Why coming back is difficult

A few weeks prior to my return from the States, I stumbled upon an article about how the hardest part of travelling is coming back home and I couldn’t agree more. When you are away from home, there are so many changes going on, even if it’s with the people whom you’ve lived with your entire life. In that short period of four months, I’ve changed, my family has changed, so many things have changed. When you’re done travelling and you’ve got to come back home, suddenly, you’ve to live with how things were 4 months ago, as if nothing has changed. And truth is, it’s not easy.

As much as I value the autonomy and freedom that I had in the States, back home here in Singapore, I’m living in my home as a daughter, as a sister, and I simply can’t do the same things like I did just a while ago. Even when the responsibilities that we take on do not change (for example, I’ve to keep the dishes, mop the floor etc.), the way things are being run have changed. What used to be home-cooked dinners at 7pm has become store-bought dishes at 7.30/8pm – which affects the timing that I keep the dishes. Not that it’s that big of a deal.

Well it’s not like these things are impossible to live with, I guess I just need time to settle back into reality and tell myself that I’m truly home and I’m not going anywhere else anytime soon.

While I was scrubbing the sides of my New Balance kicks white (back to how they originally were when I first bought them), I felt like I was cleaning away the 4 months I had spent in Buffalo. But as I looked at some of the stains that were impossible to clean off and how they looked even more distinct against the white, I realised that my experience abroad was indeed real.

Coming back is difficult for me because as much as I missed my home, my loved ones and my friends, being away for so long was like an escape from all the nagging I’ve to deal with back here. It certainly isn’t easy, having that part in my life again, but like I’ve said before, if I can put up with the shit of others that are not my kin, all the more I can and should put up with the nagging of my family. After all, these are the people whom I’ll have for life.

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Things I’ve learnt about myself from 4 months of living abroad

It’s been about 4 days since I’ve been back from a 4-month study experience that was laden with so much fun and adventure. I move about my daily life as per normal (minus the jet lag), somewhat in a way that I feel like I’ve never left home before. But then, little things like reaching out instinctively to the side of my toilet bowl to flush when the button is at the top, reminds me that the experience was real. It wasn’t a dream.

I never thought I would miss Buffalo the way I am missing it right now. I think what I miss most is the amount of freedom and independence I had, the ability to not be accountable to anyone but myself. I’ve got so many stories that I want to share but I don’t know where to begin.. And since, these 4 months allowed me to grow as a person, I’ve come to see myself in a different perspective from before.

1. I’m a true P.

P in this case, stands for ‘perceiving’ under the MBTI type. For the longest time, I never understood why I was a P. I’ve always seen myself as a J (judging) – making lists of things to do, planning ahead of time, punctuality etc. All of that still holds true, especially punctuality. If I’m a minute late, I’m late and I’ll actually tell people that I’m late if I expect myself to be a minute late. I’ll feel horrible for being a minute late, even though I know there will be people who will be 5-10 minutes late.

After living without parental supervision for 4 months, the P aspects of me started to show in the form of my hurricane-torn-apart room. Weirdly enough, for a person who is OCD and loves being organised (colour-coding and other minute details), I’m a messy person. I don’t know how I’m able to live with mess, but I can and I sure can bring that mess into other people’s places.

2. I procrastinate a lot.

This probably supports the reason why I’m perceiving. Oh deadlines, and all the tasks that I got to do. It doesn’t help that Buffalo was a place that was so slow-paced in comparison to Singapore, that I tend to take my time to get around doing things… And I end up having to do the last-minute mad rush thing, every, single, time.

3. I’m probably not as bad at cooking as I might have thought.

I used to tell people that it would be a miracle if I were to be in the kitchen and it doesn’t get caught in flames. Well, thankfully, I’ve not burned down any kitchens in Rensch (because they use a heating coil HAHA). I think for the most part, I’ve been reluctant to experiment with cooking simply because I fear that what I whip up would taste bad… And honestly, I shouldn’t even be having this mentality because every thing has got to start somewhere right?

