Rays of Splendour


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Wk 15/104

Week 15 in Seoul was spent checking out two places where I’ve never been before. They are the National Museum of Korea and Hyehwa.

National Museum of Korea

It’s a huge three-story museum which houses various forms of national treasure. The focus of the museum is to display exhibits and trace the history of the Korean peninsular from the prehistoric times right until the Korean War which resulted in the split between North and South Korea.

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It was indeed interesting to know more about the different clans – like the Shilla, Baekjae, Balhae, etc – that used to be in power in Korea before all of it was unified under the Joseon Dynasty. There was also a portion of the exhibits that covers the modern history like the annexation of Korea to Japan.

Seeing all these exhibits that date back to tens of years BC that the archaeologists managed to unearth is a humbling experience. To see an exhibit that a person thousands of years ago used and then you reflect on all the time that had passed before we came along reminds me that my existence is truly insignificant when considered within the spectrum of human existence.

If I were to consider my place among the billions of people that have existed within the thousands of years before I came along, I am really nothing. Further, the things I grapple with now like missing my loved ones or trying to complete my assignments are really nothing when juxtaposed to the realities some of the people had to face like war or being in the lower caste in society.

And know what is scarier? It is the thought that not only are you insignificant in this life but also, that you could be nothing to your Creator when you eventually meet Him. That thought is enough to get me to assess myself and whether I have done enough to place Allah swt at the centre of my life.

Seems like I got more out of this museum visit than I had anticipated.

Hyehwa

Hyehwa is a small shopping belt just outside Sungkyungkwan University. Not only that, the area seems to be an enclave for many independent concept stores as well as performance/theater halls which showcases their in-house made films or drama productions. Also, since the area is more inclined towards the artistic side, even the products and decor of the stores there reflect that.

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Okay, that’s all for Week 15’s!

 


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Wks 13 – 14/104

Entry’s going to be largely a photo update because I’m currently pretty exhausted. I’ve been so depleted of energy these past few days that I immediately dozed off as soon as I close my eyes. It doesn’t matter where I am. I could be on the bus or subway, in class, seated on my study table and even standing as I waited in queue. I close my eyes and next thing I know I found my body being jolted awake. If I’m standing, it’s cos I felt like I’m about to fall hence why I will be awakened from the few seconds of dozing off into lala-land.

Regardless, I’m hoping to regain my energy soon! So in the meantime, the update for Weeks 13 and 14 is going to be largely photo-based though I think, me-being-me, I’d end up writing something anyway.

Exploring Garosugil, Sinsa

Although the area is designated for high-end shopping, I found that I actually kinda like this part of Seoul. I like it largely because the place has an artsy vibe about it which makes it unique. I’m a huge fan of places with unique characteristics about it.

The main highlight of my trip there was the Karl Lagerfeld pop-up store. I absolutely love the designs from this brand and no surprises why that is so! The whole concept behind the brand – the colours and designs – are something I usually look out for whenever I buy designer items. While I do appreciate the designs of brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton, at the same time, they’re also brands whose items I never truly liked enough to buy and have never bought any as personality-wise, they just don’t suit me. But brands like Kate Spade and Karl Lagerfeld with their lively colours and quirky designs? Yep, I go crazy over them!

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Islamic centre, Al-Falah, at Yeongdeungpo

I’ve been looking for this Islamic Centre everytime I’m in Yeongdeugpo but I’ve never been able to locate it until last week. It’s a centre run by a group of Indonesian Muslims. They have a designated prayer hall with separate areas for males and females, as well as run a few Islamic classes over the week.

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Exploring the area around Seoul National University (SNU) Station

The Korean lady who learns English from me brought me to explore the area outside SNU station. Although it’s near ny apartment, I have never bothered to explore the area for the only times I’m ever there would be to take the subway.

So I was pretty delighted when she took me to one of the themed-cafes there as well as showed me the other things I can find in the area. There’s an organic bakery, a dessert shop which also conducts baking classes (they also teach people how to make macarons!) and a flower shop which has been decorated with a modern concept. Pretty nice shops there, definitely.

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Spring bazaar organised by Malaysia Embassy

Only one reason for going here: to eat Malaysian food! I spent most of the time eating so I had not really taken that many photos but here are some that I took.

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Allright. That’s all the updates I have for Weeks 13 and 14 which I wrote and published in… Week 15!

I’ve been here for 15 weeks, alhamdulilah. That’s almost 4 months.

