A Visit to Cheon-An

Hey there,

This post is basically a memory on the visit to my brother’s (Na Min Soo) home last weekend and goes right into my Pensieve (Harry Potter Fame).ย  If you are someone who likes to visualize places through another person’s eyes based on the descriptions, this post is suited for you. Else, please be my guest and and make some productive use of the 10 minutes you would have spent on reading this post.. ๐Ÿ™‚

Something about Na Min Soo.. He is one of the best friends, alias brother, whom I gained from MWNL, my lab. It all started with an invitation from him last month “Hey Kiran. How about visiting my home and having some Chicken which my mom prepares?” I was like.. wow .. sure bro.. why not ?? I knew then that it would be an unforgettable experience to visit a Korean Home (My first by the way) and eat home made food after so long (I miss my family… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ..) Due to exams and other commitments, we could not make it during the whole of last month but we decided to go last weekend, since it was the weekend right after our exams and we thought that this would be a good way to lay off some summer heat. As an icing to the cake, the day coincided with his dad’s birthday as well. What a pleasant set of coincidences. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was Minsoo, Dongmyoung (another one of my good friends from SNU) and me, in Minsoo’s Matiz on a bright Sunday morning of June the 15th, 2008.

I was apprehensive about talking to his dad at first since i was not really good at Korean and here in Korea, respect is a must. Hence i was afraid if I would make some mistake and talk something thats not appropriate. But to my surprise, the first words Minsoo’s dad uttered after meeting me were in English. What a relief.. He made me feel really comfortable and after some time, i started behaving like the regular “non-stop-talking” me .. ๐Ÿ™‚

As in the past, after coming to Korea, I did many things for the first time in my life. Today was not left out either. As a surprise to me, we decided to have Sam-Gyeop-Sal (์‚ผ๊ฒน์‚ด), Pork fried on coal, a very popular Korean Food and one of my favorites. The element of surprise did not lie in the food we ate, but where we ate. We decided to go to a stream originating from the mountain and cook the food on a coal fire right across it. Since it was summer, there was not much water in the stream and hence that removed all the hindrances of a nature friendly lunch. We went to the stream and found many many families and couples whiling away their Sunday afternoon in the pleasant warmth of nature. We found a suitable place for our “adventure” and the dad started making the food. We had brought Kimchi (Something like Indian Pickle), Fruit Juices, Soju (Traditional Korean Alcohol – 20% strength), Rice and Two kinds of meat. The lunch was splendid, thanks to dad, and we really enjoyed the nature friendly, on-the-stream eating experience. It was the first time for me to experience such a thing and I have taken some photographs which i will upload soon. I still have them in my D40x and hence the delay. We were given live entertainment by children playing in the water and doing their activities. It was a memorable lunch indeed.

After the lunch, we went to dad’s work place. Its a factory that makes cotton yarn. It was the first time for me to visit such a factory as well. When i saw the levels of automation, right from the feeding of raw cotton to the finished output, I, for a second was happy to be an engineer. The only human intervention that was needed was for the switching on and off and for occasional maintenance.ย  I was really impressed with the beauty of the machinery built by engineers like many of us, and as usual i took some photographs as well ( I never go anywhere with my D40x these days.. Am just addicted to the sweet li’l electronic marvel. ๐Ÿ™‚ .. )

We had cold-ice coffee to beat the summer and went sight seeing around the industry campus. When i was looking into the lengths and breadths of Korean Suburbs i was able to find that they still depended to some extend on Agriculture. There were lush green fields all around me with small houses flanking them. This was a huge contrast compared to the tall sky scrappers in Seoul. I felt home. Seriously.. I felt as if i was in Viyoor (My hometown)ย  looking out of the window of my room, which opens the view to lush green fields as well. At that moment i really really really felt homesick. Thank god i would be visiting home sweet home in less than a month from now. Oh god.. One year passed by.. Cant believe that i am one year shy of being a professional engineer at the job i could only have dreamt of, one year ago.