I am quite proud of myself for having cooked some simple stuff – aglio olio (which was a total fail!), kimchi omelette, porridge (with lots of ingredients), kimchi fried rice (more like gochujang paste fried rice since I had no kimchi!), kimchi soup and more!

Now all that’s stopping me from cooking back in Singapore, is the fact that I’ll have so much cleaning up to do. So mmmmm…

4. I need to work on my determination.

I feel like how a person exercises gives a rough insight about what he/she is like – though this is just my personal opinion, and it is not entirely true. I just simply feel that it is applicable to me. When you are exercising, your body and stamina is one thing, but your mind and willpower is another. And I really admire those who are able to tell themselves to push on and not give up even when they are tired, because HOW THE HELL DO YOU DO IT?

It takes a lot of willpower to spur yourself on, to be your own cheerleader, to continue pushing yourself even when your body is crying (or sweating) and telling you no. And ermmm, I definitely got to work on that. I feel like exercising not only strengthens you physically, but mentally as well, and if you are able to be resilient while working out, it is possible that you are going to be more resilient when facing real problems I guess?

5. My greatest sin is definitely gluttony.

For years, I could never decide which was my greatest sin – gluttony or sloth. Both are such close contenders, but ultimately, gluttony has won out. Maybe it’s because I was living in a foreign place, so I feel compelled to try every single thing… But I just felt like my stomach was a bottomless pit while living in the States. I ate when I was hungry, I ate when I was bored, I ate when I was full, I ate ALL THE TIME.

If sloth continues to keep up with gluttony, I’m so gonna swell.

6. I am OBSESSED with lipsticks (and nail polishes).

When will this ever stop mmmm? How about my next lifetime? Because a girl totally needs a red/burgundy/coral/orange/pink/nude/red (oh did I already say that) lipstick.

P.S. I got myself a NARS in ‘Grace’, and I think it’s sweet to find a colour that I love and suits me. It’s an added plus that Grace is sort of my name because well, it’s one of the characters in my Chinese name.

7. I can’t pack to save my life.

Packing suitcases just triggers my panic button to no end – whether is it for a short or long trip, going away or coming back. I just don’t have that ability to sit down and think about what fits, or how to shift things around so that my items can magically be packed into the suitcase even if their shapes/volumes don’t change.

8. I’m a hoarder.

One of the reasons why packing is a nightmare for me is this – I like to keep everything. I brought back some of the paper bags I got from the States (A&F, Pink, Magnolia Bakery and MORE). I am insane, I know right?

Of course I needed to bring back the A&F bag, I can’t afford A&F in Singapore, so I can’t get that paper bag here. Totally needed it.

9. I feel more comfortable walking down the streets of South Korea, than in America.

Well, I mean I could potentially be a New Yorker kind of girl, I could. But being a Singaporean in the States, I don’t know whether to feel offended or not, every time someone I assumes I’m from China and automatically greets me in Chinese (even though they don’t mean any harm and they can’t really tell us apart. It’s not like I can fault them because I can’t tell Caucasians apart either). But it’s just weird you know, since I’m technically a Chinese who is fluent in English, so I’m neither here nor there.

Whereas in Korea, I’m just an Asian. Like I still do get people assuming that I’m from China, but I get a kick out of confusing them when I speak to the sales assistants in English, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese (because well, they’ve got sales assistants fluent in different languages). Ok this doesn’t even make sense, I think I’m just inherently biased towards South Korea.

I mean sure, I could navigate around Times Square on my own, go about doing my own thing but when I was walking down the streets of Seoul and sitting in the cafe sipping on my coffee alone, it just felt…. Normal, and good.

So yes, this concludes my somewhat lengthy post in a long time…. And I hope I get enough motivation to pen down my thoughts on my other experiences!

P.P.S. I know I sound bimbotic in certain parts, just fyi, I’m being sarcastic ok.

