Monday, February 22, 2010

3rd anniversary

Light travels faster than sound at a speed of – miles per hour. But I think time runs faster than both. To those who consider time precious than money, I think memories is the best wealth. To record our life to treasure these memories is really a great pleasure.

As I said, time is running faster than the speed of light, I think we couldn’t believe that its our third anniversary already. Though we didn’t want to make it a celebration, also being it on a Sunday, it was holiday for the usual protocol and the day started sluggishly.

The only plan for the day was to watch a play organized by one of my ex-colleagues, in the museum theatre. There were two shows- at 3 15 and then 7 15pm. So we planned to attend the 3 15 show. Our lunch was at Vestin park, near the venue of the play. We were in a dilemma until we reached the venue whether we really wanted to attend the play or not. but we had no clue about what was in store for us.

The world is coming to an end in 2012. But fear not, for we have “Heroes – An epic spoof” – A pantomime by ASAP. Was the sms I received as an invitation to the show. Cream bun Azhagan was the opener who was in a mission with the Fairy god mother to appoint heroes who will search the lost time machine and help the world from not ending. The superheroes were of,course the Superman, Harry potter, James bond, and our own Shaktiman. To add spices were the little ring hood, snow white, Cinderella, and …………. It was a fun filled show and totally enjoyable.

Around 6 the show got over and we were returning home. We were not taking the regular route and to my surprise I read the board Amethyst. It was a long time wish to visit the place and it was happening that day. The place was awesome, no wonder why big shots visit the place very often. I read about it for the first time in Chetan’s “2 states”.

Well how better can you celebrate your anniversary!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Back Home!!

Have u ever felt a smallest/modest set of 2 idlis or the worst cooked rice to be precious than anything you hold on earth?

Well, I Did, for I’m seeing an idli or sambar after 75 long days of kimchis, Octopuses, raw fish and (“fermented- sour-tasteless-raw-something-something”)

But all said and done, let me summarise my Seoul trip as lucidly as I can.

Best experiences
Ofcourse, my first international flight travel. My traveling alone, though was quite anxious n tensed, it was The experience. Travelling around 3000 kms away from your home, alone, for a period of Long 75 days, to a place where you know nobody or just people whom you know through e-mails. And to your surprise you will find a Japanese sitting next to you in the flight, who then impresses you by speaking to you in Tamil and then gives u an enjoyable time during the transit 3 hrs before boarding the next flight from Hong kong to Incheon airport in Seoul.

Well, I have given enough account of my first flight experience. And, also my first month updates..

Moving on to my days during November 2009. I got my first blow, when my laptop got damaged. Without it, I couldn’t talk to my own people, but it in a way helped me bond with my labmates. I didn’t have a way but to be in lab and use the lab computer. And this helped me work longer as well as spend some time with my labmates. And I learnt that to win somebody’s heart we need to give them our time..Scrabble
Well, I think this blog remains incomplete without mentioning this Scrabble experience. I was to meet Murli Mam( The angel I reffered in one of my blogs!!) for the evening. I made it around 7am and she served me some Indian foods, it was her B’day the day before I met her. She made my tummy full and then we sat for the game.

It was my first time ever to play the Word game. She assured me that I would love the game since I had a flair for learning languages. I learnt the rules from her and she gave me suggestions for several moves. We referred to the Scrabble dictionary and word collection pamphlets to continue the game. She was sharing with me that she met with an accident when she was in US and how she started playing this game then. And later how she made a big team joining her to play together.

It’s a learn and play game. She gave me enough time for my moves since I was a first timer and she helped me win the game. It boosted me to go for another round, but for shortage of time. I promised her I would buy this game in Chennai and start playing with Lenin.

The find of the month was ofcourse, Lekha. She worked in my neighboring lab under another Prof. We used to see each other everyday since we shared the same floor. But we never talked. She had heard that I was a post doctoral fellow from India and I was much senior to her. And I assumed that she was from North India, and they don’t like South Indians. So I better stay away. Later, we were introduced to eachother by Inas, my labmate from Jordan, who is always open to help anybody anytime. To our surprise, It was just a starting trouble may be and we quickly became close.

She started visiting my Room for a tete-tete and we shared some time together almost daily. Then we planned to visit the Seoul Tower ..

Itaewon and Seoul tower

I introduced Saji to Lekha in SNU of education station on that day. We visited Itaewon, a shopping hub, where we can get Indians stuffs from a Foreign food mart. Lekha’s jaws were down throughout finding the Lijjat Pappad and maggi noodles. We bought enough frozen parattas for the week and were hungry enough for a kebab. We visited the Mr.Kebab shop to try the Turkish Kebab. It was fun through out the day and we never missed a single clickable shot.