Anyways.. coming back to my post from the small diversion… There was another reason i felt home actually. After a one year gap, there i was, in a place resembling my home town, with two siblings and one dad., smelling the fresh countryside air, far away from the hustles and bustles of the busy Seoul Life. I wanted to buy a home an stay there, starting right then as a matter of fact.. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was missing my home to that extent..

Since Minsoo knew that i never travelled in a Korean Train before and that I had really wanted to travel in one, if possible today, after departing from the factory, we went to a train station and he bought us, Dongmyoung and me the train tickets back to Seoul. I was really happy. It did feel like a big-bro buying the tickets and giving it to his younger bro saying “Here Kiran. Let your first train journey be a gift from me”.. So kind of him .. BTW .. the word “Kind” is used extensively in Korea as an adjective to a person. I haven’t used that word to describe my friends, even once in India. I guess that’s just Korean English..

Since we had about 2 hours before the departure of our train, we came back to Minsoo’s home and continued the birthday celebrations. We ate Tiramisu cake and watermelon and took some photo printouts using the hand-held USB photo printer Minsoo had gifted his dad today. Post, we started off for Cheon-An railway station to catch our train back to Seoul and with a pack of Walnut Cookies (traditionally popular with its origins in Cheon-An) gifted to us. En-route to Seoul I was able to take some pretty decent shots of Building 63 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/63_Building) , from an angle I had never had a chance to see it from.ย  Will upload them too soon @ my photo gallery in Picasa.

And yeah since we were so full with all the food, today we could not taste mom’s Chicken dish. Minsoo told me that he would eat my share in the night, on my behalf.. I am sure it was delicious.. wasn’t it Minsoo? ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope i can taste it the next time i visit Cheon-An

Thank a million Minsoo.. Thank you for this memorable day where i felt a part of the wonderful family you have..

Kiran

PS : starting my internship at Samsung this thursday. I would be working in System R&D Center in Telecommunication Networks @ Samsung head quarters in Suwon. Will post about it once i start the internship. Pretty excited i must say. A first step to corporate life before starting my dream job ๐Ÿ™‚

First time in my life – Part 1

Hey,

After coming to Seoul, I did couple of things for the first time in my life. As painful (physically) it was in the beginning, but once these were overcame, the bitter experiences turned much more exhilarating than my wildest expectations.. Both the things I am about to describe here are winter sports..

The first sport I did was in December when our lab went for our Membership Training between 19th – 21st December 2007. We started off our journey to High One Ski Resort (Arguably one of the best ski resorts in Korea with respect to the quality of snow, which is really important for skiers on account of safety and control). After a 5 hour drive, we reached our destination. We had plans to ski for 4 sessions (19th night, 20th Morning, Noon and Night). Since I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA about skiing or any of the snow sports for that matter. After renting the snow gear (with all sorts of protection imaginable) we set off to the gondola from our condominium. If i remember right, there were roughly 20 odd slopes with different levels of expertise marked on them. Obviously I wanted to go to the beginner level and try my luck with skiing.

The most difficult part in skiing is to get up once you fall down. Its as difficult as its important. Neways.. coming to the part of my skiing experience, my friend Youngwoo (a classic skier nicknamed “speedstar”) spent a lot of time with Caihwa, Maria and Me as we were amateurs at skiing. Thanks to his patience and effort, we learned the basics of skiing, on how to stop (VERY IMPORTANT lest you wanna hit the barrier and RISK falling off the edge ๐Ÿ™‚ ..), how to control your legs from splitting all the way etc etc. After this introduction from Youngwoo, I was ready to get-set-and-go on my FIRST skiing attempt. It all started smooth. I did not fall initially, but my run lasted just for 10-15 Seconds ๐Ÿ™‚ .. Suddenly I lost control and WHAM!! There i was .. On my ass with the ski detached from my leg due to the force with which i fell down. ๐Ÿ™‚ ..

