Rays of Splendour


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Wk 5/15

I’m finally getting myself to be disciplined and write the summary for Wk 5/15.

As mentioned in the previous post, last week was the long-awaited 10 days of public holiday in Korea. Life in the aspect of work and school will resume again from 10 October onwards so I’m looking forward to that!

Wk 5 has been on in which I spent the most time at home! Seriously, I was home on 5 out of the 7 days. I think that I have really fully utilized the money spent on rent cos I stay in the house so much! The reason why I stayed in on so many days is because 1) I do not feel like spending money cos I know I will definitely do that if I’m out and 2) Since most of my work these days revolves around reading and typing, I really do not feel all that motivated to step out of the house since I have all the materials I needed to fulfill my tasks.

The past few days made me realize how the life of a researcher can be like. Unless your research requires you to be out in the field and collecting data, you’d end up spending most of your time settling your work indoors. Of course there is the option of taking your laptop and reading materials and working on your research either at the library or cafes which effectively means you can spend some time travelling from point-to-point. But still, a large part of the work will be done indoors!

Anyway research work aside, I think my sleep timings are really inconsistent. Some nights I can sleep by 10pm, be awake by 5.40am for the fajr prayers and then be up all the way till noon where I’ll take a 1.5 to 2 hrs nap before doing my zuhr prayers. Some nights like now, I’l still awake at 3.30am. When I’m awake this late, it means that I will end up sleeping till 2.30pm when I eventually sleep again at 9 or 10am later in the morning.

Just what am I doing to my body??!

Ending off this entry with a reminder to myself that 1/3 of the journey is done. I have 2/3 more of the journey to go before I conclude the semester insyaAllah.

I really, really, really miss my family and friends. It makes me wonder why is it that I could never get used to being apart from them. That ache and deep desire to be by their side again and also live in my house in Singapore again? Only God knows.

But, the mind is a powerful thing. I need to remind myself everyday that Allah has assigned me a responsibility to be fulfilled here. He says to be patient, to stay here for now and complete the tasks He has assigned so yep, I’ll do that insyaAllah.


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Wk 4/15

10-days holiday

The school week have ended and we’re now headed into the 10-days public holiday here in Korea. It’s going to be National Foundation Day, Chuseok, and Hangeul Day all into one.

I’ve been trying to get tickets to fly back to Singapore for this 10-days holiday. I figured I’d rather be home and spend time with my family. However, all the air tickets out of Korea are either:
(a) Mad expensive
(b) Most of the tickets left are the premium economy and business class tickets which I obviously cannot buy since I’m an unemployed student for now.
(b) Sold out – I kid you not when I say the tickets are sold out. Not just to Singapore but to many places: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, etc!

So I’ve sort of given up trying to get out of Korea. That required a huge shift in mindset which saw me spending the past few days coaxing myself to remain positive and embrace God’s plans of placing me here for now.

Humbled

Besides that, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the process of acquiring knowledge. That sparked off from the experience I had in school this week. I had a lesson in which I felt very, very, very humbled by my classmates.

As usual, we had a seminar session where we’re supposed to contribute and express our opinions on the issues being discussed.

I’ve came to class prepared. I’ve been catching up on the latest news that have occurred in the past week and even read the required readings prior to class. I had understood what I read so technically I should be able to participate in the discussions too.

The discussions happened. Opinions, thoughts and questions were expressed. But by the end of the lesson, there was no contribution from me.

When the seminar took place, it unfolded very, very fast. Points were expressed swiftly. No sooner had I digested what was being said and tried to formulate my own thoughts based on the point which was just expressed, someone else had interjected in agreement or to disagree with it. That left me humbled.

I was humbled at how fast my classmates were in grasping the complexities of the issues and points being brought up and then responding to them. Seriously, they have such brilliant brains!

On top of that, they are very well-read. They were making references to all these different books they have read. It’s books okay. Not just articles!

I realized how little I’ve read when I talked to a friend who is doing her PHD. I was talking to her about my thesis hoping that the process of talking would give me some clarity. As we talked, she brought up all these books she had already read and was suggesting to me as she felt they would be useful.

That made me reflect a lot.

These people not only have such brilliant brains but also, are really committed in the path to seeking knowledge and gaining deeper insights. Compared to them, I’ve such a looooooong way to go to catch up!

It makes me really re-consider the PHD route. If I were to go down that path, it would entail also having the discipline to read a lot. It’s no wonder my professors’ office are filled with thick books. Those books are not there for posterity, mind you. My professors would be able to tell you exactly what’s inside those books as they’ve read it from cover-to-cover!

Autumn song

Since it’s now autumn, this song is back on my play list. In fact, I’m listening to this song as I’m blogging this entry!

It’s been a few years since its release but this song still remains my autumn song.

