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Memi~!!!

30 Jul

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been finding it hard not to sweat like a pig everytime I move an inch – the humidity here is unreal and I don’t remember Tokyo having ever been this bad and Tokyo is supposed to be worse than Seoul!!! The humidity is also causing my whole body to itch like crazy. But just when I felt like I was going to go insane from the constant river of sweat my body seems to want to emit from it (making me look like some horrid sweaty foreign beast), the itchiness and the annoying red lumps caused by Mosquitos feasting on my flesh as it slow roasts like samgyupsal on a Friday night, I heard for the first time all summer the unmistakable shrill drone of a cicada from outside my window and smiled.
For me those little buggers (Known as ‘Semi’ in Japan and ‘Memi’ in Korea) are symbolic of the summer and since my year in Japan, no summer has been complete without being deafened by them everytime I walk out the front door. It makes me remember the time I asked a Japanese colleague of mine why people hated them so much:
“Why do people hate cicadas in Japan so much? Do they sting or bite?”
“nope”
“Then do they destroy crops or wood?”
“nah”
“…So what do they do that is so annoying (apart from the noise)?”
“They piss on you. They piss on you when you walk under them and then they run away.”

Good Memories.

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The strangeness of how we learn…

3 May

***

Have you ever taken a step outside of how you think usually, to assess how your own thought processes or behaviorisms work? What about how you learn? Don’t you find it strange how we don’t know something at first sight, then suddenly we just do? For example: Remembering the lyrics to a song – once learned all we have to do is open our mouth and it seems to just appear, as if magically, in our brains and just tumble from our mouths…

Or even, have you ever wondered how the brain comes to order the information it receives into a neat, recognizable format: as if it pieces million piece puzzles together for us in a split moment so that we can see concepts – final, structured and organized.

I wonder these things (and more) on a regular basis and so have come to realize that the human brain is truly an odd, yet most amazing, contraption indeed.

***

Recently I have been reading a book called “Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks: a book about “the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition“.

In chapter 8  “Things Fall Apart: Amusia and Dysharmonia.“, Sacks writes the following passage:

“We take our senses for granted. We feel we are given the visual world, for example, complete with depth, color, movement, form, and meaning all perfectly matched and synchronous. Given this seeming unity, it may not occur to us that there are many different elements composing a single visual scene, and that all of these have to be separately analyzed and then put together. This composite nature of visual perception may be more apparent to an artist or a photographer; or it may become apparent when, due to some damage or failure of development, one element or another is defective or lost. The perception of color has its own neural basis, and so, too, have the perception of depth, motion, form, and so on. But even if all these preliminary perceptions are working, there may be difficulty synthesizing them into a visual scene or object with meaning.”

He then went on, in the latter half of the chapter, to talk about a woman who could not hear music as a whole – she could hear each different “voice” (instrument) as a wholly separate entity and so any music piece she listened to was fragmented and totally unlike how it should be. In a letter her physician sent to Sacks, he described her:

“agonizing experience of hearing all music as discrete, contrapuntal lines, being unable to hold on to the harmonic sense of chordal passages. Thus, where listening was linear, vertical and horizontal at the same time, now it was horizontal only.”

***

Now, you are probably wondering where on earth I am going with this all.

To be honest, i’m not at all sure myself – I just have an odd hunch.

***

Even though I certainly do not possess absolute pitch, I have pretty much always been comfortable with and confident in my ability to hear and to distinguish tone, tempo and pitch. However, I don’t just hear it – I feel it.

The same goes for language. I don’t just listen to how it is said, I feel how it is said, how it is formed in the mouth. I imagine the feeling of what the tongue must be doing, what the jaw is doing, what the throat is doing, what the vocal chords are doing – I replay these feelings in my mind over and over again, feeling what it would be like to actually mimic how it is done, before actually doing it.

I can also connect new sounds; to concepts; to writing – easily. Like with Japanese: the language on paper connects perfectly in my mind to the language I hear and the language I speak. It is all interwoven and fits together perfectly like a completed puzzle. As such I can hear a word I don’t know and repeat it straight off the bat to ask what it means; or I can mimic the tone of how an old person speaks – purely because I can feel how the language works.

I have become so used to this sense and figured that it was solid, unchangeable and reliable.

Until now.