Got up, assured my self that it happens to everyone ๐Ÿ˜‰ , hiding my face to children who were not more than 7-8 years of age skiing like experts where I had fallen down :), I tried skiing again. My next venture did not even last another 10 seconds.. I found myself on my facing the sky.. AGAIN.. This vicious circle continued atleast a million times and if someone could break his ASS, I guess I was the first person in the world to achieve that “painful honor”. There were instances where I even skied “PERFECTLY” (sarcasm intended, if you did not notice) ๐Ÿ˜› but the catch is that i did not do it the way I should actually have.. (I fell down on my back and skied my longest run using my back that day, at the cost of some sleepless hours at night due to the harsh body pain.. ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

That night really made me feel “I HATE SNOW SPORTS” though i secretly admired those kids who did not even cross 8 years skiing like pros. I guess it was more like the wolf who said the grapes were sore as he could not eat it. An it cant be anymore right..

Next day I decided to try my luck at another beginner’s slope which posed less of a threat to my body (or as I thought). The day before, there were many instances where I felt so disappointed about my skiing skills, but all my friends kept on telling me, don’t loose heart kiran, its natural and once you get over this, you will enjoy it. And guess what.. On the second day .. I LOVED IT!!

Seriously.. Even though i did fall down many times the second day too, I could control my motion much more effectively than yesterday. The wind blowing against my face erased all my pains from the body.. LITERALLY… What a feeling it was.. Able to go some distance without falling down and literally zooming (with respect to my attempts, the day before).

You know.. There is NO FEELING in this world that i have experienced, compared to the one I felt when I was able to ski. The smooth surface of fresh snow, the lack of friction between the ski and the ground and the feeling of chilling breeze kissing your face combined does get you high. And I mean it.. a HIGH… I strongly suggest, if you get a chance to ski, don’t miss it for the world. It felt so nice, you were going as fast as you ever can travel without the assistance of any sort of motors. If you think driving a bike/car at high speed feels great, I suggest you to try a safer way to go fast.. ski.. though it cant compete with the speeds of the motor vehicles, you will be pleasantly surprised and exhilarated for sure.

My first skiing experience lasted 5 hours on 1st day and 12 hours on the second day. The only regret i had when i left the slope for going home on the third day, even after an exhausting 2nd day (skiing for 12 hours) and painful body muscles was that “If only I could get more time to ski” .. I loved it that much and so would you, if you are ever ready to try..

I am grateful to you Youngwoo, for all the hours you spent with me trying to help me learn skiing, and not losing patience even though i kept on making mistakes in the techniques again and again. Glad to be your friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some tips for any beginners like me, who has plans to ski.

** When you ski, you need to keep your ski in the shape of an A where the pointed end is towards downhill

** Wear good protection for your waist and butt

** Have some muscle pain easers with you. Would be helpful in the night after your first attempts

** Most importantly dont lose heart. If you could master a li’l of the skill, you will love it.

I guess this post is already big and hence I will continue the second experience in the next one.

Chosuk, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Laptop et. al.

Date : Sep 19, 2007 10:29 PM

Hello,

Another mail after a long time.. ๐Ÿ™‚ As i had told you in the last post, was pretty tied up with work. After tomorrows class at 1:00 – 2-:15, I have 10 days off.. Its Chosuk (thanksgiving) the next week. No classes on this Friday, Monday – Wednesday Chosuk, Thursday class cancelled and fri sat sun holiday.. So totally 10 days ๐Ÿ™‚ Its said that during Chosuk, EVERY shop (including restaurants and supermarkets) in Korea is closed and that you can find no one outside in this otherwise very very densely populated city. Everyone, from a shopkeeper to a CEO of a company goes to meet their parents with presents and spends time with them. You need to buy the stuff for these days in advance as NOTHING will be available for buying on those days. Thatโ€™s Chosuk in Korea.

