Sunday, December 11, 2011

exam study procrastination + korea pt 2

Hi all,

Its the middle of the exam period at the moment, with exams having started on the 8th for me and finishing on the 19th.  I'm in the middle of a semi break as my next exam is on the 14th.  Given the lack of study I have done during the entire semester, I should probably be using this time to study, but I just seem to be struggling for concentration.  The alternative to me writing up this post would be youtube, web surfing and some nonsensical gaming, so I figured I might as well finish off my recount of korea.

Picking up from where I finished in the last post, we spent the second day at Everland, which is Seoul's equivalent of Disneyland.  We were in a rush to make the bus to the resort- a friend of ours strategically decided that since me and another guy should theoretically be able to run faster than the rest of them, I would give my bag to her so we could run ahead and tell the bus driver that we were there and could delay their takeoff.  Despite the massiveness of the subway station, we all made it on the bus.

I had foolishly left my phone at the hotel, which is why I have no photos of my own of Everland.  I shall be using those of my friends!  There is not a great deal to say about the theme park, apart from the fact that they had an epic wooden rollercoaster, and the people were all very friendly.  The cup down the bottom is Dippin' Dots- flash frozen little pellets of ice cream!

The third day we went on a tour to the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), which extends 2km north and south of the border between (you guessed it) North and South Korea.   We wanted to go not because of the scenery or anything like that; it was more the novelty factor of being able to say 'I've seen North Korea!'  Sounds pretty childish in hindsight :p  Here was my first glimpse: 

There was some pretty serious security, with a soldier checking our passports:

We were allowed into an underground infiltration tunnel dug by North Korea towards Seoul, no photos allowed though :(

We were then taken to an observatory where we could see the DMZ.  They had a photo line, beyond which no photos are allowed.  This was so only the North Korean side of the DMZ could be photographed.  The photo below is typical human nature!

After the tour we had a late lunch of bibimbap- a traditional korean meal of rice and vegies in a hot stone pot.  Usually I'm not a big fan of vegetarian meals, but this meal was great!
We then headed towards the Seoul Tower.  Some in the group were tired so took the cable car up Namsan mountain (where the tower is located), while the other half wanted to hike/take the trail up because the trail was apparently very scenic.  We decided to split up; I'm sure if you know me and aren't some random stalker/passerby you'd be able to guess which group I was in! xD

It was definitely worth taking the hike up, as the scenery with all its beautiful reds, yellows, oranges and greens was quite breathtaking.  It was quite a walk though- the sun was setting quickly, so I ran/jogged/walked up as fast as possible to the point where I went from wearing four layers of clothing to two.  Fortunately I made it to the top in time for me to see Seoul during daylight!  The view from the top of the mountain was fairly impressive too, despite lacking in eye catching landmarks:

Inside the tower complex there was also a teddy bear museum, where past and present Korean ways of life were enacted with little bears.  Some of the bears were very cute :p

We had dinner nearby, then it was back to the warmth of our hotel- it was freezing outside in Seoul!

Monday, November 28, 2011

korea recap pt1

Hey everyone!

I just had lunch after my second last lecture at hku, and I've got nothing to do for an hour or so.  I don't exactly have much work (or not that I know of) so I thought I might as well create a new blog post.

As you probably already know, I went with four good friends to Korea about a week ago.  We went for four days, and what a good four days it was!  We left Hong Kong on Thursday evening, and got to Incheon International Airport that night.  It was quite similar to Hong Kong International Airport in the sense that it was very clean and modern:

  They had a rent-a-phone service there which was quite brilliant- much easier than buying a sim card and all that!  From there we took an "airport limousine", which was actually just a bus, into the city centre and near where our hotel was.