I didn’t think of it when I listened to this song today but after singing along to it a few times, I started to be cognizant of the words I’m saying. It made me recall that version of myself back then and why this song was so relate-able at that time.

2012. Hmmm… I was 28 years old then!

A 28 years old me was a woman still full of idealism and one filled with lots of energy to chase aspirations. Nothing was impossible to me. I believed then that as long as I set my mind, heart and work towards it, I could achieve those goals.

It was also a time when I craved changes and constantly looked for new opportunities to experience. At that time, I felt like I needed to experience as much as possible, learn as much as possible and achieve as much as I possibly could in order to attain a fulfilling life. The 24 hours given to me simply wasn’t enough!

I even felt that work tied me down geographically and temporally such that for a few hours every day, I wasn’t able to do the other things I’d prefer to be doing and achieving.

I also used every opportunity I had to travel. Money was no issue and I was willing to spend as long as I could explore the world.

It’s not that I do not have aspirations to chase now. It’s also not that I still do not crave to experience new things and travel. But I think that I’m so much more grounded and settled for now? I still have goals but I do not define my time with pursuing just that.

I’ve reached that point in life whereby I’m okay with having a day or days when I’ve made no plans except to go with the flow of things and where alhamdulillah, I’m okay with work and don’t find that it keeps me away from achieving other things I wanted to. I still love exploring places but I also know that with financial responsibilities elsewhere, it is not my priority.

I miss that 28 years old me sometimes but alhamdulillah, I love my current 33 years old self too!


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Wk 3/15

It’s presentation week for one of my classes. Thus Wk 3 started with me trying to complete the readings required for the presentation. I do not know how I pulled it off but I eventually managed to come with up a set of PowerPoint slides, presented it, as well as submitted a critical review paper (albeit a day late!) related to the presentation.

On the thesis front, I’m still struggling to find a proper footing with regard to its direction. *Sigh*

Anyway Chuseok (the Korean Thanksgiving) is coming up so what better way to check out the hype than to head to the supermarket! I went to eMart on Saturday and the throng of shoppers furiously shopping for food-related products remind me of the pre-Chinese New Year and pre-Eid marketing back in Singapore. I guess communities everywhere are similar when it comes to commemorating important events for themselves. The scene I witnessed yesterday were of the Koreans buying ingredients to make preparations for the charye (memorial service for ancestors held during Chuseok) as well as cook festive meals for the family during the long Thanksgiving holiday.

I took advantage of some of the great sales going on. For instance, I saw that fresh salmon was selling at a pretty cheap price so I bought for myself some! Bought some kimchi which were on sale too. Since I suddenly have a craving to eat some gosari namul (Korean fernbrake side dish. Click on this link if you’re curious to know how it looks like!) I bought some fresh ones as well with the intention to cook them some time next week. I even bought a packet of dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles) so that I could cook myself some japchae!

The Korean traditional snacks were on sale as well. Koreans typically buy these as gifts to present to the people whose house they’re visiting during Chuseok or to just eat it for themselves. I’d have bought some for myself and given it to my family to try if I was flying back to Singapore (it’s literally a 12-days holidays for me) but since I’m not, I gave it a miss.

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Instead, I bought some frozen pumpkin songpyeon (rice cake) for myself. It’s a traditional food eaten typically during Chuseok too and made of glutinous rice and fillings like sesame seed, honey and chestnut paste among others. All I had to do was steam it which I did as soon as I got back and ate them as my dessert after dinner!

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The songpyeon are the ones on the left. I kinda like it cos it’s not too sweet.

My friend came over for dinner yesterday so I cooked some salmon-prawn pasta for her which I served together with the songpyeon and kiwifruits.

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Sunday was a stay-in day for me. I’ll probably try to squeeze in some reading before I go to sleep though.

I’m heading fast into Week 4 which means it’s going to be almost one month since I last saw the people I love. I’m torn between forcing myself to stay in the present moment and really enjoy these last few moments of freedom here and wanting to finish everything as soon as possible and be back by the side of people who matters to me.

As humans, we can be such indecisive people!


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Wk 2/15

I’m blogging this with a very, very, very full stomach. I just had three plates of kimchi fried rice which I cooked.

I don’t know why I’m so hungry even when all I’ve done for the whole of Saturday were simply small unimportant things like washed my laundry, read two little articles related to my thesis, spent like 10 minutes pondering yet again the direction of my thesis, looking at houses online and watched a Korean drama as I ate. Nothing exhaustive but I was soooo hungry that I ended up eating three plates of fried rice even though I planned to refrigerate most of it and eat it on another day!

So how’s this week been like for me?

