Archive for the ‘Seoul’ Category

Procrastination? or lack of interest

February 22, 2010

When time is available in plenty I end up doing much less than what i would if there was little time. 

When there is no work pressure and when no body cares what I do, I end up doing very little or nothing.

Even the non-academic books that i read, once my hobby, is now more of a way to fall asleep at night. I read so many books that i cant name even the one i read a week ago. The content of book too doesn’t stay in memory. I only remember those that left an impression, i.e. something about the story or the writing lingered in the mind.  Coincidentally, the books that have that lingering effect are the ones written by big shots: Steinbeck, Dorris Lessing, Hemmingway…  These guys must be really good that they leave an impression even in my disinterested reading.

Hiking. I like very much. But now I have to find motivation to hike. The internet and the endless stream of movies and news that it offers hogs my weekends and any or all the spare time i  have.

Possibly no interest lasts forever.

Meditation too depends on mood, surroundings and what not. The ‘happiness’ that comes after meditation is probably a carrot offered by those who themselves were lost and didn’t want to be left alone.  With no signs of ‘benefit’, meditations slips from once a day to once in long while.

When in India i used to think that Indians working abroad with all the free time  and no one to disturb would end up doing so much more. Now i know…

I now believe that a group of like minded people is a must for self improvement. Then, possibly, irrespective of where one stays one would surely utilise the time fruitfully. ‘Satsang’ as the scriptures say seems to be the only way.

is blogspot blocked in Korea?

February 11, 2010

In the past 2 years i have tried accessing blogspot sites but always got the ‘Oops! this link appears to be broken’ message. It appears that blogspot is blocked in south korea because the sites that i was trying to access were primarily maintained by academicians. While i could not find the official list of blocked websites, this blog alleges that blogspot is blocked by the ministry of information.

Where is the singapore embassy in Seoul

February 8, 2010

Take Line 1 to Jongak station. Walk out of the exit (forgot the number) that points to Gwanghamun Post Office. Do not cross the road. About 100 meters from the exit you would find the Kyobo Building on your right across the road. Its a tall building and the ‘Kyobo’ board is only at the top, so you wouldn’t see it unless you look up. Do not cross the road. Take your left and you should see ‘Seoul Finance Center‘. The Singapore embassy is on the 28th floor.

The embassy is more like a stylish apartment. There were two lady personnel when i visited. No queue. Infact, there was no one else. Possibly because Koreans and US citizens do not need VISA to go to Singapore.

Indian do need VISA.  We should fill up form 14a and form3a. Both are available for download here. Form3a is basically a letter of introduction from someone who knows you in Singapore. One also is required to give a photocopy of that person’s Singapore Identity Card.  The Singapore VISA (for tourists) is given for 5 weeks (as i was told) and the time starts soon after you are given the VISA. Therefore its better to apply a few days before your  journey. One also has to give a copy of the CONFIRMED ticket.

I have to mention here how, more than an year ago, i went to Singapore without going through the VISA procedure.  I had 6-7 hours time available at the airport between flights. My friend’s office was 35-40 minutes away by train from the airport. When i enquired with the concerned authorities they looked at my passport and let me into Singapore. Apparently, if you have a valid US visa then you could be allowed in Singapore. I later found that i was given a 3 day permit!

When i checked this with the embassy in Seoul, i was told that such permits are given on a person to person basis;  i.e. its not common.


December 8, 2009

I saw the movie yesterday. Its different but not extraordinary. The make up man deserves the award. One wonders how he can be made to look so different. AB is pretty tall in real life but it does’nt show up in the movie. Ofcourse, he looks taller than other students but not as much. The film is 2hrs20min but it does’nt drag.
Vidya Balan looked and acted like a mom. Arundhati Nag played the role of Vidya’s mom deservedly. AB ofcourse did great but i wonder if Kamal Hassan could have done better. Abhishek …could he have done better. Paresh Rawal had barely any scope in the story. He was truly wasted.
The music and background score is typical Illayaraja. Those who have seen old south indian movies would find barely anything new. Even the sounds are the same…Though i have’nt seen many southy movies or know as many songs i could reconise one telugu song..” akasham yenatido anuragam anatide..”
On the whole its a good movie and worth watching once.  But will it be a crowd puller? I doubt.

the common question

October 16, 2009

most spiritual aspirants doubt if anything indeed is changing in them. any number of Guru’s have been asked this question. The answer lies in belief. Belief in the path chosen and the Guru. What else can be said?…If the destination is ‘realisation’ which can only be realised and not explained…how could one motivate oneself?
Once a spiritual aspirant asked Ramana. “I have been coming to you, Swami, many times, hoping that something will happen and I shall be changed. So far I do not see any change in me. I am as I was: a weakling of a man, an inveterate sinner.”

