Rays of Splendour


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Got to do brush lettering again!

One of the plans I had for this week was to head to Hangaram Mun Ko (한가람문고) at the Express Bus Terminal (고속터미널). I found out in recent times that Hangaram Mun Ko stocks a variety of art supplies from pens to papers. Since I had left both my sketchbook and calligraphy pens in Singapore, I was pretty keen to get a set of supply for myself so that I can still do some brush lettering while in Seoul.

I was pretty happy to be able to purchase both of these supplies from the shop!

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Needless to say, I was pretty excited to do some brush lettering again. For now, I have yet to get used to these pens and am still unable to control the pressure I’m supposed to apply when I use them. Regardless, it’s pretty fun to write the words over and over again in an attempt to get the hang of the pens!

I started by trying to write some random words and phrases that came to mind. That is, until I started listening to an old song by an Indonesian band and got inspired to brush letter some of the phrases from the lyrics that caught my attention. Pretty obvious which ones came from the lyrics.

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Before I knew it, one hour had passed since I started to doodle on my sketchbook! My brush lettering work is still pretty ugly and clumsy from the lack of practice. Nevertheless, those one hour spent on this was so therapeutic! I’m glad I fought over the exhaustion from the lack of sleep (been sleeping practically 2 hours every night since Sunday due to assignments and readings) and made my way to buy these pens and the sketchbook. At least now, I can doodle during those times when I need a break from my readings.

Speaking of readings… Why does the time passes by so fast when one is engaged in mindless things like these but not when you’re supposed to complete your readings?


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Ever learning and realizing new things about life

Several things that I’m made to realize in the past few weeks since I started living in Seoul.

Firstly, I realized how true my ustaz had been when he said the following:

“The test of your iman is when you’re alone and away from people.
What do you do when no one you know is around?”

As I began to realize that there are quite a number of Muslims here in Seoul and how some of them do not even come across as one unless they tell you they’re one, I began to see the truth in his words. I was thinking to myself how being alone hundreds of miles away, no one would know if: you were to miss your prayers, have that drink, eat non-halal food, engage in non-permissible relationships with the opposite sex, behave badly and basically… Do anything that counters to the Islamic principles and beliefs.

My ustaz’s words echoed through my mind. How true.

But then again, Allah knows. Your soul knows. It’s only this awareness that Allah is ever-seeing and knows all that I do, that it matters that I do things that keep my soul contented, and that I have a responsibility to my parents and all those people who matter to carry myself in a way that wouldn’t hurt them, that I constantly tell myself to hold tight to His rope.

And I pray that Allah protects me and keeps me away from things that causes me to fail His test of iman.

Secondly, I realized too how I have taken for granted the ease with which I can perform the congregational prayers back in Singapore. During those moments I sat on my prayer mat after I’m done with my prayers, I’m reminded of how much I miss doing the jemaah prayers. It’s been more than a month since I prayed in congregation and only now do I realized the nikmah in praying as a group.

It’s such a nikmah to be praying simultaneously with the other brothers and sisters in Islam, to hear the azan and iqamah live, to hear the recitation of the imam as he leads the prayer, to softly follow the recitation should it be from verses/surahs that you have memorized, to do so in the confines of the mosque whose serenity is unmatched… I miss the jemaah prayers a lot.

Therein lies the next realization I had: Your life – its entirety – is made up of small moments. For me, these are:

Congregational prayers.

Attending classes/lectures at the mosque or elsewhere.

Weekends in Bedok, Kembangan or Changi.

Hanging out at Arab Street after work.

Meetups at JEM.

Afternoon lunches at IMM or JP.

Breakfasts at Adam Road and Bukit Timah.

Sleeping on bus/MRT rides back to home.

Competing with the brother on who will get to sleep on bed for the night.

Waking up every morning and proceeding groggily to the parents’ room, then planting myself in between them for another 15 minutes of sleep before properly waking up.

