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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Of Parks and Kims and silver chopsticks

I'm back from a three-day exploration of South Korea! I have many unusual experiences that started, would you believe, at the NAIA like as if I was flying for the first time! What happened was after inspections at the immigration officer, I wore my shoes back putting my passport together with my boarding pass at a nearby chair. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that my boarding pass slipped from my passport upon retrieval. I was very hungry as I haven't had lunch yet so I immediately went to buy some food. It was there when I noticed that my boarding pass was missing. Then I heard my name being paged directing me to a place I could not recall anymore. I went back and two ladies approached me and told me they found my boarding pass which they surrendered to the airport police. When I rejoined my group, they were all laughing saying that my name was being announced. How do you respond to that? I told them I handed my boarding pass to the police for safekeeping first. Gave them a thousand each.

We arrived at Incheon airport around midnight. I couldn't find my luggage. As I used the luggage my daughter borrowed from her cousin which she used in their HK trip, I remembered the ribbon to be on the bluishh side and very slim. It was the wee hours of the morning when my children arrived and my wife immediately replaced my things with theirs in the bag. When the conveyor belt had taken about the fifth turn, I took the bag that resembled mine and tried to look at the name on the tag. You see, my niece's name is Rona and my wife's maiden name. When I read the tag, it says, Rowena Rona but no family name. I put it back and let it go. Several more rounds on the conveyor belt and it was the only one left. I took it again and recognized my padlock. Checked the name again and the address on it and realized it was indeed my luggage. And to think it had been there since the time we arrived.

It was very cold when we arrived. It's spring right now in Korea and temperature can go as low as 11 degrees to 23C. As my jacket was inside my luggage, I had to be contented with putting my hands inside my pockets to keep me warm. We had a bulgogi dinner consisting of beef, clear noodles cooked in soup and other flavors, rice, side dishes and kimchi. Wow! authentic kimchi! The thrill over eating kimchi will soon be gone after having to eat it with every meal everyday. Lol!

It would be wasting your time to narrate what a wonderful time I had during the tour for that is a given. Suffice it to say that we stayed at the Biwon Hotel in Seoul. Instead, I shall give you my impression of South Korea in the three days that I spent there. My biggest impression is that Korea is as efficient as any well-developed country there is. Their systems work well together with how they have adapted technology without forgetting their rich culture. I have seen how proud they are of their ethnic traditions and many more.

If there is one similarity we have with the Koreans, it would be that our countries have been colonized by Japan. They had been oppressed a thousand fold by the Japanese, having been a colony for thirty or so years, and experienced a civil war thereafter that divided their nation into two. And yet, they are more progressive than us in many ways. While I envy the cold climate they have during the short time that I was there, I envy the developments they have made over the years more. I know my observations may be far off from what Korea truly is for I have only been there for only three days. But in the three days that I spent, I nver saw lazy men just hanging around at a corner store making nonsense talk like how they had been bummed out the previous night, or would you see idle land that is not made into a garden of vegetables or flowers. I have been to theme parks that teemed with a lot of people and yet, you do not find garbage like you do in people's park in Tagaytay, for example. Their toilets are well maintained, with soap and tissues around and I am not talking about tourist spots but ordinary public toilets. They practice garbage segregation, street food is clean and the people are very disciplined. They are very industrious working very hard which they inculcate to their young at a very early age.

Giuen more time to stay in that country, I know my impression may change. Who knows? In the meantime, this will be my idea of what Korea is. That if there is something we can learn from them, it will be to love our own country, take pride with who we are, work hard and aspire for a better nation. That the system in Korea is effective and very efficient because the people willed it to be so. They all participate in making their system work and it did.

Note: More pictures coming soon. Unfortunately, my digital camera decided to go bonkers and I have to rely on friends. Besides, my wife and I will be going to Bicol with friends and will be staying there till Sunday. This will be my last hurrah for this year. I start reporting back for work on Monday.

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Anonymous JMom said...

I haven't visited in a while, and I missed reading about all your summer travels. How exciting for the whole family to have traveled to all those places.

The only thing I know of Korean culture is their food, but I guess that is a good place as any to start learning about any culture. I never thought kimchi would get tiresome, but I guess if you had it with every meal it would. :)

11:00 AM  
Anonymous toni said...

Korea sounds intriguing. I think the first thing I'd do there is try authentic kimchi. Haha! I don't know much about their culture, so thanks for sharing your experience with us!

11:53 AM  
Blogger Jet said...

I love Kimchi too.

One of the people I best get along with at work is Korean... but then she grew up in Paraguay (and so speaks Spanish besides) and was schooled here in the US so I don't know how much of Korea she has left in her... hehe. But if I will gauge how Koreans are as a people through my friend, then yes, I will agree with you, in that they are a very industrious people, conscientious in their work and helpful to their co-workers.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Bugsybee said...

Hi Tito Rolly! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed your "last hurrah". I also agree with your views especially about everybody working together to make the system work. I'm sorry to say this about Filipinos but it seems we all say we love our country but not everybody's willing to go out of their way to make things work. It's almost like, "...sila na lang, tamad ako," which is sad.

Waiting for your pictures. Godspeed for the next school year!