In my whole life, I’ve never imagined nor foresee myself to be in a position where I’ll be away from my family for 4 months. Frankly, these 4 months have not been easy for me on the emotional front. Just when I thought I’m fine with being away from my family and loved ones, there will be moments when I’m suddenly hit with a terrible sense of missing them deeply which would make me feel momentarily down. So yeah, if I could sum up the past 15 weeks in one phrase, I’d say it has been a period of emotional ups and downs.

Not for the first time, I’m made to realize that home is where your loved ones are.

I realized that for me, ‘home’ is not just a physical concept. I could be anywhere on earth but for me to feel like I’m home would be if my loved ones are by my side. That’s where home is.


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Wk 12/104

“Oh Allah, provide me with Your love and the love of those whose love will benefit with You. Oh Allah, whatever you provided to me of the things I love, make them a source of strength for me in pursuing what You love. Oh Allah, and whatever you kept away from me of the things that I crave, make their absence free up time that I can devote to whatever You love.”
Sunan at-Tirmidhi, #3413

Unlike the previous Seoul Weekly Highlights, Week 12’s will be slightly different. Though I found myself engaged in several activities that formed the highlights of my week, I won’t be blogging about that. This is because I feel that they’re all connected to the dua above and this seems to have overwhelmed all the small little activities I’ve been occupying myself with during the week.

Upon retrospection, it seemed like I started and ended Week 12 with that dua. It was during one of those mornings spent on the prayer mat that I found myself thinking to God and asking Him why He created the love in the first place if it makes the heart feel such void when the people you love are absent from your life.

As I thought and ruminated over that, my mind got reminded of this prayer I read at one point in my life. While the context where this prayer is now made is different than previously, the core of the issue remains the same: What are the role of people in our lives if they are going to be absent after leaving an impact in it?

Armed with this prayer, I found Week 12 unfolding in a different manner from previous weeks. It is a week that saw me engaging in lots of activities that seemed to fill a portion of the void left by the absence of people who mean a lot to me.

By the end of the week, I do still feel the void. However, I also found myself at a point where I’m reaching a level of acceptance about that. This is because through the time I spent engaging with the world outside me, I am somehow led to some conclusions about why God places and removes people from your life, whether temporarily or permanently.

In its essence, people are never meant to stay in your life. At any point in our lives, people would leave either through their own volition or involuntarily like in the instance of death. For every moment when a person ceased to be part of your life, the contrasting message – that God remains – seems to be conveyed loud and clear and I feel that this is part of the mercy of Allah. Through their absence, it gives a person ample opportunities to realize and turn to the One whom by His will, existence came into being. It is also in that moment that a person realizes that the one hand he should hold firmly at all times is God’s.

I read in a hadith once that Allah divides His mercy into 100 parts. Out of this 100, He has kept 99 parts to Himself and sent down one part of the mercy to Earth. It is because of this 1/100 part that He has sent to all the creations on earth that mercy and other feelings associated to it like love, compassion, generosity, kindness and many more exists between us.

So that love we have for our parents, grandparents, siblings and friends; the love between a mother and her child, or the one between a husband and his wife; even the love one has for His other creations like towards the animals or plants. All these are manifestations of that part of the mercy which He has blessed us with.

With that in mind, I figured that perhaps at the end of the day, the point is not to question why we felt the love in the first place but rather, to embrace that feeling as one which insyaAllah, comes from Him. Afterall at its core, that feeling is one borne out of the mercy of Allah.

So on that note, will end this entry here. At the end of the day and despite the theme of this entry, I’m allright. I’m still looking at things positively for I believe, all affairs of a believer are good. ๐Ÿ™‚


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Wk 11/104

1) Hanging out at a Korean friend’s house

One of the Koreans I made friends with invited me to her house at Sillim-dong this week. It’s amazing how despite lacking proficiency in English, she is still able to communicate very well with me. On my part, I’m able to connect with her and talk about a lot of things in life.

This makes me realize that when two people are able to click, then that affinity can sometimes be able to surmount the barriers posed by language. On the flipside, two individuals might not even be able to overcome the obstacles posed despite being proficient in a shared language if both lacked that connection in the first place.

In a class I once attended, the ustaz said that God makes for every soul several other souls that they can connect with. For those that they have an affinity with, one of the reasons is because they’ve known and connected with each other before they were born into this world. When the souls entered this world and they happened to encounter another soul whom they have known, liked and connected with in the previous realm, then the two souls instantly recognize each other even though our physical and mental self do not. According to him, this is one of the reasons to explain for instances when we encounter a person and feel as if we’ve known him before, or why we feel so comfortable communicating on a deeper level with someone whom we’ve just met as opposed to others whom we’ve known for a longer time. I say… This certainly puts a new twist to the phrase “It’s like I’ve known you for a lifetime“!

