Say hello to the creatures in the sky

Musings about life, travel and music.

有一種說不出的感覺。

by Huien Loi

By the time this gets published on my blog, I’d be on the plane, all the way towards the other side of the world. Unlike the trip to Korea last December, I’m feeling a whole lot more dread and less excitement this time round. I mean, I am excited and all, but I’m apprehensive, paranoid and worried.

I feel great that this is an opportunity for me to be independent, to be a better manager of my own finances (Trying not to blow off $3000 in a month like I did in Seoul…. Woops).. I look forward to having a room of my own, with a walk-in wardrobe and a personal toilet. I don’t exactly look forward to doing all the chores but I guess this is part of my mini training to become a domestic goddess in the future! Maybe I know I’m a step closer to living less like a bum!

However, many things have happened in the past week. I feel sort of lost and a wave of uncertainty just hits me and spins me silly. I feel nervous thinking about how I’m going to get through the next four months.. But I guess, this is a period that will just train me to be a person that’ll be stronger on many more levels – emotionally, mentally and all.

I feel lost, saying goodbyes to my close circle of friends. What am I going to do without them by my side, especially with the 12 hour difference? Even though there’s Skype and all, the time difference makes it a whole lot more difficult to spend some time with them concurrently, due to lessons etc. On the bright side, since I’m a morning person, I’ll be able to Skype all my loved ones early in the day, which would be a nice after-dinner timing for them.

I hope this trip does not clam me up like I did while I was in Korea.. Back then, I sort of completely shut down from the rest of the world, and became extremely dao. The frequent Skype sessions with my family died down after a while and I was just too caught up with trying to live my life alone in a foreign place. I wouldn’t want this to happen this time round.

I know I can do this.

P.S. I absolutely dread the long flight. The thought of having to stay put in my seat for more than 10 hours makes me so fearful ugh. It’s like I can feel my skin crackling from within *shudders*

うまく言えない

by Huien Loi

初めて出逢った日の事を皆さんは今も覚えていますか? (Do you still remember the day we first met?)Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Last April, after some recommendations from people I know, I enrolled for Japanese lessons at Ikoma with Beryl. While I already knew all my alphabets and a sprinkle of phrases initially, rewriting Hiragana and Katakana for the third time was definitely no joke. I thought that joining with a friend meant that I would rarely interact with the other classmates, since I would always have a partner in class. But Tenbinza was more than just a class filled with people wanting to learn Japanese.

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Fast forward a year, I’d never imagine making so many friends and being close to my current classmates. Through having meals together, I learned more about why they decided to pick up Japanese (usually because of anime and dramas).. It was pretty interesting, since that was not my reason for doing so. I guess for me, it was due to having the opportunity to do a third language in secondary school, however I was unable to keep up with it, so I had to stop mid-way. Somewhere over the years, I decided to pick it up again~

After all the interaction, I found that we all had so much more in common than I thought. There was a junior from Dunman High, and a few seniors from SIMGE (and even UB. UB PRIDE!).

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Thanks to my enthusiastic friends, we’ve been out a few times before – having meals together, watching Black Butler (黒執事) and even going for a karaoke session and trying out the Club DAM machine. It was certainly fun trying to figure out how to select the songs we wanted to sing and I realised I’m actually much better at singing Japanese songs, as compared to Korean or Mandarin. I hardly do sing Japanese songs during karaoke sessions, maybe except for once… And I never know why.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset I had enough faith in Shinjuku Restaurant to bring Masuda sensei there for a meal. Not too sure how it fares in comparison to authentic Japanese cuisine… Since she will never say a meal is bad or anything!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI’m so glad we brought her to the Charlie Brown Cafe, since she loves Peanuts. Even though the food wasn’t exactly fantastic, the company was great! I hope that this was memorable for her, or at least one of the nicer memories to take away from her stay in Singapore.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetIt’s sad to see sensei no longer teaching at Ikoma anymore.. And I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get used to another sensei when I’m back from US to continue studying Japanese. Masuda sensei has been the liveliest and cutest sensei I’ve ever had throughout my entire Japanese learning journey.

