Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A week in the south of South Korea

I recently went on a week long trip to the south of South Korea. My first stop was Yeosu, where the World Fair was hosted last year. My main focus here was to visit the aquarium -- the second biggest in Korea (but still rather small compared to what I'm used to from South Africa). I went to Yeosu by slow train. It cost merely $13 from Seoul all the way to the south. That was the average rate for the bus fair from one city to the next. From Yeosu I went to Yeongtong to enjoy a maritime festival there, see a live size replica of the Turtle-Battle ship and visit the shrine of Admiral Lee Shunshin (aka Choong-Moo). Then Busan, Korea's second largest metropol and famed beach hang-out. Finally, Ulsan. I came back to Seoul with an overnight bus. I stayed in motels mostly, and jjimjilbangs (overnight saunas) the last two nights. I ate two meals a day, just having a brunch and dinner and some snacks late at night. Generally it was a good trip but just too hot. I stayed indoors for most of the day and only enjoyed the beaches in the late afternoon, early evening. I went swimming only once. Met some people. Ate well. Walked a lot! The pictures below are just some random ones. Some prettier than others. All taken with my mobile phone. 

Two lies and a truth

Can you guess the true statement?

1. I have kissed a/an:
a. elephant
b. man
c. snake

2. I have a degree in:
a. History of Art
b. Alternative Medicine
c. Business Communication

3. I have read:
a. Of Mice and Men
b. Bram Stoker's Dracula
c. The Last Samurai

4. I have watched the film:
a. Saw
b. Cabin in the Woods
c. Paranormal Activity

5. I believe in the existence (past or present) of:
a. dragons
b. pegasuses (winged horses)
c. vampires

6. I like:
a. Willie Nelson's “Living in the Promisedland”
b. Marilyn Manson's “If I Was Your Vampire”
c. Psy's “Gangnam Style”

7. I like to drink:
a. horchata (mexican rice drink)
b. Amarula liqueur (South African Amarula cream)
c. makgeolli (Korean rice wine)

8. I have eaten:
a. whale
b. shark
c. dog

9. I think _________ is sexy:
a. George Clooney
b. Matthew McConaughey
c. Barak Obama

10. I would love to date _________:
a. Avril Lavigne
b. Megan Fox
c. Miley Cyrus

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

In Conversation with DiCaprio

This morning I dreamed I was having a conversation with Leo DiCaprio and I complimented him on his vintage jacket. "Never buy English designs," replies he. "They go out of style too quickly." (I understood him to mean that French or Italian styles have his blessing. "Well, I cannot afford what you are wearing," says I. "Not yet, at least." And then I woke up with a sense to buy things that are more expensive, but quality and which will last longer and not go out of style quickly.

Sunday, 18 August 2013


“You see, evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is ultimately negative, and therefore encompasses its downfall even at its moments of apparent triumph.”

― Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett in Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (Interestingly, both Gaiman and Pratchett are atheists.)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Some Introvert Problems

I spoke about introversion before and how I am too, to many people’s surprise since I’m so outgoing, somewhat of an introvert myself. Recently I saw this list of  “problems that only introverts will understand.” I thought I’ll highlight some that I strongly associate with.

#1. The need to take breaks after socializing too long. I like hanging out with friends and often initiate get togethers. I regularly walk up to people and introduce myself. My weekends and free nights are often booked a week or two in advanced. I’m a pretty busy, social guy. On the face of it, I love being around people. And this is true—in part. But after having spend time with people there are few joys I like as much as just getting away from people and being by myself, alone, in my apartment. When I’m in such a state I would sometimes even avoid answering the phone and delay replying to emails or text messages.

#3. When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don’t really want to. While I like hanging with people, I really dislike large groups and parties. It feels like a waste to me. The reason I like people is because I like to take the time to get to know them—individually. The possibility of this happening decreases exponentially as the number of people increases. For me a small group, say four or five is quite enough. Just you and me alone, is probably ideal.