To which Ramana replied “On this road there are no milestones”. “How can you know which direction you are going? Why don’t you do what the first-class railway passenger does? He tells the guard his destination, locks the doors and goes to sleep. The rest is done by the guard, If you could trust your guru as much as you trust the railway guard, it would be quite enough to make you reach your destination. Your business is to shut the door and windows and sleep. The guard will wake you up at your destination.”  (from this link)
The answer appeals intellectually. However, can one hang on to belief forever ?

In the presence of Sri Sri Ravishankar

October 15, 2009

About 13 years ago i heard of Art of Living and Sri Sri (as he is reverently addressed) while i was still at Bangalore. There was the initial skepticism but soon it turned into reverence and admiration. I got to see him and also hear him in the ‘Science and Spirituality’ meeting in IISc, Bangalore. But i never really got to see and meet him at one to one distance as i did here in Seoul. I even asked him a question after his lecture. Also got to do the half sAshTAng namaskar to him.

It was only his second visit to Seoul. I am indeed fortunate. The meeting was arranged on two days in YMCA, Gangnam. Nearly 200 people turned up. On the first day Sri Sri started with meditation and then gave a short lecture. Before starting meditation he made us do simple exercises like straightening the brows, nose and cheek. He says they are stress relievers. And indeed i felt very fresh after 2-3 minutes of that exercise. He never announced that it was meditation (just close your eyes and let go) but i soon found myself in a state where the number of thoughts were either zero or one. For a moment i even dozed.  And then he said take a deep breath and say OM. This was done 3 times. A little while later he said “now slowly open your eyes”. It was 23 minutes since we had started meditation. Its the first time in years that i experienced this state of mind. There was something nice about it. However, i must admit that when we started chanting OM the mind was disturbed and i opened my eyes. Nevertheless…i felt fresh and happy. He then gave the lecture followed by questions. I asked how i could make myself focus on one thing without the interference of other thoughts. He said something that was a non-answer. My friend asked how he could deal with negative feelings. To which he said “just embrace them”. Not satisfactory but what else can anyone answer. Thats the age old question. If pressed he would most likely say practice Sudarshan Kriya and you will benefit immensely. But we were still in awe of him and the meditation that we had just experienced.

The second day was the basic course which lasted 3 hours. He came an hour late. He took us through the simple exercise routine but this time in some more detail. And then the meditation (for 26 minutes). However, this day my mind was adamant and it was not any different from when i practice on my own. My guess is that the exercise was a bit too much for me. Even before he arrived we had done some exercises. He left soon after-he was scheduled to be in Japan and then in Israel!

Art of Living is yet to really take off in Seoul. Infact an year ago i had to do serious google-search for art of living in Seoul. I found a webpage and a center. With some difficulty i located it. It was the home of Sylvain (a french gentleman) who asked me in and we had a chat. He also offered me Tea! (a courtesy so common in India but rare in Korea-its more than 2 years for me here). But now i learn that they have an office.  The name card of the person who is the contact for the center says,

Hyeon Ju Oh, #205, 547-7, Banpo-Dong, Seocho-Gu,Seoul.

Bungee Jumping in Seoul

October 14, 2009

There are atleast two places in Korea where ‘Bungee Jumping’ can be done. One is 45m high and the other 65m. I recently did the 45m high Bungee Jump.  The jump tower has a beam coming out of it like a cantilever and  is located on a lake.

 They charge 25000 won. There will be a number of people already in queue so they would ask you to come back at a certain time. I had to come back after 2 hours. Once its your time, they give you a kind of fixture that covers your chest up to the knees. This fixture has an arrangement in the back where the bungee rope will attach to you when its your turn.  The lift takes you up to that altitude. From there you walk along an extended arm to the point from where you take the plunge. I was alright until it was my turn. When he attached the rope to my back and it dawned on me that this was my moment i felt a shiver in my calf! The instructor possibly noticed the fear on my face and asked me not to look down.  Instead he pointed to a house in the park at a far distance and asked me to leap into that house.  He started counting 5,4,3,2,1….i jumped.  The zero-gravity feeling is inexpressible…You go down and then up again and down and again up. Everytime the feeling (a knot in your stomach) is the same. I probably closed my eyes for a moment. I dont remember if i even breathed. Could not shout. (many scream, i wish i could)…After about a minute it was over. I was being lowered into a boat that was trying to position so that i land into it. After landing i hopelessly tried to stand. The instructor asked me to sit. A minute later i gained my balance and was thinking of doing it again. May be this time the fear will be less and i can actually enjoy the process!  I wonder which stage in the Darwinian evolution can describe this desire to face danger.

