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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The thought-"porking" food experience!

Oct 22 09

Oct 24th, This Saturday is Joydeb Sir’s son, Jyothy’s birthday. The little boy who is so fond of the cartoon series “Thomas and his friends” and has also infact made me a fan of Thomas too. So I’m planning to buy him a T-shirt with Thomas’s picture, or a game or something to present him. As usual I sought my friend Hassan’s guidance to know the shop. He suggested E-mart, especially the one in ‘Guro digital complex’ subway station. And then I checked Saji’s availability to join me on Friday evening to accompany me to the place.

But there are two issues right now:

• I have not yet received my last weeks fellowship even. So I’m out of wons now. Need to convert dollars or INR to won. But I believe I’ll be getting it before Friday.

• Its Friday, and we have lab meeting. So I don’t know if I’ll make it to Emart.

So I told Saji to wait for my information till Friday eve and we’ll make it only if possible, since he too had some tasks to be completed.

Oct 23 09

The lab meeting was to start by 11am and I thought after 4 pm I will be free to leave for shopping. But after reaching lab I came to know that the meeting was postponed to 2pm. It means it will end by 5 pm and I can leave only around 6pm. Anyway I updated this to Saji also.

My cells are growing slowly so I have no jobs left in the lab. But time passes away very quickly. At 2pm the lab meeting got postponed to 3pm and when it started finally it was in Korean. Only Joydeb Sir had made an English lecture.

At last around 7 pm I met Saji in Nakseongdae and we took line 2 towards Sindorim to reach Guro Digital complex subway station. After reaching there we were somewhat lost, but we could make it to the place without much difficulty. The Emart was in 3 floors and I checked several things to find out that this place is also like other malls I visited- Only to see and not to buy.

The kids section had several cute garments and many many things(As used by Lijia- the Chinese friend, she keeps using this term “Many many zings”- she uses ‘Z’ in place of ‘T’, for 3 she would say Zree. Oh my god, I squeeze my head many many times when I talk to her to figure out what she’s saying). Anyway, I put Saji in real trouble eye-ing the ‘Zhings’, sorry ‘things’ than buying.

I found some good t -shirts of his size, toys, games, colour pencil sets, Thomas and his friends kitty and all. Finally, I found a base ball and a defender set and I remembered Jyothi likes to play baseball. And both of us settled on that one.

The Pork Food Experience

It was past 8pm already and we were hungry. Chicken is available in limited shops only. Moreover to get the real Korean food experience, we should be ready to eat pork. Saji wanted me to experience it, but was quite not sure if it will be a real treat or some treatment. Anyway we entered a restaurant there.

We need to first remove our shoes and place it in the rack. Then they made us sit, Korean traditional style is similar to ours, sit in the floor. We sat opposite to eachother and between us in the table was a big Turtle shaped pan. They switched on the regulator on the side and in a while I felt the turtle generating heat.

The food is some kind of sizzler. They will arrange 6 pieces of pork on the turtle pan, some mushrooms, kimchi(fermented cabbage), and some garlic. They provided chop sticks and spoons along with other side dishes-
Onion sliced in some brown horrible liquid,
Salt- its liquid brown coloured traditional salt,
Some sprouts which are edible
Some cold raddish in sugar syrup and the most important of all
Lettuce and some other leaves in a cane basket.

All was served and garnished well. So that’s the dinner, now its upto you to cook and mix whatever u feel.

After some time they came and using a scissor and forceps, cut the pork into small pieces and inverted them, to cook both sides and served Coke as compliment.

Saji gave a demo of how to eat this food. First he took a raw lettuce leaf; put one piece of pork, some veggies, garlic and wrap with another lettuce. That’s all. He handed over that to me to start with and told me it’s also a way of thanks giving in korea. We can offer to give this way to impress our professor.

This experience costed 18,000 won.

Technical details:
The food we ate is a very popular one in korea and is called "SAMGYEOPSAL" means three layered meat, "three (sam; 삼) layered (gyeop; 겹) meat (sal;살)," of course hinting at the three layers that are visible in the meat.Commonly served as an evening meal, it consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). The meat is not marinated or seasoned, and cooked on a grill at the diners' table. Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill.

