Friday, June 29, 2012

Pre-preparations for the move to Seoul from India

The next step after the decision was to get ready for the packing. Oh, we did a lot of pre-preparations for the move!
  • Documents: We painstakingly organized all documents(bank statements, certificates, etc)  required to be taken to Korea and the others which can be left behind.
  • Disconnections: Started disconnecting the landline phone and internet (BSNL people were super efficient), mobile phones (took more than 3 weeks to resolve with Vodaphone), the gas connection,  milk, paper, cable, transfer of the Tata Sky.
  • Home care: Very sadly arranged security and maintenance for our home until the tenant arrives. Missing it very much.
  • Everything Online: Made sure that everything, right from bank transactions to the email addresses of friends and relatives and other services were synced.
  • Dates: Fixed the dates for the shipping people to come and pack up our home.  Made sure that the relocation people, real estate agent and the company sponsoring us knew that we were landing on the specified date.
  • Home in Seoul: Checked, rechecked if the house we were going to land in in Seoul was all cleaned and ready. Our home and most home in Korea dont have a key to get in. They use a pin number punched into the key pad to get in. (All high tech :) We wrote it down in 3 different places, just to be sure and as we were landing at midnight, didnt want to frantically wake up the real estate agent in the mid of the night! Though i had his number also ready, just in case we were locked out.
  • Ride from the airport: Checked and rechecked if there was someone who would come and receive us in the airport and made sure we told them that we were bringing 6 massive suitcases and they had to send us a vehicle to fit it all!
  • Alien Registration Card: is a mandatory card that all foreigners must apply for within 90 days of arrival. This involves filling in an application form and applying for it in person at the designated office. This is an all-Korean job, best left to the people who do it right. We talked to the relocation services to help us get this done.
  • Packing and Shipping: As the rule states that we have to be out of the country before the relocation people can ship our stuff to Seoul, we packed the stuff for our immediate usage (until the shipping arrives to us in Seoul -around a month) to be take along with us in the plane. We did get the shippers to carefully pack this set too, under my guidance, of course. (keeping in mind the meagre luggage allowance in the flight and the extra fees for the extra weight)


Top 5 worries in a move to Seoul

Moving out of one's comfort zone is never easy, let alone moving to a new country. New culture, new language along with a new job. Been there, done it! And to tell the truth, the transition was not too bad. But the more prepared you are, the better and easier, your move is going to be.