Its located in Yuldong-Park.
Yuldong Park can be reached by Taxi (3500 won) from Seohyeon station.
Seohyeon station is on Bundang Line. Line 3 from Seoul connects to the Bundang line at Suseo.

If you are going along with a friend you would want to space your jumps so that one can take photographs when the other is jumping.

Intriguing behavior

October 8, 2009

I have been in Seoul for more than 2 years working in a research lab. Many things about the place and the people were intriguing to me, an Indian.
I will start by the most recent and will add as and when i remember things from the past.
1.    I suddenly notice that my desk drawer, which is an independent unit (with wheels) is missing. It contained all my research samples. I had even stuck a label with my name on the drawer. I look around and notice that its with the table given to a new student. I search for my samples and they are missing. Another frantic search and i find the samples in a drawer thats lying in a corner. Apparently, no one was using that one!

Though i describe here an incident it is a fairly general behavior among Koreans in this research lab.  If you are a foreigner you will rarely be informed of anything.  Unless you speak korean, eat their food, drink soju and party with them you will remain in oblivion.

2. I hosted dinner for all the scientists and students in my lab.  Twice. They all came for the dinner. However, they spoke only among themselves; mostly with the group head.

3. A foriegn colleague had finished his term. A send-off party was arranged in the group head’s office! Pizza was ordered. They had the pizza and spoke among themselves; mostlly with the group head. No one spoke with the guy for whom the send off was arranged.

4. Research work done by one guy but the research article carries more names than one. While this may be the case in many labs around the world; its done without inhibition here.

5. One day i discovered that my labmates were preparing to leave. When asked i was told they were all attending a conference in Japan. The conference was on a topic that i am working on. My work ofcourse, was used by my host but without my knowledge!


Paragliding in Seoul

October 7, 2009

I had googled for long for information on paragliding in Seoul, but in vain. Unexpectedly a colleague’s friend got to know about it and even arranged the visit for us. Here are the details:
cost for paragliding: 90000 won
if you want to take pictures while gliding add 10000 won more. And if you want a video you have to pay 10000 more.
Its an exhilarating experience. They will take you up a mountain and then ask you to run down a slope. Before realise you are in air and flying.  But no need to worry, the pilot will be behind you as you take off, attached to the same parachute. He would do the navigating lest you get stuck in some trees. He controls the speed and also does some tricks that increase the thrill. 

Totally hastle free. No preparation is needed on our part.  The gliding lasts 25-30 minutes. 

This place is ~2 Kms from Guksu station. Guksu station is on Jungang line. Travel from Guksu station to the actual location was arranged by the paragliding company.  Apparently, there are many locations near Seoul. Our location goes by the name Yongpyeong, Youmyongsan. But i am not so sure of the name.  The website is here. Unfortunately its only in Korean. However, you can get the phone numbers. One of the pilots understood and spoke a little english.  They also offer training. We saw many people paragliding on their own.

Ignored! Even in Korea

October 6, 2009

On weekends i go to the Indian market buy frozen roti’s, indian snacks and such. Typically, i end the evening with dinner in a nearby Indian restaurant. There are many on way to my home. I chose one such restaurant and got in. The Indian waiter looked at me for a moment and then shifted his glance. Entering the restaurant just behind me were a western couple (both white with golden-brown hair). The waiter was all attention to them. Realising, i searched for a table lest he assign even the table to them. I found one but it was not clean; it had dishes with food left over from the previous customers. I requested it to be cleaned but the waiter was still all ears to the western couple. Just then another waiter (and possibly a cook too-he had the white cap that chefs wear) came by and offered to clean the table. He too was Indian and possibly was observing all of this from the kitchen (the kitchen as an open window which is used to pass the dishes to the waiter). He carried the expression of “i know what u must be going through”…i liked him instantly. Even thought of tipping him. But then other thoughts overpowered, “never seen anyone giving tips in Korea”. He cleaned the table…no table cloth no spoons. Nevertheless, I sat for a moment and then walked towards the tables where the food was arranged in large bowls. It was Buffet today. On weekends, its only Buffet…unlimited including dessert for 15000 won! I finished the starters (small samosas). It was then that the waiter thought i could be attended to. He got the table cloth (a sheet of paper) hinted with his eyes to me to lift my plate. He placed the sheet of paper, smiled and left. Even before i finished my starters the roti arrived on my table. I had no option but to get the curry and dal from the buffe table so that i could eat the roti before it got cold. The samosa’s can be had later.

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