Anyway, back to the friend who invited me to her house. She will be leaving to follow her husband when the latter goes to Australia to further his studies. This means that when I come back to Seoul in August for the fall semester, she would’ve gone to Australia. So truly, it is very nice of her to invite me to her place before we part ways as according to her “I would really like to show you how the Koreans live“.

Some photos from the time we spent together on that day:

20160513_145527_hdr.jpgSaw a Juicy outlet en-route to her house so we went to get a cup of juice for ourselves.

20160513_151038_HDRLike a lot of the houses in Seoul which are located along a steep slope, hers is no exception. It looks steeper in real life. This photo doesn’t do justice to the degree of its steepness!

20160513_151509_HDRHer living room decorated with portraits that she drew herself. My friend is a designer so it’s no surprise that she chose to decorate her house with her artwork!

20160513_151503_HDRThe dining area. Again, it’s decorated by more pieces of her artwork.

20160513_172920_HDRShe made this poster when she got married. Roughly translated, it means “I (in terms of life) did very wellย  when I was alone but when both of us are together, things are even more excellent.”

20160513_173022_HDRCool poster that shows the wifi access details for guests to her house!

We’re planning to go to a museum some time in June, insyaAllah. Looking forward to that!

2) New places found

I felt the need to take a break from studies this week and resolved to explore a part of Seoul which I hadn’t done before. The initial idea was to head to a nature park but since I’ll be alone, I really did not feel like doing that.

In the end, I decided to head to the eMart at Guro Digital Complex. One of the reasons I went there was to look for some Gudetama merchandise that Del had asked for her birthday. However I couldn’t find them there and was told by the sales representative to head to the eMart at Yeongdeungpo which is bigger and might carry the Gudetama merchandise. On a whim, I decided to head there.

The eMart branch at Yeongdeungpo is located inside the Times Square Shopping Mall. To my surprise, I found myself being in a pretty cool part of Seoul! The mall is huge and has many wings. They had one wing dedicated to luxury items (not my focus here) and another for those looking for items priced between the low and middle range.

The mall has lotsa cool cafes as well like the following which attracted me. I didn’t buy anything from it though as I just had some fruit juice before that.

20160514_190629_HDRThey call it “fish croissant”

20160514_175216_HDRThe fruit juice I had. I kinda like Cafe Pascucci. It sells only products related to fruits and desserts. No meat!

2016-05-14-22-57-47.jpgMy buys at the mall.

I was pretty surprised to discover that Yeongdeungpo is a pretty vibrant shopping area for the locals. I stumbled upon its underground shopping centre which is filled with tons of shops selling clothes at reasonable prices, a stretch of street where there is a night market and countless other shops!

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I have a feeling that I’ll be headed there again soon!

3) Feels like Christmas

I had three packages delivered to my apartment this week. The thrill I felt at opening the door and signing for the packages is such an out-of-this-world feeling that I question the state of my psychological health! I mean, is it allright to feel this pleased at receiving your online purchases? Do I need to seek professional help for this?

That said, one of the packages delivered that made me so happy was this:

Yep, my first purchase from Fashion Valet after a long while! I had stopped buying from the website earlier this year as I was busy preparing to fly to Seoul and then when I had eventually settled down here and ready to buy again, I was told by the people from FV that they do not deliver to Seoul.

However, dUckscarves recently released the Mother’s Day edition (which is just soooooo cute) of its scarves. That tempted me tremendously and ended the shopping hiatus from FV.ย  I really have to thank my friend for making it a possibility that I received this package.

I always never express it enough to him but I’m truly thankful to him for going the extra mile to help me with all these things and more. For instances like these where he helped to receive my package, checked to ensure its contents were correct and then went out to courier it to Seoul. Or during instances when he listened to me when I’m feeling a bit down from being away from home and offered me advice or just the comfort of a listening ear. Or just contacting me from time to time to ask me what I’m up to which made the days of being away from Singapore be more manageable. I always feel that all these are such a huge inconvenience to him especially since truly, my existence in his life doesn’t add value to it in any way but he still went ahead to do it. So yes, I’m moved by the kindness and feel deeply grateful to God for filling my life with awesome people like him.