We celebrated Vinayaka Chaturthi last Saturday. In the morning I went there to help co-Indians clean the place and arrange things. It felt really nice. The pooja was on Saturday and the celebrations was on Sunday. It was an all-Korea celebration with people coming in from various parts of the country. Nice to be with a group of Indians after so long. Interestingly there were some Koreans too who took part in the celebrations and many of them spoke Hindi pretty good. There were two Korean kids who sang Gayathri Manthra and Ganesh Vandana on stage. Really impressive. Another group of Korean women sat on stage and kept on singing bhajans. Felt really nice that people outside India too like Indian traditions and culture and that they were also following it. Feeling proud to be an Indian. The whole function was arranged superbly. Kudos to all Nitin and all the organizers for the effort.

Click here for the link to 4 photos taken during Vinayaka Chaturthi

On Saturday, I went to an Indian restaurant called Himalayas in Korea with my mentor Hakjune Kim and his Girl Friend. Trust me when I say this. If you wanna make more money that what you would make as an engineer, come to Korea and start an Indian restaurant. Its very expensive. A papad costs around $2. A biryani which is very little in quantity costs $11. Each of us can easily eat atleast two. A plate of Chicken Tikka costs around $9, Tandoori Chicken Half costs $10 etc etc.. And Hakjune told me that Himalayas, the restaurant was the one of the cheapest in Seoul. Later i came to know that an average Indian dinner costs around $40 per person at other Indian restaurants. In India i guess a 5 star food would cost this much where as here $40 / person is in a regular small restaurant. See the profit these guys make in the name of Indian Food!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Spent yesterday night at Lab with seniors. Around 12 AM, they ordered lots of Chicken pieces from a KFC Equivalent in Seoul and had a feast. ๐Ÿ™‚ Never saw this much chicken in the same box before in my life.. Slept on the bed in the lab and today morning I woke up and went home to get ready. Even tonight I am planning to stay here watching some movies..

Got my laptop that Samsung had promised to give us as a part of the scholarship. My first OWN laptop ever. ๐Ÿ™‚ Itโ€™s a powered with a Pentium Core 2 Duo, 1 GB Ram, 120 GB SATA HDD and ATI X1250 256 MB Graphics Card. Here is a pic of my lappy.. ๐Ÿ™‚

My Laptop

Our lab reserved the football stadium at SNU for an internal soccer match on Friday from 9 am to 11 am. For playing in it, I bought a nike soccer shoes today. Cost me about $60 but thank god that the lab would reimburse. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Our professor too would join in the game. Am Really excited and looking forward to it. I love this about my lab. We do everything together ๐Ÿ™‚ .. May it be eat, play, work etc. etc. There IS a feeling of “togetherness” here.. I feel so good to be a part of MWNL.

Thats it for now,

Kiran

 

A Korean First Birthday Celebration

Date : Sep 13, 2007 12:51 AM

Hello,

On 7th September 2007 I happened to go for a birthday celebration of a one year old child. She is the child of the elder most Ph.D. student @ MWNL. We took the subway to Hotel Incheon where the party was held. The birthday girl looked really pretty and she was with her parents all the time. A Really cute baby child she is. Wearing a traditional Korean dress, she looked like an angel. Really vey fair and so sweet. She was the star of the show of course and she went with her dad to greet everyone who came to the topmost floor thru the lift.

The Korean version of the birthday celebrations has similarities and differences when compared to Indian Celebration back home. The similarities are obvious, very well decorated with lots of balloons, a huge cake etc. etc.. In this post I would share some of the interesting differences I had experienced.

First and foremost I would like to quote a ceremony which is the main attraction of the party. The Korean child is kept in front of a row of things like Pencils, Money, Thread and a Stethoscope. What the child picks up from these objects defines his/her future. If he/she picked up the thread, then that means he/she is gonna have a long life span. If he/she picks up the money, this implies that he/she is gonna be very rich. If pencils are chosen then he/she will become a writer and the stethoscope means that he/she would become a doctor. โ€œThanksโ€ to the advent of Information technology, these days another thing is added to the object list in front of the child. Any guesses?? ๐Ÿ™‚ ???…………???…………..??? Itโ€™s a computer mouse which stands for engineering. I am not sure if a similar custom is followed in any parts of India as such, but I have not seen such an occasion so far. Please do comment on this post if I am wrong.