If you believe that everything’s alright, you won’t be all alone tonight.

So I’m doing that same thing again, the same thing I told myself not to repeat ever since I went to Korea. There’s just something about being in a foreign place on your own, and especially when I’m that kind of person who does not seek that much connection from my friends, I find myself clamming up and going back to my shell.

That is not to say that I’m distancing myself from them whatsoever. I still feel that my friendships are the same, I still anticipate the day when I get to go back home and see their lovely faces. It’s just I tend to be over-independent and not want open up as much as I would love to if I weren’t in a different country, especially with the 13 hour time difference right now.

I feel like a terrible friend – haven’t been Skyping anyone at all, even my texts via WhatsApp/LINE/Kakaotalk are so limited (I’m so terribly sorry to my close friends….) And even so, I don’t exactly feel lonely at all…

Until last night, while studying for a quiz… I just got hit by a wave of emotions. I felt downright shitty. I wished there was someone to talk to, not just via text or Skype, just face to face. I’ve got a million of emotions and thoughts to confront, and I don’t know where to begin.

Perhaps the thought of returning home is somewhat comforting, considering that I only have slightly more than a month left. But even then, I hate the idea of leaving this place. I feel lost at the thought of leaving a place I’ve grown attached to, a place that has helped me develop my self-identity and all, and I would hate to go back home and sort of lose all that.

I guess that’s why they say that returning home is harder than travelling far away. I am so going to miss the freedom and independence I have. Sure, I have to do my own laundry, cook for myself, buy my groceries – but that is life! Et la vie est très belle! I go home with the thought of wanting to experiment more with cooking but at the same time, I’m not sure I want to (oh boy, I can cut myself some slack when it comes to cleaning up here)

I love how I am able to drive (though I’m not supposed to) and experience new things for myself despite being in a dead town with hardly anything to do. Sure, Singapore is so much more vibrant, but I’m going to get bored again ultimately, because I’m back to that old lifestyle that I feel so restricted in.

Ah well well, that’s me and my contradicting self, again.

And it seems I’ve gone off topic again but yeah, I really want someone to talk to in person.

Settling down in a foreign land.

I’m not sure if it’s due to the long duration of my stay here in the States or what, but this trip seems to be the most unprepared one I’ve ever had.

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I was partially overconfident when it came to packing and getting ready because I thought a month in Korea had prepped me for this trip, and I was going to be totally ready – from staying for a period of time to thermal wear.

The 20 hours flight, excluding transit hours was pretty torturous. I never liked sitting on planes for long hours anyway. The whole flying journey just got worse when we were surrounded by really inconsiderate and selfish passengers.

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On the empty train towards the budget terminal.

The JFK airport paled in comparison to Changi Airport, or maybe it was just the budget terminal, I don’t know for sure. For a huge airport the scale of JFK, I would have imagined it to be public-friendly, for example 24/7 cafés at every terminal, sufficient seating area etc. But nope. Nothing was available.. (I might be wrong since I was at a budget terminal). It didn’t help that there were insufficient seats and many travellers like us, waiting for their flight had to sit around on the floor like a homeless wreck.

The one great thing the airport had was wifi, which was totally edible at 3am. 

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And then we zipped off to Buffalo via JetBlue. I was way too tired that I slept through the short flight. When I opened my eyes and looked out of the window, I was truly amazed by what I saw.

Buffalo was unlike New York or Singapore; it looked so chill even from above. There was so much greenery, everything just looked so peaceful even though I was still physically on the plane. When we got off the plane and out of the airport, I saw how serene the entire place was. Not too sure if it’s my kind of thing yet, but it definitely is a refreshing change from the usual hustle and bustle that I’ve experienced for 21 years of my life back in Singapore.