Allright, so those are the highlights of my week!

It’s gonna be a short school day next week since one of my professors will be away on a business trip. Regardless, I still have quite a number of assignments and presentations to work on. I’m looking forward to the day I clear all these deadlines.

Ramadan is coming too. That’s yet another thing I pray Allah allows me to experience yet again. Amin.


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Wks 8 – 10/104

For the past three weeks, I’ve been telling myself to blog an entry as part of the Seoul Weekly Highlights but I never got around to it. A huge part of the reason for the lack of updates was because I had been feeling largely uninspired to pen down anything. Even my Instagram account has similarly been suffering the same fate – no updates for the past three weeks cos its user is uninspired!

Nevertheless, I still strongly believe in the virtue of journalling the unfolding moments in our lives. So, here’s my attempt to fight off the inertia from the lack of inspiration in order to squeeze out an update of the time in Seoul. Hopefully one day when I’m older and read back all those entries I wrote during my time here, it’d bring back fond memories.

1) Still missing my dad

I still miss my dad very, very, very much. He is the person at the top of the list that I truly miss and look forward to seeing again when I’m back in Singapore this June, insyaAllah. While I sometimes talk about the food, places or activities that I miss during my time away from Singapore, the truth is that all these things does not even come close to the level that I miss some of the people back home… And my dad ranks right up there at the top of the list of people I truly and deeply miss.

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When I think of him, my heart constricts. Lately, I found myself getting flashbacks of times when I sat beside him in the car as he drove me to places. Just the two of us. Perhaps I’m missing him too much and hence why I’m getting flashbacks like the aforementioned from time to time.

2) Bank account and foreigner ID

Finally, I now have a bank account and a foreigner ID! Frankly, I’m more joyful and relieved over the fact that I now have a Korean bank account. Since receiving my debit card and internet banking account, I have been using it to pay for most of my purchases.

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One of my Korean friends was surprised that I went with Nonghyup when opening a bank account. According to her, not many people used this bank these days and the ones that do are the old people and farmers. Now… Of course I did not know that when I chose to go with this bank!

In fact, the only reason why I eventually chose to open an account with this bank was because there is a Nonghyup Bank right on campus which is barely three minutes walk away from my faculty. There is even a Nonghyup Bank ATM inside the building of my faculty.

Anyway, one good thing out of opening an account with Nonghyup is that they have an English version of the internet banking app. I did not even know they had banking services in English when I first signed on with them and had initially mentally-readied myself to painfully Google Translate everything should I need to use its internet banking service. Thank God I don’t have to do that! Its English Language banking services have been a tremendous advantage for me and helped me a lot when it came to transferring funds to pay for my monthly rent and utility bills.

3) Semi-vegetarian for now

It’s been almost three weeks since I last had any meat intake. One of the reasons for this was because I do not feel like travelling all the way to Itaewon just to purchase some halal chicken or beef/mutton. Since I do not want to get myself any halal meat, the alternative would be that I have to go without it.

I never knew I could ever survive a day without meat but hey three weeks on, I have done just that!

The paranoid and imaginative part of my brain wondered whether there would be side-effects if I were to consume meat again once I get back to Singapore. I don’t know why but I had imagined scenes of myself having a physical reaction that caused my body to convulse and chicken feathers to pop up on my skin the moment I placed like 2.5cm of chicken rendang into my mouth….

Okay, that’s all for now.

Hoping to update again soon!


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Wk 7/104

It’s been a busy, busy, busy Week 7.

Earlier in the week, I had to do a presentation for a Japanese society module that I am taking this semester. That presentation took a lot out of me because 1) It was based on a content which was entirely new to me so I had to read beyond the prescribed article and 2) I realized that my perfectionist tendencies caused me to be obsessed with so many details (like the way certain sentences were phrased, the placement of the photos, the flow of the presentation from one slide to the next, the things to say) that it considerably slowed down my progress!

Besides school, there were other things that made up my week which caused the time to just zoom by.

Cherry blossoms at Yeoido Park

Last Wednesday was a public holiday here in South Korea. It was a legislative election day for South Korea (pretty similar to the ones in Singapore where we cast votes for the ministers representing our GRCs/SMCs who will later form one of the members of parliament). Since my housemate was not working, she asked me to accompany her to Yeoido Park after my class (yes, I had a class on a public holiday but no complains. I kinda liked the class and teacher!) ended.

Her purpose in going there was only one: to get me to take proper photos of her which she intends to use for publicity materials.

