Wednesday, 16 September 2015

I've Got Seoul, Baby! I've Got Seoul

Yo everyone, I'm back! Let's turn back the clock to last Thursday, when Kee How, Race and I took a cab and a bullet train all the way from Gwangju to Seoul! Whoo-hooo! We arrived in the afternoon and then Kee How pretty much abandoned us (LOL), and Race and I were left to figure out our own way in this busy cosmopolitan city. We got on the metro train and headed to Seoul Station, whereupon Race headed off his own way and I stumbled about this strange city looking for my hotel, the Ramada Hotel and Suites in Namdaemun. Unfortunately I went the wrong way (complete with backpack and large bright purple luggage!) and my mobile phone had lost its 3G capability as the Korean SIM card had run out of credit... thankfully, Starbucks to the rescue!!! I was able to grab a much-needed coffee, some food, and free Wi-Fi to figure my way out! Whew!

Hello, Seoul!
And helloooo, room!! Jeebuz, it was almost tempting to just stay in there and not leave!
After checking in (and not really wanting to check out again - I mean, come on, look at that room!), I headed out and manoeuvred my way around the city of minimal English-speakers to meet up with Race, where we had an authentic Korean barbecue meal, our very first on this trip! It took place in that awkward window between teatime and dinnertime; so after that, we basically just chilled and explored a few places - an arty area close to Anguk, and then the general vicinity of the busy Myeongdong commercial centre, the heart of Seoul; its very own equivalent to Singypoo's Orchard Road or KL's Bukit Bintang - and stuffed ourselves with street food:

Looking ever the tourist.
Arty things.
Martial arty things.
Race all excited about Korean BBQ.
Race perhaps too excited about Korean BBQ.
Requisite selfie in Seoul.
One of the tourist hotspots that Race and I struggled to locate,
even though how could we have missed it?? A traditional village.
Grr. Arrgh.
Another of those touristy shots.
Selfie with food in mouth.
Race against the backdrop of hustly-bustly Myeongdong.
Watchoo lookin' at??
A bit too excited about street food on a stick.
The night ended with me heading back to the hotel and crashing, exhausted, until it was time to check out the next day! Yup, Friday was going-home day (awww), which pretty much ended up being just that: I headed to Seoul Station (but not before one final meal!) and got a direct train to Incheon International Airport, meeting up with some of the others there before boarding the plane back to hazy KL. (The flight was thankfully uneventful, save for a bit of turbulence; and I got a row of three seats all to myself, which is always a bonus!).

My last meal in Seoul: curried rice, authentic Korean-style.
And thus, ladies and gentlemen, ended my virgin visit to South Korea and to Seoul! When I got back to KL (and proceeded to take the KLIA Express train back to PJ, followed by another train to the LRT station, where the folks picked me up and brought me home, whew!), it was just in time for supper: Korean instant noodles!!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Kerbie Story

Taking a break from all this South Korean fun, let me tell you the story of little Kerbie. See, about a month or two ago, I noticed that one of my neighbours across the road suddenly had a little doggy in his front yard. I also eventually observed that said neighbour had been working long, long hours, from about 8am until after 11pm. So I told my mum about this, and, being the nosey parkers and extreme dog lovers that we are, we decided that we'd start giving the pup (who we learned was female) some food in the middle of the day.

Kerbie in July, a little too thin.
Somewhere along the way I'd started referring to her as Kirby, and mum also began calling her that. So this went on for a few weeks, with us sneaking food back and forth across the street, until one day the neighbour came up to us because Kirby had run away and mum had called her over to her. So mum began talking to the neighbour, and we learned that he had picked Kirby up as a lost dog a few weeks prior and was fostering her, looking for a family to adopt her. Not long after that encounter, we left a note after observing that Kirby was breathing noisily and seemed to have the sniffles. The neighbour responded, and we went over to his place and had a good talk bout Kirby's well-being. (For my own record-keeping purposes, this happened on Aug 24. 2015. Duh.)

Turned out that Kirby was - contrary to our original assumption, which is why assumptions are bad - being watered and fed diligently, the only challenge the neighbour faced was that due to the nature of his job he had to work long hours. And then he said he was going away for about a month and a half, and he was actually planning to bring the dog back to Ipoh unless someone was able to take care of her. Subsequently, Mum and I said we would like to adopt Kirby, but we weren't sure if Ashley would be willing to accept it. The solution that the neighbour himself proposed was that he'd give us the spare remote to his automatic gate, and we could come and go as we pleased to look after Kirby and gradually introduce her to Ashley. Whoooo!

