Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Alice in Wonderland: Work visit to Seoul: Part 4/4

Just few days in Seoul, I have so much to share! A full time corporate life and little less time to organize the pictures taken. Phew! Today when I opened my folder of those pictures, which are my excitement booster, I realized there are 75 of them. And I can take only select few for a fair share of my wonderland. Yes, I am still talking about the Seoul work trip.
I would like to name this post Alice in wonderland. I was sitting with my colleague to board the train to Cheonan from Seoul station when I saw the barricades opening, the people walking towards a particular platform to stand 6 feet distance from the edge. The train arrived and the doors opened. I followed the person in front of me and took my huge window seat. Train left the station and it seemed like a very long travel to our stop. I slept I think for 15 minutes resting on the glass window. Then just like how Alice opened the giant door with the key she found on the nearby table, I opened my self to seeing what appeared. The train moved through a white land. Beautiful snow covered white landscape opened right in front of my eyes. I was in paradise. I felt so tiny infront of the vast expanse as if I drank up that potion to shrink to be able to pass through that little door. My garden was a beautiful white one!  

The train stopped at Cheonan station, I couldn't contain my excitement as that was the first time I was experiencing snow fall in a city. Visiting to high altitude mountains and snow adventure sports is a different thing while witnessing snowfall on your way to work is something else.

An electric car was waiting to take us to our plant. The roads we took were slushy, the road maintenance body sprinkles salt on road for anti-skidding every morning. I couldn’t concentrate on the discussion happening inside the vehicle about our business and the plans for the day. The view outside was too enticing.

We reached the plant and met the safety instructor. There are rules to walk on a snow and when its snowing. Slow, firm and with hands not in the pockets.

End of the days play happened when it was time to get back to Seoul. The exact same feeling of waking up from a dream. The Magical dream!
When I think about the wonderland, I can think about the out-of comfort zone, expansion, gratitude towards what nature has to offer, acceptance!
It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then” – Alice in wonderland
I reached back to Seoul as different person to explore more. Some clicks on the coldest day of S.Korea. Minus 14:)

The Khimchi pots

warming up!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Korean food, Soju and the Magical kiss: Work visit to Seoul: Part 3/4

Day 2
Sneak in
When I did my summer internship, the most exciting thing there was this silo of ammonia. That was the space where these fertilizer dusts were sprinkled to be collected for packaging. A huge yard all covered. Those tiny particles fell on the ground from feet very high just like snow cotton flakes. A wide-eyed aspiring corporate entrant standing there every evening contemplating if she should sneak into that area. A faint smile still crosses my lips when I think about it.
Now, talking about the Korean trip further…the real reason why I was visiting this country was to attend a conference. I was to present my business in India to colleagues from different countries and my new functional boss who is from China. It is always such a treat to meet all of them. The interactions always somehow peels few layers of judgments and stereotypes. It expands my horizons and thought process and I fall some more in love with this world.
Today was the first morning in Seoul and it started with checking the temperature from inside my warm and cozy hotel room. Phew! Its just -4 degrees. I thought, we could do better ;). I was going to spend the whole day, atleast the morning indoors. Back of my mind, I was planning my formal attire for the first day of my conference. I definitely wanted to dress for the season. Mostly knitted and woolen on my mind. I selected a plaid knit skirt and pink crop top to be paired together. What kept me warm are the layers inside of extra warm Heattech thermals. Snug grey high neck fitted top, soft lowers as thin as stockings. Easy to layer. These were 1.5 times warmer and effective than the normal Heattech thermals. What I also realized was that these were anti-static throughout.
Wore argyle pattern socks that is also of this awesome technologically advanced material. They claim to have moisture-absorbing and anti-microbial properties. Slipped on my favorite loafers and was ready to go.

Just -4
fussing over the Heattech socks
Knitted wear #ootd

The box
The presentations started on time and was progressing well. Lunch was sharp at 12:30 pm. I have been looking forward to the food. I have loved this quote always “Food is our common ground, a universal experience”. So, I present to you a Bento Box / Korean Dosirak.
Bento Box is usually Japanese, Koreans call it Dosirak and we in India call it “Tiffin-Box”. This box has some different vegetable pancakes, meat side dishes, some Khimchi mostly winter apt and a serving of sticky rice. A bowl of seaweed soup was also served. Highly seasoned and heavy on spice is usually what enhances Korean food. Indian cuisine has gained popularity with the Koreans and I can say that it is mutual.
We wrapped up the day as per schedule. And planned to meet exactly at 7:13 pm (oh! Yeah, that 3 mins after 10 is also considered very important and respected) to head out for dinner at nearby Korean restaurant. We were all instructed to be aptly dressed for the 10 minutes’ walk to the place. Mittens on and head covered with the hood of my parka, we walked in that chill. Trust me, the wind and the cold in Korea bites. We walked huddled up and waited for some warm zone. The wait for the signal to turn green was the longest wait ever. Brr..
Reached the restaurant to be severed Ginseng tea to start with. It was off the boiling pot but felt luke warm on a sip. Not even seconds that the drink turned cold.

Food that was on platter
Now comes the showstopper the Korean Barbeque. I love it and can have it all the time. The dressing up and the frills is as thrilling as the dish itself. It may be a good idea that you plan a Korean barbeque dinner in your city. Different and exotic.
I must confess, I have never ordered the meat and condiments myself. Nevertheless, whatever was served on the table was delicious. Korean Barbeque is nothing like any other Barbeque you have experienced.
I will try my best to describe it but the actual feel is when you try. So here it is, Meat (marinated / non-marinated) is cooked on the table right in front of the face. The condiments range from Khimchi, Miso based stew, lettuce, Rice, Garlic, some dish of egg(I loved it), some veggies and a lot more. I don't remember them, some I did not know existed and some were the firsts for me. The server will typically arrange the Banchan (share plates) on the table. They are very quick. They also operate the grill. Cut the meat with scissors so that your chopsticks can pick the piece with elegance.
I started with Ssam-bomb, which is a piece of meat and some sauce(of your taste) or khimchi on a lettuce leaf just like “paan” in India. The first bite was an experience of pure heaven. The flavor cranked up in my mouth that I accentuated with a sip of Soju. The grapefruit Soju.
Soju, drinking Soju and the rules of this drinking ritual is in itself is a long blogpost. Will try it later someday.  
Dinner was very filling but I could have eaten more just by the look of the KBBQ still smoked on my table. 
And then, It was time to call it a night. It was a long day.


The Magic
And, here was the trailer to the magic. I was glued on to checking temperature that day in anticipation of -10(minus 10).
There was this one patch on our way back while we walked; I felt snowflakes on my face. My nose down was covered. I had to feel the heaven’s kiss after all, took off my hood, the woolen neck wrap and looked up. Oh! It was divine
Those tiny flurries landed gently on my face and melted away. That wide-eyed girl had sneaked in after all. Standing beneath the sprinkle of flakes. Just that it was the snow this time. The real snow! 
Wow! It will always be the best part of my memory. I kept walking even after we reached our hotel just catching the snowflakes that were reaching out to me. The best time I spent all by myself that moment.     
Came back to the warmth of my room with numb fingers and cold nose. Connected with my family and friends and shared the magic, I just experienced. 

Have dreams even if they are simple and stupid, you never know they just be coming your way. Dreams take shape.

In front of the hotel

Just what I was waiting for since morning. -11
Isn't this a worth it moment?