In this celebration, there was an anchor who was cracking occasional jokes and anecdotes. Everyone around me was laughing and so I joined in, though little did I understand what the conversation was all about. Then came the ceremony of selecting an object representing her future. The birthday girl was made to sit in front of these objects and everyone became silent in anticipation. May be she sensed this sudden change in atmosphere with millions of gazes on her, in retaliation, she started crying. Her mom tried to appease her and after some time she was again placed in front of these objects. Alas! Again she cried. Once this went on for 2-3 times and the child was not picking any of the things in front of her, her parents tried to give the objects one by one to her hand. They gave the stethoscope, Nope.. She din want it. They gave her the mouse, same result. Then they gave her the thread.. Nope.. She din want that too. Next came money and she gripped onto it with such a cute face ๐Ÿ™‚ . The colors in the money might have attracted her. Everyone clapped and were happy that she was gonna be really rich.

Then came the dinner. The food was quite โ€œKoreanโ€ to say the least. For the first time in my life, I ate raw fish. Raw beef and small but whole octopuses were available (that too raw I guess), but I did not dare to taste them. But my friends and other guests seemed to enjoy these โ€œdelicaciesโ€. Then another dish I saw here was Beef Ribs with very little meat clinging onto it cooked in two difference styles. There was whole shrimp (big and small), seafood soup with most of the living creatures in the sea chopped and boiled (like crab, fish, shrimp and other I-donโ€™t-knows), Bulgogi (A dish made of beef, but really good and cooked ๐Ÿ™‚ ), Kimpap (Rice Rolls stuffed with fruits) and other things of whose the names I am not familiar with. By the time we went back to our table, there was beer kept on it. We all rose our glasses to the long life of the girl whose bโ€™day it was and then said some Korean words, which I guess are prayers and good wishes for her.

Talking about beer and other alcohols, beer like alcohols are pretty popular and are a must for ALL Korean occasions, including this birthday. I believe that social drinking is a critical ingredient in the Korean Society and its unity. I even heard that in many parties, people drink till they are wasted. Then go to another bar, drink till they are more wasted. Go to yet another bar, drink till they are much more wasted. Repeat this nomadic behavior as much as they can afford to. Then sleep for couple of hours and go to the office for work. But this behavior is said to strengthen the bond between friends and is accepted by young and the old sections of Korean society.

There is this another drink called Soju, which is really cheap and popular in Korea. Soju is a kind of wine made from rice I guess, and has about 20% alcohol v/v. In the 10 days long life of mine in Korea, I tried Soju and gosh!! Is it strong!!! I drank 3/4ths of one bottle and was almost out of my senses (probably because of this first time drinking experience). But the next day I met a Korean girl at an International Studentโ€™s luncheon and came to know that many Korean males can have 3-4 bottles of Soju at a time and that particular girl said that she could drink 2 bottles at a time. That was shocking. With just on bottle I was in the so called โ€œHelicopter Stageโ€ where I did not feel so stable myself. Just canโ€™t imagine what would happen to me if I took her so called 2-bottle โ€œregularโ€ dosage. This was my first ever drinking experience and to tell the truth, I did not find much excitement after drinking. It just felt different and I guess I can live without that. So, no more โ€œHelicoptersโ€ for the time being.

Lab meetings started and we have to give WEEKLY reports to the professor. This would ensure the all of us work and has something substantial to show him every week. I need to give my progress report next Tuesday. Korean classes in progress. Learning new words and sentences everyday. Will get my alien registration card on 17th after which I am eligible to apply for a cell phone connection. Once I get an Alien Registration Card, I am legally allowed to stay in Korea. It s past 12 30 here now. Got to sleep..

Anyonghi Kheseyo (Stay Safe) โ€“ A traditional greeting given by a Korean when he tells bbye

Kiran

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