Saturday, January 18, 2014

Korean Winter D1 - Just Like Going Home 귀국처럼

To think that I just returned to Singapore only a few days ago on the past Sunday night... Here I am reviving the moments of the first day of the longest overseas trip I've ever taken to my beloved South Korea. It was also my first experience of winter with snow!

Many people exclaimed when I announced at the end of October 2013 that I was making yet another trip to Korea for 20 days because that would be my third trip in a year. Honestly, I didn't expect this chance to go again too! The 10 day May trip was planned long ago in 2012 and the 14 day July trip was well, because of a fantastic Scoot airfare promotion that would be too much a waste to let it pass. 

While I was in depression after coming back from July and thinking dejectedly I will have to wait torturously for a whole year before returning to Korea again, there came a chance to participate in a Korean Speech Contest organised by the Singapore Korean International School. The first prize of a round trip air ticket to Korea sparked a fervent preparation for the contest. I didn't really think I could nab it, but I did it!!! I was near tears when I was presented with the prize... ㅎㅎㅎㅎ :P My speech topic was rather unique, about 아줌마 파워! Ajumma (Korean aunty moms) Power, their "comical" stereotypes and how they are the pillars of Korea. Again, I can't thank my dedicated Korean teachers from my university's (NTU) Korean language course enough for their guidance before the contest!! And all the friends who help and supported me! 모두 다 너무 너무나 감사합니다~ ^^

And I digress... So happily I decided to go for as long as I could this trip during the short one month holiday to make the most of the air tickets. I already had planned a 10 day backpacking trip to Vietnam (updates on this super exciting trip coming up soon too!) so I decided to fly on 23 December night and return on 12 January night. I started school on 13 January morning...ㅋㅋㅋ On a side note, I'm still a bit sulky that I had to pay quite a sum for the air taxes because the ticket was supposed to be a top prize after all... (><) Oh well, it did give me a good excuse to visit Korea again in such a short period of time.

Yes, there was only one free ticket, so I decided to go alone. But looking back, it didn't feel like a solo trip at all because I barely had days when I was alone, I was with old and new friends almost every other day. It was an amazing 20 days of Korean Winter.

So after returning to Singapore from an epic adventure in Vietnam just one and a half days ago, I set off to Changi Airport with a big fat luggage, literally quavering in excitement. I was going home again.

For some inexplicable reason, I feel very at home when I'm in Korea. I felt that the very first time I set foot in Korea in March 2012. A very happy and safe feeling, it doesn't feel like being in a foreign country at all, nothing like the "I am a tourist here for vacation" sort of outsider feeling when being in other countries... Somehow... 
한국에 갈 때마다 왠지 귀국하는 것 같다. 관광객처럼 낯선 나라에 있는 그런 느낌이 전혀 없고 안심하고 행복함이 느껴진다. 

I took Asiana Airlines and it was an overnight flight, 2330hrs. Bubbling in anticipation of being in cold cold Korea in a few more hours time. The surrounding chatter of my favourite Korean language, because the flight attendants and passengers were mostly Korean, 'leveled up' my excitement even more. ^^

I requested for a vegan meal. I love how special meals are always served before everyone else hehehe. It was creamy corn polenta with spinach and tomato sauce. It wasn't too bad actually! But the side pasta salad was too oily, as usual for all flight meals' pasta/noodle sides... I liked how vegan meals got the wholegrain bun instead of the white bun. Yay~ Come to think about it, it's a bit horrifying that we were being served and were eating proper meals past 12 midnight..

I wanted to make the best of my "almost free" Asiana flight experience and picked "Life of Pi" to watch. Unfortunately it couldn't captivate my attention long enough. The next thing I knew, we were descending onto home ground~!

Stepping into Incheon International Airport and walking through the customs... It all felt so familiar, I had a stupid grin plastered onto my face. :D

I was raring to get out (the queue at the customs was darn long -.-), my first destination was my friend, Hayeon's 하연 언니  home in 우장산 Ujangsan, west of Seoul as I would be staying at her house for most of my time in Korea. I'm so grateful that she offered me a place to stay, so many wonderful memories were made. ^^

I was hurrying out of the arrival hall gates when suddenly I heard "선희야~ 선희! Seonhee ya~ Seonhee!". Oh my gosh surprise and shock! Hayeon was there waiting to fetch me home!! IT WAS 6.30AM IN THE MORNING. She was there since 6am. So veeery touched~~ It was really like going home, having someone to welcome me back. ㅠㅠ 너무 감동했어 언니야~

Hayeon and I and another friend 미선 Miseon, whom I would be meeting and staying with too, were fated to meet. ㅋㅋ They were both vegetarians (rare species in Korea) and they visited Singapore for a short holiday in October. They were googling for vegetarian eats in Singapore and came across my friend, Sheryl's blog and contacted her to meet up at The Living Cafe which served great vegan and raw food. Sheryl knew I could speak a fair bit of Korean and asked me along for the meet up. And voila~! After that day I met them again the next day and brought them to a yummy vegan eatery and ice cream cafe and to see the night scenery in Singapore. Just like that, from far far away out of so many people, through a blog out of millions of others, and through another friend, the three of us met and I can't say how grateful I am for this amazing 缘分 fate! What's more amazing is that Sheryl and I also got to know each other via the vegan community on Instagram.. Oh my I'm in love with the power of social media and the internet~!
우리의 우정이 참 미묘한 인연이다. 

I felt so excited to see Hayeon again! ^^
I had to get my Sim card that I preordered from a bookstore at the airport and then that was when I realised my extreme stupidity. I ordered a standard Sim instead of a micro Simfor my Samsung S3... Genius... (-__-) What happened after this was stupider as I proceeded to cut the card and wow it did fit in but it never came out..... (=______=)||| Moreover the phone could not even detect the card and use it... In the end a few days later I had to visit a Samsung Service Center to extricate the offending Sim card. I also couldn't register for another Sim because I had no fight time and date I could register with anymore... Thus I literally threw away my money. (-__-)" I had to survive by buying Olleh WiFi pin codes for the rest of the trip. Thankfully Korea has fabulous WiFi coverage and I could get by. Another lovely point about Korea, the WiFi everywhere and its lightning speed~~!!!

By the way this is the SIM card service for foreigners : EG Sim Card

Finally, it was time to actually move out onto the grounds of Korea. I put on my winter coat and we stepped out! A cool blast of air enveloped us immediately. Stepping into a freezer is the best way to describe the feeling. haha. But I didn't have to endure the cold for long because Hayeon drove her mom's company car here! Why am I so lucky... :P

We chatted animatedly on the car ride back home. It felt so good to be speaking Korean again!
It snowed a few days back so much of the scenery was blanketed in white snow. You can imagine how I ooh-ed and ahh-ed over it being a person who has been in a tropical country all her life... ㅎㅎㅎ

The first shot of beautiful Korea from the car. 24th December 2013, Christmas Eve, I'm home. (:

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