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We were picked up by the super awesome and friendly people from the Singapore Student Association (SGSA), who were incredibly patient and helpful for that day. Debbie and Keith brought us to the Original Pancake House for breakfast. I got myself some banana pancakes, and they were extremely light and fluffy. But the portion was hugeeeee. I can never finish an adult portion here in the States, I guess.

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During the drive around the quiet neighbourhood, I was in awe by how all the houses looked. I loved how each house would look totally different from one another – from the colour to the structure – yet they all just seemed to fit perfectly side by side. Every house looked like it popped up from a fairytale, and I would love to be able to stay in a house like that someday. But oh boy, it’ll never happen in Singapore…

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We went to Walmart to grab some necessities and for some reason, it just didn’t seem as big as I thought it would be. Sure, it was 10x larger than the NTUC outlets in Singapore, but I guess all the talk on how huge the supermarkets are kind of got my expectations up a little and when I went into Walmart, I was like ‘oh okay, is that all?’

On the other hand, when we got to Wegmans a few days later, I fell in love with it. It is such an amazing supermarket, and I would love to go there to buy groceries and actually cook. The huge amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables just looked so attractive, and I was a little distracted by the flowers available in a corner too.

After all the shopping, we finally checked into the residence that we are going to be living in for the next four months…20140824-144729-53249608.jpg

Villas on Rensch literally looks like what you’ll see on a postcard. I absolutely love the shade of blue that the apartments were painted in. The entire place really looked exactly like what it was on the website, it was so stunning. The gym is huge and I’ve used it a couple of times. Thumbs up to all the interesting equipment that I’ve never seen before prior to this trip and now I actually get to use them!

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Way too beautiful. The rent is expensive but we are paying for what we get.

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What our apartment looks like from outside.

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A nice super single (American sized?) bed which is extremely comfy… Either that or I was too tired from the long flight and time difference. I think I’ll resent my small bed when I return home at the end of the year.

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Extremely messy dresser and side table.

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My first ever walk-in wardrobe which I’ll never be able to fill up (and I probably shouldn’t attempt to do so) for the next 4 months! I absolutely love the space though it can feel kinda creepy at times, since I’m so used to my small bedroom.

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Oh the luxury of being able to hang up my stuff without them being all cramped together.

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And the nice little toilet which is just the perfect size, with sufficient space in the cupboard and the medicinal cupboard.20140824-144733-53253727.jpg

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I was really lucky to have won a pair of tickets to the Buffalo Wing Festival which will be happening this weekend! In a span of just one week, I’ve eaten wings twice and I’d conclude that Americans (or Buffalonians) have an extremely different liking when it comes to the flavour of the wings.

We tried Duffs first, which was supposedly one of the best, with the other contender being Anchor Bar. But nah, Duffs sort of failed to live up to our expectations… When it comes to the tenderness or juiciness of the meat, I’m no expert but personally, I didn’t like the type of sauce used.. It was nothing like the Buffalo wings that we have in Singapore. The Singaporean version has been changed to cater to the Singaporeans’ liking, and they taste totally awesome – a nice kick of spiciness and not too sour. However, Duffs’ wings seem to have just been coated with chilli oil and a lot of lime juice… The sauce was not well-infused with the meat.. I guess Singaporeans do take their chicken wings seriously. Nothing beats our BBQed chicken wings!

Our dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings was pretty pleasant though, and yes, the American favourite ‘spicy garlic’ flavour was not to our liking at all. For the first time in my life, I tried wings of so many different interesting flavours – parmesan garlic, asian zing, thai curry etc. – and I absolutely loved them, especially the parmesan garlic.

Despite not being a cheese lover, I’ve eaten so much cheese in one week than in my entire lifetime. The cheese curds at BWW were so delicious, I kid you not. They were fried to perfection – crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Mozzarella sticks have got nothing on these cheese curds. I could finish a whole basket of them on my own.

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Despite the rather unpredictable weather (really cold and windy to really hot and sunny), the walk to school is pretty enjoyable… Maybe not so much when the traffic signals are unclear.