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Even though I’m still at a very basic level, I really regretted not studying hard enough to be able to converse more fluently with sensei. All that awkward pauses, trying to figure out how to say things in Japanese, and eventually saying it wrongly, especially when I know I’ve learnt how to say it before. Yes, that letter above was penned with the help of Google and my phone application…. And even so, I can’t be sure that it’s grammatically sound.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset Thank you for everything Masuda sensei (or… Aya-chan~?). 本当にありがとう!

「この気持ちはずっとずっとわすれないよ!」

A familiar stranger.

by Huien Loi

A trip to the temple this time of the year, a yearly affair. We’ve been doing this, ever since we moved out of the previous apartment and our current house no longer has an altar.

Even though I’m long used to the routine – setting up the fruits and flowers, lighting up the joss stick to pray, burning paper money at the furnace – something felt different this year. Every year, I make the same prayer to my paternal grandparents, and every time I do so, I get a bit teary, especially when I’m faced with the fact that my parents are constantly growing older. With each passing year, I earnestly hope that my prayers get answered even when I don’t believe in such things.

Sometimes I wonder if they do even come true, especially after what happened in 2008 and last year. But I can only hold on to that hope and make the same prayer, twice every year.

This time round, I looked hard at the photographs of my paternal grandparents, and I realised, my grandmother started to look a little unfamiliar from what I last remembered of her, when I was 7. My grandfather passed away before I was even born, so there’s only one image of him etched in my memory. My grandmother though, appears in blurry flashbacks; her face I can’t quite remember anymore. I still remember the fateful day when she passed away, the stretcher in her room. I just woke up in the morning, and didn’t quite grasp what was going on. Things then hit me when the wake took place, and all I remember now was how I cried a lot and got really tired from all the crying.

I start to wonder, how many more years am I going to continue this tradition. Am I going to do this for my parents? I don’t know. To me, it’s just something I’m told to do – I just tag along with my parents and do the same things without thinking. When we were still at the old house, we sort of had a family bonding session, folding golden ingots together. Now, we don’t do that anymore. I don’t really see the purpose of the tradition, but I guess we just do it anyway.

On a lighter note, I went to the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning yesterday and thought to myself, “Time of the year again.” (No prizes for guessing who was the hungry ghost that night). And then, my brother stealthily came from behind and scared the hell out of me. Gee, thanks.

The disappearance of the girl.

by Huien Loi

What do you do when there’s nothing left to say?

It’s scary how almost everything you say is accurate. You are right when you say I chose the easy way out, when ‘bad you’ was winning over ‘good you’ – though I honestly don’t think there exists a bad or good, because what ‘bad you’ thinks is not necessarily ‘bad’. It’s scary for me too, how things went through one whole circle, and back to square one.

I read through my old posts and I wonder – what happened? To be honest, I’m not sure either. I’m not sure if I don’t know or I just don’t want to know. What happened to the every ounce of confidence I seemed to have back then? What happened to everything, which vanished into nothing?

I think about things and I can only agree that I chose the easy way out.

Truth is, nobody knows me, not myself either. I don’t want to believe that my feelings are like a switch – it can be turned on and off anytime I want. But somewhere in between, things changed, I got used to being alone (again) and feelings fade. Perhaps there was a problem before you even left. The thought of it just makes my stomach churn. I cringe and I don’t want to think about it ever again.

It doesn’t help with the way things ended, and then a certain someone made things more awkward than it was (I don’t really want to say anything about it, but just one word, childish). Now, I only wish for you to hate me, if it makes it easier for you to get through. I can’t offer any explanations, just apologies. That is all I’m capable of, I guess.

I’m honestly sick of myself too. I hate how I listen to those annoying stupid heartbreak songs and constantly just think of myself as being a terrible person, and think that that’s just who I am.

Maybe that’s just who I’ll ever be.

I’d say everything points to, the disappearance of the girl.

2NE1 AON

by Huien Loi

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Ah…. Where should I begin? It was quite a different experience, watching a girl group for the first time, as well as being at the moshpit at a Korean concert for the first time.

