It’s almost a courtesy to ask people how they’re doing, when we’ve not seen or meet them for a long time. More so now that the whole world is going through this pandemic.
Our perception of this question is usually as simple as it sounded regardless of how complicated our life is at that moment. So we answered simply with, ‘I’m doing just fine.’
Maybe we’ve bumped into a familiar face once in a while at the mall and assured each other that we’re doing okay. Maybe we had a hard and stressful time at work and refused to talk about it with anybody. Maybe our relationship with our loved ones were on the brink of collapsing but we felt that nobody needs to know that. Maybe we thought that our depressed episodes should not be of another’s concern.
Hence, we summarise our days or weeks or months – all the good, bad and ugly – into one effortless answer ; I AM FINE.
When sadly, deep down we know that we’re surely not, not exactly, maybe not even close.
Imagine if ‘how are you?’ is actually ‘how is your heart/soul doing?‘.
Imagine that people were really sincerely checking out on us, and not just asking out of common courtesy. Surely, ‘I AM FINE‘ wont suffice and wont do justice as an answer.
Because our hearts may be weary and our souls exhausted. Because we may be on the verge of breaking down. Because life may just be a repetitive cycle of mundanes. Because we may no longer find the strength to chase after our life-long dreams. Because after all that we’ve been through, we may felt like there are no other options except for giving up.
If that’s the case then truly, we’re not fine at all.
Hectic schedules in our daily lives may cause us to abandon our true feelings and deep thoughts. In order to maintain healthier emotional levels, it is super important for us to regularly recognise and acknowledge the contents of our own hearts and soul. Once acknowledged, we can further determine the cure to our brokenness, to fill the gaps of all cracks and hollows.
I’d like to think that the current pandemic – in all it’s seemingly never-ending quarantine time and tedious queuing at the store – to be a surprisingly humbling and introspective experience.
For we now have ample time to contemplate deeply within ourselves. In the confinements of our own abode, in the wee hours of silence when the world goes to sleep, we may find ourselves alone and at peace with our feelings and thoughts through meditation and ultimately, through prayer.
It’s definitely not an easy task. But whats worthy are never easy.
It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.
May we be given strength and courage to delve deep within our beings and confront the demons that has been wreaking havoc on our faith in all things that are good and positive in our lives. And when the time comes, may we finally be able to say that we are absolutely fine with unquestionable confidence and clarity.
Today marks the 22nd day of RMO (Restricted Movement Order) in Malaysia. Supposedly, it will end in another week, on 14th of April. But then, people are saying that the RMO might be extended to an unknown date.
I’ve been working from home ever since March 18th. To be completely honest, before this whole COVID-19 thing struck us all, whenever I needed to work overtime during the weekends, I’ve always preferred to work in the office. Working from home comes with distractions, even to me who’s single and should not worry about kids being noisy and needing undivided attention. But yeah, there’s the comfy bed to take into consideration.
Anyways, as a hermit who have had no problems whatsoever ‘caving’ at home, I’m finding being stuck at home for 22 days now, a wee bit suffocating. Sure, there are many things to be done at home, like reading, catching up on TV series and even trying new recipes (which I’m not really up to). However, I find myself distracted on each and everything that I do. When I’m reading, I find myself wanting to watch a movie. When I’m working I find myself wanting to read. When I’m watching a movie, I find myself wanting to hit the bed and sleep. And ultimately, I find myself yearning to be elsewhere, in a different continent thousands of miles away, just anywhere but home.
Basically, everything felt wrong and I’m feeling more languid than ever. Day by day passed by in dreamlike rapidity, like I’m in a slumber.
I’ve realised that it’s one thing to choose to stay at home but it’s another to be forced to stay home and denied exit. I guess we should all appreciate the time when movements were free and we could go anywhere and meet anyone.
If you’re reading this, wherever you are in this world, however you’re feeling and whoever you’re with, may you always be healthy and safe. And may all of us find strength and positivity in these trying times we’re living in.
One day you decide to give up and move on, bring all of your baggage with you, giddy and excited to explore a new world with nobody but your own. The next thing you know, someone else appears by your side, offering his hand, ushering you into a new world so totally different from the one you started out for.
And you think to yourself, that maybe, just maybe, you should venture into this new place. Maybe you should stop running away and start reaching out. Maybe you should be brave and have faith in others as well as and especially in yourself.
Maybe Rilke was right; ‘Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.’
Life is indeed funny, you made out your mind and set out to do something and it almost always turns you unexpectedly in a different direction. May everything I’m going through right now all be well.