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The school is just a quick 10-minute walk away, which is a good exercise. But it’s not that fun walking from Rensch to Baird Hall, which I learnt the hard way from today. It’s about a 20 minute walk in the hot sun. Not cool at all.

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I love how the entire place is so scenic and the grass just looks so unreal. The grass all seemed like carpet grass and the grass patches looked like they would be fun to roll in.

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So much grass.

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Our rented car, which stuck through with us for a week, while we made trips to Walmart, Wegmans and Walden Galleria. Dear Toyota, you will be missed. I loved the times when we would blast the radio and sing in the car (with harmonisation) while driving down the highway. I will miss the smell of your leather seats and try not to compare you to our second-hand car.

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Suaku me have also finally tried Tim Hortons. The drinks are so much cheaper as compared to Starbucks… But they are so sweet, I think my kidneys  shrivel every single time I order a hot drink there. I might just go back to Starbucks again. Doesn’t help that Starbucks has such yummy bagels, like the multi-grain and everything cheese one. I’m going to turn into a cheese addict.

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And being such a loyal student from Buffalo (sarcasm), of course I would buy a Yankees cap over a cap which says ‘BULLS/University at Buffalo’. Hah. The Yankees cap (can’t see the logo here) was such a steal though ($32USD), I simply could not resist it. It was the perfect colour (navy with green on the underside of the cap) and fit!! I will wear caps more frequently!!!

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Oh Buffalo, you look amazing during sunset.

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That’s it for my first week!

We went to the Buffalo Zoo though to be honest, there isn’t much to talk about, since zoos everywhere pretty much have similar animals. While the zoo did not have as much variety as compared to the Singapore Zoo, it felt more relaxing, like a neighbourhood park with animals as an added feature. Wanted to get a magnet for my aunt (magnet collecting maniac) but they were not available!!! So I got a giraffe nanoblock kit for myself in the end! I’m starting to hoard numerous nanoblock kits… I’ve still got 4 undone at home. One can never have enough nanoblocks.

有一種說不出的感覺。

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*

Hoho Myoll

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.

「慧入韓國 #3」

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.

 

 

「慧入韓國 #2」SIM Reflection

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

「慧入韓國 #1」

It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve been away from home and I can’t believe how quickly time is slipping away just like that! My journey with Seoul, or rather, Kyung Hee University should technically be ending next Thursday, but thankfully, I decided to extend my trip for a week to further explore this place.

I thought I would be able to do weekly blogs to keep up with my thoughts and all the experiences I’ve had here but I’ve been absolutely way too busy (and also lazy, because I rather spend those little pockets of time watching BIG and Running Man instead)!!! I feel like it’s been so long and I can’t exactly remember what happened in the first week.

Having Korean lessons thrice a week for 4 hours a day is intensive but I’ve learnt quite a bit too. Really glad that the language is somewhat similar to Japanese as they tend to use certain joining words e.g. 이/가/을/를 vs は/を/に/へ. I also think that I’m having the lessons a little easier than some of my classmates as I learnt how to read, write and pronounce the different Korean words on my own. Glad that I can make sense of more phrases now! /excited ^^/

Sidenote: I’m also really happy that I get to use my Kakaotalk because we have to contact our dowoomis!

In just 2 weeks, I have tried so many kinds of food and I’m definitely not sick of Korean food yet, though I really do miss my grandma’s home-cooked food…. Asian cuisine is great but chinese food is definitely still the best! ㅜㅜ 중식을 좋아해요~ I also can’t believe how I managed to watch Davichi, G.Na and Juniel perform live!!!! Of course seeing BIGBANG/SHINee/SNSD would be really great but for now, having heard those 3 is still just as amazing!

I really do miss home but there’s still so much more I want to do here – to shop, eat, explore. Arghhh!

Ok, time to go and finish my last episode of BIG! Hopefully I get to see Gong Yoo on the streets…. ㅋㅋㅋ

Hello, goodbye.

