Rays of Splendour


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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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Visa application woes: Applying for the D-2 Korean Visa

I’ve finally summoned up the mental readiness to go through the whole process of applying for a D-2 student visa.  The mental readiness is needed only because 1) Administrative processes can be painful and 2) I’ll be passport-less for a while.

As of yesterday, I’ve made a total of two trips to the South Korean embassy in Newton. Both times, I have been unsuccessful in submitting an application for a student visa.

The first time my attempt for a visa application got rejected was entirely due to my negligence. I had failed to note that the embassy conducts visa application requests only from 9.00 – 11.30 a.m. I came at 2 p.m and was obviously turned away. The second time I was turned away was due to insufficient documentation. Apparently, one needs all these document for a D-2 student visa application:

  1. Original passport
  2. A copy of a passport-sized photograph
  3. Acceptance letter/Offer letter/Certificate of admission from the educational institution in Korea
  4. A copy of a bank statement indicating one’s account balance for the past three months
  5. In the event that you have a sponsor for (4), then you would need to produce your sponsor’s bank statement
  6. A copy of the educational transcripts or certificates at your last educational institution
  7. For the employed: A letter from your employer indicating that you are under their employment

During the second visit there, I had failed to produce number 7. Never did I anticipate that I had to produce that when applying for a student visa!

The copy of my sponsor’s bank statement was also rejected as her name was not clearly printed on her bank statement.

So I’m telling myself that the third time I make my way to the embassy, I truly need my visa application to be accepted. The need for the visa aside, I actually find it pretty restrictive that the passport is going to be withheld for a period of time which means that I won’t be able to journey out of Singapore on a whim. That is such a tragic thought!


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Autumn and summer in three weeks (Part 1)

Here’s something for the record: November 2015 is the first time ever in my life that I got to experience two different seasons within a span of a few days apart.

Allah swt has made the world to be so beautiful and intricate. Every time I thought I had seen the most beautiful thing there is to see on Earth, there will always be yet another scene that by His grace, He allows me to experience.

And so, my November started off with Him allowing me to experience autumn. This is the second time ever that I get to experience autumn and masyaAllah, the scenes are as beautiful as ever. Autumn puts a new spin to the idea that there is beauty in death. Afterall, the reason why the trees are having red or yellow leaves is an indication of the leaves dying.

Hill slopes at Gwanak.Hill slopes of Gwanak in fall colours

With the paths at Gwanak being filled with pretty leaves like these, I couldn't stop looking down as I walked. The paths of Gwanak were littered with these small reddish maple leaves.
I couldn’t stop looking down at the ground as I walked.

Leaves that had fallen and covered many paths in Seoul after a downpour.The scene after a downpour along the streets outside Seoul Station.

One of the fall foliage that lined the streets of Myeong Dong, with the litted Namsan Tower in the distance.Fall foliage along the streets of Myeong Dong with the Namsan Tower in the distance

Since the parents came along for this trip, ensuring access to halal food was pretty important. Alhamdulillah, access to halal food in Seoul in 2015 is much better than when I first went there in 2009. In 2009, the choice of halal food was limited only to Indian or Turkish food. However I guess with more Muslims travelling to Korea as well the increasing numbers of Korean Muslim converts, there are now shops that sell halal Korean food. Hence the few days we were there, we managed to eat at some of these food outlets located in Itaewon where resources for the Muslim community are centralized.

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The streets of Seoul also had much to offer in terms of food though we had to be a bit more discerning when it comes to buying from these stalls. One of the things that we enjoyed eating while we’re there were roasted chestnuts! Pomegranate juice comes in a close second but we were too engrossed in drinking it that we didn’t take any photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA roasted chestnut push cart stall in Myeong Dong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chestnuts were being roasted in small wired-baskets like the above.
This caught our attention for a while as in Singapore, chestnuts are roasted in huge woks.

I had plans to take the family to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Nam San Tower as well as perhaps a day trip outside Seoul. However as this was a short trip with the main agenda being to introduce the parents to Seoul, we did not manage to cover much. Besides the Namdaemun Market which got my mom pretty excited due to the gazillion pretty brooches and dried anchovies, the other highlight of the trip was when we stumbled upon the Line Friends Store in Itaewon.