Initially, I wasn’t expecting much from this concert, partly because I was afraid I’d be disappointed (like I sort of was for BIGBANG). I was also pretty apprehensive about CL’s live performance, since I felt that her style was becoming very similar to GD’s performance style. Even though it’s undeniable that they both have got great stage presence, I sometimes feel that they could sing a little more… (based on their live performance videos)

One good thing about the moshpit area this time round though was an allocated standing queue number, meaning that we would enter the standing arena according to our allocated numbers, hence it was really fair, and no need for any of that overnight queuing nonsense. However, SIS/Sports Hub ushers/crowd-control people did quite a bad job of managing the various numbered segments, which was slightly disappointing. I presume that this was the same problem CN Blue fans faced, and since this is a newly introduced system in Singapore, I hope that it will be further improved on to ensure greater fairness for the fans who are paying a lot of money to watch their idols perform.

Thankfully, Deborah and I managed to get a pretty decent standing spot (5th row, middle section) and I guess our view was pretty great the entire night (We were really close, and got an excellent view of their gorgeous legs and faces ^^). I liked how they showed all the different 2NE1 MVs, to slowly build up the hype among fans and a small group of people were also sort of teaching the rest how to do the fanchants during the actual performances (though the screaming and singing kinda drowned out the proper fanchants).

The show finally started, with them performing CRUSH, which was a great choice to kickstart the concert (well of course, what better way to start than to have your crowd waving their lightsticks and shouting ‘I’M A BITCH’). During this segment of the concert, I especially love the pink laser guns they held (during Pretty Boy… I think). Even though it was supposed to be a ‘masculine’ segment, I just thought they were really cute with the laser guns.

One thing I didn’t really appreciate about the concert were the fillers in between the different segments of the show. They had a video explaining the concept of the AON concert, which was essentially made up of four themes – masculinity (pink), purity (white), sexy (red) and rebellion (black). Though I liked the explanation which allowed the audience to better understand the way they did the line-up, I felt that the playback for half of the concert was pretty unnecessary. Though I would say they pretty much didn’t have a choice, since unlike BIGBANG, the only members who have had solo songs were Bom and CL. With that said, what happened to WINNER? Singapore was the only stop without them doing the opening, damn. Also, I was hoping Bom would perform You And I or Don’t Cry but she never did get her solo performance. CL and Minzy did not perform Please Don’t Go either…. :( What a waste, since that song is extremely good and highly underrated.

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CL’s really cute outfit for the sexy segment.

Of course, the highlight of the concert was CL’s 멘붕 (MTBD). I have been anticipating it since the very first time I heard the song. The song was not only great, but CL’s performance was amazing too. It was so much better than the performance video that was released on YT. I wished I could have recorded it down but the security was extremely strict (one girl got taken out of the moshpit oh gosh).

Overall, the girls put up an extremely energetic performance, as most of the songs they sang were fast-paced and they were just dancing and gyrating non-stop. I wasn’t too sure I liked their sexy concept, since I’ve always seen 2NE1 as a tough and strong group, rather than being aegyo or sexy. I won’t deny that the girls were extremely sexy, during the I Love You performance, when they caressed 4 lucky Singaporean guys (hell yeah, Dara sat on a guy’s laps while facing him and was so close to kissing him, and CL hooked one leg over a guy’s shoulder – DIED). But other than that, I think the shaking of their butts or doing lots of body waves didn’t do much in making me think that it was sexy. I guess, it was really more of a personal preference thing.

I really liked the stage set up too, which was very interesting, as they transitioned from segment to segment. The human motorcycles for I Am The Best were impressive, as I never knew they were literally riding on the backs of their dancers until the dancers stood up to dance.

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I was also extremely pleased with the rock versions of both I Don’t Care and Go Away. I think they’re both awesome and YG should re-release both versions.

Before the encore segment, Blackjacks started chanting ‘놀자 HEY HEY HEY 놀자’ (let’s play), instead of your typical ‘encore’ at any regular concert. After a few minutes, the girls entered from the doors into the standing area, and they started to touch some fans’ hands, while singing Lonely. Dara got a cute Kiiroitori hat thingy from a fan, which she promptly wore it on stage. Even though Minzy and Dara weren’t very fluent with English, they tried their best to engage the fans, and boy, the way they spoke English was so adorable! Some mosh pit fans started throwing soft toys for the girls and they played with them while performing. I think my love for Dara is increasing again, especially when she was getting fans to do the Do You Love Me fanchant again.

Dara: Do you love me?

Blackjacks: YES!

Dara: Do you love me?

