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Friday, April 15, 2005

Greetings from Gwanju!

My hands are freezing...
Anyang hae sa yo people! I guess that generally means 'hello, how are you?' in Korean. Yup, finally I'm in Korea at last. And what a country! It's somewhat very distintively different from Malaysia, in a sense that it preserves that authentic ambience of the early 90s but applies the latest technologies of the 21st century. Its kinda like walking in a futuristic city set in the 1990. The people here are very friendly - apart from the fact that they speak very little of English and if they even do speak english it's rather hard to understand them because of their slangs. Something like Singlish and manglish in Malaysia - i guess they speak Korglish, Kinglish, Klingon...whatever it is. I'm quite content at the campus where I'm living at the moment - GIST is a very comfy place. The dorms are da bomb!
Alas, first let me dissipate my journey arriving here in Korea. Incheon, to be exact. Our flight, MH64 departed from KKIA at around 0045hrs on a gloomy sad wednesday. Of course, the atmosphere at that particular moment was directly influenced by my feelings; being separated from my family and friends that is. A big hug from my mom and Andi, and wishes from Aiysha I stepped into the security check-point; eager but nervous inside. This was the first time I'd leave Malaysia, and on this occassion it meant for at least 2 months. Flight was okay, feelling a tad sleepy but hey, the flight was very late in the night. The seat beside me was unoccupied, considering that the group was oddly numbered (11 persons, that means one's gonna sit alone) but in the middle of the flight Cindy was just so kind to accompany the empty seat. It just so happens that the flight wasn't full, so we had quite a chat for a while. National Treasure's shown in the flight-movie, and since I've watched Nicholas Cage scouring for treasures at least two times I'd give in to what my eyes ordered me to do - some shutting. Slept for a while, I think about an hour or so before waking up to a sitcom called 'Joey' - a rendition from the ever so popular Friends series. Now that was entertaining.
We arrived in Incheon International Airport about 5 hrs later, and since Korea is not that differently to Sabah in terms of time-zones (an hour earlier time difference in Korea) that means we arrived just in time for sunrise. The sky was beautifully rendered with the rising sun. But that was on the plane. Everything looked surreal and nice. As we cleared customs and retrieved or bags we bought tickets to Gimpo airport; for our connecting flight to Gwangju. Oh, didn't I tell you guys that Korea has a separate airport for domestic (Gimpo) and International (Incheon) flight? That's kinda cool. Wanna know what's even more cool? The weather. We were eventually greeted by breezes of winds as we exited the departure hall - and I must say that it was indeed FREEZING with a capital F!! Boy, even with our blazers on we can't help but shiver. The great thing was that every breath that came out of our mouth turned into fogs - so it gives you that cinematic wannabe effect; makes you feel that you're in a christmas love story. We boarded the bus en route to Gimpo airport, which costs around 4500 wons and we were quickly mesmerised by the awesome scenery.
Korea is by far a country that mixes traditional stuff with current technologies. You can see rice fields everywhere, beside wide 4-lane roads. Fly-overs everwhere, and every street sign's in Korean. Talk about language barriers. The journey took around 20 minutes, and as we arrived in Gimpo airport terminal we were again in for another shock. Gimpo airport is like Gaya Street on a busy Sunday morning. People everywhere! And students too! There's this group of like, 100 students queing up in line to check-in somewhere. Now that's something you don't see in KLIA. And everyone's so tech-savvy and physically-conscious. Most of the women looked like models, with their attire to suit the skinny bodies and their pamppered hairdo's. Dunkin donuts was at the 1st floor, and Cik KB, our penyelia bought a box of em' for us. Well, I must say that the best donuts are definitely Dunkin's. Anywhere, anytime of the day!
We arrived at around 9.15am and after checking in all our bags we had a few hours to mingle around till our 11am flight. This, in turn proved to be an adventure. Walking and looking like tourists with blazers, the first thing we did was bought international calling cards and called our family. Mom wasn't answering her phone so I called Andi instead. As usual, still sleeping. But at least I got my msg through to him, that I've arrived safely in Korea. The airport's are nice in Korea - they have water dispensers everywhere, with those cute paper cups. The toilets are simple a glimpse of the future. Infra-red activated sinks and toilets. Enough said. The only thing primitive when you're in the toilet is how we get rid of our 'stuff'. No pun intented.
Security checkpoints in Gimpo airport is one of the strictest ones I have ever seen. They check you as if you're entering the White House. Very thoroughly and precise. Every little noise the metal detector makes will be accompanied by thorough inspection. They even ask you to put off your shoes! But I commend the way the do it - with haste and care. The guards are so friendly, every inspection is done accompanied by a smile and they talk very politely when they're asking you of something. Totally nothing you'd expect in Malaysia. And guess what? Turns out Zaharin brought an army-knife in his bag. Accidentally I presume. Now how is it that it wasn't detected in Malaysian security? Hmm....
Anyway, he got his knife back in Gwangju. Arriving in Gwangju airport we were again greeted with swift cold winds and a very warm Ms. Min, the international student affairs officer. We took the GIST bus for lunch at a vegetarian buffet restaurant - where I had the fear factor challenge of my life! Every stuff was alien, and the taste even more exclusive. The presentation of Korean foods are similar to those of Japan foods, only Koreans eat with Kimchi; salted veges with acquired spicy tastes that almost made me gag the first time I tried em'. Guess a few more tries would do it. We had a very filling lunch and consecutively we were brought to GIST at around 2.15pm. The place was quite huge, and what suprises us even more was that most of the students walked or cycled to their departments and faculties. Very very energetic, there Koreans. And they can tolerate the extreme cold we're facing.
Anyways, that's what I can tell you right now. Of course my story's not finished yet. There's till a bit more to tell about my first day in Korea. But hey - there're always more time to tell. Plus, I'm using the lab's computer so I guess I'm taking other people's time here using the computer. The last thing I want is a mad Korean nagging at me. Anyways you guys can check out Cindy's blog - http://kherxing.blogspot.com as she has updated entries on her life in GIST as well. She has her own computer that is. So until next entry (maybe tonight), its kamdza hamida (thanks) to all of you guys and I pray that your days will be better than mine. I miss my family so much right now. *tsk*tsk*
P/S : My sweetheat Fifah, I miss you so much too.
-JeP

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