Friday, October 23, 2009

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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    nice to see your blog. i just gone through all of your archives. Its nice to see that, you had a good time in Korea sofar. Anyhow, goodluck for your future endeavours.

    Kesavan, SNU.