I believe there are more but the point is, it is in the little things. Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter.


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Wk 3/104

A short update of week 3 while I take a break from working on my literature review assignments.

1) Went for my first massage experience in Seoul

Towards the end of last week, I had somehow hurt my lower back. I do not know how it happened but I woke up one morning literally being unable to bend, walk without wincing in pain or even do simple tasks like wear my pants or carry things without feeling a jolt of pain running down my back. I wasn’t even able to lie down to rest my back for the pressure causes it to ache even more.

So in the end, I went to desperately Google for a possible place to get a massage where (a) The place do not look too dubious and sleazy, and (b) The people working there are able to converse in English.

I found one – Create Wellness Centre – which is located in Itaewon that suits both my requirements.

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I finally got my massage and that had considerably eased the pain in my lower back although at the point of blogging this, I still feel tightness in that area and my back still ache whenever I bend. Nevertheless, the good thing is that I’m at least able to bend and perform simple tasks without screaming in pain.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience going to the centre. This is the first time ever that I went to a massage place where the room has a window that sees to the rest of the shop, with only a translucent curtain as an attempt to reduce the visibility into the therapy room. Believe me when I say that anyone walking or waiting for their turn outside could see into the therapy room just as well as I could see anyone walking or standing outside it. The only saving grace for me on that day was that I made an appointment as soon as the shop opened and hence there was hardly anyone to see me in all manner of undress! Phew!

2) Beautiful campus grounds

I needed to get my student card from one of the offices in school. While making my way there, I stumbled upon a small park overlooking the stadium and situated on top of the ridge. I found the space pretty peaceful and the surroundings which enabled me to look across to the mountains ahead to be pretty fascinating. Too pretty. Would love to go there again if time permits!

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3) Exploring the park outside the apartment

My housemate and I went to explore the nearby park just outside our apartment. We were surprised to see the park equipped with concrete running tracks and exercise machines. When we walked further inside, we also found a small trekking path that leads into the forests and mountains ahead. Definitely an area that I want to explore if I can convince my housemates (both of them do not seem keen on it) to trek through it with me on one of the mornings! This reminds me of how much I miss the walks through the nature reserves which I sometimes do with either my parents or the bffs.

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4) Dinners in my apartment with the housemate

One of the ways I spend weekend evenings would be by having one of my housemates come to my place for dinner. She lives one floor down which makes it easy for her to come to my place. Sometimes, our dinners consist of proper food like a complete meal of rice and side dishes that I cooked and sometimes like this weekend, our meals can be as simple as soup, pizza, bread with minced chicken or just snacks.

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She intends to move out soon to a location nearer to her workplace. So till then, I guess I’ll enjoy and appreciate every single moment that I have with her as my neighbour. 🙂

Allright, going to get back to my literature review!


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Things that keep me grounded

Things that keep me grounded these days and especially when I miss home more than normal:

1) During those moments when I close my eyes right before going to sleep, I know that I’ll be one day closer to seeing my family and friends the next morning when I open them again, insyaAllah. It’s all in the mindset. God willing, everyday that I’m away from them signifies a day closer to seeing them.

2) To wake up at a time when most of the world is sleeping. I find tranquility in getting up to a morning where everything is quiet and it’s cool outside.

3) The opportunity to read the Quran yet again after I’m done with my prayers.

4) That my parents are keeping me in their prayers hoping for nothing but goodness for me just like I do for them.

5) That I have a small group of people whom I know will be there to offer me much needed mental and emotional support during those days when I have lesser faith in myself.

6) Times when I get to connect with people back home.

7) Trying to establish new routines and relationships that make every moment in Seoul worth living for, and being here for.

8) Going to school. Yes, that’s what I realized after going for a few lessons. I really look forward to my Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays as those are days when I get to go to school and learn. I feel very humbled by the vast knowledge and experience of the professors. Never once have I left any lesson not walking away with new knowledge about the world and a new way of perceiving the world. Humbled. Truly humbled. There is just so, so, so much that I do not know!