***

I am currently supposed to be studying for my mid-terms in Korean. I have memorized the vocabulary and grammar assigned and can read to a good standard. In fact, I have noticed that I have an odd ability to feel the context of a piece of grammar within a sentence after just having seen a couple of examples. To explain: the books we use in level 4 contain no English translations so we have to rely on reading the Korean description of what the words mean – I personally don’t find this of much help and so just read the examples and somehow can pick out exactly the feeling of the grammar and how it differs from other similar pieces of grammar. For example:

The grammar structure “-면서” (-myeon-seo) is added to the end of an action verb stem before another action is described, and means “whilst doing- “. This is mind the following sentence “공부하면서 음악을 들었어요” (Kongbu ha-myeon-seo, umak ul tuleo-sseo-yo) could be translated as : “While studying I listened to music” OR “At the same time as studying, I listened to music”.

There is another piece of grammar that is almost exactly the same – “-어 가면서” (AVST+ka-myeon-seo).

Now “가다” (kada) is the verb for “to go“, thus the “가면서” (ka-myeaon-seo) bit seems to me like “whilst going“. To get to the point – for me this grammar had the sense of something in motion.

Sure enough the meaning is generally that as something is going/progressing (through a period of time) something else is also done (at intervals?). For example: Whilst cooking ramen, I taste-tested it (at intervals). So – during the duration of the action that was ramen cookage, I did another action that was related – taste testing.

Fun no?

Actually, I love being able to pick up on these small little nuances – most of the time there isn’t a better way to express the same thing in my native language and so it feels like in learning them, I am adding to my understanding of the world and how to express it (and myself) better through language.

***

SO yeh. That is something I –can– do.

But what I can’t seem to do with Korean (so far), that I usually can do with other things, is connect the dots. Unlike with Japanese, I cannot seem to make a strong connection between the spoken by others, the spoken by self and the written.

I can read and write reasonably well (with only a couple of mistakes in spelling mostly).

However, I cannot establish a strict pattern of intonation in the spoken – I cannot figure a general pattern from the beginning to end of a sentence or heard a distinct difference between a question or of a statement.

I also cannot figure out how the tempo of the spoken works either – it seems to speed up suddenly as random points in words or phrases to make a strange sort of complex rhythm.

It is as if I am partially deaf, and this is most frustrating.

My sense of feeling is rendered useless because I cannot maintain a strong enough grip on the words being said.

Furthermore, if I read passages while listening to their tracks on the accompanying CD, it feels like my brain sometimes struggles to understand that the written word read and the spoken word heard is the same thing. I can read what is on the page fine, but the spoken version just feels blurred and indistinct. It just doesn’t match.

This means that I find it extremely difficult to mimic how Korean is spoken – if I cannot have a strong grip on the words spoken, hear how they are formed, dissect each sound made and then re-piece them together in my head and feel what parts of the mouth and throat are being used, then I cannot reproduce them accurately enough.

This is turn means I am more likely to forget a word – I am the kind of person who has to have a complete image of a concept in my brain to be able to retain information. If there is only a partial image, my brain gives up and focuses on the things it CAN visualize in entirety. It’s a bit like having a corrupted file – there is no point in keeping it if you can’t restore it.

All in all, it feels like my perception of Korean is fragmented – a bit like how that lady in Sack’s book felt about music. It feels like the different parts of Korean, (Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking) are completely separate from each other and it is difficult to weave them together to make a whole.

***

SO there we have it.

My random self-analysis of the day.

I suppose the only thing I can do is to keep going at it (Come on – Me?? Give up??? Pffftttt don’t be silly!).

It could be just that I am still in the “baby stage” of learning the language – the stage in which the brain has to gradually absorb information over a period of time before all the pieces come together and click. I did start Japanese technically when I was around 15 (but not properly till I was 18) and so my “Japanese” age is far more than my “Korean” age.

If you were to calculate these ages “from first contact” my Japanese age would be about 9 and my Korean age would be just shy of 2. But if you calculate it from “total submission” (aka. being thrown into an environment where only that language is spoken over a long period of time – like me living for a year in Japan and a year in Korea) then my Japanese age would only be just shy of 4, and my Korean age just shy of 2. Of course, this depends entirely on where you place the importance of language learning – on structured contact (which teaches you the language in its strictly structured form – how it is used officially), or complete submission (which teaches you the colloquial form of language – how it is actually used in its natural environment).

Either which way this would make sense – my brain is years ahead in absorbing and figuring out Japanese in comparison to Korean…. But it ain’t half frustrating!!!