Golden Buddha at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul
Buddha Bless you, Jogyesa Temple, Seoul
  1. Cost of Living: Cost of living is quite high in Seoul. I would suggest that you do your home work and research well about what privileges the company would provide for you. Use Glass Door, to check if you are being paid in the right range for working in South Korea. Learn the cost of grocery, and the mundane expenses like the cellphone charges, gas/electricity/water charges. Usually, the company that hires you pays for your accommodation. They also pay for the international schools for your children. Once you are quite convinced about the money matters, the move would be more pleasant.
  2. Language: Once you get out of the Incheon Airport, it is Korean everywhere! People donot talk in English readily. It is quite intimidating to enter into a store and ask for help even if it is just for finding a packet of salt. But, remember, there are few thousands of Indians and many more foreigners living in Korea, who've all gone through this, got weird looks and stares and gotten over it! (or, to tell you the truth, the staring still continues for me :) After a few apprehensive moments in the first few days, we kind of adapt to the situation- ask fewer questions, act it out more if we are really desperate, or use google translate :) When there is will, there is a way you know! And for the purists, Korean language structure is quite easy and you can start reading in a few weeks. Understanding the conversations and mastering the vocabulary, well, thats a quite another story! But I can assure you that transportation and the grocery stores have English signs- after all, Seoul did host a lot of foreigners during the 1988 Olympics!
  3. Vegetarianism: It is not unusual to have already created a mental picture of octopus-eating, doggy-devouring populace in Korea. Though the Korean language didnt have a word for vegetarian until very recently, (i saw this on youtube, while searching for vegetarian in korea) in reality, Koreans generally eat a lot of fresh and colorful vegetables in their meals. And all the usual veggies -potatoes and tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and many more are commonly available everywhere. I have seen street vendors bringing in fresh veggies, fish (along with octopus, if you prefer) and home-made snacks to the apartments similar to our thallu-vandis, only these people use motorized vehicles! There are a few Korean food items that are also vegetarian and you can try them if you can pronounce them and make the waiter understand it :) There are also tons restaurants of other cuisines available, including Indian, if you want to eat out. You can also order delivery of Indian grocery to your doorstep, thanks to the few Indian and foreign food marts. Anyway, there are even vegans in Seoul who thriving and doing very well! I have been able to make my usual sambhar, rasam, idli, dosai and vadai, chapathi at home! No big deal. 
  4. Schools: Oh!Yeah, this could be a show-stopper. Education is expensive in Seoul. The language of instruction in public schools are obviously Korean. All foreigners, no doubt, enroll their kids in International schools, where their kids are given first preference. International schools are no doubt the top of the line, both in educating the kiddos and in the monthly fees. They are totally expensive. It is best if the company can cover a bit (or more) of the educational costs. 
  5. Safety: Seoul is one of the safest places in South Korea. Foreigners, particularly Indians are treated with respect and dignity. I have been up and about around the city in the oddest of hours and have not encountered any problems. There are of course, soju-soaked people on the subway on Saturday nights, but still, no issues! People (especially the older generation) do gawk at you, without batting an eyelid, (much to my consternation) but they usually do it out of curiosity and probably because she/he has never seen a foreign face before. 
  6. Missing out on the family and friends circle: I am adding this sixth one on hindsight because, though I have actually been able to keep up with my family and friends quite well, others might think it impossible when you are sitting alone in the land of the morning calm. The internet speed in Korea is 100mbps. Thats almost 20 times the speed you get in India and the top speed in the world. With Gtalk, Skype, Facebook, it is not too difficult to video chat with your loved ones. And in no time, you would be sitting in the living room of your family and friends more often than before!
Rest assured, if there is a problem, the thousands of people who have come here before you, have gone through it, adjusted to it, or more possibly, found a solution for it! Maybe it is time to just make up your mind and take the leap :) Next Step: to the Pre-preparations required in moving to Seoul from India.

Monochrome Flowers

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Dowry Box

Years ago, when child marriage was still prominent in India, the bride would store her clothing, jewellery and knick knacks in this box that her father would present to her when she would leave for her in-laws' place. The closed box has beautiful bronze floral pattern inlays on the top and on the three sides. When the box is opened, it shows the hand crafted motifs with a mirror for the little woman. The bottom part shows numerous comparments for storage of her possessions. There is even a secret compartment in there! It is crafted in Sandal Wood and is quite heavy but can be moved around as it comes with a set of wooden wheels. This antique piece was supposed to be around 60 years old, atleast and was supposed to have been made in Tamil Nadu (South India) by a loving father for his wonderful daughter.

close up of the dowry box

bottom of the dowry box

the bronze inlays of the dowry box

Thursday Challenge: Wood

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Xcess garbage

I was reading about recycling and garbage disposal and taking pictures of the noisy routine they follow when they pick up the recyclables in Seoul, when, by chance, i happened to see the Xs in the pictures. Can you find them?

How do you recycle in Seoul?