In Seoul - Series1

Oct 10 09

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship-

After a week of routine lab work and small surprises like Inaas, a friend from Jordan who’s kind enough to always come to help me and host me to places where I can get my amenities and all, and the Tamil guys always in front to guarantee rib tickling times.

Today is Saturday and its weekend spree in Seoul.

I learnt after reaching lab that it is off from 12:00 noon on Saturdays and I already could find only few heads in the Institution. I had some tasks to be completed and Inaas helped me in that. I prepared my medium for growing cells.

Around 04:00pm Sajeesh was to meet me in my place and he made it. To my surprise he told me that he was planning to take me to a Buddha temple and I had to take a subway train to reach there. Also, as promised, he was kind enough to bring me the head set to enable Gtalk and the travel card (T card) for my use in bus and metro.

I was already overwhelmed and excited. And we started our trip around 5pm. He kept assuring me to have a low expectation level about our destination, saying that its an old Buddha temple and nothing more to add-on. I reminded him that I need to see places no matter how rich or simple.

Buddha temple- Bongeunsa

We took Bus No:02 to Nakseongdae (the nearest subway station to and from SNU) and headed to Samseong station almost 20 mins from the Nakseondae. We took the green line passing Sadang, SNU education, and Seolleung. At Samseong station we need to go towards the direction of Coex Mall which is towards the left from the exit gate (where u swipe your T card to deduce the travel charge). We reached out of the subway station to find the trade centre building and many others with well landscaped footpath for the Walkers. We had enough time to wander around the KOEX (Korea Exhibition) centre with its massive shopping malls and the 16 screen multiplex. There were beautiful dahlias all prune to grow in same height and many other flowers. Then we took a left towards the Intercontinental building. And from here we can find the Buddha temple to our right on the other side of the road.

Some interesting details so far:

1. When I was to cross the road to a bus station, Sajeesh reminded me of the Zebra crossing and the signal for people to cross the road. It’s often our tendency to cross the road whenever we don’t find vehicles on the road, even though there is a zebra crossing just 50m in front of you. But from now on I should make sure that I follow the traffic rules.

2. When we are awaiting in the station to board a subway train, he pointed me the green foot prints on the floor and were passengers are to wait giving way for the passengers who alight (as shown in the picture below). Interesting!!

So, with this happy learning, we were in the Buddha temple- Bongeunsa

It’s a very old Buddha temple with many Buddha statues in various sizes. People lit candles and burned incense sticks after praying inside the very holy temple. The massive statue of Buddha, the temple architecture, the antiquity and the fabulous surroundings indeed made it a worthy place.

We observed the kids offering prayers by building stones one above the other. Buddhists stack the stones in small towers while saying a prayer and it
is believed that our hopes will come true if you do this. So a lot of places you go in korea we will see stones stacked in little towers.

That was the end of the day and we were walking back to the subway. I found the McD and Sajeesh treated me with Burger and a drink. We had a long chat for a while. Then tried to take a different way to station and got lost. It was only for us to witness a light, water and music show in front of the Trade centre building. It was really worth the lost. And delighted we reached home. He got me home safely and returned.

Oct 11 09

Today we are planning to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace, please visit this site to know about the place and share the pictures, since I didn’t click any snaps.

The trip was planned post lunch, so we met in Nakseongdae station (I can confidently reach the nearest subway station on my own now) and took a train to SNU of education and changed to orange line towards Express bus terminal. Our destination Gyeongbokgung was some 9 stations away. It was clear from the website that we need to take exit gate 5 and walk 5 min to reach the palace.

With this info we found the exit 5 and were surprised to see that from the station itself they have made it a palace way till we reach the palace. The place has also got more values- the National museum of korea and the National folk museum of korea is situated here.

