I can’t believe that two and a half years passed since my last contribution on this blog. It feels good to start exploring/writing again!
The last few years in a nutshell: after returning from the world trip I obtained a scholarship to work abroad through the Prince Albert Fund. I moved to the south of Brazil, spending an interesting time working for a Belgian company active in renewable energy sector. A year later, I returned to Belgium where I continued to earn a living with the same enterprise, awaiting my transfer to Brazil.
Gradually I started feeling uncertainty about the path I was following. I tried rationalising my doubts and swept my general feeling of discontent about the way life was unfolding under the rug thinking: “it will get better”. Unfortunately it didn’t. And a couple of months later it snapped. With a combination of pain in my heart and relief I quit my job and got back to life on the road for a while.
When people ask what I’ll be doing with my life, my honest answer is “I have absolutely no clue”. But I’m confident things will fall in place. In the words of a random Ozzie dude: “no worries, mate”. Or in the (famous) words of Steve Jobs: “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on”.
And that’s how I’m writing from the city of Seoul where I have been staying for the last 10 days. Suffering from jet lag and the extremely humid heat, I was “out of my element” the first few days. Little by little, I found back my bearings and am now spending a great time. It pretty much feels like I’m spending time in another universe.
Some random (first) impressions – experiences
Korean food is incredibly tasty. Eating is a true pleasure and social event over here. I will spare you the names of the dishes (admittedly I actually can’t remember any of them myself), Instead I added a couple of “food shots”. The dishes are often spicy and meals always include Kimchi, Korea’s national dish (fermented vegetables). Drinks that go with the meals (most of the times abundantly) are “Makgeolli” (Korean rice wine) and Soju (Korea’s national liquor).
Heyri art village is located one hour north of Seoul. I discovered this unique spot through a recommendation of the two young French artists Manon and Nicolas (click the names to see their work!). Both of them are studying fine arts in Nantes and were having an exposition in this little artistic town that houses hundreds of painters, musicians,cineasts, architects and musicians. While walking around in the village we discovered various nice sculptures and I was impressed with the neat architecture of the art galleries and other buildings.
One of the artists we encountered (thanks for the intro, Nico!) is the renowned photographer Mr. Anso Lee. We were received like kings in his magnificent house and had the opportunity to share all our stories. Mr. Lee has pretty much been all around the globe and is now gladly receiving people from all sides of the world. Thank you Mr. Lee for your hospitality but above all your amazing energy and inspiration!!
Most women are obsessed with their looks in the South Korean “beauty culture”. You see girls taking self-shots all the time, comparing and exchanging them with their friends. You spot girls standing close to any window to closely examine if their make-up is still in place. Plastic surgery is extremely popular. According to this article it is estimated that one out of five women had some kind of “job” done . The following quote makes the point pretty accurately: “Eyelid surgery to create a double lid and nose jobs to lengthen and thin the nose are the most popular surgeries. These procedures are so common they’re called “the basics.”
The city is a very interesting combination of old and new. The subway system is one of the most modern and advanced I’ve ever used. People are connected all the time and there’s wifi everywhere. The gaming industry is huge. On the subway everyone (even the average 80 year old grandmother) is playing video games, watching television or taking self-shots with their (huge) smartphone. The same time, impressive historical sites can be witnessed.
Last but not least, what really colours the experiences are the people you’re sharing them with. I had the luck of bumping into inspiring folks with the most diverse backgrounds. Thanks guys!
The next 10 days I’ll be following a meditation course, meaning I’ll be disconnecting completely. Quite a contrast with the high-tech-always-connected city of Seoul 🙂 Let’s see how that goes. I’m looking forward to writing my next travel report!