Happy 100!

Posted on June 26, 2011

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Today is a special day for me because it is my 100th day here in Korea. I never imagined myself being here and my close friends know that it was never in my immediate plans to even visit the place.

100 days of being away from friends and family and staying in a place where I’m  used to be a complete stranger. While I acknowledge the fact that this opportunity is such a great blessing and many people are happy for what I am enjoying now, the past 100 days also includes the saddest days of my life. I guess I never cried so frequently in my entire life. The past 100 days have been truly remarkable for me and here are some of the reasons why:

I boarded the wrong bus number and got lost on my first day.

When I arrived here, no one picked me up from the airport. It was fine with me since I’m used to going to different places. I was advised to ride the airport limousine because they said it is more convenient than taking the subway. Using the subway means transfers so I followed their advice. Until now, I am not sure why I boarded the wrong bus number, but I only realized that I am not on the right bus when we were already here in Seoul. The driver cannot understand English and I cannot understand Korean. I must commend the driver though because he tried all he could to assist me. He dropped me off in a subway station and asked me to use it instead. Fortunately, the subway map is easy to understand. With all the bags that I have that day, it was truly tiring, so I thank all the Korean guys whom I’ve met in the subway and helped a stranger like me.

I don’t know anyone here in Korea. Not even any Filipino. Nuh uh.

Well, partly true. I know the university’s coordinator and our department’s coordinator because I correspond with them with regard to my application here. I know some Filipino bloggers because I asked them via email on what to expect here in Korea but that’s it. I don’t have a friend, a family friend or a relative here. I don’t know anyone who can guide or assist me while I adjust with Korean life. To make things worse I don’t know anything about Korea. I never cared to research about it because I didn’t really have plans of going here at first. However, as days passed by, being here in Korea made me realize how small the world is. I’ve never expected to meet some of the people I’ve met and never expected to be friends with some of the people whom I now call as friends.

I got scared of going out.

My friends back home know how unusual this is. I always go out or go anywhere even if I’m alone or even if it’s in the wee hours. It’s my way of destressing but it was the total opposite during my first few weeks here. There was a time where I don’t want to leave my room anymore. It was after I had a nasty experience with a Korean guy while I was scouting for shops outside our university. I must admit that it was traumatic but I can’t let my family know about it because I was afraid that they might ask me to go home. I was able to overcome the frightening experience but it took me a while.

Opening a bank account made me cry.

Their process when it comes to opening a bank account as I have observed is pretty simple. Easier than back home, that is, had I known how to speak Korean but since I can’t it took me a long time. There’s a bank inside the university so I was thinking it would be easy for me. I went there and asked the receptionist for a form. Turns out that the guy can’t understand English that much but he was very helpful. I know that the tellers can speak English because I didn’t have any trouble when I exchanged my money but probably he wasn’t endorsing me because they were busy. I told him that I’ll ask help from other people I know and will just go back but the truth is I don’t really know who to ask. I was just so frustrated at that time. I’ve never felt so helpless and alone. I decided to go here in my room because I was already on the verge of crying and when I arrived here I did cry then afterwards went back to the bank.

It snowed.

It was snow with rainfall but still, it was snow. When I arrived here, winter is almost over so I was thinking that maybe I’d see snow on the next winter. For someone who grew up in a tropical country, snow is a big thing. It’s something that we know would never exist in the place where I grew up, in Manila. My friends kept on asking me whether I already experienced seeing snow. Then it happened one day, when I visited Myeongdong for the first time. It got me excited and happy. I was able to record it and show it to my sisters and brother.

I thought that my first glimpse of Cherry Blossoms would be in Japan.

Our Japanese friend and I were planning a trip to his hometown and we want it during the time when Cherry Blossom starts to bloom. However, I suddenly went here and our plans were ruined. Luckily, I was still able too see Cherry Blossoms and it’s just across from where I live.

Cherry Blossoms @ Children’s Grand Park

Nail, Lip and Eye Remover.

The first thing I bought from a cosmetic shop here in Korea is a nail polish remover but I was surprised to see that in the bottle it states, Nail Remover. I thought at first, that it was just that product from that particular shop but I was wrong. I found out later on, that in other stores it shows the same thing. Then, I bought a make up remover and it says Lip and Eye Remover. What I cannot fathom is why they are not correcting the labels on their product.

Bulgogi.

I’ve heard about it several times even when I was still back home but it never really perked my interest. I’ve read in forums and blogs that it’s good but I was more interested in Budae Jigae. Then one day, I tasted Lotteria’s Bulgogi Burger. Instantly, it became one of my favorites. Then there’s Bulgogi Bake from Costco and Bulgogi with rice. Aside from it’s one of the safest food that I can order, I really liked the taste. It’s sweet and it’s not spicy. Not that I have problem with spicy food but here, when they spicy it’s as if the word spicy if not enough to describe the taste.

EOP (English Only Policy) all the time.

I have no choice but to speak English when I want to talk to people here (unless they are Filipinos) and at times I feel tired because of it. What’s funny is, in my previous job, we are obliged to talk in English and there was even a memo that employees should do it in all areas of the office but we were never compliant. At times, when I get to chat or talk to my friends/ previous officemates I tell them that probably this is the punishment for not following the memo. Whenever they talk to me in English, I plead that we talk in our native language. Even if I’m used to using English it’s still draining at times.

I wake up each morning, only to realize that I cannot see my family and cuddle my sisters and brother; that I am away.

Good thing that recently, I get out more often than before and I am able to distract myself from sad thoughts. I am somehow learning to enjoy my stay here. I probably have mentioned this before but in my entire life I’ve never been away from my family for this long. It hasn’t been long too since the idea of being away from them started sinking in. There were times that I wake up in the morning, surprised that the room and my bed looks different, and then I realize and I utter to myself, “Oh! I’m not home I’m here in Korea.” There were even times that I forget that I’m not here for a vacation. Sometimes, I have this feeling that I’ll be home after a couple of days.  I am so used to waking up knowing that they are just near and that any moment I can talk to and see them. I remember, I refused to talk to them over the phone until after a few weeks after I arrived. I wanted to make sure that by the time I call them I would not cry over the phone. So, I called them almost a month after, I was controlling my emotions and I did not cry. Well, while I was talking to them. I did after the call.

Doing our fave past time, eating.

Tomorrow, the 100 days would be 101. All I could do is to count until the day I could see my family and be home again. I might have been sad, whiny and unconfident but with wonderful people around me who are so supportive I know I could get back to track in no time. Soon enough I’ll be able to maximize my stay and enjoy Korea as much as I did with the other places I’ve been to. I hope to know more people who would make my stay more special and memorable.

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Posted in: Korea, Seoul