Jonathan Clay’s Hello Goodbye is in my head and he’s singing ‘I’m so tired of the rainy days’ and it’s raining outside….

2012

Photo of the swans taken at Switzerland, beside The Chapel Bridge

Well well…. 2012 went past in a blink of an eye in a way I’ve never experienced before.. It was extremely fast and I guess it’s because I wasn’t studying for a good 9 months. I was also working for 7-8 months, at two different companies – two very different working atmospheres and job scopes. For 6 months, I did so much, it was pretty fulfilling I must say, working with that company. I had so much interaction with people, be it in person, or on the phone, and sending countless of emails to so many strangers. I had to call up countless of companies and talk to their staff, some of which weren’t really friendly (Quite big names lol but details which I can’t reveal, of course). I’ve met people who view themselves as being so superior and they spoke to me in demeaning ways (High position in big company, wah). I helped out with the company’s audit and worked with a lovely bunch of people, and I’ve learnt so much in that short period of time. Then of course, I started working at St. Games for a really short period of time but the working atmosphere was amazing with the right people. I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people (staff or customers) so I guess, I really liked what I was doing, especially when I wasn’t working for the money but rather to be out of home and killing my time.

Through working, I learnt the hard truth that even though I had a stable income of nearing $1k+ (including CPF) for about 7 months, even if I were to not touch my pay at all, I would still be unable to pay for the first semester of my University education, and that really sucked.

2012 was a really lucky year for me though I must say.. I was extremely fortunate to have been able to go for 2 overseas trips, about 10 countries in total. I have also met a really great person in my life who tells me how much he loves me everyday and I have a selfish wish that even if I were to be very unreasonable one day (for god knows what reason), he would hold me and remind me of how we first met and how we both chose to take a leap of faith.

I am unable to find my resolutions for 2012, but I guess it was something like how I have to exercise regularly which failed terribly because I only exercised regularly for 1 month….. I’m going to plan out my 2013 resolutions well and keep track of it constantly.. I can do this! I will do it!!!

And because, yours truly here was trying out some Photoshop stuff a few weeks back, so I ended up with a mishmash of random photo edits..

grandson

Camwhore sessions with the grandson. I swear sometimes we meet with the sole purpose of purely taking photos (of ourselves).

europe_summary copyThe different places I’ve been to in Europe.
Everything in Europe looks good once you Instagram it. I wish we had similar infrastructure in Singapore instead of standard HDB flats… Which is impossibru.

hongkong2Finally going to Hongkong and I tried so much good food!

Great dimsum and bo luo yao at Mongkok, and I bought my Nike high-tops fairly cheaply, and we also got a giant Rilakkuma bear!

19I turned 19…. My very last teenage year T ^ T
(That’s my name on that pink frame thing… Which was meant for babies actually)

POP

Attended Bryan’s POP with the Thunder Buddies… I really don’t like sweaty (and smelly) guys….

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Watching fireworks with a guy alone on National Day for the very first time in my life… It was really special :’)
We made 2 new friends, both of which are plants……… Hah!

USSHaving the time of my life at USS with Choy, experiencing the thrilling rides (Mummy, Battlestar Galactica) and going for them again and again.. Now I need something scarier (i.e. T Express which has a descent of 77 degrees at Everland, South Korea). I went for that once.. And I need to go for it again ’cause I need that adrenaline rush yo~~

IMG_0346(2)Attending the first K-Pop concert in my life with Sharlene… After going for only Click Five and Kyle Patrick concerts!

MAF

Belated Mid-Autumn Festival celebration with the Thunder Buddies and we met Nat Ho by chance!

With that, I’m bidding farewell to 2012 and hello to 2013.

Photo on 22-12-12 at 10.47 PM #5 copyThat’s me literally leaping into the New Year.

Kkthxbye.

( . )( . ) > Dedicated to the douche who googled ‘singapore boobs’ and arrived at my blog.