Blackjacks: YES!

Dara: *awwww expression*

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Thank you girls for the amazing performance and time! What a great way to end my 21st celebration with a 2NE1 performance!

It’s all or nothing, baby.

P.S. Some of their backup dancers were pretty cute too.

Photos were from a lovely stranger, named Jon. I shamelessly asked him to send me the photos since he had a better view of the stage as compared to me. Thank you so much Jon!

Hoho Myoll

by Huien Loi

One of my favourite cafes.

A nice touch of vintage with lots of interesting props that gives the cafe an extremely warm and homely feel. The cafe is adorn with customers’ artworks on the serviettes that are being displayed on various walls in the cafe, including the washroom.

I’ll definitely go back to Hoho Myoll again the next time I’m in Korea… And I’ll have to try their food, not just the beverage!

I wished Singapore had more of such cafes… Perhaps I simply haven’t been to a cafe this detailed yet.

이렇게 좋은 날

by Huien Loi

「어쩜 이렇게 하늘은 더 파란 건지?

오늘따라 왜 바람은 또 완벽한지?」

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Sometimes you tend to forget the beauty of the place you live in till you go out and wander for a bit. After living in Singapore for 21 years, I can’t help but constantly compare the way Singapore looks to other places. Singapore has a really beautiful city skyline and night scenery but somehow, other places tend to look a whole lot better. The grass is always greener where you water it I guess.

I’m still glad I forced myself out of the house to wander around a bit and the weather helped tremendously in making me love Singapore even more.

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Blue skies, slight breeze, except with a not so optimal temperature. The experience would have been a lot better if it was less warm.

 

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So I froze my butt for a bit.

Not too sure if it was the training I had in Korea during winter, but the 2Degree Ice Art Museum wasn’t as cold as I had expected it to be. For some reason, even though I was decked in many layers, a winter coat and winter gloves in the Ice Museum at Hongdae, the cold was still pretty unbearable. This exhibition was pretty lackluster though. I think even the special 1-for-1 price didn’t make me feel like my money was worth it (And we had to pay $5 to rent the outer jacket)

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While waiting for our fingers to defrost for just a bit…

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The weather was really in our favour that day. The flowers along the pavement made me felt like it was truly spring.

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Bryan using his selfie-pod to take a photo of us….

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While I took a photo of our shadow with him using the selfie-pod or what seems like an umbrella handle in this picture.

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Perfect place for an #OOTD shot. I was crazy to layer a denim shirt over my white T.

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Took some photos and thinking to myself that I don’t remember Singapore being this gorgeous.

Maybe it’s because all the times I’ve been to Gardens by the Bay, it was in the evening/night. (Not that it isn’t gorgeous but I think I prefer how this place looks in the day)

Weirdly enough, I’ve been here 2/3 times and I still haven’t explored the place fully yet.

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Thanks Bryan for the super lovely floral shades!

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We were decked out in our Timberland boots.

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There’s always a time to get fatter. I could distinctively taste the infused-tea flavour in the chocolate one.

I really should get out of the house and walk around more frequently instead of bumming around and watching my Korean dramas. I think I’ve watched about 10 dramas in just a month, along with my usual weekly programmes. No regrets though, some of them are really good.

Looking back, when I was younger, I would love romantic dramas but now these shows don’t really appeal as much as they do anymore (*cough* The Heirs and You Who Came From The Stars *cough*) Alien one was a lot better because of Kim Soohyun.

 

「慧入韓國 #3」

by Huien Loi

So I finally got my butt down to editing all my photos from Korea… Boy, I miss that place.

Now that I have been home for 4 months now, I really can’t wait for the day where I can be back in Korea, for good, perhaps. Since this exchange programme, I have been thinking about what I want to do in the future, partially also due to the hard truth that I will be graduating in a year’s time. I first entered University thinking it would still be a long way to go but hell no, I’m left with only a year. How on earth did time fly past so quickly?

To cut the long story short, let’s just say, I’m in search for job opportunities in Korea. I just hope all that would work out somehow. *crosses fingers*

Spending a month in Seoul has been wonderful and I can imagine myself living there. I could eat Korean food all day and all the cheap cosmetics and stationery is just pure bliss. God bless the amount of stationery, stickers, letter paper etc. that I bought home. Seoul is probably the perfect city for me to live in, minus the fact that I’ll probably have major self-esteem issues of not being skinny or beautiful (Korean standards) enough.

