McDonald here. As Dunkin' Donuts like to take up corner units for their outlets, in some way, you can say there is one Dunkin' Donuts at 'every corner'.

8. Ajumma won't sell her crispy and tasty 'pajeon' (fried pancake) if you refuse to buy 'dong dong ju' (a type of rice wine) from her. What I want to say here is pay for the 'dong dong ju' even if you don't drink because the 'pajeon' is so delicious here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

아시아 송 페스티벌

There are a few things I didn't quite know about the Asia Song Festival. First, ticket is not required for admission (except perhaps the VIP seat) because no one was actually checking. Second, entry into the stadium is not possible before 5:30pm even though it is stated that entry is possible from 3pm onwards. Third, the concert is more than 4 hours long.

The 6th Asia Song Festival was held at the World Cup Stadium on Sep 19 (Saturday). The show started formerly at about 6:30pm and dragged until 10:30pm. The stadium was almost two-thirds empty before the last song was sung. No climax was reached even though fireworks were released because most people left way before the end.

Anyway, I arrived at the stadium at about 4pm but was made to queue outside the North Entrance for the next 1.5 hours according to seat area. I found out later, ticket or no ticket, seat area or no seat area, nothing actually matters. When the gates opened, all hell broke lose. People pushed very hard to get through the gates which almost certainly could result in a stampede any time. Then, once inside the stadium, it was perfectly alright to sit anywhere (except VIP seat) you like because no one was checking the ticket. In other words, it was like free seating regardless what seat area you were previously allocated.

Also quite unfortunately, the atmosphere inside the stadium didn't get very high because the event was made into something quite formal. The MCs spoke in very formal tone and the show was 'interrupted' several times as VIPs were called upon, as part of protocol, to give away award to performing artistes. I mean giving award is fine but when the show get too lengthy, the award-giving could well become an 'interruption'. Last but not least, mics malfunctioned when members of SNSD and SJ were singing 'The Seoul Song'. The Seoul Song is presumably a new song written to promote Seoul's tourism. It was kept under wrap until the very end but only to reach 'anti-climax' marred by malfunctioning mics.

While areas for improvement are aplenty, I am still glad that there is such a regional song festival. The show was good although I could only watch it clearly through big LED screens. Let's hope that in the near future, we can all get to see this event being broadcast 'live' to the whole of Asia.

Friday, September 18, 2009

옛 시절

I read from news that there is "A Street to the Past" at the National Folk Museum (beside Gyeongbok Palace) which recreates the Korean life in the 1960s and 70s. Since I am hit by bouts of nostalgia recently, walking down 'memory lane' fit in very well with my mood. The place is not very big but the reconstruction of the old days is with such high fidelity that I had an illusion I was back in time.

Photo Studio

I like the photo studio best

Looking inside the photo studio made me very nostalgic.

It is said that this photo studio is most popular because it allows visitors to try on old school uniforms and take photos. For those who are tired of wearing 'hanbok', wearing old school uniforms may be a good change. The old uniforms and hats are placed behind the old camera showcase.

Street view of the photo studio


Street view of a restaurant from a bygone era

The dining hall is so meticulously reconstructed

Old bottles of the famous Jinro Soju '참이슬' found inside the restaurant. The present bottle is green in colour.

Riding this bicycle may probably bring me back in time

Comic Book Store

This GoldStar brand black and white television is working and showing old programme that belongs to its time.

Racks of comic books

Looking inside the comic book store

An old school bag and a few comic books on a table

Record Store

Old records displayed on shelf

Looking inside the record store. Oldies are played through speakers placed outside the shop.

Old days' entertainment all in one corner.

Electrical appliances advertisement flyers

금성 (金星, GoldStar) is the predecessor of LG. LG actually means "Lucky GoldStar" but I guess most people have since associated LG with its tagline "Life's Good". I think it is good that GoldStar had rebranded itself into LG. It would be hard for people to associate the brand GoldStar and its logo with high-end electrical and electronics goods.


A turn-of-the-20th-century electric tram

Sitting inside the nostalgic tram

Looking out into the long forgotten time

Time to arrive back at reality

Street Life

Movie advertisement

Movie posters

Movie posters are pasted 'indiscrimately' like how it is today

Election posters. The red-colour word says "Be careful of fire."

Notice board

A fabric shop

A traditional herb store

Street scenes

Straw shoes which you can put on

A tailor shop

A coffee shop

An alley leading to the coffee shop