Serenity can never be found elsewhere, but within ourselves. It is the wisdom of discerning a mere harmless threat with a life-changing concern. The trick is to recognise which is which and act accordingly. To leave and let go of situations we have no power to change and do everything in our utmost strength to change all that we can.
In order to nurture a healthy soul, mind and body, we have to carefully distinguish between situations and people that are worthy of our concern. By doing so, we will be able to face every single day without unnecessary distress, with an exceptional presence of mind.
2. On Expectations
I’ve learnt that it is often much better and sweeter to be getting something you dont expect. Life is generally unpredictable and people can be disappointing. It sucks when you put your hopes up just to be disappointed and let down in the end.
The best way is to not place your expectations too high. Work hard however you will and most importantly, have the highest of faith on the All-Knowing and All-Mighty God. Place your trust in all His infinite wisdom, and whatever the result may be, you’ll be thankful and happy.
3. On Giving
Giving does not necessarily have to be money. It can be time, effort, advice, compliments and many many more.
To those who look closely, the World is a beautiful gift. Hence, each and every one of us has something to offer to another, always.
4. On Friendship
Growing up and old, it is understandable that we each have our own commitments and priorities to attend to. Meaning that meet-ups may be as infrequent as it may be. Regardless, those who sincerely treasure friendship will make time for each other no matter what. Because one of the most precious things in life is time; once passed there will be no turning back. Time might just be the best gift in any friendship ever, be it time spent on keeping in touch, on having lunch, on talking and texting on the phone or on wishing and praying each other well.
We do not necessarily have to share similar interests to be friends. Just like magnets, the opposite attracts. And our differences complete each other in one way or another.
5. On Love
Love is not blind as defined. Love sees, and sadly Love almost always sees the blind.
The lover of oneself knows ones’ worth to finally walk away. The lover of others may latch on the unworthy and try to make Love stay.
I bid farewell to the Love of the past. For there will be Love in future; hopeful and in every way better than the last.
May our 2020 be blessed with fulfilled dreams, beautiful moments and life lessons. Let bygones be bygones and keep on moving forward!
(All photos and videos were taken using Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Nikon J1) (Kindly excuse my mediocre photo-taking and video-recording skills)
This year, I get to join our company incentive trip to South Korea, specifically Seoul and Nami Island. The trip spanned from the 6th to 11th of December. We flew by Cathay Pacific from Kuala Lumpur, meaning our flights transited at Hong Kong. We stayed at Ramada Encore Magok Hotel in Seoul.
7th December 2019, Nami Island-Namsan Tower-Korea House
We reached Incheon International Airport at 6.00am. After retrieving our luggages and preparing our winter clothings, our bus departed for Nami Island at around 8.00am. As usual, since we arrived very early in the morning, most of us were sound asleep in the bus and were occasionally woken up to the bus’s emergency brakes. I could not really sleep comfortably as the way the bus driver maneuvered the bus along the snowy (and presumably slippery) road seemed pretty worrisome to me. Anyways, our local tour guide, a woman named Yoona, assured us that the bus was equipped with special brake systems that caters for the road condition during winter.
Nami Island was unexpectedly snowing when we were there. We reached in the middle of quite a heavy snowfall, I’d say. And it was freezing, which caused most of us our runny noses. Despite the snow, we had fun taking pictures till we barely felt our hands. Fret not, for there were a number of ‘campfires’ (I’m not really sure what it’s called) around the walking areas of Nami, so that visitors could stop and warm themselves by the campfires whenever it gets too unbearably cold.
The most memorable moment was they were playing Disney’s Frozen soundtrack all the while we were there. A video on the snowfall with Frozen’s Let It Go on the background :
Before the ferry ride
I did not really pose for photos with the Winter Sonata statue. It felt weird to do so when I was there without a partner. #lonerforlyfe
After ‘showering’ under the snowfall for an hour or so, we had a delicious lunch at a Halal Dakgalbi restaurant.
We then resumed our journey to the next destination, the Namsan Tower in Seoul. It was not snowing but it was cold regardless. We also had to do a little ‘hike’ up the hill to reach the top. I never knew that walking up a steep hill in the cold could be that tiring.
We had insufficient time to tour all to the top of Namsan Tower so we just hung out around the Love Locks area. Thankfully, we get to watch a traditional music show before walking back down the hill.
A video on the traditional music performance :
In the background
View from up the hill
N Seoul Tower
Traditional music performers
For kimchi-making experience, we were brought to Korea House (Seaweed Museum). Each of us were given a plate of cabbage with some Kimchi sauce together with a pair of plastic gloves. Basically, it was an easy process of mixing everything two things together using the gloves. I can totally make Kimchi now. #confidence
After Kimchi, there was a tasting session of some seaweed products. Most of us bought at least 2 packs of Seaweed.
