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Monday, April 18, 2005

Walking somewhere in the middle of anywhere!

One of the greatest barriers living here in Korea is the language.

This fact hit us like a rock as soon as we arrived in GIST. We reached our dormitories at around 2.45pm on a cold Wednesday afternoon, where with the aid of Ms. Kim we were registered into our rooms. The dormitories here in GIST separates male students and female students on separate wings - although there're located on the same building. But these Koreans are too polite for their own good this fact most probably won't be used at their advantage. I mean, even in faculty departments they have free copying machines on each floor for student use and they're in perfect condition; something very rarely found in Malaysia. And the rooms - very luxurious indeed! The rooms are decorated like motels, there're tons of washing machines (at least 8 per washing room) on every floor, and there's even air-conditioning in each rooms. Not that we're gonna need em' anyways. I'm paired with Zaharin as my room-mate, no suprise as we're the only male Muslims and so far we have no problems sharing a room.

The next agenda on the itinery was to register our bank accounts so that GIST can transfer our meal allowances, and this was done so fast it rivals the online registrations in Malaysia. No deposit required. That's great. Ms. Seon was the GIST officer that assisted us in the registration. After that we went to the registration building (walking in the blistering cold) and filled up forms for our temporary ID cards. I must say, Ms. Seon is one of the warmest, nice person I have ever met - and her English is the best we've heard so far from any Korean. Well, I guess that's due to her 2-year living in the US a few years back. Prior finishing at the admin building, then we went separate ways. Us doing our internship in the Life Science department met up with Mr. Park, the chairman of the department's student council as we bid farewell to Ms. Seon.

Mr. Park brought us on a 3 and a half hour trip into all the 17 labs in the department. Now that was the most tiring tour I've ever had in my entire life. At least he bought us dinner at the cafeteria when we had a slight break at around 5.30pm. He says it sometimes customary for the host to treat newcomers for dinner as a welcoming gesture. Finishing the agonizing tour we headed back to our respective labs - I was positioned in the Nanomedicine and Biomaterials lab, Jo was in the Neurobiology lab, Soo Chin in the C. elegans lab and Cindy the Mass Spectroscopy lab. No idea of how I was positioned in a lab that's entirely not connected to my Biotech course but hey, anything new is exciting right? I was then acquainted with the members of my lab - of 7 people, six koreans and one Indian. Everyone was homy.

I returned that night worn-out at around 10.45pm. Talk about all day work. These Koreans, they try to work at least 12 hours daily. But we were still recovering from jet-lag and no-sleep so I guess I deserve a good nite rest. I met up with Soo Chin for the walk home, again shivering of the cool cool weather. The next day the people at my lab brought me out for dinner at a nice Italian restaurants and they were so sweet to order all vegetarian-seafood meals for me. This was again customary as they say to treat the newcomer as a welcoming present. Koreans are so polite and nice. Although most of them speak very, very basic English at least they understand what I say. The only problem is whether I'd understand what they're saying. As I said, language - big problem. Yesterday (Saturday) they even brought me to a village province in Gwangju called Damyang for a day. That's another story worth sharing next time.
My feet's killing me...

Today's (a Sunday) day off for us interns at GIST. Well, at least for most of us. It's our fifth day here, and Vanny had to do labwork today so she's having some work ahead of her. Knowing that a free day as today's a precious thing to waste; we decided to go on tour to the city of Gwangju - downtown as they called it. This wasn't gonna be easy - it's hard enough to walk around in the small nearby city in GIST. Most Koreans in Gwangju can't speak English - even school children. So getting on a bus that headed into Gwangju city was indeed an adventure. At least we had a Korean travel guide so getting the right bus was not that difficult. How our day went? Hmm another one worth mentioning next time. But you guys can gaze at some pictures I finally was able to upload thanks to Zaharin's computer. What I can say is right now the only thing I wanna do is sleep for the rest of the day.
Hope tommorow will be a more productive week ahead for me. I miss all you guys so much, and don't get me started on how much I miss mom and her cooking. And Fifah as well. Till next entry, Anyang hae sa yo!
-JeP

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