***

Anyways, back to the grindstone~! (Gonna rip apart that exam tomorrow if it’s the last thing I do!!!)

Peace.

‘Dem Ajumma be CRAAZY! (II)

9 Mar

So, a while ago I posted about the crazy old ladies in Korea: Since then I have not only become used to them bumbling about, shoving past you in their crazy patterned, eyeburningly bright colored attire accessorized by characteristic sun visors peaking through masses of over-permed poodle curls, but I have also come to find their existence rather amusing and somewhat cute – so much so, that I can’t help but smile and recall the phrase “‘Dem Ajumma be Cra~zy!” every time I encounter the darling little old dears.

Yesterday, however, I had a particularly amusing encounter with one. And when I say encounter I mean that I was a spectator. A rather amused spectator.

I was in Kyongbokgung walking to the bus stop that would take me home (I have to stop there to change buses between Pyeongchangdong and Yonsei) when my bus came whistling past me. I went to run to the bus stop to catch up with it, but quickly changed my mind upon remembering that every time I do that, I end up sweating a bomb once I get on the bus. I hate sweating. With a passion. Plus, by the time I cool down it is time to get off the bus and walk up the long steady incline to the road my house is on – which then turns suddenly into a steep incline. SO by the time I get home i’m all sweaty and icky and out of breath (because I am ridiculously unfit).

Suffice it to say that I just couldn’t be arsed with the fuss and the sweating and the hotness ((DO NOT LIKE!)), so I stopped running and just walked leisurely on over, taking my sweet time. To my surprise the bus didn’t move and just stayed there at the bus stop – something very unusual here in Korea as (generally speaking) bus drivers like to rocket off a split second after the last passenger has just about got both feet on board.

Once I got to the bus and hopped on, I was faced with a rather angry looking bus driver who was yelling about something or other. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that he was yelling about someone having not paid. That someone turned out to be a little old lady.

This particular little old lady had bright dyed blonde hair and was sat in the seats reserved for the disabled and elderly behind the bus driver’s booth, a box of fruit and a giant pizza parked next to her on the floor. She was clearly ignoring the driver’s protests and complaints and just looked out the window idly, as if nothing was wrong.

The driver continued to protest – he was yelling (but in polite Korean) things along the lines of “Ajumma! (old woman) Please can you swipe your card? If not you will have to get off. You can’t just ride the bus for free!”. Other passengers eager to get on with their journeys piped up too, urging the old woman to take notice.

The old woman was a stubborn one and dug her heels in by grunting in response something along the lines of “I’ve got all these things to carry: can’t you just leave me alone and just let me off?!?!”

After a while the bus driver seemed to have given up and went to set off, but then changed his mind last minute, got out of his driver’s booth and demanded that the old lady pay or get off.

She huffed and puffed in response like an angry Chihuahua while pointing to her stuff and growling back responses to the driver, trying to play the “i’m old so leave me alone” card. Finally, after a bit of back and forth growly dialogue with the driver, she got the message, grabbed her stuff and huffed off the bus, muttering the whole way.

Now at this point I would like to highlight the fact that the elderly seem to have a very hard time in Korea – a lot of them seem to be working the scummy, low paid jobs in society, which (I feel) is quite twisted and wrong… But, as much as I felt sorry for the old woman I couldn’t help but be amused by the whole situation – usually in the UK it is the youth that kick up these kinds of situations, not the aged. (Plus, she had BRIGHT BLONDE hair – Crazy!) I also had to sympathise with the driver – if you want to use a service, it is only fair that you pay for that service. No exceptions.

So yeh – ‘Dem Ajumma be cra~zy!

The metaphorical brick wall of doom…

4 Nov

***

I’m not gonna lie. Living in a foreign country is AWESOME… But sometimes it is equally AWESOMELY CRAP.

However, the important thing to realize is that actually, you have good times, bad times and mediocre times wherever in the world you decide to park your backside for a while…

***

I’m having a bit of a “feeling crap” week and now feel a bit like i’ve just pile drived (driven?) my skull into a very ‘Mario World’-esq, previously invisible brick wall. Yeh.