#6. The fear that you will die alone. This thought has crossed my mind a couple of times. I’ve even started to slowly make peace with the possibility.

#9. Too many social obligations + no time alone = total grump. Oh yes. Under normal circumstances I can endure my active social life, since I live alone and so can escape into my “time for myself” space. However, every time I visit South Africa and try to see as many friends and family as possible in a very short amount of time, also staying with people often in their living rooms, makes me feel utterly exhausted and drained emotionally. I sometimes go take an extra bath just to have some private time in the bathroom.

#10 When you’re asked to do a group project, and know you are going to hate every minute of it. I can work in groups and also make a good group leader. But to be honest, I think I can get the work done much quicker if I do it by myself rather than working in a group. Groups usually have too much politics that interfere in the productivity, that’s my opinion. So let’s just orchestrate who does what, go our separate ways and bring it all together again at an appointed time. And then I’ll probably end up redoing much of your half-assed work in any case, or at least make it all presentable because you couldn’t have been bothered to be even consistent in your font use and the colour scheme you chose sucks.

#13 When you hear “Why are you so quiet?” for the umpteenth time. Because we are in a group where there is no opportunity for any real, heart-to-heart discussion that is of value, and I’d rather not waste my breath talking about this shallow list of superficial topics that contributes very little to the greater scheme of things.

#21 When someone calls you out for day dreaming too much. My thoughts are much more interesting than reality.

#22 When you take a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversation starter. Seriously, when I’m reading an interesting book on the subway, I really do not want to chat with you about your religion. Yes I know Jesus. Yes I plan to go to Heaven, but I doubt we will live in the same neighborhood when we get there.

#23 When people make you feel weird for doing things by yourself. Seriously, it is not so terrible to go to the movies or to a restaurant or on a trip by yourself. You don’t have to feel pity for me. I’m not a lost puppy. If I want company I can find someone on Craigslist.

There were some other numbers in the list that only partially applied, but there were also some that I could not resonate with. I don’t get irrationally angry when someone interrupts my thoughts (#24), I don’t get an anxiety attack when someone asks me to hang out (#12), nor am I scared that I might be turning into a hermit (#5), well not yet, in any case.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Chocolate Drinks (my three favourite one's in Seoul)

Finding good hot chocolate is surprisingly difficult. A good hot chocolate should not be too weak (as it often the case in South Africa), nor too sweet (as it usually is in Korea). A simple hot chocolate drink can be made from two heaped teaspoons of quality cacao powder and two teaspoons of sugar with milk. The best hot chocolate is made from scratch with real cacao powder, melted dark chocolate mixed with fresh cream and diluted with the right amount of milk or water and sweetened appropriately. Extra flavorings such as orange zest, almond essence or vanilla pod, cinnamon, or chilly can cause orgasmic magic to happen in your mouth if added cautiously.

There is a place in Durban that used to sell an amazing dark chocolate drink, but they stopped importing the ingredients from Italy. Another place in Potchefstroom used to make a drink called Chocolate la Passion, but with the change of management the quality of the drink deteriorated. To date my favorite hot chocolate drink I had was once in a five star hotel in Hong Kong. I have gone back for it a second time.

Since I'm living in South Korea now, I'm always on the lookout for good hot chocolate. Most of the time I'm very disappointed. I have, however found three places that make fantastic hot chocolate.

In Itaewon there is a chocolatier with a strange name like "108", which I presume is the number of the shop. In any case, they sell dark chocolate drinks that will make you think that all is well with life. You get it in a little tea pot and pour about three or four times into your little teacup. I sometimes get a piece the chocolate pie with it. (Directions: Take Exit 3 at Itaewon Station and walk towards Hangangjin. It is close by Rocky Mountain Tavern.)