Recycling truck in Seoul

A 10 million people squeezed into 600 sq kms of space leads to traffic congestion, crowded subways, tall and umpteen number of apartments and a hell a lot of garbage! Thats why Seoul has a very systematic way for recycling the garbage and disposing the waste. This site here has all the info:

I am reminded of the recycling troubles i had in Bangalore: 

There is an old women who comes everyday in the morning to collect garbage from our homes in our layout. She has no specialist equipments like the ones above. She does the sorting. She complains if you have too much of garbage as she has to carry a lot more load and her garbage trolley is quite full. She also lines the middle of the road with garbage because the trolley is rickety and overflowing. All for Rs 25 a month. She smiles if you gave her a bit more, grins if you give her some left over cake from your son's birthday.
Then there is the paper wallah, who has this magical instrument: the balance. His job is simple. He weighs your newspapers with his magic balance and gives you 6-10 rupees per kg. If i were to stand on this balance, i would miraculously have lost the fat thats sticking out of me and return back to being a 2year old! The cheat. I did talk to him that he was blatantly ripping me off. But he wouldnt agree. Then i found a perfect solution.
I let my maid in on the picture. She is one vociferous woman who knows her business. I give her my pile of newspapers. She painstakingly takes them to the same guy, makes sure that he weighs it properly, (she even takes the lose sheets of papers) and recycle them, while she keeps the money for all her trouble.

ABC Challenge -X

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moving to Seoul from India

Gyeonbukgang palace in Seoul
Gyeonbokgung palace in Seoul

Our decision to move to Seoul was not an impulsive one. When he appeared for the interview, it was just a seedling of a thought that was in the back of minds. Just a possibility; When he was invited to Seoul to check out the company, his primary job description, schools for the kids and the house for living in, the thought got deep rooted. When he actually visited the place, he was basically in love with the job description, attracted by the respect and sincerity of the Koreans, amazed by the hustle and bustle of the city. He was now thoroughly convinced himself, and started watering the thought of moving to Korea to me.

Me, i convince myself. It was wonderful to know that he loved the job, but I was not easily moving from the cushy, settled life in Bangalore to a place where i would be totally helpless, jobless and restless! Rid of my job, my pretty home with a wonderful garden, my kids' education in one of the top schools in the country, my wonderful family and neighbors, the maid service, the "get on your car in front steps of your home and get off where you want to go" privileges- That needed something really big.

Korea was never in my must-visit places before i die! I did not know anything about Korea. I didnt know anybody who lives in Korea. So, i browsed for Seoul. Living in Seoul, life in Seoul, apartments in Seoul, Food in Seoul, visiting Seoul, Internationals Schools in Seoul. I wanted to know how much the grocery cost in Seoul, I wanted to know how big the apartments were, I wanted to know about health care, climate, clothes, cost of living, and even maid service in Seoul. I wanted to know if it was even worth considering moving to Seoul!
These are the five big ticket items that were bugging me. When, i researched and got over it, things became pretty clear.We checked off everything and decided to move to Seoul. We spent about a month doing the pre-preparations for the move (you just cant wave a wand and be done with it, you know, we had toil and boil twice over before we were ready) Between the packing and shipping our home in Bangalore and receiving and settling in Seoul, there was one month of language confusion, perplexing situations, baffling food stuff, gestured articulations. But we endured.

Well, here we are, enjoying Seoul and her bounty, Seoulites and their warmth, gadgets and goodies, yet not having to lose our Indian-ness :)

If you are moving to South Korea, you may want to check out these pages too:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Seoul Tower

This week, we decided to make the long awaited trip to the Seoul Tower. This striking structure (236m) sits on top of Mount Namsan (which by itself is 243m) and can be seen from almost anywhere in Seoul, North of the Han river. It is also a pretty amazing structure to watch out for in the nights with the colorful lighting.