9) Faith that I’m in good hands and at a point in life that He has chosen for me, as well as written for me, alhamdulillah. I’d like to end number 9 and this list with a quote from The Book of Illumination by Ibn ‘Ata’Allah.

“Acknowledging how wholesome is God’s choice empowers us to bear divine decrees’ force.”


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Wk 2/104

Since coming to Seoul, one of the things I wanted to do was to blog a weekly summary of my time here. I managed to do one for the first week but missed the second one! So, here’s a backdated summary of the highlights for Wk 2 out of 104 weeks (2/104), for the memory.

1) My birthday
Week 2 started off with Monday being my birthday. Not going to blog more about it as I had done one entry on it earlier.

At the moment, I’m wondering if there is even a remote possibility that I will be able to be in Singapore next year when March comes along? *hopeful, prays hard* I still prefer to be Home. 🙂

2) First experience at the Community Health Centre

One of the things that we have to submit in order to apply for an Alien Registration Card (basically, it is a foreigner ID that all non-citizens need to have if they are going to be staying for more than 90 days in South Korea) is a chest X-ray. I guess this is because the immigration authorities wanted to ensure that we are not spreading any infectious communicable airborne diseases during our stay here.

The whole process was pretty seamless. We had to register our names using our passports and make a payment for the X-ray service during registration as well. I was so surprised to find how cheap it costs to get an X-ray done over here. I only had to pay a total of 1500 won (that’s like SGD$1.70!) for it. Like… $1.70??! I don’t even get to buy my bread as cheap as that in Seoul! Why is it so cheap?

That said, I don’t really like to subject my body to high frequency radiation as I believe that it is not good for our body cells and made that comment to my friend.

Of course, one shouldn’t say those kinds of things in front of the machine and right before being scanned! That would just jinx the whole process for I ended up having to do the scan twice (yes, being X-rayed twice consecutively. Oh, my body cells! You poor thing!) because my headscarf seemed to have blocked those rays the first time round!

I also finally managed to get myself weighed. Ever since I came here, my diet has changed tremendously. I eat vegetables with either bread/pasta/rice on most days. Should I remember and am willing to wait for the fish or prawn I bought to thaw, I would throw that in and cook it for my meal as well. Hence, I was definitely curious over how this change in diet had impacted my weight.

The weighing scale showed that I had lost even more kilos which puts my current weight at 50kg. I have yet to start fasting which I hope to be able to do this coming week, insyaAllah. So when I do start to fast again, does that mean that I will be shedding even more weight? *worried*

3) Friday at Itaewon

One of the things I set out to do last Friday was to ensure I get myself some meat. The only stores that sell halal meat in Korea are found in Itaewon so off to that place I went.

I managed to squeeze in a proper meal of bokkeumbap (fried rice). It felt like it’s been ages since I had a proper, full meal so I was very, very satisfied at the end of it. I even got to have some soup. Yayyyyy!

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I’ve never been to Itaewon on a Friday afternoon before. Therefore after leaving the restaurant, I was so surprised to walk pass the Seoul Central Mosque and found the road adjacent to it being congested with cars and men making their way to the mosque for Friday prayers. When I saw the throngs of Muslim men walking to the mosque, I can’t help thinking to myself, “Where did all these Muslims come from?

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4) Multi-story parking in Korea
I was walking home with one of my housemates when she suddenly stopped by the roadside and pointed out the following structure to me.

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Yep, that unique structure meant for parking found in some places in Korea! I’m pretty curious over how the structure works and hope that the next time I pass by this place, I’d get to see someone either leaving the place or about to park his car so that my curiosity will be answered.

5) Shopping for spring
Spring’s fast approaching. In fact, many Koreans already deemed that it’s now spring. A housemate shared that the spring season here can still be quite cold though it won’t be as frigid as winter. Hence, it would be good to get a thinner outer wear for spring.