We reached the destination of the day- Namsan Seoul tower around 4pm.(Namsan??.....) We had to take a cable car to reach the tower or walk the ………until top. There’s a teddy bear museum which exhibits the Korean tradition and culture. Then a lift took us to the top of the tower from where we could see the city of lights. It turned out to be a foggy day and hence we couldn’t see much. There were telescopes available every 100 m, which works by putting the coins for 5mins.

We three musketeers finally had our first trip completed. Several other destinations on pipeline, esp. the Han River including a cruise, and 63 building- of,course watching a movie there in Imax theatre(??) ..

Poor Saji- he was our photographer (who by now has turned professional indeed) and our luggage man..He was relieved in SNU of education st. and Lekha had HER day!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Countdown...

I didn’t know that the following days were going to become so hectic. Since I was left with only 45 days more, I had to really struggle and work hard to bring back at least some data. So I stayed in the lab throughout the night ..burning my midnight oil..I was in continuous working mode 24x7..I’d leave the lab around 3-4 am and come back by 9 am. My tour plans all were stopped abruptly. I started enjoying the delight in seeing some good results.

Our lab was to organise an International conference in Nutrition and Physical activity in Ageing, obesity and cancer (NAPA).. The whole lab was supposed to attend the program in another island of South korea called Jeju. It is supposed to be a dream place not only for the foreigners but for the natives, too. I took a challenge of presenting my work as a poster in this conference. Therefore, I had to double my efforts for the same. With the help extended by my friends there, I first succeeded in my abstract submission. Then, the whole pressure was on me to get a poster done by myself, in 14 days.

Meanwhile I got the shock of my life, when I learnt that Lenin was facing some problems in getting his visa. All these days I had dreamt (rather, determined) that he was coming to take me home, after having some enjoyable time together. I even personally requested to the Lady of the korean Embassy in India for the same. But all in vain…

I stopped visiting places, stopped meeting my friends there.. In fact, I had time only to work for my poster presentation. Finally, we were all ready with our posters printed and all set to attend the conference.

We were to take a domestic flight to the Jeju Island and stay there for 4 days (Dec 12-15) My return flight was on the 16th Dec. Only the chosen ones were to attend the conference. So I was to bid them officially on Dec 11th.

On that day, I was running around as usual, making corrections finally, before printing the poster. I saw people opening a cake (probably for celebrating somebody’s B’day, I guessed). To my surprise, later the lab chief informed me that it was for my farewell and I joined them. Almost all my lab members were available that day and the group looked a crowd. It was embarrassing when they asked me to say some words before cutting the cake. I thanked them for their sincere support and the help they extended to me. They impressed me by presenting a nice gift to me and a tasty sweet potato cake from the Twosome place (a truly awesome place to buy cakes, though quite expensive!).

I was to meet the BK friends for dinner and bid them too. So we - Lekha and myself, joined Room 502 around 9pm. Kesavan and Sampath were there. Hari and Suresh (the real owners of the room) were yet to return from the lab. All of them are pursuing PhD in the College of Agriculture, SNU. Well, about Kesavan, a simple guy from Madurai, who has very humble contacts like Shriya Saran, Nayanthara and others on the Facebook. He is very active and ready to extend help to anyone anytime. Sampath, his own cousin, is always over phone. Yes!, he’s going to get married soon. He tries to impress us with his cooking skills. A new dish everyday, whatever his would-be tells him to do. To be frank he cooks better than me..Hahaha

After a long wait, they arrived, imagining we would have prepared the dinner. They started to cook as soon as they entered. Puri , aloo masala, rice and rasam was the menu. Prabhu, a Post doc from IIT, madras, also joined us. Lekha was wonder-struck to find such an active group, who made us laugh throughout the time..Well, time is something which we forget when we are there. It was already past 11 when we started having food. We had a very hearty dinner. They flattered me by gifting me a farewell present. It was a beautiful thermal-mug with the logo of the university. Lekha joined them in gifting me another beautiful ceramic mug. Around 2 am we left them for the day. They invited me to join them for a dinner on the 15th Dec, if I return from Jeju little early.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Chilling Date with One HANsome...

November 11..

Its 11.11..Pepero Day

Pepero Day is an observance here similar to Valentine's Day. It is named after the Korean snack Pepero and held on November 11, since the date "11/11" resembles four sticks of Pepero!!!!