Reaching the Seoul Tower
Cable car to the Seoul Tower
Cable car we had to took to the Seoul Tower. (It was crowded)
  • Subway-cable car: The subway line 4 exit at Myeongdong and a 10min walk takes you to the inclined elevator Ormi (free) which leads to the cable car ticketing booth.  
  • Namsan Shuttle bus-(in green and clearly marked in English) is available from multiple areas in the city. The No.3 bus goes via Itaewon. This will be the fastest and direct way to get to the Tower from Itaewon. 
  • Car: Parking is also available at the cable car ticketing station and at the Namsan Park.
  • There is also a trek route to reach the top of the Mount Namsan. 
We took the cable car to reach the top of mount Namsan to reach the base of the Seoul Tower. There is a trekking trail too, to reach the base of the tower. The cable car ride round trip costs 7500won (one way- 6000 won) for adults and 5000won (one way- 3,500won) for kids.
The inclined elevator to cable car to Seoul Tower
The Ormi inclined elevator leading to the cable car station to Seoul Tower

The cable car ride was just around 5-6mins and we reached the base of the Seoul tower after another flight of stairs.

Haechi is a mythical animal symbolizing Seoul
Haechi is a mythical animal symbolizing Seoul
 The base of the Seoul Tower has events running on the whole day. (and probably at night too) We were able to see some talented South Korean Folk artists (Pungmal) play on their instruments while rotating their heads in such a way as to make synchronous designs with the long-ribboned-fancy-hat. This was really interesting to watch and couldnt help but wonder about the neck-health of these artists!

South Korean folk artists making merry music and designs with the fancy-long-ribboned-hat
Folk artists with their instruments and fancy long-ribboned-hat.
The base of the tower also houses the beacons used in the past.
beacons at the Seoul tower
Beacons at the Seoul Tower

The tickets to the fast speed elevator to the top of the Seoul tower can be obtained with various combinations-
  • Including food (fancy Korean, French and Italian restaurants - French one is the rotating one, right on the top!)
  • With the Teddy bear museum. We took this one. (14,000won for adults, 10,000won for teenagers, 7000won for kids)
  • Without any combination, it costs (9,000won, 7,000won and 5,000won respectively)
N Seoul Tower
Seoul Tower
The Teddy bear museum basically shows all things about Korea with Teddy bear characters. The life in villages, the army of the king, the traditional wedding of the king, building of the palace, to the modern day weddings in Korea, the christmas trees in the Seoul Plaza, shopping in Myeongdong and many more. The animated characters was a worthwhile timepass with the kids.

The teddy bear version of the crowning ceremony
The teddy bear version of the crowning ceremony of the king
We couldnt wait anymore and rushed to the high speed elevator to the top of the Seoul tower. We could hardly feel that we were moving, except for the blocks in the ears. The view from top was good. Should have been amazing to see all this in the night, though. And the tower is open all days and on Fridays and Saturday until 12AM. So, maybe another visit, some other time?

Seoul from the N Seoul Tower
View of Seoul from the Seoul Tower
We checked out all the places written in the brochure (available in English at the Ticketing booth) and also had a bite to eat at the top. Even checked out the restrooms with a view!
Restrooms with a view at the Seoul tower
Restrooms with a view
We went down the elevator after getting the mandatory magnet of the Seoul tower to add to our collection. And took the not too long but crowded and hot ride down the mount on the cable car.

I was kind of curious to find what the N in the N Seoul Tower stood for- ( The green N is very obvious on the brochures and websites and there is a huge green N logo in front of the Seoul Tower itself) my guesses were Namsan or North (of Han River, but there arent any S(outh)Seoul Tower, hmmm...) But actually, after a bit of googling, i found out N stands for New as in the Tower's New Look!

Seoul is a crowded city anyway. My recommendation is: go visit this place at night, (when you'd be pushed around by hordes of people) but when the view is going to be spectacular and the tower itself lighted colorfully! If you'd rather skip the crowd, like me, the tower opens at 10AM :) And for moms and dads of little kids, there are plenty of food to grab and toilets all along the way!

Check out Buddha's Birthday Bash in Seoul, if you have hots for the city ;)

Blue Monday
Mellow Yellow Monday 
Our World Tuesday 
Ruby Tuesday 2 
Outdoor Wednesday 
Skywatch Friday

Friday, June 22, 2012

Paciferous Purple

One of my favorite flowers in my garden: Water Lily

My favorite shot of this flower! With the reflection of the coconut leaves

The shot before the heavens were about to open up, again!