My purpose even though I have a gazillion readings to do: Actually I had no plans to go there at all but because I’m there anyway, I told myself to use the time to check out the last bits of cherry blossoms left.

The Yeoido Park is located very near the National Assembly (South Korea’s version of the Parliament House). I’m not too sure whether the area sees throngs of reporters on other days but definitely on that day (and perhaps due to the fact that it was election day), there were many of them walking around the perimeters of the National Assembly.

When we finally reached Yeoido Park itself, I saw that the place was littered with petals from the cherry blossoms. It has been raining these past few days and that could have contributed to it. Also, the colours on the trees were already fading. The cherry blossoms, while still a pretty sight to behold, were not as resplendent as before.

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Fun English lesson at Chungmuro and thereafter, shopping at Ewha

Last Thursday, we decided to take our weekly English lessons outside. We made arrangements to meet at Chungmuro Station since I was keen to check out the paper and printing shop that the Korean lady whom I’m teaching has been raving about.

Entering the paper and printing shop, I felt like I’m a little girl being brought to a candy store. I was so, so, so, impressed by the efficiency of the place, how proper everything is and importantly, the quality of its printing! I’ve never seen printing shops of this scale and quality anywhere in Singapore or Malaysia which is opened to anyone regardless of the quantity of items they seek to print. This shop prints almost anything that can be printed on paper. Packaging boxes, leaflets, book covers, bookmarks, photo printouts, etc. Anything.

Best of all, the prices are so affordable given its quality! They were only a few cents per piece and for a fee, they will deliver the finished product right to our doorstep by trackable shipment.

The shop, Sungwonadpia, has a website but in order to get information on its full range of services, access the member site to make orders or to get a rough estimate of the costs of your printing, you will have to access the Korean version.

So after the high of visiting such an exciting place (What? Don’t judge me. It IS exciting. Hahah), we settled down for a drink at a nearby cafe for a proper English lesson. However, we veered off tangent and ended up talking about weddings. She was keen to know how the weddings are conducted in Singapore, its costs, and the married life in the Singaporean society. Obviously, I’m the last person one should be asking when it comes to these so it was pretty hilarious that I was even able to convey some information pertaining to it.

I proceeded to Ewha Women’s University as soon as we parted. All the shopping I did over there that makes me question whether I am sane or not. The sensible mind tells me I should not be shopping unless I start earning some money soon but that insensible side is always so, so, so, convincing in telling me that I’m “just spending a small amount for only this time“. I always tell myself that “it is only for this time” but looking back, my version of “this time” somehow happens all the time!

2D1N in Tongyeung

The professor for one of my modules decided to take us on a fieldtrip to Tongyeung. This city is about 4.5hours bus ride away from Seoul and located along the coast. I’ve been to South Korea for a few times but this was the first time that I visited a place outside Seoul!

We visited quite a number of places when we’re there but probably, one of the highlights for the trip was when we managed to get a view of Tongyeung City from atop Mt Mireuksan. Absolutely love the view from that vantage point. The air in Tongyeung was also much, much fresher and cleaner than in Seoul. Love that as well!

20160415_143318_hdr.jpgA glimpse of Tongyeung City from behind the greenery.

20160415_140312_hdr.jpgShort hike to get to the peak of Mt Mireuksan.

oi000118.jpgThe other female classmates and I doing a shadow shot.

We also visited Dongpirang. I found the place fascinating for its wall murals which were so nicely drawn.

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Since Tongyeung is located along the coast, seafood is one of the specialties of this area. All sorts of fresh catch – fish, oyster, eel, sea cucumber, etc – are sold at the market. One only has to just buy the fish from the shops in the market and then take it to one of the shops behind to have it cooked. Noryangjin in Seoul has a similar system but based on what the Koreans in my class said, it seems like the seafood in Tongyeung is way fresher and tastier than the one in Seoul.

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Last photo to share before I end off the entry. Here’s a view of one of the cabins on the ferry while in Tongyeung. It is an open area with heated flooring made for winter!

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Seeing this reminded me that different countries have their infrastructure set up to accommodate its physical environment. We never see such heated floorings onboard the ferries in Singapore or Malaysia. I feel that this is one of the beauties of travelling which I sometimes forget – the opportunity for a glimpse into aspects of a society that makes it unique. Sometimes, there are things one just never get to see in photos or whose novelty is lost just by looking at photos. It is only through experiencing it firsthand that one can recognise how unique certain features seen in the country are.