A month definitely wasn’t enough to explore the city though I have been to several beautiful places, and spent a lot of money on coffee that all tasted so ridiculously good. Maybe it was the cold season, that’s why anything warm tasted nothing short of delicious.

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Lots and lots of snow, on the way out of Seoul to Daejeon. The thing about long travelling distances and hours is that it makes you appreciate how convenient Singapore is. I certainly do not need 2 hours to travel to the other end of Singapore.

Thanks to Kyung Hee University (경희대학교), we managed to attend the Magnolia Concert and I saw some Korean singers!

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Davichi (다비치), which instantly blew me off my seat and I was sold.

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G.Na (지나) as usual being really sexy but she slimmed down so so much it was a bit scary.

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First time listening to Juniel (주니엘)!

The weather was great for walking around all day and not break a sweat. It would get chilly but there is always a coffee place around the corner where you can seek warmth and chill with wifi!

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Insadong (인사동), one of my favourite places. All the small lanes with small shops and hidden cafes.

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Ssamzigil (쌈지길), which was an interesting building with many stores selling DIY stuff. Abit too expensive for my wallet’s taste though I guess.

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Going to Gwanghwamun (광화문) was kind of surreal because I only knew it from the infamous ‘almost-bombing’ scene from IRIS.

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Gyeongbokgoong (경복궁) was really huge that we really did not manage to explore much at all. Everywhere started to look pretty much the same, and the palace sort of ended up being a maze.

It was also at the main entrance when I realised this was the palace where they filmed Queen In-Hyun’s Man (이현왕후 의 남자). The thought of being at the very same place as Yoo In-Na (유인나) and Ji Hyun-Woo (지현우) was extremely surreal as well.

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One of my favourite parts of travelling would be looking at the city’s infrastructure. Sometimes, the densely situated tall buildings in Singapore just makes me feel extremely squeamish, and I kind of do appreciate other countries’ architecture more. There is also something different about the ancient Korean houses..

I am glad my friends and I did not give Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) a miss!

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Another thing that I love about Korea would the the random street art all over the city that is extremely beautiful and not just some hot mess.

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We did not miss out on Seoul’s amazing night view too, so what better place than going to the Namsan Tower and look at Seoul from high up in the sky.
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The Lovers’ Chair, meant for couples to slide down towards each other.

The night at Namsan Tower was extremely memorable since we bravely fought the unforgiving and harsh winds that nearly made me give up on putting up my lock, which was not an easy task considering the number of locks that were already being hung up. After endless strings of vulgarities, we finally made our way down Namsan alive (so smart, for some reason we decided to get a one-way cable car ride up, hence we had to walk all the way down the hill). It was also the night where I realised my Korean name was quite a common one too. Bleh.

Of course, the best part of Korea is her cuisine; the wide variety of food catered well to my tastebuds. Ever since my return, I have yet to try anything that has given me the kick which truly brings me back to Korea. Korean food in Singapore is pretty much catered to the Singaporean taste, I suppose? Either that or the great disparity in the quality of ingredients (*cough* sweet onions, cabbage, garlic etc.) and the lack of generosity (Most places here pretty much serve watered down soup with little to no ingredients).

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Soondae (순대)… Which was so good. Something as simple as stuffed rice in blood sausages, dipped with a little salt could taste so good. I love how the sellers are usually pretty generous with the pig innards too (thumbs up) but I don’t like how most places do not really process the meat well hence there is a stench, which I really do not like.

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I could survive on odeng (오댕) all day long, though I would die from hypertension.

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Hotteok (호떡), which I should have eaten more of.

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Ginseng chicken (삼계탕) – not really my thing.

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First time having Korean spicy braised chicken and holy shit it was so good. The sweet onions, with the well broiled potatoes and chicken. Best part of this was dumping the rice into the leftover sauce at the end, mixing it all up and just eating it like that. The description probably makes it sound like swine food but it tastes like heaven.

