Friday, June 05, 2009

Birthdays, Babies, Brunch and Busan

I turned 27 late last month. I remember when I was around 8 years old, I couldn't wait to be a year older. Back then it always seemed that birthdays were an eternity away. Then as you get older you wish they'd stop coming so often. My personal theory is that although time is constant, our comprehension of it changes as we get older. When we're young, our brains are constantly processing so much brand new information that the experience of living seems to drag on forever. But after we've been around for a while, we get used to the same old stuff so our brain ignores a lot of things and time speeds up.

One of the customs we have in the lab is for everyone to pitch in for a cake when it's somebody's birthday. For some reason, I don't really like the taste of cake and haven't been eating it for the past few years. Cake is okay, I guess, but I'd much rather eat fruit. So I made a request for fruit instead of cake.

Here's the fruit-cake we created. Now that's what I call dee-licious.

We also had cherry tomatoes to put on it but we ate them the night before.

Heather booked me a ticket on the KTX for Busan. She always ends up paying for my tickets because my excuse is that I don't understand how to use the KTX website. It's true, but I also like it when she pays for my tickets.

Heather's mother made a traditional Korean birthday breakfast for me in the morning. Koreans eat mi-yok-guk on birthdays, which is a green seaweed soup. Other foods you can see in the photo are fish, eggplant, spinach and that yellow thing is called a cha-me, which is a kind of Korean melon. It was nice to get such an elaborate breakfast.
Posing for the camera is Ji-Ye. I told Heather that I needed summer shirts, so Ji-Ye chose a red one for me, and also a shirt with a big green apple on it.

Heather's parents are always nice to me. Although we can't communicate very effectively, they're always cutting up fruit and making tea when I come over. On the bottom right of this photo is little Ji-Woo who still has baby food all over her mouth because she just ate. For some reason, she likes to stare at me. It's probably because I speak a funny language.

Here's a video of Ji-Woo eating. Ji-ye is also asking me some questions in Korean, as she always likes to do.

Ji-Ye took this photo of me. These days she doesn't wobble the camera so much and is starting to take some half decent photos. Previously, all of her photos were things like a blurry foot, or a sideways door handle. But of course I would always say "Wow, nice photo... very abstract."

I don't want to hurt her photographical self-esteem at such a young age.

That last pose was a direct reference to this photo that I took of Ji-Ye a couple of months ago. But she somehow manages to be impossibly more cute.

We drove out to eat some duck for lunch that day. On the journey there, Ji-Ye started copying what I was saying. So I played that age-old children's trick, where you can use such an opportunity in your favour.

An old friend of Heather's had a son last year and he invited us to the first birthday. While the first birthday in the western system would be one year old, in Korea it's actually two years old. In Korean culture, the moment you are born, you are already one year old. To me, the Western system makes more sense. After all, how much do we learn in the womb?

The birthday party was at a buffet restaurant in Hwamyeong.

Here's Heather with her friend and his son. Heather's friend is the one who helped Anthony and me when we had to move house.

For dinner we went back to The Kitchen on Dalmaji hill to organise the wedding plans. I met the chef and he seemed very much on top of things. That day we ate pasta and these salads. The long salad had char-grilled giant mushrooms in it.

The food is always impressive here.

You never really miss the beach until you move away from it. And then you only realise that you miss it when you see it again after a long time.

Then it's like "Oh yeah, this is what I miss."

Anthony took us out for brunch on the Sunday morning after we spent the night drinking at Guri Bar in Seomyeon. We ate at Breeze Burn's which is apparently a hamburger chain that do good brunches. The breakfast was okay and the sausages were nice, but the tomatoes were a little unripe.

Here's Heather and me after a semi late night out drinking. In around 4 months, we'll be married. The more I think about it, the more I think "Hey, am I ready to get married?" But then I stop and think, why not? A couple of decades ago, it was pretty normal to get married in your early 20s. These days people say that 27 is still young.

I feel kind of young and kind of old at the same time.

After brunch we went for a walk along the beach and ended up at a small amusement park on the east side of Gwangan beach. In the photo is Anthony's new girlfriend, Rebecca. Rebecca is a wonjang (branch manager) at the Wall Street Institute, which is an English school for older students.

At the amusement park they have this 'Bucking Bronco'. The idea is to stay on for as long as you can. Heather stayed on for 60 seconds on easy mode. I stayed on for the full 60 seconds and won a free ride ticket. Anthony came off after 42 seconds, but he was only using one hand. That begs the question: Would he have stayed on for the full 60 seconds if he used two hands?

Of course.

Here's Anthony rounding up the imaginary cattle.

I've been attending the South River Toastmasters every week. In the photo is JP Singh, giving his final farewell speech after 2 years. He's heading back to India and then off to the States. JP has been one of the defining personalities of the club over the past couple of years. He taught me an Indian sentence: "Hindostani lo bohot acha he."

That means "I like Indian people."

Due to my schedule, I can't go out drinking as much as I used to. But I try and stick around for the second and third rounds on Wednesdays when I can. Toastmasters is a good place to meet interesting people.

For the third round that night, we went to the Rainbow bar in Gangnam. This place specialises in floor seating and 'hookahs', which are large bong-like tobacco smoking devices. The tobacco is usually flavoured with a fruity or musk aroma.

Who said life in the lab was boring? I spend my time amusing myself by making things like this creation, which I named Tapey-Man.
Although somewhat frivolous, he does have a purpose. His eyes are made of horizontal tubes containing yeast medium. I needed to get them horizontal to improve aeration in the shaking incubator, but there are no docking ports in the incubator that would hold them steady. So Tapey-Man provides a firm scaffolding so that the small tubes can be shaken at 250rpm overnight.

See, here's tapey man in the incubator. Look how happy he is.

For the record, this experiment was a success.

I went out to Itaewon with Blossom recently and we went for a walk around. There are many foreign restaurants in the area, but nothing says it better than this one. If I had a choice, I'd live in Busan, but otherwise I'd live in Itaewon.

That's all from me this week. Tomorrow I'll be going to the Toastmasters National Conference, so I'll post some of the happenings from there later. Oh and if you're wondering about the 'I like turtles' feedback selection below, it's from a Youtube viral video at:

Check out the link and see you next time!


Unknown said...

I really like reading your blog posts. I spent 7 months in Busan in 2003~2004 training at an HS Group facility. I love the Korean culture and the Korean people. I have been practically begging to be sent for a 'refresher course' ever since I returned to the States. Keep up the posting; I'll check back as often as I can. Thank you!

dokebi said...

Yes that's also my opinion about our changing perception of time as we grow older. Also it might have to do with our decreasing rate of metabolism. Smaller animals like mice have really high metabolic rate and also very fast reaction time, meaning their perception of time is at a much higher frame rate than ours. Is that right (I'm not a scientist so I might be completely wrong)?

Lee Farrand said...

Yes there is a theory about that. Flies have super quick metabolic rate and short life span. Apparently they see things so quickly that normal neon lights look like strobes to them (neon lights actually flash, but so quickly that humans don't notice). There was one person who said it might have something to do with heart rate. Mice hearts beat proportionally quicker than ours.

However the exception to the rule is birds. Birds have fast metabolism and a fast heart beat, but live longer than they should according to that rule. But then another evolutionary biologist came along and said that this can be explained because birds developed flight capability. By being able to fly away from dangers, they have created an advantage over other species and thus get to enjoy both longer life spans and faster metabolism.

Interesting stuff

Anonymous said...

who is pitchfest?

Lee Farrand said...