Water lily closing up for the day!

No dictionary has the word paciferous in it. Blogger also finds it wrongly spelt. But i found this word in the list of unusual words starting with p and Paciferous means bringing peace. Which i thought was apt for my purple~ 

Floral Friday
Color Connection
ABC Wednesday- P for Pacifereous Purple 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hot (or not) shots

 Hot (or not) shots of ladies from the Innovative Film City in Bangalore.

Some like it hot (or not): Modest Marilyn Monroe from Innovative Film City, Bangalore. What is the significance of the red circles in the background?

Hot (or not) shot of Mona Lisa, by Leo Na Illai Da Vinci

Hot (or Not) shot of good "old" Snow white and the seven dwarfs and the red poison apple.

Thursday Challenge- Hot (or not :)
Ruby Tuesday 2

Book Review: Lavender Vows by Colleen Gleason

This is a free book from Amazon Kindle.

I chose this book because, right now, i am in the mood for historical and medieval English novels, with a touch of romance i might add. The blurb of the book specified just that and i was willing to take up on it.

Lord Bernard is a very strong, masculine and a good looking man on the other side of twenty, who is goaded into finding himself a bride by his father. Bernard finds love in a married woman, Lady Joanna, who is being abused by her husband Ralf. How Bernard overcomes the hurdles posed by the husband of his lady love and her irresponsible father to marry Joanna forms the plot of this short story.
The hard stone walls of the keep, the twisting passageways lit by flickering torches, the impact of the long lances in the jousting tournament, the brandishing of the swords and the stances with the halberd, is delightfully spun into the medieval background setting for the story. The rugged and powerful Bernard is well portrayed and so is the strong-willed, yet vulnerable Joanna. Maris of Langumont is an interesting character- a strong-willed woman and a healer who does not want to be tied down by marriage. And Ralf is also woven well with his weak-willed, abusive nature that almost makes you hate him instantly. The story line also comes up with a map leading to a treasure, which is the object of interest of Ralf, that Joanna is supposed to obtain from her father. The climax to the story does not do justice to the treasure or, are we to assume that Bernard has replaced the treasure? And I could not accept that "all is well" after a murder being committed for which the repercussions have been specified earlier in the book!

All in all, this book was a quick read, which gave you good ambiance, happy-to-be-in-the-hands-of-a-strong man feel, but still left a sour feel because of the loose ends in the book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trees outside my window

My latest doodle:

Windows to my World

Windows! Windows from here, windows from there. Windows from all over and everywhere!

Windows outside the window from our Apartment in Seoul

 window with coucal 
 Coucal outside the window in our home in Bangalore

Ancient windows at Belur Temple

Modern Circular windows at Singapore

Windows at an art school

 windows in a forest cabin 
Windows to the forest

Patterned windows of the Gate in Seoul

Windows of Royalty in Seoul

Sunny and green-thumbed window 

designs on the window at home

Designed Windows at home

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kindle pouch with a flower!

I crocheted myself a nice little kindle pouch or sleeve today!

kindle sleeve with flower

I got the instructions from some nice people at Ravelry. Login is required, but oh! so worth it. They have hundreds of free patterns and beautiful designs of whatever you want to do -right from pretty afghans for the babies to classy sweaters for women and very simple sleeves for coffee cups to sophisticated jackets!
 I enjoyed making this sleeve very much although the yarn is not cheap or available readily in Seoul. I got it in Ipark mall in Yongsan station and later at Emart at Yongsan station. But there were not many colors of yarn available. I am told that there are hooks and yarn available at the Myeongdong  underground mall. I might go in and scout if it is going to be cheaper there!