From what I could see from my seat, Seoul was pretty much what you would expect- clean, modern and high tech, with people for the most part being impeccably fashionable.  This feeling would persist for the entire trip; indeed I can't recall seeing a single badly dressed Korean!  At a bus stop there was a hilarious scene where there was a young couple.  The guy was being very nice, getting on his knees to adjust the woman's scarf while she was sitting.  However, she was unhappy about something and was hitting him on the shoulder, albeit not very hard.  The whole scene looked like something from a TV drama!

We got off the bus and eventually found our bearings.  Having google mapped where the location was we were fairly confident of locating the hotel.  After making our way towards the place indicated on the map, we found nothing at all- it was all a small residential area!  The place was dark (it was around 1am) and incredibly sketchy looking.  When walking into the alleyway where the hotel was meant to be, I was very nervous and on edge- I had my fist clenched ready to punch anyone who might think about jumping me.  When I heard a bicycle rolling in and I was scared out of my wits!

We eventually took a taxi to the hotel after a nice young couple helped us locate where the hotel actually was (never trust google maps too much, folks).  The plan was to sleep in two rooms, 3 people in one and 2 in the other, but the other room smelt strongly of cigarette smoke.  The solution? Take a mattress from the room, drag it into the tiny lift, go down two floors to the other room and dump it on the ground :D  The triple room could actually sleep four people so that meant that now we could all sleep in the same room which was nice.

The next day, we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace, which in some respects was similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, but smaller and with a less ridiculous amount of rooms.  It was a really nice place, more so because they seemed to spend a lot of effort into creating a good experience.  The paint detail looked incredibly sharp and fresh, and at the main gate they had authentic looking guards, in complete attire and various weapons and flags.  The palace gardens were very beautiful, with a mix of green, yellow and red trees.

We got chicken soup at what was reportedly the best place in Seoul.  One of my friends knew a local, who recommended us the place.  The soup was full of goodies, like chicken (obviously), rice, ginseng and various herbs.  I also got my first taste of kimchi, the fermented cabbage.  Having heard others in Hong Kong talk about kimchi, I had some trepidation about it, but I was pleasantly surprised!  The taste is quite difficult to describe- it was sour, but also sweet and spicy too.

Afterwards we met up with my friend's Korean friend, who took us around the Hongdae area, which is popular with the youth of Seoul for its entertainment, clubs and karaoke.  There was plenty of street food around, but we ate only a little.  This was because we knew there was a Korean barbecue around the corner!  We went to a pretty famous place, where numerous celebrities have eaten; among the names were Park Ji Sung, Patrice Evra (Manchester United players) and Jason Mraz.

The food itself was great- juicy pork belly combined with vege leaves and various sauces, as well as korean style egg, which is very light and fluffy.  After wandering around the streets and listening to a very good busker (who smoked, like a lot of Korean youth), we decided to head to a Karaoke.  It was my first time at a proper karaoke place, but the combination of good friends and good music put me not only at ease but made me a keen, off key participant.  

The Cheonggyecheon stream which runs through Seoul is quite unique in that it is about 5 metres below street level.  There was a Lantern festival at the stream, which despite the rain was a nice spectacle.  After this we split up: those who wanted to go clubbing and those that didn't.  I was in the latter group, thus maintaining my no-club record, but it is one I slightly regret after hearing about how fun it was!

Alright, its time to go and you're all probably sick of listening to me ramble on.  I'll try to fill in the rest of the Korea trip in another post!

Friday, November 4, 2011

mid-exchange update

So according to the records, this is only the third post of the year from me.  I have been intending/hoping to post some more because of this whole exchange experience, but I guess I have been busy/lazy (pick a word).  Eventually the pressing need to post became so much that I couldn’t sleep, which explains why I am writing this at 11:55pm hk time :p

In case you were wondering how I am, I am good :)  I have settled in to life at hong kong uni, and hong kong in general I think.  I can’t say exactly how different it all feels, because I think I’m just one of those people who for the most part accept my surroundings.  However, for the most part it isn’t too different to Melbourne: uni five days a week, roughly 1 hour commute to and from, taking subjects different to most of my friends, and having dinner cooked by a family member.

