Monday, May 21, 2007

Duck and cover

I spent the weekend in the park. Or, I should probably say “I spent the weekend in the Gardens”. The Botanical Gardens, that is.

Not three minutes walk from my home, are the Botanical Gardens. I go there as often as I can. Usually I bring a book. Sometimes I bring a blanket. Yesterday I brought both, and spent the day enjoying made up adventures while surrounded by daisies and hung-over students. It was nice, slow, relaxing and warm. Summer.

The day before that I didn’t bring a blanket. I decided to sit on one of the benches by the little pond instead. One thing you tend to find near water and people, is ducks. That’s the case with the Lund Botanical Gardens as well, of course. There are what seems to be a couple of different families. There’s one single mother with one duckling – they almost always stay by the pond – and then there’s a couple, a male and a female, who seem to be moving about in the park. I reckon people like to feed them, because they are totally unafraid of humans. Actually, they walk right up to you. If you try to chase them away, you’ll be as close to them as 30 centimetres before they bother to pay you any attention. As I was sitting on my bench, quietly reading, the female walked up to me. And bit at the toe of my shoe! While it was still on my foot!

The nerve of some fowl!

The smell of tonight is the fragrance of tomorrow, and of today

As I was walking home last night, well after nightfall, the city smelled of summer night. That was the first of this year.

It’s the days accumulated flowers, it’s the laughter that still lingers, it’s the cobblestones eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s dew.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Second Korean Instalment - Wedding Gear

So. I promised ironic manicure, amazing dresses and Zen poetry. Time to deliver.

After the bride and I had left the Korean spa, we went shopping. We had our nails done, something which I’ve never done before. Well, I’ve done them myself, and Johanna’s done them for me, but it was actually quite pleasant to have someone else take really good care of your hands… I got beautiful golden nails with extravagant pink relief roses on them. I would like to label this “ironic manicure”. We also ended up finding me a very cute little dress. There’s no such thing as too many little dresses *repeats this only a tad manically*. I’d gotten a seriously gorgeous dress for the wedding. Silk, baby blue, baby doll. How much better can it get? Actually, it can. The Wedding Dress. The couple had decided for traditional Korean wedding outfits. Which worked very well for the bride, slightly less so for the groom, as he’s an almost two-meter-tall Scandinavian man… Eventually, he, too, got his silk dress on. I think the people at the Swedish Embassy were probably a little surprised when we showed up: the bride, and the mother of the bride, dressed in traditional hanbok, and the groom in a passable version of the male counterpart.

After the wedding ceremony, we went to the palace Gyeonbokgung, just next to the American Embassy. Here we photographed the newlyweds, and their four-year-old daughter, also in hanbok. We weren’t the only ones photographing them, however. They were also the target of large groups of tourists, who wanted pictures of them with palaces in the background.

Then, we took a taxi up Mt. Inwangsan, to have dinner at a very, very luxurious restaurant. It’s been ages since I ate something that delicious. I really enjoyed the Korean cuisine. I’ll have to learn how to cook Korean. If I’m not mistaken, at least one of the grocery stores around Möllevångstorget in Malmö is Korean, so maybe it’s actually possible to get some kimchi? Before dinner, ,we went for a walk around the restaurant, which was situated on he mountain slopes, with a good view over the city. Well, it would have been good, had it not been slightly overcast. Aka smoggy… Around the restaurant were several small temples, on the walls of which little Zen poems were attached. Very beautiful, although totally incomprehensible. The one on the picture says: I tame a little deer on the moss-covered banks of a stream.

For the third instalment: More palaces, the wedding ceremony and How to Run in a Hanbok.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I need to get my priorities straight.

Saturday, I went shopping for a very nice and useful reference manageing program, one which I could really use, and which I really like. Except for when it makes Word crash, but I have high hopes for the latest version. At my last work place, it was provided to us for free. Not so here. So, I figured I'd just buy it. I mean, it's a program for suffering academics for chrissakes, how expensive can it be? Just over SEK3000 (~€330) it turned out. Do I really need that program just that much?