Then we had a go at the traditional Korean dress, Hanbok. After choosing Hanbok that matched with our hijabs and everything, we had a photo-taking session at an outdoor area of the same building. #nofeel
Our dinner was a buffet in Hibiscus Asian restaurant. Most of the food were Middle-Eastern-like, which was just okay for me, not exactly to my liking.
8th December 2019, Everland-Gyeongbokgung-Dongdaemun
We were among the first visitors to enter Everland. It was super cold in the morning but soon enough the Sun started to reveal itself. We only had 4 hours to spend in Everland, so all of us had to decide and plan our time carefully. The first ever attraction we covered was the Safari World. Queuing up for that took like almost 45 minutes. The ride on the Safari bus itself was not even that long.
After the Safari World, we all went our separate ways. Some of us opted for the famous roller-coaster ride, T-Express. The queue for that was very long. Hence, I decided to skip that because I was not confident to ride such a thrilling ride in the cold (plus the wait). Instead, I went to the 4D theatre for a different experience.
A video of people shouting on the T-Express ride :
Besides 4D, one of my colleagues convinced me to join her for another roller-coaster ride, the shorter and less scary version, the Rolling X-Train. Honestly, it has been a long while since my last roller-coaster ride that I could barely open my eyes and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. I remembered my colleague asking the person in charge at the X-Train station, ‘How’s the ride?’ and the guy responded with ‘It’s like flying away’ #LOL
Anyways, we only had like a couple of minutes left after that. So we tried the Hurricane ride. I enjoyed this as well, especially since the person in charge was super exciting with all her off-tune singing and loud cheering. Word of advice, you might not want to ride this with a full stomach.
Open-air ride up the hill
We went for a stroll around Everland before boarding our bus to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Initially, most of us wanted to wear the Hanbok here. Unfortunately, we were only given like 1 hour to tour the whole place. And we were among the last visitors to exit the palace that the guards had to usher us all away.
A video of the announcement of Palace’s closing :
National Museum of Korea
The view within
The exit gate
Sun was setting
We went for a little souvenir shopping at Dongdaemun, the Good Morning City mall. Across this particular mall was the well-known architectural landmark, Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). Disappointingly, we did not get to visit DDP even though it was just right in front of our eyes due to time constraint.
On the left side of Good Morning City
On the right side of Good Morning City
The DDP on the opposite road
I bought some Honey Butter and Hot & Spicy nuts for my parents. I also chose some fridge magnets, key-chains and bookmarks which in my opinion, could be bought at a cheaper price elsewhere. #ohwell
Our dinner was one of my favorite, Samgyetang or ginseng chicken soup.
9th December 2019, Ginseng Store-Art Korea-Running Man Experience Hall-Insadong-Hongdae
We started our day by visiting a Korean Ginseng Centre. Apparently, Korean Ginsengs are the best among all the other Ginseng in the world as they are of a balance ‘cold-hot proportions’. The ripest Ginseng to be consumed is those that are at least 6 years old. The cheapest ginseng product they sold was around 200++ USD which was on the costly side for my budget.
Next, we were brought to Art Korea. It is basically a store selling skincare and beauty products. We were introduced to a Korean skincare product called YihanCarino. In all honesty, I did some research on the Internet about this brand but found little to no information. It’s not exactly a well-known product especially to outsiders, unlike Innisfree, Klairs or Nature Republic. The price was on the high side. And since I did not find any testimony or reviews regarding this ‘high-end’ product, I ended up buying nothing.
We had Mackerel stew for lunch. I enjoyed the radish most.
We had some fun at the Running Man Experience Hall. Basically, we were each given a tag and collected points with each completed games. The games were supposed to resemble those played in the Running Man show. I did not really completed all games (around 10 games) as some of them were too hard. So yeah, after completing as much as we can and upon exiting the game area, we were given a record of our collected points and a Running Man badge.
Around the game area
Inside the mirror maze
Since the Running Man Experience Hall was located near Insadong street, we walked for around 5 minutes to reach the street selling souvenirs and crafts. We were given around 45 minutes to shop. Hence, I ditched my colleagues and walked alone till the end of the street to find something worth buying for myself. Fortunately towards the end, I found a small roadside ‘stall’ selling cloth-covered notebooks with some really pretty designs. The stall owner told me that he designed and stitched the pages himself. So, I bought one for 10,000 Won.
After Insadong, we went to Hongdae shopping street. It’s a street with shops targeted at youths for the Hongik University was located nearby. There were numerous shops selling streetwear, skincare products, game centres, karaoke centres etc.