There are distinct differences though, with food being the primary point of difference.  As I have said before, it is, by Melbourne standards, ridiculously cheap.  Now instead of bringing sandwiches from home, I buy lunch for about $20HKD ($3 aussie?), which can get you a decent char siu (pork) and soy sauce chicken with rice.  Pearl milk tea is only about $12HKD.  

As you probably know, I went with a group of friends to mainland China during reading week (mid sem break).  In short, it was incredible.  There were the classical tourist attractions, like the Bund in Shanghai, West lake in Hangzhou, Yellow Mountain in Tunxi, and the Forbidden City and Great Wall in Beijing.  Then there are the more…unorthodox experiences, such as getting surrounded by about 30 taxi drivers upon entering Hangzhou, the 28.5 hour train ride from Beijing to Shenzhen (was half an hour ahead of schedule!!), watching all the local girls go crazy over a certain Australian friend, storming out of the snack bar of the most famous peking duck restaurant in Beijing and the best one of all, the three hour train ride from Shanghai to Hangzhou with no seats.  Hopefully I will have the time to elaborate more on these in later posts!

If you asked me a week or two back whether I miss Melbourne, I probably would have answered ‘not really’ or perhaps the more polite ‘a little’.  To be honest I haven’t given it a massive amount of thought.  Not that I do not think about you individuals; you can be assured I think of a lot of you a fair bit!  I’m talking about the whole ‘Melbourne in general’ thing.  However, last week, Wednesday afternoon to be exact, when I was studying for a test I just found out was that evening, I did something I had not done in two months: I listened to Australian radio.

I was streaming it from the internet, and while enjoying the new music, it really hit me how far away from Melbourne I was.  I remember looking up and around, at the HKU library with its massive numbers of HK locals speaking Cantonese, and a smattering of international exchange students and thinking of how different to home everything was.  All the while, Fifi was swooning over her dates with Jules’ mates and I heard distinctly Australian advertisements, transporting me across Asia back to  drives to and from work, soccer training, futsal matches and weekend trips to box hill with the family.  Even just writing that sentence stirred up some nostalgia.  I suspect when the time approaches for my return to Melbourne the feeling will be much stronger.

It is probably the same for me with regards to soccer.  At the moment I’m not too fussed about not playing regularly, but last week when I organised a casual 5v5 session I was ridiculously excited from the day I booked to the day we played.  Admittedly this only spanned one day, but I do not remember having that kind of excitement since…the last time I played a proper match.  When I return to competitive matches I’m sure that excitement will return again.

For now though, I’ll just enjoy life as it is.  While occasionally I wish or dream of having this or that, if you asked me if I could become/live the life of whoever I want, I would pick myself.  Every single time.  As some would say, ‘surely someone has a better life than you’.  However, these things are subjective, and in my opinion, the overall combination of what I have is pretty good.  The above also applies more specifically to my exchange.  I am not getting the experience as advertised in the brochure.  I am not living in a country I have never/rarely been before, or living by myself, or learning a completely new language.  I have not been racking up local and international friends, or getting completely new cultural experiences every day, or partying and getting wasted every weekend.  Do I care?  Not one bit.  I came to get my own experience, to write another chapter in my own story.  I don’t think the brochure will argue with that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

hong kong exchange

"You're going on exchange to Hong Kong?  That's AMAZING!"

That was a pretty regular response from family and friends back home in Aus when I told them about it.  When they ask whether I was excited, I'd usually say that since I hadn't packed, the magnitude of the whole 'going away for four months going to a new university' has not sunk in yet.

More than two weeks in, for me it's still a bit of a mixed bag.  Yes, I have met a lot of people; more than I can remember.  Most have been exchange students, with the largest proportion from the US.  The thing is though, quantity does not equal quality, although I have met some great people who are immense fun to be around.  I'm not saying that the people I've met aren't good people-  they most likely are;  I'm just saying that most of the time our conversations do not amount to much more than whats your name/whereabouts are you from/what are you studying.  