Another thing I love about Korea is how serious their coffee culture is. Coffee shops everywhere – huge international coffee chains (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Coffee Bean), huge Korean coffee chains (Ediya Coffee, Holly’s Coffee, Mango Six) but the best ones are the small hidden gems. These cafes usually have amazing decor and they feel especially warm and cosy (Cafe Noriter, Rousseau & Rousseau, Hoho Myoll).

Both Hoho Myoll and Cafe Noriter are extremely cute with their decor, which makes you fall in love with the place in an instant but I love Hoho Myoll for its vintage touch and Cafe Noriter can be quite inconvenient (since customers had to remove their shoes).

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The amount of effort that the owners put into decorating the cafe… Loved all the drawings on the wall. Loved the cat that was freely roaming around in the cafe too.

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Koreans must be ridiculously talented because there were so many amazing doodles on serviettes stuck all over the cafe.

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There were mini Volkswagen buses placed around the cafe…. And a real one inside the cafe, where customers can sit inside and enjoy their cup of coffee.

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Even the cups were gorgeous.

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ET in his ride.

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Singapore has an insanely strong cafe hopping culture but the local cafes have got nothing on those in Korea. Cat and dog cafes can be found everywhere in Korea (and probably at a much lower price too), and they even have a cafe with sheep. Try beating that Singapore.

When a cafe in Korea has a theme going on, that theme is really strong and consistent. The props used, the atmosphere they create, it’s perfect. The owners really do have an eye for details and that is what makes the cafes so distinctive.

 

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죽기전에 나는 ……. 싶다.

 

 

Red.

by Huien Loi

For some unknown reason, Chinese New Year felt sort of different this year. This CNY, we have a new member to the extended family, and with so many things that have been happening last year (my relatives not being in the best of health), the atmosphere just felt different to me. Perhaps that was why when I received my red packets, I felt like there was a surge of concern and a sense of relief when I wished the elder relatives good health.

Perhaps I have aged mentality again. As if my mental age isn’t old enough pft. Perhaps it’s that nagging feeling of turning 21 in less than a year that is making me more solemn than ever. Perhaps it’s due to me being away from home for more than a month, that it has led me to be more appreciative of the people around me.

21 years of receiving red packets; 21 years of not gaining any access to my red packet money, and I’m not complaining.

When I was younger, I used to envy all the other friends who would compare the amount of money they would receive during CNY and I wanted to be able to use that money to do shopping. For the longest of time, I’ve gotten so accustomed to simply passing my red packets to my mum that I’ve no idea how much I get every year (well, I know it’s at least $200 because that’s what my parents give me – or rather for me to see before I return it to them in a jiffy). I used to feel bad for friends whose parents took their money away to do their own personal ‘investments’. Slowly, I started appreciating my parents’ efforts in keeping my money for me and helping me save up for all these years as that would mean that I would have quite a great amount of savings by the time they hand the money over to me. Over the years, I kind of just want them to keep all these money instead, in repayment for all that they’ve done for me for the past 21 years. Sometimes, it’s just the truth that your parents make better decisions than you do, and this is one of the best decisions that they’ve made for me since I was a baby.

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So thank you, nothing feels quite as good as being home with your family (no matter how naggy and annoying they may be).

「慧入韓國 #2」SIM Reflection

by Huien Loi

Let me begin this post by saying that I’m very thankful to have been given this opportunity by SIM to spend a month in Korea, learning the Korean language as well as visit numerous companies and knowing more about them.

Prior to the programme, I was really nervous as it was my first time being overseas without my parents, what more in a country that communicates in a language that was foreign to me. Just a month ago, I only knew all the phrases that would never have really helped with my daily life at all. Being alone, I had to be independent as I had no one else to rely on. That meant I have to be my own leader, navigator etc. Most importantly, I just had to trust my instincts and go with my gut feelings no matter how much I tell myself that I am terrible at estimation and reading maps. I guess believing in yourself means having half the battle won because I can safely say that for most of the time when my friends and I went to explore the city on my own, I was the one who would search for directions and figure out exactly how we are supposed to get to our destinations (From taking the subway to walking to the places). Travelling free-and-easy also meant that I had little to none napping time as I had to constantly be on my toes and know where we were headed to. Initially it was quite tiring but I gradually got used to it. Taking the public transport also meant being able to observe what the locals would do on the trains and gain a better understanding of them.