*deep breath…. and sighhhhhhhhhhhhh*

***

Yesterday I got my midterm results back – I passed Reading (89/100), Speaking (65/100) and Listening (62/100) but unfortunately was 2.2 marks away from passing Writing (57.8/100)…

Rather than piss and moan about how badly I had done, and how much I needed to pull my finger out from now on, I decided to go shopping and indulge in some good old retail therapy, thus tottered off to the electronic district of Seoul – Yongsan – with Risa (a friend of mine from uni here) to buy a new video camera (given that the old one died a horrible death after being subjected to hot spring fumes back in my Manza days…)…

***

Yongsan is -ok- but it’s no Akihabara… However, you CAN bargain with stall owners to lower the price of goods IF you know what you are doing…

I don’t. (-_-;)

But Risa did. (^-^)

***

After wandering around and looking at various different products I found myself torn between 2 more-than-I-wanted-to-pay-but-so-cool HD cameras – 1 Sanyo, 1 JVC.

The JVC one was epicly awesome but was pitched at 590,000 won – about £330 which was WAY MORE than I was willing to pay.

The Sanyo one, that was smaller and lighter than the JVC one but not -as- cool, was pitched at 490,000 won – about £270 which was still pretty high….

So we bantered and bargained and FINALLY got the guy to lower the price down to 440,000 won (£245) for the Sanyo INCLUDING added 10% charge for using my card to pay, a 8mb memory card, carry case and usb stick for the memory card.

Not bad, I thought and tottered back off home reasonably happy with said purchase.

***

Of course I checked the price of the same thing on Amazon.co.uk and found that the price I had paid was marginally more expensive than back home but couldn’t be bothered to argue with it – I had a video camera I was happy with and to be honest couldn’t be bothered to go all the way back to argue to toss over a couple of quid. Plus, the man who served us wasn’t seedy and horrible like the other stall owners we encountered who were hell bent on taking us for fools.

***

So, without much ado, I present my new baby:

***

So YEH… That cheered me up a bit… Until this morning…

***

Recently with exam and such i’ve become strangely more tired than usual – stomach cramps from the colitis have been kicking off a bit and even have started getting a sty on my right eye again… Fun fun!

As a result, I threw in the towel today and decided to stay at home and rest!

I know I should probably make an effort to go to choir practice at 6pm as I wasn’t able to attend last week on Thursday and this week on Monday due to preparing for midterms, and our performance is on the 28th of November so I need to know my stuff……

Buuuuuuuuuttttt that brick wall is ‘all up in mah face’ and I can’t figure out which is the best way around it. I have the choice of:

  1. Staying home and chilling out/catching up generally as well as work missed from today – but if I do this I will miss out on choir and potentially piss people off.
  2. Going to choir – fun and happy but at the same time will probably have a knock on effect on tomorrow – I am knackered as it is and may feel the same tomorrow as I did today…
  3. Staying home and f**king off both choir and study – to the detriment of everything constructive in my life.

Hmmm, hard choice.

Whilst it is very tempting to go with choice no.3, I am of a sane-enough mind to know that doing that would be a VERY STUPID IDEA.

Choice no.1 is thus the preferred one because, lets face it, I HAVE to pass this term – if I don’t I will have to redo level 3 and, aside from just reeeeeally not wanting to have to do that, I reeeeeeeallly don’t want to have to stay until September to make sure I pass 3 levels of tuition required before coming home.

But…. recently I have been feeling pretty blue because of lack of socialization – it feels like all I do is come home and eat, study, sleep and go to school again before repeating the same cycle. It gets boring, not to mention depressing, and makes me miss the days back in Sheffield when I would crash over at peoples houses, steal their foods, beds and play their video games (left 4 dead 1+2 FTW) into the early hours of the morning… *reminisces* mmmmmm stolen beds… 😉

So yeh – choice no.2 would be good to a point because it will mean getting out and doing stuff with people… but still… study IS more important….

*sigh* 迷ってる。。。

‘Dem Ajumma be CRAAZY!

28 Oct

***

In the beginning of October, I came across this on the news/Korea Times website and thought it would be amusing to share:

“Brawl of old woman, teenage girl in subway car causes stir”

By Kwon Mee-yoo

[http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/10/117_73970.html%5D

A carriage on subway line No. 2 turned into a fight arena when a young teenage girl talked down to an older woman who savagely assaulted the student in response.

The scene was captured by another passenger and uploaded to various websites and YouTube, causing a huge stir among netizens, Monday.