First we found the National museum of korea on our left. And the palace to our right. Lots of people were gathered infront of the palace as though some event was to begin. I suddenly remembered my reading about the ceremonial opening and closing of the palace gate. And yes. We rightly arrived to witness the ceremony. Wow. As you see in picture below, the ceremony lasted for few minutes with English and Korean voice over with their traditional music around.

It was around 3 pm already and we visited the National museum first. It was well maintained and had lot of collections. Then we had only 2 hrs since the palace closes by 05:30 to 6pm. So we rushed and then Saji remembered he has already visited the place. So he guided me throughout explaining the peculiarity of the places. It was a huge place with lots of pagoda shaped buildings in one campus. Literally we were running to complete the show.

The Folk museum situated insude the palace was also well maintained. There was a doll exhibition inside it, with lot of cute dolls and we got confused literally finding it difficult to differentiate between the dolls and the live dolls (Korean girls I mean..).

I was damn hungry by now. We thought since we had some more time we can explore one more place today. So from the metro map guide we had 2 options- Seoul tower and Cheong gye cheon. Our strategy was to visit a place which is in the same line- Orange line of metro, in which we are now there and both these places were just 2 stations away. After 5 pm is indeed the right time to visit the Tower and Saji already has some experience being there. But we had no clues about the second place. Naturally we chose the latter, So that we can have some real fun finding a new place or atleast doing a mistake correctly.

Again visit this site to know the place and find the pictures.

The place is basically to walk and spend a peaceful eve around the river and get refreshed.

So we took the orange line- towards Anguk , then Jongno3 sam ga and our destination Eulirgo3 sam ga station. We had to take exit 1 or 2 as mentioned in metro map. We reached outside to find ourselves in some place were we have no clues to move in which direction to (since we were not prepared for this place and hence we didn’t browse and find the exact route). To our luck one nice gentle man directed us correctly and showed us the way. The place is in the road between the exit gate 1 and 2, towards right when you are from the exit 1, walk towards exit 2 and take the right. Any body can direct you since its very close to the station.

We found the whole shops in the road were closed for Sunday and my stomach was burning. We walked and found the place to be a small stream in between the hustle of the city with well maintained walkways and some peacefulness. We walked and walked in search of some food. The hotels that were open were full of drunkards and others vendors on road. I was reday to try the street hawkers but Saji resisted saying he doesn’t have any idea what to have from there. Then we found some hotels but chicken was not available- only fish and pork. Around 7:30 we settled in a hotel. After deciding the menu we found that those foods are not available but some other chicken based dishes are available.

After some time a full Chicken was infront of us, Sizzling in a pool of rice water. It was white in colour. Its speciality is that the chicken is stuffed with rice and a traditional medicine ginsely or so. The dish was edible and tasty. Then another fish from the oven arrived all in red, tandoori kind with salad. Saji guided me the etiquette and we had tummy full.

Though the food was incomplete without lemonade, we were happy, for I could have a Korean food in a Korean way. It was eight and we thought of taking a walk again in the Cheong gye cheon before leaving home. So we took the steps down and reached the walkway. At this time the place looked entirely different and interesting, than what we saw around 6:00 though the people were more now. We started taking a walk and after few meters we found a water fall there on the other side. It was possible to cross the river after every few metres, through some rugged rocks in place in the water to cross the river and go to the other side. It’s present every 100 meters and is safe and exciting to cross the river like that. We thought of walking further and then return. To our surprise we found a big water fall in front of us now. We moved near it. And found we can walk up. On top we discovered that it was the starting point of the river. It’s an artificial river and they were pumping water from some where.

Just imagine a waterfall and a stream with walkways on both sides, in the middle of the road, in a city, so busy. This is Cheong gye cheon.

The place was really irresistible and both of us wanted to be there for some more time. But for the time.. It was already 8:30 now and we need to get back, back to routine from tomorrow.

So we walked to the station, took a train to SNU of education and from there green line towards Sadang. And he dropped me at Nakseongdae and left. I took the exit 4, reached the bus station and returned home safely with loads of pictures clicked in my mind.