So that's what mum and I have been doing for the past couple of weeks (or rather, Mum has, since I've been away in Seoul!). We've been bringing food over to Kirby - now renamed Kerbie so that it's "more feminine", oy! - and taking her for walks and giving her baths and all that. Sadly Ashley still seems to not be willing to accept her, giving her warning growls and such when they come within proximity, but we'll keep trying. If, worst-case scenario, it doesn't work out, I'm praying that the neighbour will continue to keep Kerbie in his yard and allow us to proceed with this arrangement of coming over and spending time with her.

Earlier today we took her to the vet's for her second vaccination jab, and she was a gem! The doctor reckons she has a bit of a snout defect, either through accident or (more likely) genetic, which has resulted in a crooked upper snout and some resultant sinus-congestion issues. Doc didn't seem worried about it though, saying she's in perfect health and that she should be just fine, the occasional sniffles and all.

And earlier this evening there was a little bit of excitement as the council dudes came along and did one of their cloying fogging exercises - the kind where the cloud is so thick that you can't see in front of your face and tendrils start seeping in through your windows. In frantic desperation I ran out to the neighbour's, hurriedly leashed an excited Kerbie, led her back home and into our house (Ashley was in my bedroom, safely ensconced away). And lo and behold, it was Kerbie's first time in the Choo home proper!!

A much healthier shape 1.5 months later!

Stay tuned for more updates on the ongoing Kerbie story... :)

Gwangju: The Other Days

Yo peeps, what's up! So yesterday I got home close to midnight after a 12-hour day of travelling back from South Korea. Right now I'm sitting in my bedroom back home, and it's already been kinda tedious being back with the fam, but never mind, let's not go there. Instead, let's rewind the hands of the clock back a couple of days, back to Tuesday, the day after our first couple of performances at the Asian Culture Complex in Gwangju!

We had the day off, so... hmmm. I'm trying to recall what exactly I did but it's kinda a blur, LOL! Oh yes, I hung out on my own for the earlier part of the day, including spending time in a coffee shop called Heep Shop enjoying their 5G(!) free WiFi; and then journeyed one train stop away to have tea with Siti, Aiman and Saf. After that we pretty much just walked and explored the day away, including making a visit to a large departmental store the likes you see all over the place in KL and Singypoo. So... nothing terribly exciting there, arf. And then I think there was more walking and exploring and eating. Especially the eating. Yeah, that's one of the highlights of being in South Korea: the foods, and affordable alcohol. Shame it's not that easy to communicate there, what with English not being a primary language, but we managed to get by (just barely!).

Anyway, Wednesday saw us having two final shows, which we pulled off with aplomb. What's really interesting is how the kids seemed to enjoy the shows even though the majority of them would have had little to no idea of what we were talking about! Then there were the older audiences who would mostly stare at the subtitles on the screen on one side of the stage than keep their eyes on the goings-on onstage, so it's pretty impressive that all in all, the Koreans managed to piece it all together (we hope) and enjoy the show. Based on the cheers from the crowd, and some of the feedback we've received, as well as the enthusiasm of the kids and parents in the post-show workshops, I think (hope) Zak Zebra's Malaysian Safari was a big hit!

Between shows on Wednesday we had a 'roundtable' with the Korean folks as well as a contingent from Singapore, to discuss and chit-chat and give feedback and all that. And then on Wednesday night there was... a whole lot of eating and drinking, I suppose, including some shenanigans at a nearby hip-hop bar, Dozen, where some of us (read: one of us, not me) became the drunken life of the party (more of this below, arf arf!). And then it was off to bed, because on Thursday, my roommates Race, Kee How and I were off to Seoul, the cosmopolitan capital, for a one-day visit. But I'll come back and post more about this shortly. For now, I leave you with a whole bunch of pics from our time in Gwangju, in no real chronological order. Stay tuned...!

Zak, Lola and Themba doing their pre-show warm-ups.

Preparing for the day's shows!
Hyenas (who became wildboars for our show)!
Workshop in progress!
With some of the kids from the workshop.
A backstage view.
One of our many meals!
With Aiman walking thru one of the many shopping districts in Gwangju.
Hmmm, why are the people around us transparent? Eeek.
Beer, baby!
More food! Mmm spicy chicken! Waaay too much spicy food on this trip!
What did I tell you??? We were DYING from how hot some of the food was!
Murky shot of us at the hip-hop bar...

...Where this happened...! :P

More to come...!

And It's A Wrap! (More To Come...)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Gwangju: Showtime!!