The video clip shows the old lady reprimanding the student for sitting cross-legged and the young girl talking back to her. Losing her temper, the old woman grabbed the girl’s hair, pushed her around and threw her on the seat in the car, while other passengers watched the scuffle.

At the end of the clip, the teen girl shouted into her cell phone, “I hate Korea, dad!” and swore at the old woman. Then she noticed the person recording the scene and said: “Upload it onto YouTube.”

Eyewitnesses explained other details not included in the video. They said the student sat with her legs crossed, wearing shoes smeared with mud and it had stained the old lady’s clothes.

She asked the girl to remove her dirty shoes from the seat and the student apologized twice. The old woman continued to scold her with abusive words and the teen girl then refuted and began talking back to the old lady, when the recording of the clip started.

A netizen said the old woman habitually provokes quarrels with other subway passengers and demands younger people to give up their seats for her.

Reaction from the general public was divided into three types — some blamed the rude schoolgirl for using crude language to the older lady, while the others condemned the old woman who attacked the young student and began quarreling with her.

The third group blamed the onlookers for doing nothing. “I think the people around them just watching are also part of the problem.

They should have pulled them apart,” a netizen nicknamed Mirunamu said.

***

And now for your entertainment, the video of the incident:

***

Funnily enough I was on the train the other day, just minding my own business and listening to my ipod, when out of nowhere my arm was grabbed and I was shoved roughly out of the way by this little (as in less than boob height – and i’m 5.7″) old, bat-sh*t-crazy looking Korean woman. She proceeded to treat everyone else in her way in the same manner before getting to the end of the carriage and threatening some passengers by brandishing her stubby iron fist in the air while warbling some Korean crazy talk.

I found it amusing, if nothing else.

Happy Ch’useok~!!!

21 Sep

***

One of the most exciting parts about living in another country is experiencing its various different festivals, holidays and traditional ceremonies…

In Japan I experienced “成人の日/Seijin no Hi” – the “coming of age” day for all those who turned 20 during the previous year (particularly special as I also had turned 20 over the previous year), as well as other various summer festivals and even New Years Eve, Japanese stylee, atop a snow covered mountain…

Now I will also have the chance to experience the festivals and holidays of South Korea… But this time I am particularly excited and grateful as I will be experiencing (and celebrating) them with a native family…

***

추석/CH’USEOK

Ch’useok is a major Autumn harvest festival celebrated in Korea over the course of 3 days. During this time many Korean people return to their hometowns to be with family, to gorge on traditional foods particular to the festival, and to pray to their ancestors…

This time around, rather than go to their hometown, my Abba’s family has gathered here in Seoul to celebrate…

***

The day started like any other – I woke up at 10am to my alarm clock (and the sound of Omma’s voice calling me) and rolled out of bed to another awesome breakfast… Recently I have been feeling stuffed to the brim with food and so don’t seem to have much of an appetite… However I am also very much of the opinion that good food is bad to waste and so I happily munched my way through as much of it as I could…

After breakfast Omma asked me if I was ok to amuse myself for a few hours, while she and Abba went to Abba’s older brother’s house to have a family gathering. Of course I was cool with that and had plenty to do – study, choir singing practice, watch “Personal Preference” for the hundredth time and finish drawing a portrait of Lee Min Ho….. (^_^;;)

So, after they left, I set up camp in the living room with my laptop, textbook and notebook, drawing stuff and a large plate of PODO/포도 – Red Grapes (two large bunches to be exact).

The sky was horribly dark and rain was thundering down with a vengeance all day long (prompting me to wonder if another typhoon was coming) and as such I shut the outer windows to block out the noise of the rain and thunder. For those of you who have played “Left 4 Dead 2” you will know what I mean when I say that the view from my window looked like a scene out of “Hard Rain”…

***

Lunch consisted of homemade Kalbi (of which I have memorized the recipe), some vegetable side dish and rice. Didn’t each much again, but around an hour later I proceeded to attack the grapes – at the very least I will always eat fruit like Grapes and Watermelon…

A couple of episodes of Personal Preference, a couple more pages of my textbook finished and a bunch and a half of Podo later, I got sleepy and snoozed, sprawled out on the floor where I was parked…

Around 30 mins later I was woken up by the sound of a particularly loud crash of thunder and then the phone ringing – it was Omma asking how things were going and if I had eaten yet (which seems to be the favorite question of Korean people – much like the Brits ask about the weather). She then asked if I wanted to join them. Of course I was very happy to do so and so hurried off with a fresh cup of coffee to get ready before Omma came to pick me up…