I left the store, saying I'd have to consider it for a while. And I continued my shopping spree by entering a clothes store, where I checked out a suit, which I really need... I'll have to think about it a little, but will probably buy it sooner rather than later. And after that, I went off to pick up a pair of rather pricy earrings (I would have paid double if I'd had to, though), which I've coveted for weeks. The artist is really, really amazing.

Seriously? What do I probably really need more? A really nifty program to facilitate my job on a daily basis, or another pair of earrings?


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

First Korean Instalment - Tall and ugly in low heels

It feels rather good to be back from Korea, to tell the truth. I loved being there, don’t take me wrong. And I’ll tell you all about the good stuff. But it is good to be home. You see, I’m not used to feeling all tall, fat and clumsy. Which is basically what I felt like in Korea. The Korean women are tiny, petite and generally incredibly elegant, with at least 10-cm-heels. I was wearing an old pair of black pants and very comfortable but unglamorous slippers. They are so elegant, in fact, that I had to wear a tiny pen skirt and very high heels to work today. I felt quite clumsy for several days, until Malin and I went shopping for lingerie, and I realised what they do to come across as so slim. Slimming underwear. You know the kind that is more or less just a huge rubber band that keeps everything in place and tucked in. Almost impossible to get into. Or out of. Ha! Tall, fat and clumsy isn’t that bad after all. At least I get to wear comfy underwear. And as comfortable shoes as I feel like.

Apart from that, Korea was wonderful. Especially the food. Kimchi – the pickled side dishes that you get with your meal – is the best invention. Yum.

To save money, Patrik, the other wedding witness, and I had decided to share a room. The first thing we did was what you always do when you’ve checked into a hotel; we checked what was on TV. The best channel – Patrik and I totally agreed on this, but Malin and Johan were a little sceptical – was undoubtedly the channel which showed StarCraft tournaments. We were only sorry we couldn’t understand what the very enthusiastic commentators were saying. The second best channel – and we all agreed on the excellence of this one – was the Pentagon Channel. There are a lot of American soldiers posted in South Korea, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us that Pentagon has its own news show. But somehow we just didn’t expect it, I guess.

As I hinted above, the reason I was in Korea was to attend Malin’s and Johan’s wedding. Up until the trip, my duties as the maid of honour had mostly been about aesthetics: ring design advice and wedding dress design advice. And hen night planning, of course. What we did at the hen night was pretty much going to a spa, get pampered and just hang. Malin and I repeated that the day before their wedding. We went to a Korean spa. I’m absolutely convinced that going to a bath house abroad high lights that you are in a new culture, somewhere where you don’t have all the clues to how to behave. The first time I experienced this was a couple of years ago, when I was in California for a summer school. It soon became very clear that I was doing the undressing and showering in the wrong order after swimming. Going to a Korean bath house was slightly more complicated, and we’re sure we got a lot of it wrong. For starters, we started out in the children’s pool. The sign that said “kid pool” and the bear statuettes surrounding it were somehow not sufficient hints… What you do in a Korean spa is that you take a shower, and then you soak in different aroma therapy waters. The waters not only have different scents; they also have different temperatures. I’m not quite certain what the different temperatures are supposed to do to you, exactly, but it’s an interesting experience. To step out of a pool with 42-degree water with mint leaves, into a 43-degree pool with sea water feels like stepping into boiling water. That is weird. Interesting.

I’m sure there’s a special order in which you’re supposed to take the baths, but we didn’t manage to figure it out. The signs were all in Korean.

The spa doesn’t only mean soaking. There’s also the option to get an full body mud pack, an oil massage or a body scrub. The body scrub is intense. The scrubbing is carried out by very strong, small Korean women. If you use scrub gloves in the shower, or a loofah, you scrub. Sure. But it’s like in Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a knife. This is a knife”. That’s not a scrub. This is a scrub. I’ve never been this clean. Or smooth. Imagine: first a scrub that takes off all the dead layers of skin and leaves it in grey disgusting rolls on the table beside you, followed by a splash of iced milk on your skin and then loads of body oil. Seriously, you don’t get much smoother. Unless maybe, just maybe, you’re a newborn child. We didn’t try out the mud pack this time around. Maybe nest time. The womb cleansing offered among the services, we didn’t feel the least inclined to try, though.

There will be more. Amazing dresses, Zen poetry and ironic manicures. But not today. Soon, though.