1:13 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

JMom Oh yes, getting to know a people's food is the best way to know his/her own culture. And yes, after eating it with every meal, you either grow accustomed to it or dislike it for awhile.

toniI've had a glimopse of what Koreans are through my students. I have several. Even had one family for special art classes and I know that they start them young to be industrious. They have to balance their studies with the arts like learning an instrument and/or painting. Pretty serious stuff.

Jet So do I. I get excited everytime I have the chance to eat kimchi prior to my visit. But with every meal?

bugsy Turns out this was not yet my last hurrah. My wife and I are travelling tomorrow to Bicol with some friends. This time, it's just the two of us. The kids will be left behind.

All I can say is that Koreans really love their country. I was even told that they destroy a Japanese car being driven in the streets. Well, I don't know if that's true but I have not seen a Toyota or any other foreign brand in the streets there. I have also seen how enthusiastic they were watching their cultural dance and music being performed on stage. Like as if that was the first time they've seen it.

1:33 PM  
Blogger cbs said...

ako rin gusto ko kimchi!!! tsaka yung chicken and beef na iluluto sa harap mo! dun sa travel show ni andrew zimmern, pinakita yung authentic way na paggawa ng kimchi, binabaon sa lupa yung tapayan.

sa new york, ang mga koreans very classy...

sarap basahin ng mga travel posts mo bossing, very informative...

12:57 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

cbs ginawa namin yun. chicken barbecue. marinated chicken na mukhang half cooked na, ipapatong sa grill, ibabalot sa dahon kasama ng kanin at iba pang vegetables. Malinamnam. Ganun din ang ginawa namin sa dinner, pork naman. Kaso di ako pede sa pork kaya nag request ako ng iba. binigyan ako ng fried rice na me halong cabbage. Okay na rin.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Panaderos said...

My favorite Korean dishes are kimchi, beef bulgogi and pork kalbi (barbecued spare ribs).

Koreans are very hard working and take great pride in their work. I heard a story many years ago about the late Prime Minister Park Chung Hee. He was said to have inspected a government bridge construction project. Once he found that the quality of the work done was not according to standards, he asked that the bridge be blown up and the work restarted. That's how strict he was with the quality of work.

Can you imagine doing that in the Philippines? No wonder we've fallen so far behind. Koreans now make cars and ships. We still have to make our very first computer.

12:37 PM  
Blogger ipanema said...

wow andito na jetsetter! pasalubong po! kung kimchi sa inyo na lang po! :)

ay next time, sama mo si misis. popular yung na tv show noon na Winter Sonata. romantic daw. :)

hahahaha...natawa ako sa title ng post mo. halos lahat ata ng tao Park or Kim. :)

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tito rols, did you just say "soup"? how's their soup?

funny yang kwento mo sa airport at sa luggage ha. :D

3:47 AM  
Blogger RJ said...

nakapunta na rin ako ng korea, pero hanggang incheon nga lang. ahehehe. sana next time makalabas din ako ng airport doon. hehehe.

from what i know eh mahirap na country lang din sila dati di ba? pero sobrang unlad na ng bansa nila ngayon.

ang impression ko sa korea? ayaw ko pumasok sa korean company. hehehe. =D

11:07 AM  
Blogger Panaderos said...

Ipanema's post reminded me of a joke here in the US. There are two towns in New Jersey with very large Korean populations. The names of these towns are Fort Lee and Palisades Park.

Well, the joke is that Koreans flocked to these two towns because they thought that both towns were named in honor of Koreans. :D

Corny 'no? Hehe

10:36 PM  
Anonymous BlogusVox said...

"Corny no?"

panaderos, I don't think so. During my college days, a lot of Iranians enrolled in Adamson U. They thought its the best school (no offence to its alumni) since its on top of the list of universities in the Philippines.

BTW Ka Rolly, welcome back.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous siu said...

tito rolly, i really do wish i'm wrong but I think the difference between us and the Koreans is when we talk about love of, or pride for, our country--all of it are just empty talk, absent of action. The Koreans, as you pointed out, really show their love of country not only by words, but by action as well, and when they say they hate corruption---they REALLY punish and IMPRISON their erring leaders. Us? we pardon them and a lot of us even prod them into running again.

12:19 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

panaderos I wouldn't be surprised if that story were true.

ipanema Ayaw sumama ni misis. Akala nya kasi matutuloy sya sa Australia. hehe

mari Actually, napagalitan ako ni misis nang ikwento ko yun. "Papa, para ka namang engot."
Hindi naman diba?

RJ PArang ako pala sa Japan. Hanggang NArita lang. Pero walong oras din ako dun, papunta't pabalik ha.

panaderos hehehe

blogusvox Alpahetically arranged baga? MAgaling din naman talaga Adamson U.

siu I don't think you're wrong in that regard. Unfortunately...

9:42 PM  
Blogger BatJay said...

hindi mo ba napansin, maraming mga establishment sa seoul na may mga barbershop pole sa labas.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous BlogusVox said...

"MAgaling din naman talaga Adamson U."

Oo naman Ka Rolly. Naka two sems din ako roon. Umalis lang ako dahil during my time magulo because of the frat-war.

2:25 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

batjay Now that you mentioned it, oo nga, napansin ko rin ang mga yun.

blogusvox one of my nieces graduated from there, too. She's a geologist graduate and now a PhD holder who has successfully defended her thesis in Thailand and dissertation in Turkey. She's currently a social scientist based in the US with several articles credited to her name. So, yes, I know for a fact na magaling ang Adamson.

10:36 AM  

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