Trip Diary

THE JIST: Sep30, 23:30hrs - 0ct01, 22:00 hrs

I have reached Seoul safely. The flight journey was a real experience, indeed. And a chauffeur from the Seoul National University picked me up from the airport and safely dropped me at the Faculty Guest House, SNU.


At 23:30 hrs (11:30 pm) Sep 30 2009
I reached the Anna International Airport, Chennai. I was all set for the trip. I had a check in baggage 23 kg, cabin baggage 7-8 kg, one back pack 3-4 kgs, and a 2.5 kg jacket on me. (yes, I literally wore it up, so that it doesn’t get weighed!!)
Lenin told me that he might not be able to come inside the airport, still took a Rs.60 ticket (they have started allowing visitors recently, it seems) and got in. He gave the whole baggage in the trolley to me and asked me to manage it myself. A small wave of fear, anxiety, and excitement swept through me.
I moved forward to check in. I got the baggage weighed n got the boarding pass. Then I had only 2 bags in my hand and felt better. Then I moved in the direction of the passenger crowd. Lenin was not seen now. I had crossed one level. Then, I moved up the escalator to the security check upstairs and I had to wait for the announcement of the gate No: to my flight CX632, bound for Hong Kong.


Mobile was allowed in this zone. So from 01:30 am to 02:30 I was over phone with Lenin. By 02:00 my gate was announced, it was near where I was waiting. Then, I showed them my boarding pass and walked inside the tunnel way to the flight . My expected arrival at Hong-kong was 10:55 am. To my surprise, the economy class was very economical in size. Too congested seats. I had booked a window seat, just above the right wing. Through the window I felt as though the wing was touching the horizon. I kept the bags in the cupboards lined above and squeezed into my seat. After some time a Japanese sat near me.

The flight was about to take off. Seat belts were fastened. The pilot introduced him and wished us a good journey. Slowly, the flight was accelerating. It took an U-turn towards the run-way and its speed was slowly increasing… 20 mph.. 100 mph.. 300.. and I can see in the screen in front of me showing around 1200mph when it just took off…It was the most wonderful experience in the flight when it took off. The whole city was lighted up. And my flight took a right turn when I saw its wing bending as though it were about to hit a building top and it was sweeping off one part of Chennai. Then the altitude increased and I could see nothing.

Hurray! The little girl from Kazhakuttam who once wondered whether we need Passport to Goa is now on an international flight to Korea, all alone!!

Inside Cathay Pacific, the not-so-attractive airhostess then served sandwich and orange juice. The Japanese guy near me didn’t have food. He was busy watching some show in his screen. I had the food n slept.


Morning I woke up to see puffs of white and blue patches. Oh! The clouds! Then, I started meddling with the remote. The Japanese helped me to put on jungle book on my screen. Incidentally, I could identify myself with the Moughly who came to civilization and felt out of place! Soon, breakfast was served. A slice of chukka bread, some fruits and tea. I then checked the toilet there. It was cozy. I walked for some time to relax my cramped legs and returned to my seat. Now the Japanese was in a conversational mood and he introduced him as keith tsukada. He asked me if I’m a tamilian. He then said in tamil that he knows tamil well and is proud to speak the language. Wow! He’s an advocate in IPR. He said his mom was from kumbokonam. From Hong-kong he was to head for Tokyo and me to Seoul. The Hongkong Airport has a small history which he explained. It was the scariest n dangerous one of all the airports, courtesy the bustling city’s skyscrapers. They posed a serious threat to the flights touching down at the city’s airport. Now, they have constructed a new airport in an Island, just outside the city. He was true, I could see the airport shimmering in the morning sun at around 11am - It is isolated but constructed brilliantly. He also told that the people in this airport aren’t pleasant to deal with. All speak rudely.