For dinner, we had Bibimbap with seafood pancakes and octopus soup. I was worried about the Bibimbap since I’m not used to eating raw vegetables but the dish was surprisingly delicious. Basically, our Bibimbap was a mixture of rice with seaweed, bean sprouts and purple cabbages together with red pepper sauce.
10th December 2019, Cheongha Plus Healthy Liver-Namsangol Hanok Village-The Shilla Duty Free-Myeongdong
We started our tour with Cheongha Plus Healthy Liver. It’s a store selling ‘health-supplement’ for the liver. So, there was an attendant explaining about the symptoms of a bad liver as well as the ingredients to detoxify the liver. They were promoting their product, saying that we can consume the tablets for 4 months and that’s it. There will be no need for further consumption. 2 tablets per day for 4 months and our liver will be healthy! Honestly, it all sounded a little too good to be true to me. #wow
Anyways, the 2 months consumption package costs like almost RM 2,000.00. So nope, did not buy any.
We were shown the Korean traditional houses in Namsangol Hanok Village. There was not much to see here, just traditional Korean houses and their architecture. We could also see the Namsan Tower from here.
Architecture with the view of Namsan Tower
Our lunch was Bulgogi beef with rice. Annddddd I did not enjoy it as the Bulgogi was a little too sweet and soupy for my taste.
We were brought for some duty-free shopping at The Shilla. It’s the place to go for high-end branded goods like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel and the likes. They also sell skincare and beauty products. However, you can get the same skincare with much cheaper price in Myeongdong. The only upside of the place for me (who did not really shop for branded goods) was a rooftop cafe with an outdoor seating area.
And we’re finally at the location we’ve all been waiting for : Myeongdong! Myeongdong is basically one of the many shopping streets in Seoul. We were all aiming for the skincare products, which were sold literally everywhere along the streets of Myeongdong. Innisfree, The Face Shop, Olive Young, Laneige, Nature Republic, you name it and they’re all here.
Namsan Tower again
We had dinner at Todai Seafood restaurant, which is an ‘All You Can Eat’ seafood buffet. After dinner, we were supposed to head back to our hotel and called it a night. But some of us (including me) decided to stay and shop for more. So the tour bus left us in Myeondong and we were to find our way back to the hotel safely by ourselves.
I bought the Jeju Volcanic Pore Mask from Innisfree, 2 packs of sheet mask from Nature Republic (it was a ‘buy 1 free 1’ deal), a bottle of Son&Park Beauty Water, a piece of sheet mask from Mediheal and Dr.Jart each (for the sake of trying), Klairs mosturizer (for my big brother) and SomeByMi 30-days Trial Pack (for my little brother). My sister on the other hand, out of all the things that are famous in Korea, asked for some cute stickers and washi tapes so I bought a few for her too.
Finally, after getting all the things we needed, it was time to head back to the hotel. Due to exhaustion from the load of all the stuff we bought, I decided to share a taxi ride with 3 other colleagues, knowing that the cheapest option would be to ride the subway. We were charged with 32,000 Won for the trip with the metered taxi. #hargasebuahkemalasandankepenatan
11th December 2019, Incheon Chinese Fairy Tale Walking Trail-Super Market (cant remember it’s name)-Home
We went for a short photo-stop at the Chinese Fairy Tale walking trail. The area was full of wall-art for photo-taking purposes. It was quite a hilly area and we were there quite early in the morning so it was pretty quiet.
The entrance statement
We were brought to a supermarket for last minute shopping. There were some Korean snacks, food & drinks, home appliances, skincare products as well as souvenirs. I bought a Maxim coffee box containing 100 sachets, sharing it with 4 other colleagues (because 100 seemed too much). We had 20 sachets each.
By noon, we reached Incheon International Airport for our flight back home. Our departure was at 3.00pm and our plane safely landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00.30am on the 12th.
In conclusion, I figured that Seoul might be better and thoroughly experienced on my own, without tour packages from tour guides. This may depends on individual interest and preferences, however I personally feel that the shopping stops, especially those that costed way above my budget, were unnecessary and took too much time that could have been spent elsewhere. Considering that we were there in a group, it is understandable that everybody’s interest needed to be taken into account.
That being said, I’ve decided to travel to Seoul again in the future and visit Gangnam, Namdaemun, Itaewon and others. I’ve also yet to visit Jeju and Busan. So yeah, hoping for a more ‘Seoul-ful’ experience the next time around.
Here’s a short compilation video I made for this trip, edited on YouCut (thanks to my colleague for being the candid subject in this video) :