Ruby Tuesday 2

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buddha's Birthday in Seoul

Buddha's birthday was celebrated on May 28th 2012. The Lotus Lantern Festival held in its wake ran from May 18th to 20th. There were many free activities like making lotus lanterns, sampling Temple food, trying on hanboks (Korean traditional costume) and many more during that time. There was also a spectacular lantern parade bringing in floats of huge lanterns of different styles, gorgeous traditional Korean dancers and a huge array of people from different parts of the world carrying the lanterns. This was the when we visited two of the most famous Buddhist temples in Seoul. Bonguensa Temple and Jogyesa Temple.
Big Statue of Buddha in Bonguensa Temple

Almost 6000 buddha statues in Bonguensa temple

Big collection- almost 6000 statues of Buddha in Bonguensa Temple 

Big Flower lantern at the Bonguensa Temple

Big collection of Lotus lanterns at the Bonguensa Temple

Big Sleeping Buddha lantern during the lantern parade

 Big Dragon lantern at the Lantern parade 

Big statues of Buddha at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. 

Colorful array of lanterns during the festival

One of the free activities during the festival was to try and hit the drums to a specific beat.

She was very good at the playing the Korean (big) drum.

Our next trip was to the Seoul Tower, one of the top tourist attractions in Seoul.

Thursday Challenge- Big
Yellow Mellow Monday 
Our World Tuesday

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Voices of a home

A house becomes a home when you are familiar with all the creaks in the floor, squeaks in the gates, bangs of the doors and the thuds on the stairs. The chirps in the garden, the rustle in the leaves, cracks of the twigs, the clinks of the the wind chime, the songs of the birds. The demanding meows from the cats, the pleading barks of the dogs, the soft chirps of the bulbuls, the slealth mode of the coucal. The happy time smiles, the moping whines, the angry yells, the mighty blows and the faint sorrys. Roars of laughter with  friends, feeble whispers of love, gentle pecks on cheeks and many more!

A house becomes a home when the voices are ever present whether in memories or you are creating some right now!

Videos of the voices i hear and see everyday:

Birdie Bath time

Voices of the Red Whiskered Bulbul

ABC Wednesday V for Voice, Video
Outdoor Wednesday

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Men in Red

Coinciding with the summer vacation and the craze for cricket amongst the masses, there is a 20-over (120 balls bowled) cricket tournament  conducted in India. It is called the Indian Premier League (IPL) and most major cities have a team consisting of top cricket players from all around the world. While the tournament takes more than a month to perk up the interest, build up the tension and end in fireworks, one match takes only around 5 hours- A perfect way to spend a Sunday. With tickets ranging from dirt cheap to living-like-Gods varieties, it was too good to miss an evening of fun with a bit of cricket.

We went to the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, all dressed in Red and Gold to support our home team, the Bangalore Team, The men in Red- Royal Challengers Bangalore against the the Delhi DareDevils.

Chinnaswamy cricket stadium
The Chinnaswamy Stadium in decked in red to support the home team, Royal Challengers Bangalore
The match started only at 8PM but we were in the stadium around 6, before the stadium lights were on.
Cheer leaders are crowd pleasers.
It was not a long wait as we were entertained by the teams coming out for a practice session followed by the toss and by the cheer girls.
free balloons with IPL match at Chinnaswamy stadium
Cheering for the Red Team!
There were many free stuff like these balloons and placards for 4 and 6 that came with our ticket.

Lights on at chinnaswamy stadium
Lights are ready and the game is on at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore

Finally, the lights were on and the players were all ready to get the game rolling!

 It was a great match with RCB leading right from the start with AB Devilliers (South African and my son's absolute favorite cricketer) going bersek and hitting the ball all around the stadium. We missed Gayle (West Indies) and his shots as he was out injured.
This was as close to our handsome and swashbuckling batsman and Vice Captain Virat Kohli that we could ever get!
RCB defeat DD in Chinnaswamy stadium
RCB defeated DD on this wonderful evening and the entire city of Bangalore let out a big sigh of contented relief and we had a great evening hanging with the men in Red!

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