With this introduction coming to a halt along with our flight that touched down on Chinese soil, he then helped me find my connection flight. Without noticing that the boarding pass for my next flight CX418 was issued to me in the Chennai airport itself, we moved forward for immigration and security check again. I got one more boarding pass and then found the gate no: was not yet announced. I told him I needed to communicate to my family and so wanted to use some free internet available in the airport. We walked right and left and could not find any free ones. All were occupied. There are wifi zones, but my lappy is useless without power, and no plugs were available. Finally, I told him i will buy some thing to drink and use the 30 min internet compliment.(this is another option to communicate in the air port). I got a sprite for 3$(120 rs, 500ml) and got the system password. I immediately sent mails to Balu Sir and Lenin. Luckily, as planned, Lenin was online and we had a chat. At the end of 30 min, it automatically got cut.

Now I knew my gate no: and Keith said he’ll be with me till I board safely around 02:20 pm, his flight was after mine, at 03:00 pm. He gave me his card and said his name is Kamal in India. As we were talking, we noticed a granny managing her saree in the airport. Kamal observed that she resembles his mother.. He was going on with his story... His mom had died of cancer… His father remarried… His tamil passion and all… in Tamil. It was really nice to hear. After sometime, I saw the granny walking confused, about to cry. I asked Kamal to help her. He said “you go n help, she may be scared to see me”. I rushed to the granny and chose to help her. She immediately grabbed my hand tightly asking me If I can help (we didn’t understand our languages, we only communicated with eyes). I remembered where she was managing her saree. I walked her there. Her husband asked me in Eng, “Oh was she lost from the toilet?? I told her not to go. Anyway, thanks”. Granny was still in shock n I left. Kamal continued his story. I gave him a sweet that my mom had made. He called it neyyurundai (ghee –ball ). He shud be really strong in tamil to name this dish. At that time, a north Indian aunty in salwar came smiling and asked me where to wait till the next flight arrives. She was to go to Auckland and the flight was at 8 pm- almost 6hrs transit. Since hers was economy class, she had no other go but to roam. Only business class people can enjoy the waiting lounge. I shared the neyyurundai with her too and she left, after sometime. Well, My mom’s fame reached Hong Kong!!! My boarding time was announced and Kamal saw me off. I thanked him and joined my que to board the Cathay Pacific to Seoul. To my bad luck, we all stood there in queue for almost an hour’s time. The flight had some technical snags, and we were made to wait. Around 03:00 PM, we were in the flight and it took off.

A doll (well, a girl) was sitting next to me and a Chinese guy was after her in the three seater row in CX 418. I was in the window seat. I was dog tired and sleep came, mercifully. Around 05:00 PM, orange juice and bun were served. Then, some veg food. it was horrible. I watched TV for some time and then around 07:00 pm we landed. This time, it was Seoul and the city that hosted Olympics ‘88 was looking beautiful from some 1000m altitude.

The flight was jam packed and it took me some time to take my luggage and move out. I was anxious about the person who shud have come to receive me. The flight was late by an hour and what if he didn’t wait and what if I missed him?? I followed the alighting crowd and we were waiting for a train. It was like our Delhi Metro, and it took us to the main building of the Incheon International Airport, Seoul. I stepped into the metro and after immigration, I collected my check-in bag. I found it relatively easily, as I was sort of worried about how to identify it among the heaps of baggages that came flowing on the luggage conveyer. I hurriedly took a trolley n rushed to gate. There were lots of people awaiting there respective passengers, and the third person in the line was holding a placard that read “Shantha Raji”. I gave out a sigh of relief and he gave me a bottle of water. He also took over the trolley from me.

We reached the parking and his car was very cozy and spacious. He was wearing a suit and looked tip top. I was wonderstruck to see the roads and it would take one hour to reach the university. Meanwhile, my mam, Dr.Na, under Dr.Surh, spoke to me over the driver’s phone. She informed somebody will take me to the lab only on Monday, as the country was busy celebrating its Thanks Giving festival. It meant that for the next three days I would be doing nothing. As the car sped on the butter-paved roads, I was tired and slept.

My chauffer gently woke me up at the destination, the faculty guest house, SNU. I thanked him profusely for the kindness he showed. He literally handed over me to the receptionist there. It was only later I came to know that in Korea there are no drivers, all are professionals working part-time as drivers.