Having said that though, all of my new friends have been exchange students or international students.  They just seem so much more...approachable, easy to talk to, and most importantly, want to start a conversation.  Contrast that with this morning, where I asked this guy (local, I think) a question: a one word answer and then put some distance between us. 

Sorry if I sound like a massive whiner, but I'm just trying to write about my experiences so far here in HK, good and bad.

There has been plenty of upside in Hong Kong though!  For a start, I've got to catch up with my grandparents and extended family.  As a result of this, and regular watching of tv shows (mainly the Chinese dubbed Korean show 'you are my destiny' that my grandma watches), I believe my canto has improved noticeably;  now i can talk to people like mtr and university administrative staff without them asking me to speak in english.  Shopping here is obviously fantastic, and I have already filled most of my luggage space!  Highlights include (in AUD, assuming exchange rate of 8):  real adidas futsal shoes for $40, a fake arsenal kit (shirt and shorts with name and numbers) for $9,  bossini jeans for $20, and a Samsung Galaxy sII for $550.

Food here is also incredibly cheap, with a good meal coming for no more than $4.  Yumcha breakfast for three people costs roughly $10 total!

Hong Kong University is quite different to Melbourne.  For a start, it is built on a steep hill, so stairs and lifts are everywhere.  Often, you can enter the ground floor of a building, go up to 4th floor,  walk out to the south and can then enter the next building on ground floor.  Food on campus is also cheap, but since everyone has lunch at 12:30, the queue can be massive!  So far, the best thing about it is the gym:  Its completely free!  True, its not massive and obviously doesn't have the flash machines of places like genesis in Melbourne,  but it's still pretty good.  Its not that crowded either, although I did go at lunchtime.

During orientation, they said that it was common for exchange students' experience to drop down and feel sad and lonely;  in a perverse sort of way, I found it reassuring in the sense that I wasn't expected to have the time of my life and have an amazing life changing experience and be elated every singe day of my stay here. 

Okay, think its time to wrap it up and stop scabbing the free wifi in the library; its nearly dinner time and I don't want grandma to get angry at me!  Thanks to everyone who read this, and thanks to everyone who has talked to me while I've been 7000km away- your conversations are most definitely appreciated :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thought blogs

First of all I'd like to apologize to anyone who has been eagerly anticipating my new blog entry since my last one nearly 5 months ago.  I always have 'thought blogs', whereby when there is something I deem interesting or important enough to be blogged about, I would compose in my mind the framework of the new entry and try to figure out how to make it seem interesting enough for someone to read beyond the first paragraph.  I would always get excited about these; then by the next week I'd have shelved this imaginary blog because I was 'busy' with so many other things.  Actually, you might want to replace 'next week' in the previous sentence with 'next day'.  Or perhaps even 'next hour'.

I had a thought blog entitled 'Salvos', in which I would fascinate you with my bold decision in late September to enter volunteer work with the Salvation Army store in Camberwell after my continual failures to find paid work.  In it would be thrilling details about how much of people's donations would have to be thrown in the bin because they didn't fit the 'can be sold at a price which justifies the space in the store used'.  Ever thought it would be fun smashing cups and throwing plates like frisbees?  Give volunteering a go.  I did gain some interesting experiences though.

This thought blog was quickly replaced with a new one which I called 'Woolworths', in which I would regale you with the jubilation I felt when I received the email from woolworths offering me employment after nearly a year of job hunting. 

Next came imaginary blogs which were probably more the size of a tweet than a proper article-length piece, talking about the upcoming exams and my hurried preparation for them, then about the freedom of having finished first year uni.

Somewhere in the above time frame there were undoubtedly other thought blogs about futsal; how along with some good friends we made a team, creatively dubbed 'Team Aadi' (after the creator of the team).  In these blogs I would talk about how excited I was about these matches, which recreated the anticipation, tension, and general rollercoaster of emotions which I felt about Saturday sport, taking to the soccer pitch or badminton court wearing the (in soccer's case oversized) school crest with pride. 