Of course I jumped at the chance to shop (although if my bank account could speak, it would probably yell a solid “NO!”) at me.

So at the end of week 2, Sunday, my housemates and I headed to the Express Bus Terminal (more commonly known as Gosuk Bus Terminal in Korea) Underground Shopping Centre. That place is like the Bugis Junction of Seoul. Lots of shops selling clothes, bags and accessories and at a pretty affordable price too.

I spent quite a while trying out various outerwear like the following:

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Unfortunately, I think that these long outerwear that are popular in Seoul (and considered a fashion statement!) does that really suit me. In the end, I bought a shorter outerwear in pink . It’s still too big for me and I should probably get it altered but the thought of how I am ever going to communicate to the tailor’s my requests given my limited Korean… Well suffice to say, I just went ahead to wear the too-large-for-my-frame outerwear!

6) Being homesick
I guess it started the day after my birthday. I woke up on that day, a Tuesday, feeling so detached from my family and friends. I told myself that it could simply be because I felt their absence more strongly as they had spent the previous day communicating with me since it was my birthday.

However the feeling grew stronger and for the first time, I made an internet call to my family through WhatsApp. I spent almost 45 minutes talking to my mom and youngest brother on the phone and that made me feel heaps better until last Friday came along I guess.

The Friday I spent at Itaewon reminded me of the last time I was there with my parents. The hotel we stayed in, the places we went to for our meals, and the shops we went to shop at.

I got back home from Itaewon feeling pretty down and severely homesick. I even considered booking a flight back to Singapore as soon as I reached home but alas, I have yet to get a re-entry permit and am not allowed to leave the country. The combination of the frustration of not being able to fly back and missing my family, friends and basically home, made me feel utterly despondent which led to the entry I wrote earlier this week about the new feelings I had.

On the one hand, I was feeling sad. But on another, I felt super lost and like things were out of my control. I couldn’t even do a simple thing like go home. 😦

That caused me to retreat from people and so last weekend saw me struggling to even craft a single sentence reply to my parents and friends because really, I felt even more sad at being reminded of how I’m unable to be with them the more I texted them. It’s like for that moment, all I could ever do was just to text or call them no matter how much I longed for their physical presence. I even felt like I had no right to communicate with them and that I was such a disruption to their lives!

But what lifted me out of that despair and useless negative thoughts were two things, and they came from the most simplest experiences of all:

  1. During one of the Kakao groupchats with the residents living in this building, one of them inquired whether anyone had ordered a MacDonald’s delivery in Seoul before and got it sent to our place. A lady replied saying she had done it the previous week and it cured her homesickness tremendously because the food tastes exactly like the one she had at home. That reminded me that I’m not the only one homesick but everyone here is too. However, they had sucked it in and moved on.
  2. During our shopping trip on Sunday, one of my friends was constantly texting her boyfriend to tell him about the things she was doing, the food she was eating, the clothes she was trying and buying. What struck me through it all was that she was very, very, very happy. That made me think… She left a guy she has been dating for a few years and had made plans for marriage when she goes back at the end of her studies and yet, look at how positive she is in embracing this whole experience!

So yes, those two incidents made me snap back to reality.

I’m back to my usual bubbly self at the point of blogging this and can’t help thinking “Why in the world did I let myself get sucked into all those negativities??!

Seriously, if my parents or friends decide to abandon me and never talk to me again due to how lousy I had been to them over the weekend, I would not be surprised. I just have myself to blame and should just accept it. 😦

So, those are the highlights of Wk 2/104.

Looking forward to the chance to blog about Wk 3/104 by end of this week!


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All affairs of the believer are good

New week and the temperatures here have begun to slowly climb up to reach the 8 Degrees Celsius region on some days.

