Weeks! #26: change and Korea

2014-06-24 10.30.34All staff address. Considering the number of structural changes are Department is going through, it was timely. I have lost a number of colleagues at my level recently and from 1 July my Branch has two new sections with new responsibilities and overall a slight change in direction. Interesting times, as they say.

2014-06-24 19.45.24-2We got exciting new plans for our house. All going well, by this time next year our current house should have been razed and our new house under construction.

Sebastian got a belated birthday present from Rachel which included moulds for chocolate spoons so he whipped us up a dessert creation of his own invention.

2014-06-24 21.05.21Heading off to Seoul I needed a new book t read. I decided it was time to read The Quarry. As it was Iain Banks’ final book, I had been saving it up a little It was a lovely book and I read it before I left Seoul. A simple well told story with beautifully rendered characters. So sad to know it is the last new novel of his I will ever read.

2014-06-25 09.28.16This is my grumpy face. This is what my face looks like after i have struggled through two packed days of work feeling super-sick on the thought that I would have a nice relaxing Wednesday on the plane flying Business Class to Seoul after breakfast at the First Class Lounge only to get down graded. Yes, down graded. My whole do-you-know-who-I-am-Platinum-Frequent-Flyer persona kicked in. I was not happy. Flying economy is not the end of the world, but it was the gap between the sustaining expectation and the reality. And I didn’t even get breakfast because I had to wait around until the last people had checked in to get everything organised. No First Class Lounge. No Business Class. And, as it turned out, my reading light on the plane didn’t work nor did they have video on demand. I am not sure I am rushing to recommend flying Qantas code-share with Asiana to Seoul from Sydney. Though the flight attendants did put on a whole magic show mid flight.

2014-06-25 21.27.48Nighttime view from my hotel room window…

2014-06-26 08.32.50Daytime view! My hotel was in a great spot about ten minutes walk from the Australian Embassy and just across the road from the Town Hall. Pretty funky too.

Breakfast view!

2014-06-27 08.54.40And there appeared to be a portal to infinity in my bedroom. Along with the Nespresso machine.

In between meetings on Thursday I got to have a bit of a wander around the nearby area.

2014-06-26 12.07.22Said hello to my very favouritest building in all of Seoul, possibly in all the world.

And also saw one of the near daily protests.

2014-06-26 15.25.28Most of my meetings n Thursday were at the Australian Embassy.

The Town Hall lawn opposite the hotel were taken up with commemoration of the sinking of the Sewol Ferry and the death of over 300 mostly school students. Apparently the disaster has had a significant impact on the psyche of the Korean people, and protest against the government over its role are visible as well as signs of mourning all over the city.

2014-06-27 10.53.14Friday started with an early lunch meeting with Human Resource Development Korea at a restaurant on 32nd floor of a building with a spectacular view of the city. At the moment all the public servants are slowly getting relocated out of Seoul – mostly to Sejong City which, apparently, is a created city “like Canberra.” The HRD folk, however, have been moved even further away to Busan which is Seoul’s second largest city and an industrial centre, about three hours away. Jinsil, one of the HRD people I have dealt with most closely over the last year, told me that she still commutes there – her family is living in Seoul., although sometimes she stays overnight in Busan with friends or colleagues. I can’t imagine a three hour commute even on a fast train.

After lunch I went and gave my presentation – the main reason for my visit. The visting French expert and I were then taken away by Dr Cho from KRIVET (Korean government research body on vocational education) who I have known for about a year now for a wander around another part of Seoul, including a visit to the cathedral.

This was my favourite.

2014-06-27 17.46.19Dr Cho also bought us traditional summer ice confection – red beans on shaved ice. I was a bit dubious, but it was actually quite delicious.

A lovely dinner with the folk from the seminar followed where a lot of Australian wine was consumed (not sure how my French colleague felt about that, but he was unfailingly polite). It was only a short walk home – the town hall is an excellent landmark.

2014-06-27 21.32.23The next day I had a day to myself which I will blog about separately. A big part of it was a visit to the DMZ which is a kind of surreal place – a landmined part theme park zone of defence activity and conflicted ideas about the North. Weird.

2014-06-28 10.26.37After a busy day it was off to the airport for the flight home. Fortunately no downgrading this time.

2014-06-28 19.39.26Home again – my inevitable duty free purchase included Bombay Amber which I am looking forward to trying.

2014-06-29 11.52.21

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