Others who have also played school sport may laugh at how dramatised I have made those saturday mornings; I remember in some teams how happy some people were when they didn't have to wake up early at the start of the weekend.  For me though, there was nothing more exciting; I felt like a gladiator fighting against the enemy determined to do well.  In the case of some soccer matches, doing well encompassed a respectable scoreline, or perhaps even a draw; for often lopsided badminton matches, I would be happy if I managed an 11-0 set.

For me, nothing else can possibly give me the rush that I got from scoring the winning goal against trinity in year 11; the smile was plastered on my face until at least dinnertime.  Conversely, losing the badminton final against the same school in our team's final competitive match was crushing. 

From the end of school until the creation of 'Team Aadi', I really missed those competitive games.  Sure, we would have casual futsal and badminton sessions which were undoubtedly fun, but they lacked that extra grit and determination from those involved because the result ultimately didn't mean that much.  So you could understand how excited I was about joining a competitive league!

During the semester, those matches were undoubtedly the highlight of the week, conveniently on Wednesday nights.  Post match analyses were self-continued long after the team has gone home, and I would become hyped up about the next match already by the end of the weekend.  After poor performances I would be desperate to atone next time; after good performances I would be excited about continuing my form into the next fixture.

In the first few matches, all the excitement and tension of the match would sometimes boil over and I would bluntly express displeasure at our team's performance.  As the season progressed, this improved as I learnt to control myself, although a semi-final loss late in the season showed my angry side again.

Late in a cup final match which we won, I crashed into the wall past the end line.  I was chasing an opponent who was dribbling down the left wing, and I was determined to stop him.  He tried crossing as he neared the end line, but he was unsuccessful.  As I slowed down, he slid and took out my legs.  With no way to slow down and no time to think, I crashed into the wall with my body angled around 30 degrees from the horizontal, slowing myself down with my elbow, wrist and cheek/forehead.  As I lay down in moderate pain, people rushed to see if I was okay, then as I went off the pitch the last few minutes were played. 

Although to our team captain (he had the kindness of heart to think I was faking my pain to get a freekick/sympathy) said I was stupid to chase that hard with the game in the bag and it being so late in the match, I think it showed just how much these games meant to me.  I remember a similar incident in school where I hit a goal post trying to prevent an opposition goal.  Don't get me wrong, if I had my time again I'd rather not have had these incidents, but perhaps during the match I follow the game and sometimes miss the danger.

So there you have it: the two-paragraph, extended answer to people who ask(ed) 'what happened to your face?'.  No, I didn't 'get into a fight', my preferred first response which always elicits a laugh from the questioner.  Maybe I just don't seem like that kind of person.

Wow this is a long piece; I must admit when this blog was just another thought blog about how I have these thought blogs, I had no idea what the main body of it would be about.  Then when I started typing about my futsal thought blogs, I just kept typing and typing and typing...

Congratulations if you managed to get to the end!  Let me know if you did :p

Saturday, August 14, 2010

square zero

I was going to post something after being rejected for my job interview (no call back), entitled square one.  I knew that the chances of getting the job were slim, but it still sucks when you're implicitly told you aren't good enough. 

I don't really know why the blow was so disappointing.  Maybe it was because the interview seemed so close to the actual job.  Maybe it was coupled with the fact that my new tutoring student in fact didn't really want me tutoring him despite what he said.  I think I'll take a bit of a break from job hunting though.  The endless online applications and emails and phone calls can get kinda draining.

So I was basically where I was seven months ago when I got the walking job, thinking I'd be upgrading soon. 

Little did I know it'd get worse, and I'd get kicked out of Engineering Mathematics, and in doing so throwing my course plans off course.