See, plants usually begin to produce chlorophyll that is responsible for colours on their leaves at 6 Degrees Celsius. So for some days to reach a temperature higher than that means that soon, the trees will start to grow their leaves again and we will get to see spring in its full glory! *excited* Really praying hard that Allah allows me to witness this, amin!

That said, I’d like to begin this new week on a positive note. It’s a hadith that I really love and I feel sets right our attitude towards Life. One of the greatest reminders for me is that every single thing that happens to us is all good.

“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him.”
(Saheeh Muslim #2999)

The Prophet pbuh is such an inspiring man isn’t he?


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New feelings

I spend a lot of my free time cleaning up this tiny apartment where I am staying. Anything that seems out of place sets me off and like some neurotic person obsessed with keeping order in the apartment, I will go about rectifying it immediately. I’m aware that I like the space I occupy to be neat and clean but this level of obsessiveness is one I’ve never experienced before.

It only occurred to me recently that the preoccupation with keeping things in order is a manifestation of clinging onto a semblance of control.

See, one of the things that I found myself grappling with ever since I stopped working, then the move to Seoul and thereafter learning to live alone in an entirely new environment, is that of control. I try my best to appear calm, collected and in control of everything for I firmly believe in the merits of being positive when embracing life.

However I found out that there are times when summoning the self to be positive can be more challenging than normal. That was what I discovered this morning when my body decided to give way and it took a lot of willpower to force myself to go about the day despite the physical pain and discomfort. During that moment, I felt like I’ve no control over things and because of that, I found myself crying the most times out of my entire life since I got here.

And then there is that guilt. Being here all these miles away from my family and friends made me feel like I have no right to be in contact with them and to disrupt their lives. I can’t help but think, “What right do I have to even reach out to them?” which then led me to retreat from spending too much time from contacting them in the past few days.

All these guilt. The sense of losing control. These feelings are new for me.

I guess those are some of the things that I’ll be learning during my experience here.

Now I guess I need to work extra hard at coaxing myself to remain steadfast on the path of positivism.

And to think more of God and the way He has meticulously planned everything.


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Exploring the school campus

For the past two days, I have somehow found myself in situations where I was led to explore more of the school campus.

Mostly, it was because I had either gotten myself into the wrong classroom, or the buses I took led me to places I never intended to go when I boarded it. In the latter, blame it on my lousy Korean. I am still unable to understand a lot of Korean words which made it difficult for me to tell when the bus that comes will be making a different route from the one I usually take.

So besides the need to be able to converse with the ahjumma (aunties) here, being able to dexterously navigate myself around motivates me to be more disciplined in learning Korean. And yes, I seemed to have graduated from having aunties speaking to me in supermarkets to them striking a conversation with me as I walk along the streets, or offering to help carry my things and even giving me compliments! This situation is extremely baffling. Since when have I become an auntie magnet? Hilarious!

Back to the topic of exploring the campus. One good thing out of getting lost or taking the wrong buses is that I now know where the post office (yay! I can start posting stuff soon!), banks, bookshop (went crazy over notebooks and bought a pen that I did not need), souvenir shop (planning to get myself one of the school’s varsity jackets) and health centre is on campus. I also now know where the student dormitories are located (it’s so near school! I need to get myself one of those!).

Getting lost and then having to walk all the way to the bus stop also had another merit. I stumbled upon a river that is located on campus! I did not know that the river existed so I actually did a double take as I thought I had perceived incorrectly. I’m so excited over this discovery because hey, anything related to natural formation and natural features just thrills me. As they say, you can never take the Geography out of the Geographer!

20160309_134656_hdr.jpgThe river runs a course through the mountains ahead.

Having a campus located right smack in the highlands meant that the temperatures are especially colder there than at other places. I found myself literally freezing whenever I’m in the campus. It’s so cold that I could hardly feel the sensation in my hands when I use the mobile phone to text. No kidding. It’s that cold!