Luckily I had anticipated this and thus had already showered, done my hair and applied most of my makeup earlier on in the day. SO (for once) I didn’t have much to do and by the time Omma got home I was ready to roll! (i’m sure those who know me well will be very shocked and won’t believe it, but it is true!!! ;p )

***

Off we went, together, to Abba’s eldest brother’s house and along the way I rehearsed what I would say as a greeting in my head so as not to freeze up like usual…

Once there, we were greeted by the whole gang – Abba’s older brother, eldest brother and their wives and children. I bowed politely, fully introduced myself and made sure to ask the family members I had met in Boseon if they were in good health. They greeted me warmly and ushered me in while praising my “good” Korean…

The women proceeded to bustle about in the kitchen and I sat down to watch TV in the living/dining area with the men – I offered to help many times but was told to just relax and take it easy…

While we waited, I talked to Abba about Korean art and made a list of things that I wanted to study while over here – 한옥/Hanok (Traditional Korean houses), 한복/Hanbok (Traditional Korean dress), 칠보/Ch’ilbo and 나전 칠기/Najeon Ch’ilgi (Korean laquerware), 청자/Ch’eongja and 백자/Paekja (Celadon and White porcelain pottery), and various other Korean specific traditional art related things…

Pretty soon a banquet of assorted Kimchi, vegetable side dishes, soup, rice and other assorted traditional food, was laid out in front of me and, once assembled, we began to eat…

I tried everything apart from the raw fish and crab and didn’t find much that I didn’t like – I even tried the grilled Alabone!!! However my favorite food on the table was 송편/Songp’yeon:

Songp’yeon is a kind of glutinous rice cake sweet with a semi-sweet/sweet filling and is muchos tasty!

Finally, after the meal we cleared up and then the family gathered again to relax and converse over masses of fruit (MORE PODO!!!! ^-^) and a sort of sweet honey ginger rice soup (will find out the name later…).

***

When it was time to go home, I made sure to thank Abba’s eldest brother’s wife by saying – 맛있게 먹어서 고맙습니다! (Thank you very much, the meal was delicious!) – then I bowed, said goodbye to everyone and left.

***

It is safe to say that today was a wonderful day and I have never felt so stuffed in my life! Let’s hope that tomorrow will be just as good…

It begins…

1 Sep

Moving to another country is never an easy feat. You are bound to stumble over many obstacles and have to climb up many hills… However, I can say with absolute certainty that it is totally worth it… and over the course of writing this blog, I will show you exactly why…

***

September 1st 2010:

Having only had around 3 hours sleep (maybe 4), I woke up to the sound of my ipod alarm clock chirping away at around 6.30am… This, of course, had been set with the intention of getting “up an’ attum” the moment it was heard…

But this is me we’re talking about… And anyone who knows me knows that that is just not feasible(-_-#)

The concept of moving ones arse does not compute, even at the best of times… So, true to form, I lazed in bed until around until the last minute, then wisely thought it best to GET THE HELL OUT OF BED!!!

Following my final departure from amongst the bed covers, I ran around like a headless chicken (no surprises there) making some last minute preparations – bathing, picking up my freshly re-heeled boots, downing a can of cherry coke for breakfast, etc. I then had about 10 minutes in which to grab all that was to be the sum of my worldly possessions over the course of the following 10 months before the taxi arrived… Fun times.

Once in the taxi with my Mother by my side and my crap in the boot, we set off for the airport… Along the way I couldn’t help but think I had left something behind… Of course, I did… But nothing important, luckily enough. (^_^;;)

After arriving at the airport, checking in my beast of a suitcase, and having a last chat (accompanied by a caramel latte) with my dear Mother, I set off through the war zone that is customs and into the magical world that is duty free. (FTW!)

I topped up on my supplies of deodorant (because Asian deodorant just doesn’t cut it) and lancome makeup (perhaps the only brand I will swear by), grabbed a toothbrush, toothpaste and a world transformer plug thingy-ma-bob, then headed over to the nearest bar, sat down with a large glass of red wine and proceeded to ponder on the journey that lay ahead of me…

Tickets - check. Passport - check. Large glass of red wine - check. ALRIGHT LETS DO THIS THANG!!!