The day started with exchanging lot of choco sticks, the pepero!! Company guys came to see us with packets of pepero.

Without knowing this, I had a plan to visit the HAN River today, since I would finish my experiment early and Saji is also bit free today.

So by 5pm, I started for Sincheon station, the nearest station to our destination, some 40 min from seoul, where Saji'd be waiting for me. And there was a small confusion-cum-risk, of me getting lost in Sincheon and being unable to find Saji. But we found each other with ease (rather, he found me!) and started towards exit 7, from where the Han was within walkable distance. As soon as we came out of the station, we realised that the Korean winter has arrived. Already.

The darkness at 6pm was as though it were some 8pm and the wind was also blowing terribly cold. Luckily, Saji offered me his gloves, the one he uses to ride the cycle from his lab to home and back. We started walking towards the Han assuming we were taking the right direction.

After a long walk, we found a nice walkway. We also noticed the horizon was lined with lights..Indeed a city of lights!! Korea Sparkling..

Braving the spine-chilling wind, we managed to walk. Lots of people were having their usual walk along the sides of the Han. The cycle riders were happily riding and having fun..The Han was indeed hansome..Amidst the city and yet there is so much space for the people to walk and have recreation..(well, this is a pleasant surprise for somebody hailing from the civilisation that knows and shops at the Ranganathan Street!) We walked and walked... trying to capture something in the camera.It was too dark and hence difficult for the cameraperson (who else? saji!!). Am yet to check the snaps..Shall try to upload soon.

We then decided to walk back to the station and find some place to dine. Near the subway station we felt as though all roads lead to Rome!! We stepped towards where our legs took us to..To our surprise we found a street full of resta,urants..Hurray our enzymes were stirred by the aroma of the food. Saji wanted to introduce a new food to me. Searching that food, we settled in a resturant.

Kimchi Chigae -Kimchi Stew With Pork

Kimchi represents Korea's best known food. Koreans serve kimchi at almost every meal. It is any one of numerous traditional Korean pickled dishes made of vegetables with varied seasonings. Its most common manifestation is the spicy baechu (cabbage) variety. Malayaalattil paranjal pulicha cabbage!!

We were served with a hot pan of kimchi in the center of the table with the flames switched on. The kind lady who served us, requested to select the vegetables from the buffet arranged in the table near us. We went and picked up slices of pork, sprouts, garlic, vegetables, noodles (called as Ramiyon) and then korean rice.

We put all the ingredients into the Kimchi and it was boiling right in front of us. Saji served me from the pan and I started gobbling it out of hunger. Fotos will speak more, so wait for me until I upload them.

We reached the station around 9 and we had a chocolate, giving a finishing touch to the kimchi dinner..

Our next plan is Seoul Tower.. Coming Soon..

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Oct 29

I would like to inform you all that the titles of my posts are contributed by my hubby. He offered to sponsor me titles because I'm just a beginner and he wants to boost me up and promote my skills as always.

And to those who don't know MY Lenin..

Lenin is not just unique, he IS Unique.
Lenin is a not just a feel good person, but he is a feel BEST person.

From the day I know him, he is the same with the "never say die" attitude. He is really genuine and he accepts people for what they are.

About love, his philosophy is ,"If you love something set it free; if it comes back to you its yours,if it doesn't it never meant to be"

I can assure you he will be your best friend for he accepts that, "A Friend is someone who knows all about you but still loves you"

He is too good, doesn't mean that you can take him for granted, for you will be unnerved.

He believes "Practice rather than preach".

Its really difficult to write about Lenin for he is so simple.

Well I can only say that I'm who I am because of him and words are scarce to write about my Lenin.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who said angels can't be professors?

Oct 25 09

Today I met somebody who will prove to be a real value addition to me. She is different from others - she has a character unlikely of Indian women, of her age and her times.

I met her first on the Diwali function that was organized here. She was the only representative in our traditional wear, saree. You would fall for her at the first sight - she’s so charming! I was not in good form that day and could not catch up with her. Luck was late by 48 hours - I saw her at my bus station two days later and spoke to her for the first time. She introduced herself as a professor in the Department of Social Welfare and she invited me to her home. I could make it to her home only today and the conversation was enlightening, indeed.

Her home is simply beautiful and cozy. Its contemporary yet has the traditional touches of wooden ceiling and walls. Rooms are quite big, with French windows. she told me she enjoyed the view from almost all the rooms and the place is perfectly picturesque. I was surprised even the dustbins in her home are so beautiful, much better than the hand bag I use.

