Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Progress

  • All my registered holdings have finally been transferred over to the new account.  Was granted an extension on the "free trades" I was supposed to receive, as well as a reversal of yearly account fees (on top of transfer fee) due to the delay of the whole process.  Finally reaching a customer service agent who was actually capable of doing something and sticking with her has made all the difference.  The first group of settlements are expected to come through next week.
  • Reached 7 km on the treadmill rehab.  Goal is 10 km, 3 - 4 times a week.  Slowing adding back rowing and biking on top of body weight exercises (not a joyful experience, have lost so much conditioning).  However, amazing what can happen when I actually follow instructions of icing and stretching...No one to blame but myself.  Am such a poor patient!  Incidentally, seeing "Wonder Woman" has super boosted my motivation -- I expected a great performance from Gal Gadot but wowza..Robin Wright!
  • Meeting with a realtor to get an appraisal on our cottage.  Have been getting increasingly disenchanted with sitting in the car for even a few hours.  With the amount of flying I do and being around high densities of people for extended periods of time (why airline lounges are such a wonderful reprieve), I've developed less patience with being on the road.  
  • Plus I've turned into a real homebody during my non travel times.  So the idea of driving across the country a couple times a year as a retirement option isn't appealing anymore.  Probably makes no sense, but if I'm going to sit that long, I want to be flying somewhere.  Of course the potential sale opens the whole capital gains can of worms.
  • I wish I could say D's work life has settled but it hasn't.  It has escalated once again, not just for him but his whole department.  They cannot seem to find any peace there and everyone is working insane hours.   
  • Our summer plans have had to change.  We were supposed to spend the end of it out west.  Got notice that the construction of our building parking lot will not be completed until October.  I refuse to stay in a noisy construction zone.  New plans (tentative still) will involve trekking, so I need to be able to do it.  Not a whole lot of reasonably priced options last minute so if we go, I will be using a bunch of points to get us there.  Already got dinged with cancellation fees on the airfares out west.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Tokyo # 2

Tokyo the second time was fantastic.  Didn't think I could like this city more but it happened.

A tip:  Isetan food hall, Shinjuku... Go right when it opens for an unforgettable welcome. NB:  They do not allow photographs.

I stayed in Ginza this time around.  Even if you are not into high end shopping, it is fun to walk around and admire the design and architecture of the many global flagship brands.

Not ashamed to admit I have 2 more flights, over the next 10 months, booked..and I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Impressions of Seoul

I had difficulty with Seoul right off the bat.  Couldn't put my finger on it for a few days.  Felt a strong sense of unhappiness, lack of inner peace, mixed with suffering.  Made me feel un-grounded and uneasy.

It was a startling juxtaposition when you put it up against the backdrop of a modern city, full of high end shops and shoppers.  It was way more than the realization that large wealth gaps exist in many major cities.

The intensity of it felt similar to what I remember from Yangon.  Where I could sense peoples' hunger.  The area I stayed in Seoul, near the Namdaemun Market, felt poor to me and the older people who had businesses and stalls there worked tirelessly, some from 6 am all the way to 9 pm. There were also a number of 24 hour shops and restaurants.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that the flight attendant was surprised I was actually going to Seoul when she assumed I wouldn't need the landing card (never had that happen before).  Even more ironic I think, considering I was on a direct flight to Seoul from JFK, on Korean Air!

A second hint that this wasn't going to be an easy going trip, should have been the samples of make up foundation you receive when you buy a train ticket from the airport into the city.  I had 6 minutes to find my train (almost missed it too!), so never thought beyond it and wasn't able to refuse it either.

As someone who doesn't own a bottle of foundation, it was a bit unnerving to be surrounded by make up shops and people buying bags and bags of it in Myeong-dong.  And the number of young women with 5 - 7 small band aids on their face from having had cosmetic work done working at the metro stations, coffee shops... It had me questioning what world I had landed in.  And not to forget the intensity of analyzing looks from people young and old...

My days started with a morning walk up Namsan park.  Some road paths were rubberized and at 8 am, people were already coming down.  Don't underestimate the older hikers -- They are fast!  The pride is evident there.  Designated days were for sweeping and maintenance.  Many different groups (running, badminton, archery, visually impaired) use various parts and paths.  The archery, was particularly amazing to watch as they shot at targets over groups of trees.

You know where this is heading.  I was quite ignorant of the history of Korea outside of a couple of documentaries of North Korea.  Things would have made more sense had I been better prepared.  I had earmarked the trip as a fun, relaxing week in a modern city, full of conveniences and great food...with little to no work needed.

Instead I felt quite disturbed for the duration due to my ignorance of just how much the people had suffered.  How recent that was.  How disorienting it must be for them to be living at a time of such tremendous growth and pressure to succeed.  The strong focus on cosmetic surgery is an offshoot of that striving.  As are the poverty issues facing the older generation.

Now that I know a little bit more, I want to return and see the city through better eyes, to have another opportunity to process those feelings I remember in a way that makes sense.

(Should you find yourself in Seoul, and in particular Namsan park, consider eating at Mok Myeok San Bang, a well known restaurant located at the start of the Northern Circuit.  I ate their bulgogi bibimbap twice.  It was delicious!  Although they are written up in the 2017 Michelin guide, prices are down to earth.)

(Also, I was supposed to have flown on an A380, same route as the infamous "nut rage" incident. Unfortunately, there was an equipment change so ended up flying on a 747 instead.  Have another opportunity to try for the A380 next year.  For the aviation geeks out there, I'm also scheduled on an A350 later this fall.)