The flight over to Dubai wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, the service (Emirates) was pretty damn awesome. A lunch consisting of a Prawn Cocktail and Lamb Curry, followed by a delish-much! Chocolate and Praline delice, was served just before half time, after which I settled down to simultaneously watch Avatar (the first half in English, then the second half in Japanese because I was bored…) and play The Sims 2 (as you do) on my laptop. Tried to sleep afterwards but for some reason felt quite dizzy and like the air was too thin – I figured later that it was probably a mixture of tiredness, excitement and some form of air sickness *nonchalant shrug*. The staff very kindly offered me some oxygen until I felt better – a little bit extreme I thought, but it seemed to do the trick and I managed to chill out enough to doze the rest of the way to Dubai…

Dubai is a very interesting airport… well… that is if you call having to walk from one side of the airport to the other in order to go through customs in order to come right back the way you came again, interesting… To be honest, I just found it perplexing, but that’s just me… And perhaps vaguely amusing – on the way to customs I saw a group of slightly mafia-esq Asian (Chinese I think, but not 100% sure..) men on the lower floor, sat on the airport floor in a circle playing cards. On the way back I walked past them again the other way on the same floor. (^_^)

With an hour to spare until my gate opened, and having passed on succumbing to the lure of Dubai airport’s duty free, I found myself thirsty… But I had no Durhams with which to buy anything… Then I remembered – Taka had left a 5 Durham note behind after visiting me from Japan and for some reason I had felt compelled to put it in my hand luggage, just in case… Turns out a bottle of coke and a packet of Rigley’s Watermelon chewing gum comes to just 4 Durhams – ftw~!

I pretty much freaked out when I saw this... My only other love, aside from Green Tea, is Watermelon... (ナイス〜!)

There was also a strange little ‘pub’ across from where I sat down to chill out – called ‘The Irish Pub”….

An 'Irish' Pub... in Dubai.... yeh....

The flight to Incheon Airport from Dubai wasn’t so great – there was a fair amount of turbulence and so I wasn’t able to sleep particularly well.. However I didn’t have any problems like on the previous flight, and the journey was made so much better by changing into my awesome paint-splattered pj bottoms

FTW!

This grand idea was inspired by Dr Cherry, who upon hearing my concerns about flying in planes (I reeeeeeeally don’t like planes~!) gave me the following advice:

Think of the likelihood of someone being in a plane crash – it is very rare, much rarer than being in a car crash… and then think of the likelihood of someone with a half-eaten ham sandwich in one back pocket, and a ping-pong ball in the other being in a plane crash – it’s pretty much unheard of, maybe a 1 in 1 billion chance… So, if you are scared about being in a plane crash, put a half-eaten ham sandwich in one back pocket and a ping-pong ball in the other!!!

Ok, so it’s not exactly a half-eaten ham sandwich kind of situation here, but the basic idea was the same… I figured the likelihood of someone wearing crazy paint-splattered pj bottoms would have less of a chance of being in a plane crash…. plus… squished-sandwich-in-back-pocket didn’t really appeal to me... (^_^;;)

The in flight breakfast was ok – Fresh Seasonal fruit accompanied by Mushroom Omelet (served with sauteed parsley potatoes and creamy spinach), a Croissant and a small portion of Kimchi (Yes, Kimchi – the Korean guy sat next to me got some so I figured I would ask for some too *nonchalant shrug*).

The ‘light meal‘ we were served towards the end of the flight was also good, but a little odd – Vegetable niçoise (Mixed vegetables tossed in olive oil, served with fresh lemon) and Orange hot bean chicken (soy flavoured chicken thigh, topped with an orange flavoured hot bean sauce, served with stir-fried pancit noodles.)…. Oh, and of course – Kimichi (again!).

In between naps I perused the in flight entertainment system some more (battery had run out on laptop and so couldn’t play the sims…) – switched between Korean pop music channels, Japanese Enka music channels, episodes of the Simpsons and episodes of Futurama…  Finally I settled on watching the Korean movie “Harmony” (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED):

This movie had me in flood of tears – luckily the lights were dimmed during the time I watched it so I don’t think anyone saw… However (amusingly) the Korean man sat next to me was watching the same thing and was roughly up to the same part as I was but remained totally stone faced. (^_^;;)

Then, finally (an hour before scheduled arrival) we started the descent towards Incheon airport and touched down with a reasonable landing about 15-30 minutes later than expected…

Thus my grand journey came to an end, and my adventures in South Korea began…