The youngest brother is into cutesy stuff and Line has managed to market itself in a way that appeals to those, like him, who are into this concept. We spent almost an hour just going around the store and taking photos. I’m glad we managed to stumble upon this place as prior to this he was feeling down however, this place managed to cheer him up tremendously!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t believe my brother owns three of this bunny thingy in different sizes!

Like any other cities in the world, Seoul presents itself in a different way to different people. While we enjoyed our time together as a family going around Seoul, I also know that the family did not take an immediate liking to the city like they did for Tokyo. Tokyo (and Japan in general) still ranks as one of the top places in the world that we love.

Regardless, I believe that He is placing me here for a reason whose wisdom I’ve yet to grasp for now but insyaAllah, it will be for the best for all of us.


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Winter in Seoul and Fukuoka

Last month, I went to Seoul and Fukuoka for my winter vacation. Seoul was a trip that was decided at the last minute whereas Fukuoka was a place that I have been wanting to go as I wanted to catch Big Bang’s Special Final at the Yahoo! Dome. I really enjoyed this winter vacation!

For one, I finally managed to go to the DMZ. During my first trip to South Korea back in 2009, I wasn’t able to go to the DMZ hence while preparing for the this trip, I had made careful consideration to set aside part of the itinerary to go there. There were lots of restrictions with regard to photo-taking due to security concerns. Here’s whatever little photos I was able to take with my S2.

20121218_094348Above: One of the few photos which were allowed to be taken as the scene was one which faces the North.

20121218_104015Above: An armistice agreement. I was actually in awe of the signatures. These are signatures of real people who played a role in the conflict!

20121218_095138Above: Apparently, one side of the table resides the North and the other, the South. Talk about being at two places in one time!

The DMZ trip will remain etched in my mind forever. Being that close to a place steeped in history and dogged with conflicts even till today would definitely be an experience that I’d never forget.

Besides that, we also checked out other parts of Seoul like Hongdae and even Sungkyunkwan University. As soon as I stepped foot on these places, I could sense the vibrant youth culture. It’s just amazing. The energy. The vibrancy.

20121220_145949Above: The logo hung on the gates to the entrance of Sungkyunkwan University. This university has been around since 1398! It is a historical relic on its own.

20121220_145355Above: The path from the gate to the different faculties situated inside the university itself.  The students got to walk through such an amazing view everyday as they make their way to school.

In the meantime, Fukuoka provides an entirely different aspect to my winter trip. ‘Serene’ is the word that comes to mind when I think of Fukuoka. Everything there seemed to slow down tremendously as compared to the hustle and bustle of Seoul. In essence, it is such a diametrically polemical city as opposed to Seoul. Two things I truly appreciated when I was in Fukuoka were this – the clean air and the much moderate winter (at that time, temperatures were about 5 to 10 degrees Celsius vs Seoul’s -10 to -13 degrees Celsius).

The highlight of that trip was of course the Big Bang concert which was held at the Yahoo! Dome (though I think the venue itself could somewhat be deemed as a highlight itself). I’ve read about the Yahoo! Dome before and repetitive mentions of its size had piqued my curiosity. I’d always wondered whether the place lived up to its hype in terms of vastness and therefore to finally see and be inside the massive Yahoo! Dome myself was an eye-opener. I’ve never been in an enclosure that could accommodate more than 50000 people!

1356168081162Above: Yahoo! Dome

20121222_150717Above: A small segment of the concert venue. Imagine this number of people times 7 (even 10) and that’s the total number of people gathered in one place.

The concert at Yahoo! Dome was the second Big Bang concert I’d attended and it was definitely as great as the first one. This group really emits talent. Looking at them rally the concert-goers and giving their all, I can’t help wondering what it would feel to be in that position. While my job entails rallying my audience and getting them to be engaged to whatever I’m saying and doing, it’s on an entirely different level from theirs.

I have only thing from this trip which I really regretted not being able to do due to the lack of time: visiting the Kyushu University. Regardless, it was a great trip. Looking forward to being able to see more of this world. Soon!