The receptionsit gave me the key for my room 2121 in the Hoam Faculty House. It was looking like a 5 star hotel. Then another security person took me to my room. The guest house is a testimony of the hi-tech society that Korea is. The building door opens only after I show my key to the electronic detector. The glass door slided out and we got in.

My room is in the first floor. It is fully furnished and cozy. It has a gas stove, washing machine, microwave oven, refrigerator, internet facility and television. But no utensil to cook and no drinking water.

Wifi was there but I could not connect to it. So I went to the reception and I used the Internet facility there. Sent mails to Sir and Lenin. Again Lenin was online, so I cud chat with him. I was tired and told him I’ll explain the travel and arrival part tomo. After returning to my room, I went crazy and made ISD from there and talked to lenin. Dinner was not available and I was asked to go to some restaurant outside. I opted against it and went to bed. At 10:45 PM, I got a call. The person who spoke to me introduced himself as Dr.Kundu and greeted. He’s a faculty in Dr. Surh’s lab, the one in which I’d be working. When he came to know that I didn’t have dinner, he felt bad and invited me home. I said I was tired and would come tomo. I felt much better now to know that somebody was concerned about me. And I had a good night sleep.

Oct 02
I woke at 08:00 am. Got ready. There’s no bucket n mug in bathroom. Only tub and basins. I managed and by 09:30 I received a call from Dr.Kundu asking me to come to the reception.

I happily went down and we walked to his home. There I saw his wife Jutika, resembling Jyotika- plump n beautiful, and his son jyothi. I learnt they are from Bangladesh, though looked Indian. He asked her to prepare break fast for me. She took 20 min to cook pongal like and omlette with chicken curry. Had my fill after 24hrs.

The Kundus are very supportive and loving. I returned to my room after having a chat with Lenin on Yahoo messenger in Ju’s place. I came to the reception and enquired if there are Indians in my building. To my surprise they told that 2122 is occupied by one Sivakumar and he worked for some IT branch of LG (home brand of Korea). It’s my next door and I happily rang the bell. I told him I wanted to get internet connection for my lappy. He sorted it out and I felt much better. From, then on I’m online.. In the eve I went to Ju’s place for dinner. We made dosa and I made Takkali Chutney (tomato) for them. They enjoyed and invited a friend home. An MS guy Mustafa from Dhaka again, came with his wife. He’s my labmate and we had some chat and we went to his room, similar to mine. They also promised to introduce me to the other Indians in the lab.

Current problems:
1. I need to buy water to drink.
2. There’s some prob with my voice chat. I can hear but people at the other end can’t hear me (gtalk, yahoo messenger both are not working). So I feel bad that I can’t talk to you all.
3. I need to buy a vessel to cook rice in microwave.
4. I need to buy a slipper and handbag. It’s too hot in the day and I cant manage with these shoes until its cold, may be in 15 days from now.
5. My camera’s rechargeable battery is not getting charged (inspite of its being new)
1,3, and 4 require some dollars, which I have.
But 2 and 5 require external help.

Oct 03rd

Morning I got fresh and went to Ju’s house. It was ten, so Sir had left to the lab. Then, she served 2 bread, omlette and milk. Then asked me to cook pavakka poriyal (bitter gourd). I cooked that and then sambar. And I played with the kid. Had lunch and returned to my room. Had a chat with Lenin and had a nap.

A call woke me up. Ju visited my room. After they left, I started jotting my diary. And here it is. This is the story so far..

From Monday I'll be going to lab. Somebody will come and pick me on monday morning. My lab is uphill. So its difficult to walk up to my lab, you will be exhausted though its short distance. We need to take bus. It costs 600won/trip I was told.

Now gonna prepare presentation for Monday and sleep.


PS: interesting facts about my room:
1. In the entrance there’s a light which brightens when it senses persons and dims automatically when u r in.
2. There’s garden fresh pumpkin and green chilly behind my room.
3. The taps here are interesting, if u turn up its normal water, turn up n slide right warm water, turn up n slide left hot steaming water. It took me 2 days to understand this.