This time last year, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences decided to invite the international staff and students for a free dinner at the Faculty Club. So we set off on the trek from Building 200, long after sundown. In small groups of familiar faces we shuffled up the hill towards the general direction of the moon, like a timid swarm of multicultural moths.
Our suspicions were raised as to the motives of such a seemingly pleasant gesture. After all, this was the same department who brought us such fiascos as "The student counsellor who doesn't exist" and "The anonymous student feedback survey that isn't."
But last year's Welcome Party went off without the predicted mandatory kidney donation. We weren't even asked to sing the praises of the department or betroth our youngest daughter to unknown alumni.
It was, purely and simply, an appreciative gesture towards the international constituents of our college, who have traveled from the corners of the Earth to participate in the spectacle that is SNU academia.
This year, they held the event again at the same location. The battle-hardened veterans among us made sure to arrive early, in order to acquire the seats closest to the buffet. Alas, our strategy was pre-empted by designated seating.
At least they spelled my name right.
We had a great dinner, and saw some performances from Indonesian and Nepalese students. If there's only one way to win the hearts and minds of graduate students, it most certainly involves free food.
A couple of weeks ago, Heather and I made it out to Uijeongbu, a rather nice and very Korean part of Korea. In other words, Uijeongbu has plenty of traffic, billboards and rampant urbanisation. I couldn't help but admire the cranes towering over the new shopping centre-to-be.
Stark and geometrically obscure, like skeletal giraffes.
It turns out that the Pride of Uijeongbu is a plastic surgery clinic.
Volumes have been spoken.
On the windowsill of our lab is a plant I've named Professor Tsang, after our esteemed supervisor. Professor Tsang the Person and Professor Tsang the Plant have never met. The plant in the foreground in the windmill pot is called Grant. He's the long slender one, reaching skywards.
Grant the Plant has been growing pretty slowly during the cold weather. A couple of weeks ago, a single stalk in his territory shot through the soil. Before long, this newcomer had grown into a rather large weed. So I kept watering it to see what would happen. We are a lab, after all.
Now it has grown much larger than in the photo above and has even popped out a few cheeky flowers, although it's the middle of winter. I've decided to name it 'El Cid the Weed.'
But what currently befuddles me in my morning watering rounds is the question: When does a cultivated weed become a plant?
I think we're plunging into uncharted territory.