Hey all! Whew, it's been an exhausting couple of days, what with yesterday (Sunday) being our first day in the theatre venue, bumping in and building sets and what not. Today we had the first two performances of Zak Zebra's Malaysian Safari, to audiences of almost entirely Korean kids and grown-ups, which has made for some interesting shows as many of them had to rely on the subtitles and therefore they weren't as responsive as we'd anticipated they'd be! But no matter, I believe the children had a lot of fun at the end of the day!

Yesterday I spent a little bit of time on my own exploring nearby Gwangju, which is pretty happening in that there are shops aplenty nearby. But none of us have really ventured too far since we're all pretty knackered from showtimes and workshops and whatnot. Luckily there has been Korean fried chicken and beer, which we ate till stuffing point tonight! ;)

Not a part of our show... encountered some (fake) giraffe on the sidewalks
of Gwangju, part of the arts festival that we're involved in!
Noodley lunch somewhere...
Squawk! With my costume. I'm a hornbill, apparently. My character
doesn't have a name, so I'm calling him Horny. Squawk!
Selfie with a 'tree' in the background.
Awright, that's enough of the birdy selfies, dude.
Aiman, who plays Yapi, show villain's bumbling sidekick
and world's sexiest Tongkat Ali salesman.

Preparing for the first show today (Monday).
Workshop with the kids after today's second performance.
Join us as we traverse the African... um... Malaysian... uh.... Korean
plain... Where on earth *are* we?! Doh!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Gwangju, Baby!

Well we made it! A six-hour plane ride, two-hour wait and a five-hour bus journey has brought us to Gwangju, South Korea, where I'm now sitting on the upper bunk of the bed in our hostel blogging away while the others prepare to head to the performance venue. I'm not expected there until later, so I'm going to chill for a bit and then head out and explore the surrounding attractions, whoohoo!!

It's been fun enough so far, though everyone has been understandably tired after the long journey and insufficient sleep last night so there are some fraying nerves about the place. ;) Yesterday we arrived at about 7am local time (6am in Malaysia) and then 10 out of 15 of us in this entourage got on a bus, while five of us stayed back at the airport for the next bus. Unfortunately due to a miscommunication of some sort, it resulted in us waiting for two whole hours at the airport. Then we finally got on a bus for that five-hour ride, where I thankfully managed to finally get some rest (not being able to sleep on the plane and all, despite the sleeping pill the doc prescribed!)

My first meal at Seoul airport: a curry chicken wrap with latte. Officially going Korean on your ass, y'all!
Following some additional delays due to taxis and more miscommunication, we finally arrived at Oasita Hostel, where we managed to get refreshed before heading to the Asian Cultural Centre a good 10 to 15-minute walk away. There was a little so-called networking party last night that unfortunately wasn't terribly eventful or networking-effective, and coupled with the fact that it was cold and rainy last night, it wasn't too exciting an evening, LOL! But I don't mean to put such a negative spin on things on the first day. Like I said: long journeys, wet weather, soggy shoes... anyone would be a little bit cranky! Luckily there was hot chocolate:

The wheels of the bus go round and round.
At a rest stop during the bus ride. Audio cassettes! Wot the!
The view from the bus at one point. Not my pic though. A friend's.
A gloomy shot in the taxi on the way to the hostel, with a contingent from Singapore.
Outside Oasita Hostel.
So here's a funny story. Yesterday at the airport, one of the new tech guys who's joined our team, Race, asked me: "Hey are you from Penang?" Turns out this dude is an old childhood friend of mine whom I hadn't been in touch with for the past twenty years. He was a regular frequenter of Penang Club back when my folks and my brother and I used to go virtually every weekend back as kids, and we were actually good enough friends that we used to be up to all sorts of shenanigans, from making grandiose plans to form our own music band, to playing pranks on people (hidden-camera tricks were one of our schemes - only we didn't actually have videocams back then, so we'd carry an audio cassette recorder and do silly things like slather red paint on a friend's knees and insist he'd hurt himself, just so we could record the reactions of those around us [who obviously never fell for it]). Anyway, to meet up rather randomly 20 years later to end up working together on a production in South Korea? Talk about uncanny! (I'd even mentioned him a couple of years ago, here!)

'Sup dude!
Gloomy walk to the Asian Culture Centre.
Whoop there it is!
A weird bony finger sculpture thingy adorns the grounds.
Anyway folks, today's going to be another long day for the troops, so here's wishing them abundant energy and enthusiasm! In the meantime, I'm going to head out exploring real soon. I'll put up more pics and stuff shortly. Stay tuned!

The gang of us before flight yesterday.