Monday, June 6, 2011

My South Korean Invasion: Hang on to Hangul on Day Three

There is no arguing that South Korea’s training was a bliss for the 20 Filipino trainees who really enjoyed the expensive thrill being prepared for them. Everyone sometimes felt uneasy in the luxurious Gunji House because of their diverse feeling they really do not belong in a place like that for some reasons. The automatic light in the hallways, the interesting and push buttons in the toilet bowl, the door’s card key which automatically opens the light and air conditioning system inside the room and of course the well-furnished and expansive room that can accommodate more occupants but was prepared only for two among them.

The early sunrays seemed so late for the early risers who have their body clock set at six o’clock in the morning of Philippine time but only 5:00 AM in Gungi House. The morning of the third day of training was quiet cold even though it was already the start of summer in Korea.

Some participants, including my self, were adamant to what were in store for us on this particular day. It was written on our schedule that the third day will be filled with lessons about “Hangul” and we basically don’t know what they were.

At about 7:00 o’clock, everybody has already taken a bath when we convened at the second level of the house for our once again sumptuous breakfast. As usual the table menus were filled with vegetables and of course the hot “kimchi”. On that particular day, we felt at ease on how to hold the stainless chopsticks which are heavier and harder to grasp than the usual wooden or bamboo.

After the breakfast, we gathered together at the lobby of the Gungi House. When our Korean officer-of-the-day counted us and was sure everybody was present, he told everyone to start the morning trek heading to the Chonbuk University Information and Computing Center. Along the way we walked lackadaisically and once again enjoyed the morning view along the road to our destination: the morning mist on the leaves of the plants and trees, the bikers who were in a hurry going to their offices or school, the smile of some friendly Koreans and the fresh air of the unpolluted air.

As we arrived to the computer center, our Korean instructor for the day was already there. A tall and slender woman in her early forties, she introduced herself after we have already seated on our respective chairs. Miss So Kyeong-Ah or Sophie with her assistant instructor of the day, Ms. Lim Min-Young presented to us the Korean computer software used commonly in their offices called Word Processor “Hangul” 2002SE. Hangul is very much alike with the famous American Microsoft Office Word.

The whole morning session was utilized by the teacher-trainees in learning and exploring Hangul. Ms. Sophie taught us how to edit documents in Hangul 2002.

Afterward, Ms. Sophie announced that it was time for our lunch so we were given ample time to prepare ourselves before we leave the center.

After about 20 minutes of brisk walk, we came to another Korean restaurant in the downtown which served to us a side dish that looked like a giant “chow-mein”.

We feasted on that delicacy together with other side dishes which made our stomach full and heavy. Then followed the main dishes of rice and a soup with long, white noodles were served to us. It took us almost an hour before we were able to finish our afternoon meal. After quite some minutes of biting and devouring all the food, we wore again our shoes- which should always be left in the shoe racks outside the door which is a common etiquette in various restaurant and other Korean folk houses, and went back to the center.

It took us another 20 minutes before we were able to get back to the computer center. Once again Ms. Sophie directed all the participants to continue our activities which include making a document using Hangul 2002 but this time we were taught how to insert pictures, graphics and tables too.

The participants did not notice the quick pace of the time until we were requested to finish our work and again to prepare of going to another restaurant for our dinner.

At the Chupungnye Ongamjatang Restaurant, the other high ranking officers of Jeolabuk-Do Office of Education joined us to our dinner. The restaurant served us a special seafood dish which is made of alive and giant octopus topped with different leafy vegetables and various Korean spices on a medium sized pan atop each of our table for four persons. Each pan has a gas stove meant to boil and cook the ingredients on the pan.

One thing that the participants found out in the restaurant was that Koreans eat the raw green pepper just like crunching peanuts. One of our male Filipino participants tried to do it too but to his astonishment his tongue felt the fiery heat of hell of the fruit pepper.

While eating, we requested to the Koreans if we could have some free time to wander around the downtown and look for some stores where we could purchase gaudy things which we could bring home as presents for our love ones. The Koreans delightfully agreed and they grouped us into four. Each group was accompanied by one Korean along the downtown for our safety and as our translator since most of them do not know how to speak English.

The Koreans further said that each group should go back at a designated place at exactly 8:00 PM so that we will go back together to the Gungi House. But everybody seemed forgotten the time and continued their stray along the downtown up to the twilight. My group was brought by our jester leader, Mr. Ha who does not know how to speak English. He escorted us along the downtown and gifted each of us a colorful Korean bangle. Since he cannot communicate with us lingually, he used gestures and other body language which we really cannot comprehend. We just followed wherever he goes. A little later, he gestured something once again and we just say yes. He walked further to a parking area and he showed to us his car. He signaled us to get into the car and we followed. Inside his car, he really wanted to say something. To make his driving alive, we started up singing but even our songs were unfamiliar to him. We were amazed when we were singing the Christmas carol “Oh, Holy Night” because he was at that juncture singing with us. That made us understand each other. So the four Filipino inside his car gleefully sang different Christmas songs which pleased him. We were surprised when his car stopped in an underground parking area of a tall building. He gestured us to follow ride an elevator which ended up to his condominium unit at the 34th floor of that building in Jeollabuk-Do. He showed to us his family’s home and also played to us his saxophone. His family was not around so we freely took some photos inside the house and after some time of trying very hard conversation with him we proceeded back to the Gungi House. Another round of Christmas songs from four Filipino teachers filled the air inside his cozy car.

Back to the Gungi House, one of the groups excitedly informed everyone about their accidental meeting with some University of the Philippines’ Filipino students who were also in the downtown. They have heard their conversations in Tagalog so they introduced themselves that they were Filipinos too. They were scholars in Chonbuk National University taking up master’s degree in various fields of academe. They promised to visit us in the Gungi House soon.

This day was fruitful and memorable for the 20 Filipinos. We slept that night with smile.

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