To start with I explained to her the purpose of my visit and how I'm spending my time here (well ,there is a cognitive difference between the former n later aspects:-)). She also went ahead telling about her contract here for up to 5yrs extendable period as Professor. She did her PhD in USA and then returned to India (with genuine patriotism) and served in Tata Institute for social sciences. Her work nature demands her to travel very often and she did enjoy that. Last two years she has been in Singapore and later felt a void and she came through the interview here and decided to try korea before retiring in another 4 years.

We had concurrent thoughts on several observations about Korea. We felt that the Koreans had a monoculture and hence were much closed and are shy naturally. Like India and other countries they are also in the the race of catching up US culture. Technologically they are far ahead than India (Internet usage in korea is world No: 01, as approved by Nielsen’s recent research,; My friend BP, working in Nielsen will also approve this, hopefully!!), while in speaking English they are quite behind the pars and thus reluctant to talk to foreigners. All the Koreans are so alike with same skin colour, same hair style- mostly straight and short, same preferences and I even noticed they all wear the same brand of lab slippers!

Regarding the Diwali function in SNU, she told me even though she was treated cordially and shown good care, she too felt something was missing in terms of the organising and execution of the programmes. I told her that I was not prepared for the north Indian crowd, since I expected to see more South Indian people. I was eagerly telling her how I was agitated that day - The moment we entered the celebration hall, they greeted us by saying Anyeong Haseyo (welcome/hello) (when they could have used Pranam or Namskar or atleast welcome in English) and after registration, Kamsameidha (Thank you). And I was totally frantic because even after watching the koreans, we are not keen to promote our culture. What is the need of korean greetings in an Indian gathering, that too in a 99% Indian gathering?

It was already 9pm and she was late by 2hrs for food. As I asked her if she strained too much bcoz I was coming, she assured me that her husband had prepared all dishes and kept them in the fridge for her to use. She had just made some rice, took some alooparatta and started heating.

We had a hearty dinner. The dishes prepared by her husband were really tasty – the Cholay- Bengal gram gravy and aloo-gobi sabji.

We also found that both of us have experienced the same shock of answering our age to Koreans during the very first week of our visit. Koreans try to find your age at the very first meet. By knowing our age they would decide the language they'd have to use to communicate with us. The korean language like Indian languages (unlike the English language- where you can use YOU to your son and your professor) has different usage of words for communicating to children, to men of same age and to the men elder to them.

Not to stop with that, they will add another year to whatever age we say. Because here the born babe is considered to be an year old. So your days are counted from the time you are in the womb of your mother!!

We noted that like in India, in Korea too, men are superior to women according to the tradition. Girls speak to boys with respectful words, but men can respond in a less respectful language without offending. Koreans respect each other even if there’s a single day difference in their ages, but they don’t treat the foreigners equally. But Madam had an interesting experience at this point, when she was in the US doing her PhD, her close friend was a Korean, and even in Singapore she had a good Korean friend. So I believe it'd be unfair to brand the country as a whole foreigner-unfriendly one (This point is to be noted by my friend Saji, who always likes to have a detachment with korea).

The spoken language here is interesting and I observed that it takes several troughs with “ng”, ‘gw’ used commonly like in the words “An eong” and Nak Se’ong’ dae, ‘Gw’anak.

Even though the government wishes to spend more on international collaborations and wants to portray itself as more foreigner-friendly nation and pays you pockets-ful, the salary slips are still in Korean. The computer is in Korean. You can’t guess the food products, they will be named in Korean, you can’t ask them even-people can’t respond to you in english. I felt very bad initially and found alienated. But then coming over, gradually. I was assuming that because its Korea, this is happening.

But to my surprise, Mam said even in the USA she felt the same - That you are alienated. Its not your inner goodness or how you get along well with others that is valued in US, but how good you can be on your own, how you can live independent of others that will help you out really. It’s a lesson indeed for me as well.

Signing off with a poem that inspired me recently:

Earth and sky
Night and sound
Dark and light
Summer and Winter
One alone is not enough
You need both together
Lesson Number one!.. Courtesy: Song from the animation movie MULAN II

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breaking the fast

Oct 25

After my 22hrs fasting, I had my fill today. I had to go to bed early in the eve yesterday around 7pm because of severe headache. Since I didnt want to go out today, i didnt rise even though the sun had shifted to overhead position.

To improve my Deshaadanom, I got Registered in korea sparkling site today. In the evening, got to meet Prof. Murli desai at her residence. She is working in Department of Social Sciences,SNU.

Getting ready to lab now.