For starters, I have been tired most of the time. I feel exhausted no matter how much I slept. I’ve been wondering why that was so. Honestly, this exhaustion is making me pretty unproductive. When I saw that my energy level was low, I took some supplements this week in an attempt to boost my energy. No effect! I did more yoga exercises too in the hopes of boosting the blood circulation in my body but I still feel tired all the time.

The exhaustion aside, I’m pretty much enjoying my lessons alhamdulillah. I feel like I’m learning a lot from the classes that I’m taking this time. I had intentionally chosen two classes whose content I have very little knowledge of – the first one deals with the European Union and the second class centers around Political Islam. Thus far, I have been enjoying the content and discussions we had and look forward to learning new things every time I go for lessons alhamdulillah.

Also, I’ve been back in Seoul for close to two weeks already but the furthest I’ve ventured is to the shops and markets that are 10 minutes bus ride away from my apartment on campus. This is so unlike me! I’m one of those who like to go out but these two weeks, I find a lot of comfort just being within the perimeters of the campus. Many times I’ve had thoughts like how I should probably go to certain places to check some things out or buy something from there but when the day comes, I simply cannot be bothered with the idea of making my way to those places.

I still do miss my home and the people there. My family, friends and R have been so busy. The whole of this week, I had such minimum contact with them. The combination of minimal contact and my attempts to try and occupy my time with things so that I’ll think less of home and the people there had the effect of making me feel detached. That was what I realized in recent times! I felt so detached that I realized I had forgotten I’ll be getting married. I only remembered it when I received a text from R about a house listing. So like… Received text about house listing –> Asked myself why he would give me that –> Remembered we are house hunting –> Remembered we are making plans to get married.

Sometimes, I even forgot all about R and the people back home until I received a text from them. It took me a few seconds to recognize who is texting me and why they would even text me. It’s like there is this vacuum in my mind that sort of erased their memory in me just for a split second. Not just people but even passwords! Prior to this, I have all the passwords solidly kept in my memory but these 1 – 2 weeks, I found myself utilizing the ‘Forget password’ function for my various accounts. And these are accounts I frequently accessed so forgetting their password is an oddity. Is my brain allright???

So in a nutshell, I seem very much put together this week (alhamdulillah) but not entirely so as you can see from the immense hunger I experience, constant exhaustion, lack of motivation to explore places and also, forgetting that I have committed myself to important decisions in life and a whole lot of other things!


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15 weeks?!?

When I first started living in Seoul and blogging about it, I remembered doing a countdown of the number of weeks I have till this journey in this phase of my life is done.

The weeks had totaled to 104. Somewhere along the way, I lost my mojo to do a weekly recap of my days in Seoul and stopped at Wk 15/104. To be honest, 104 weeks of being in Seoul and away from home and loved ones had seemed a lot so I’d abandoned the plan to do a weekly journal sometime in Week 15.

Last week when I arrived back here after a very busy one month summer vacation in Singapore, I did a mental calculation and realized that with the multiple rising and setting of the sun, the changing phases of the moon, and the start and end of a few semesters in school, the number of weeks had reduced to 15.

15 weeks!

In fact at the time of blogging this, it’s Wk 2/15. I’m telling myself to attempt a second go at blogging a weekly recap of my days in Seoul so praying that I’ll be consistent!

Since I’ve missed Wk 1/15, here’s a brief recap of that particular week (and then officially write a Wk 2/15 at the end of this week):

  1. Arrived back in Seoul on 3 Sep, cleaned the apartment, went grocery shopping the following day and basically, made the apartment comfortable for habitation yet again.
  2. Settled all outstanding payments related to the apartment. Rent, electricity bills and utility bills. I was unable to pay my bills using the internet and hadn’t paid the August bills!
  3. Decided to go ahead with the Korean class which was offered by the school. I went for the placement test without cracking open the book to revise.
  4. Attended Korean classes yet again. As this is a higher level class, the teacher teaches EVERYTHING in Korean. All explanations and teaching are done in Korean. No English. *screams silently inside* 1 hr into the lesson, I could feel the onset of a headache kicking in because I’m utilizing that part of the brain pertaining to language learning which I seldom use! Kept being annoying throughout the lesson by asking my classmate what the teacher just said or had asked me, as well as answering the teacher in English when she asked me in Korean. Basically #annoying. Things are better in the second lesson as I could better recall the Korean I’ve learned.
  5. Hung out with my Bruneian friend at the dining area near the dorm. It was absolutely nice to just sit, chat, laugh and basically pretend that I do not have a thesis to work on.

Of course there were other things that happened in between which aren’t living-in-Seoul-related. For now, I’m in that position whereby I’m juggling both the responsibilities and demands of school and living in Seoul as well as settling/planning other responsibilities back in Singapore.

Whatever it is, I’m going with the flow and pray that Allah blesses my time. Amin.


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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.