Despite the intense development around the area, the place is still rich in nature. I was walking to the bus stop last Monday evening when I heard a cacophony of chirping from the grass patch ahead. Back in Singapore, it’s common to see birds like the sparrow, pigeon or crow in public spaces. But here, I was amazed to see this particular bird (see below). Perhaps it’s just the foreigner experience but yeah, I found this sight to be such a novelty that I stopped to take a few snaps which invited some puzzled looks from the passersby!

20160308_164121_hdr.jpgWhat’s this bird called? Regardless, it’s pretty!

So week 2 saw me exploring more of the campus. The school week is done for me for now. Regardless, I’m looking forward to knowing more of the places on campus in the weeks ahead. For now, the place is all brown and the trees are all bare. I wonder how it will look like once it’s spring which will dawn on us in about three weeks time, insyaAllah.


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It’s 7 March… and I’m another year older!

It’s my first ever birthday overseas.

During each of the previous birthdays before this, I’ve never been one who expects to celebrate it nor do I expect to receive gifts for it. To me, it is enough to have my family and close ones by my side. I believe that their presence in my life forms one of the biggest blessings I am ever granted and to know that they’re there with me is enough. That on its own is already a huge, huge, huge gift for me.

So to wake up for fajr to silence and no glimpse of the dad peeking his head into my room to wish me a happy birthday, or the mom singing me her rendition of the song in her off-key tone, or the brother going “Kak, it’s your birthday today?? I didn’t know sehhhhhh!“, or the two bffs attempting to pull off some birthday surprise to humorous results… Well I must say, all these have opened my eyes to how Allah has been so generous all these while in placing those people in my life.

That aside, those people never cease to make their presence known in my life.

In the past few hours, I’ve received birthday greetings from them through WhatsApp (seriously, the wonders of technology!).

I’ve also received a video which I could see required a lot of communication and logistical planning between the people involved. The video sparked off a variety of reaction within me: I was moved and appreciative of the effort that goes into it (they said it took two months to prepare! *salute the effort*); I was also tickled immensely by it and couldn’t help laughing out loud by myself as I watched it; it made me happy to see my friends coming together and enjoying themselves as they shot it; and I was just… grateful in general.

Lastly, I also received gifts from them! 🙂

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You know how sometimes you just share things with your friends? You thought it was just one of those usual conversations you have with them. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package from Sut, Kin and Fad and found a Pandora box inside. See, I have been raving to them about the sudden inspiration I had to add a pendant charm to my Pandora bracelet and even spent time with Sut to look through its website at possible ones to get. To open the package and be greeted with that… Well, that made me go “Wow! But weren’t we just talking and raving about it together like we normally would when it comes to our other buys?“. I had initially planned to buy it for myself as a gift for completing the semester many months from now (insyaAllah) but now that I received one as a gift, that made it even more special. I’ll definitely be admiring this charm as it hangs from my wrist whenever I put on my Pandora bracelet.

And that basket of flowers over there? Never ever in a million years do I expect to receive it from this friend. So to open the door to my apartment and be presented with the delivery, then to read the card and found out who sent them, and thereafter noted that they contain pink roses and carnations… I couldn’t help think “But wasn’t I just texting random updates about what I saw during my first day of school when I was raving to him about pink roses and carnations? He’s sending me some??“. Yet, I love the flowers a lot and shall appreciate its beauty while it’s still alive.

Amazing how these people can be hundreds of miles away from me and yet I can feel their presence as strong as ever.

So, I’m an extra year older in my thirties (and ever closer to meeting the Lord). I pray that He continues keeping my heart turned to Him in faith and grants me an increase in it, that I am never heedless of His blessings, that I am in constant remembrance of Him, that I never neglect His rights upon me and that I always have the love of Him and the Prophet pbuh in my heart.

I pray too that He grants my family and the people close to me His constant love, care and protection always; and that He grants them all that is good in this life and the Hereafter.