It started innocuously enough.  I wasn't on my tutorial roll, so my tutor told me to see the head tutor to fix it up.  I couldn't find her, so I emailed.  Instead of fixing it, she went through my student record and claimed I had not done the proper prereq of calc 2.  No worries, I thought.  I had the subject approved at the start of the year, hence my enrolment. 

Apparently not.  I had to go see the head lecturer for approval.  I couldn't find him either, so more emails.  He was not impressed.  He was adamant that I hadn't seen too much of the prereq subject so he 'didn't want me' doing eng maths. 

I got some calc 2 tute sheets off a friend (thanks jacky!) and looked through it. 

Limits. surfaces. complex numbers.  All stuff I had covered already.  The only thing i hadn't done was differential equations, which didn't look too hard.  I told the lecturer I'd be happy to sit a test on calc 2 material.

The problem with email is the lack of 'channel richness'.  You can respond to an email after an age or conveniently ignore it.  The lecturer, decided to contact student admin to remove me from the subject without even replying to me.

wow that sounded like a mega rant.  Lucky I didn't write this right after my enrolment got cancelled or it would've sounded even worse.  I'm surprisingly feeling okay now though.  It's amazing what meeting up with friends at the start of a weekend can do.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

new times

It's been a couple of pretty big weeks for me!  I got my Ps, found a new tutoring student, got my uni overload approved and had my first job interview.  With luck and if everything goes perfectly to plan, I'll have a new job and play in a regular futsal team with some friends too.

The licence wasn't quite as straightforward as I had hoped.  The combination of light rain and cold surrounds required demisting skills which I didn't have.  However, my mum got all the settings right so the car was all ready to go. 

The paperwork was fairly straightforward.  I was attended to by this guy who looked like he was 70 and bore a resemblance to Mr Perry (cgs teacher).  He had a wierd accent and could be a little hard to listen to.  Later, my mum told me he was my examiner.  Great.

We got out and went through the regular check up things, like lights, indicators etc.  He then called for the high beam.  *panic*  I didn't know/forgot how to do it!  quickly pulled the stalk for a prolonged flash, and he moved on. 

"fraannt demister" *point*
"reaah demister" *point*
"horn"                *honk*

twenty seconds later:

"fraannt demister"
"reah demister"

Awesome.  I've got an examiner who struggles with short term memory.  On the plus side, perhaps when I make a critical error he would've forgotten by the time he goes to write it down!

We roll out and immediately he goes around adjusting all of my mum's carefully calibrated settings.  Temperature? ramped up to 24 degrees.  Fan? full blast.  Air con? on. 

Immediately the front windscreen began fogging up.  In fact, every window fogged up.  We prepare to enter Burwood Highway, and its so bad I have to wind down the window to see outside.  I drive us to a side road where we try to fix it up. 

"maaasstt cleeahh", the examiner claims.  So we fix up the settings and wipe the side windows. 

Thankfully the rest of the test wasn't as eventful and I passed!  A huge relief and the freedom is great :D

My first job interview was a big deal for me.  Once I was told to have an interview, I prepared questions and answers in my head.  Friends and family gave me extensive and sometimes amusing tips.  I listened to Eminem's classic song 'Lose yourself' about 3 times in two days.  The lyrics described my mood perfectly:

'if you had one shot, one opportunity...would you capture it, or just let it slip?'
would I be the person who 'keeps on forgetting what he wrote down', and
'opens his mouth but the words won't come out'?

When it came to the actual interview though, it was reasonably straightforward.  I was shaking a bit (probably not visibly), but my voice didn't completely give out on me which was a relief.  Ultimately though, the interviewer said there were about '50 applications' for two positions.  Mathematically, I have a 4% chance of nabbing one of them.  Realistically?  probably about the same with my lack of experience.  I'm preparing myself for likely disappointment when they ring back on Wednesday. 

However, that 4% is not nothing.  There is no reason why I can't be that tiny percentage and defy the odds. 
For now at least, there is hope.