One of the new perspectives that I was introduced to was definitely the way we had to dispose of our trash. Having lived in Singapore for my entire life, it was definitely difficult to get used to the rubbish system initially as we had to separate our rubbish into different bags, e.g. food waste, general waste and others. However, it did not take my roommate and I too long to get used to the system and it became a very automated process whenever we would throw our rubbish. Though the Korean method of rubbish disposal is definitely a lot more tedious, I think that it is definitely a good habit to pick up as that would mean having the conscious effort to recycle.

Additionally, in Korea, there are many notable systems that seem to run on the basis of trust. Many food places in Korea have got designated areas whereby customers can get sterilised cups and water to drink. The used cups will then be promptly returned at the right areas. I casually mentioned on Facebook that Singapore’s food courts need to implement a similar system however, my cousin reminded me of how it is difficult to have a similar system back home as the cups will probably go missing or get damaged. Perhaps all these are due to the culture being built over time and Korea has managed to do this continuously and successfully for a long time. I am hoping that maybe one day, many Singaporeans will be able to prove that they can be granted a certain level of trust, to not damage public property and then we can all enjoy such facilities.

During the programme, the biggest challenge that I encountered was definitely the language barrier. As I was only able to read the Korean words initially, I could only make sense of words that originated from English. However, the lessons in class proved to be really helpful as I put what I learnt to good use in certain situations, such as ordering food or making purchases. Though my understanding was limited, I felt like the lessons did pay off as I definitely saw a marked improvement in my language skills prior to the programme and after it.

I was really thankful that the grammar structure for Korean was similar to that of Japanese, hence I had a relatively easier time understanding the use of words like 이/가/은/는/을/를. However, Japanese also proved to be quite a handicap, as I would sometimes mix up the vocabulary for both languages (‘haru’ in Korean means day, whereas in Japanese, it means spring).

Being proficient in a language is no easy feat and so my friends and I would practise speaking to one another, as well as study together. All that hard work did help me tremendously in coping with the language barrier, even though I was not able to fully overcome it.

What I find most significant about the programme would be the opportunity to interact with Korean students from Kyunghee University. Even though we were each assigned a dowoomi, I got to know a few more dowoomis through my friends. Though I had expected to meet more international students, it was still an amazing opportunity to have made new many new friends outside of my UB circle. The dowoomis brought us to places that the locals would go to, such as the Express Bus Terminal shopping area and Mokdong ice-skating rink. It was really interesting as we got to explore places that would never have been covered in a typical tourist travelling schedule. It was a pity though that we had very little time to interact with our dowoomis as meeting once a week was definitely insufficient (only managed to meet up 3 times in total, excluding the introductory meeting session). Communicating with my dowoomi also proved to be quite tough as I was not proficient in Korean and neither was she in English. Though we had to communicate mostly through a broken mix of English, Korean and hand signals, I was still able to know quite a bit about her.

Finally, the programme has shaped the way I see Korea as a working place a little different from what I had expected it to be before the company visits. I had always imagined Korea’s working system to be extremely fast-paced and efficient, just like their technology. While I have always known how respect is viewed as highly important in Korea, I would never have expected it to be a factor which impedes speed in their working lives too. Based on the talk given by the staff from Louis Quartoze, who gave a fantastic comparison between the Western and Korean working styles, he noted that the need to give face to someone in a higher position would sometimes mean beating around the bush and taking a longer time to get to the point. Though the working culture is definitely changing, with all the Western influences, I am not exactly sure if a Korean work culture is one that I would get used to. For now, I still feel that the way I work is more Westernised and if I were to be an employee in a Korean company, I might offend many without even knowing. However, that does not mean that I am crossing out Korea from my future job opportunities as I really enjoyed my stay in Korea. In fact, I can envision myself to live comfortably in Korea if I continue to pursue the language and be proficient at it.

Overall, the programme has provided me great insight into the Korean work and life culture as well as helped to improve my Korean language skills. Even though I’m back home, that doesn’t mean that my Korean language learning should stop too. After all, the friendly teachers from Kyung Hee University  have also urged us to continue studying and send them questions should we have any. I really do admire their dedication even though they have only spent 3 short weeks with us.

 

Loi Hui En

Student from University at Buffalo, SIM

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