Half coffee shop, half design studio Alea Playground in Apgujeong makes a really enjoyable hot chocolate topped with a creamy marshmallow. Alea Playground also sells authentic Dutch coffee. A very nice open place to hangout with friends or do some work on your laptop. I like the vibe and love the hot chocolate here. (Google Maps: 강남구 신사동 642-20)

Opposite from Alea Playground is Pas de deux Chocolatier. Not as nice a vibe as Alea Playground, but definitely exquisite quality chocolates and there iced chocolate drink with essence of orange is definitely worth the trip in my books. (Google Maps: 강남구 신사동 644-20)

Friday, 2 August 2013

I Dreamed About a Chicken

I have had my fare share of weird dreams, but the one I had this morning must be considered one of the most surreal dreams to date. It wasn't particularly long, just unusually odd.

Image Source

I dreamed that I was sleeping in my bed here in Korea (this is significant because I've only recently started dreaming of being Korea), and I woke up to see that there is a rooster in my bedroom. Not a particularly large rooster. A handsome little rooster trotting about in my bedroom, of the colourful South-East Asian bantam variety. Later it made itself comfortable on the little bedside (bookcase) beside my bed, standing their as if on attention. And then, it started to speak to me. It wasn't verbal communication, but rather, I'm guessing, a form of telepathy. I just understood it, as if it's thoughts just manifested within my head. It impressed upon me that I don't have to worry, it will be my bodyguard.

That's the dream.

Now usually, for a gestalt therapeutic approach to dream interpretation, you would ask yourself (or the therapist would ask you): if the object in the dream could speak (in this case the chicken), what would it say to you? Lucky for me, the object in my dream did speak: it bravely announced that it will be my bodyguard. The question is, however, what will it guard me from? When I ask this question, the answer I get is that it will guard me from what I fear. Which is what exactly? I'm not sure.

According to different cultural traditions chickens have different symbolic meanings. For instance, a chicken could suggest that “one is chicken”; i.e. cowardly, fearing something in your life; not brave enough to get something you want.

Roosters, because of their colourful plumage, may be boastful or flamboyant—this is a characteristic associated with people born in the year of the Rooster, in accordance with the Chinese Zodiac. According to Chinese tradition a chicken symbolises both pride and enlightenment. It is the chicken's pride that makes it crow the first in the morning, before any other creature. It therefore suggests bragging or showing-off, particularly roosters crowing would suggest this. (The rooster in my dream wasn't very noisy.)

However, it's crow comes with the start of day, with the first light, and therefore denotes enlightenment. The Greeks also made this connection with the sun, and for them the rooster was a symbol of the sun, and victory overthe night, and therefore associated with Apollo. On the other hand, the rooster was associated with danger and the underworld in Nordic and Celtic traditions, where it acted as a messenger of the underworld, and called out warnings.

In Christian symbolism the rooster may symbolise Peter as he had denied Christ before the rooster crowed three times. It later became a symbol for Peter's repentance and also as a warning for religious vigilance, reminding us not to deny the Lord as Peter did. Weathercocks on churches act as symbolic reminders of such vigilance and may also suggest that the rooster not only calls us to wake up, but calls us to prayer first thing in the morning.

As a time-keeper, the rooster may be symbolic of a “wake-up call”. Not merely waking us up from our literal sleep, but waking us up to specific issues in our lives.

In a Freudian sense, a rooster is obviously a phallic image—the archetypal cock. As such it is a symbol of manliness, or “cockiness”, and possibly also pride.

So what does my dream mean? I'm still left with the same question, why do I need a bodyguard? What is the rooster keeping me safe from? And why a rooster, and not something else more fierce such as a tiger? What is it that a rooster is better at protecting one against than any other creature? Or is that a wrong question? Maybe I should not assume that a chicken has any special significance in its roll as bodyguard; it might just have been the only “available” or “willing” bodyguard to keep me safe. I can't remember how I felt when the chicken announced it's assurance towards my well-being—I can't say that I felt unsafe before I noticed the chicken, but I do think I felt slightly more assured after it's brave announcement.

Of course, it may all just be a strange dream induced by indigestion because of the fruit & veggie juice I drank and bag of cherries I ate just before bedtime.

Some sources: