I was up early on Wednesday packing my bag for yet another trip to Korea. The night before, I had fever and the beginnings of a cold, so I couldn’t prepare then. I needed to conduct another training, this time to a bunch of Gillette folks in Seoul.
A private car picked me up at home at around 8am, and at the airport gates, when the guards opened up the car for inspection, one of them looked at me and asked, “Korea?”
I thought, wow, he knows where I’m going, and nodded my head, saying, “Opo.”
Upon hearing me, he then asked again, “Filipino or Korean?” Ohhh… Hahaha. So he had thought I was Korean! I bit my lip to keep from laughing and said I was a Filipino.
When he closed the door, both the driver and I burst out laughing.
When I checked in, 2 hours before my flight, they asked if I wanted to take the earlier 9am flight to Hongkong. But my connecting flight to Seoul would remain the same. Oh what the heck, 2 more hours to look around the Hongkong airport. I agreed. Unlike last time, I was taking two connecting flights.
Due to the holiday season, all flights to Manila were booked and the only available flights were on Cathay Pacific, business class. So my team leader had no choice but to approve the slightly more expensive tickets for me (economy going to Korea, business class going back to the Philippines) rather than have me stuck in Korea for the holidays. After rushing through everything and having to endure two cranky, sarcastic airport personnel, I finally made it to the Cathay Pacific plane.
When I landed in Hongkong, I found that my left ear was stopped up due to my colds. Still, that did not stop me from trying a cone of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge ice cream. Then I took a look around at all the shops and bought some stuff at the magical world of Disneyland shop.
Then when my legs and shoulder ached from all the walking and lugging my laptop around, I decided to sit down and fiddle around with my laptop. I lost track of time and almost did not make it to my connecting flight. Yeesh.
As I always do on plane flights, I slept, and when I woke up I was in Seoul with my left ear still aching and stopped up. When I got outside the airport, the freezing cold air hit me hard, and I cursed the 30 minutes I spent waiting for the bus.
When I got to the hotel, the first thing I did was turn on the warm water and fill up the bath tub. Bliss. Then off to sleep, hoping I’d feel better (and hear better) in the morning.
When I woke up the next day, I was not feeling better at all. Still I got myself ready and off to P&G Korea office, thinking I could get myself a medicine prescription from the clinic’s doctor.
When I saw Seokhyun, I was mildly shocked because she had changed her hair – it was now short and curly. The clinic was the first thing I inquired of her, but she told me they had none in the office. Eeks.
When her boss found out about my condition, he insisted I go back to the hotel and ask them to help me find a doctor. Rather reluctantly I headed back to Renaissance and asked the concierge where I could find a doctor. They put me in a hotel car that brought me to a clinic.
Good…except that everything here was written in Korean characters. How on earth do I fill up the forms? So I followed what my manager Mina used to do…pointed to myself and said, “English.” That forced them to find an English-speaking nurse who pointed out what I needed to write down on the forms.
After I wrote down my name, another nurse came along and asked how to pronounce my name, and then wrote it down in Korean characters. Wow…they can do that?
I started to worry, however, that the doctor couldn’t speak English too, and how on earth would he be able to explain to me what was wrong with me, then? Lucky for me, the doctor spoke English quite well.
He sprayed some stuff into my nostrils and throat, then made me take an ear test and declared that I had middle ear effusion and banned me from blowing my nose. Then he wrote out a prescription in Korean and made me go upstairs and go through steam inhaling and ultrasonic nebulizer and tympanic membrane massage. Yikes. Is this how they treat colds in developed countries?
When I went back down, they had my receipt and prescription ready. I presented the prescription to the pharmacy next door and just paid for the medicines without understanding anything that the saleslady said. I noted, though, that they had interesting medicine – tiny colorful pills grouped in separate packets for each dose.
I had lunch at a nearby restaurant where as usual, everything and everyone was in Korean. So when the waitress asked for my order, I said the only Korean word I knew: bibimbop. She was quick to bring me a huge bowl of my favorite Korean dish and of course, let’s not forget the side dishes.
After finishing half of my food (I have yet to finish an entire Korean meal…they always have such huge servings with all these side dishes), I went back to the hotel, took my stuff, and headed back to the office.
I worked all afternoon despite my fever because I had a BSR deadline to beat. I was very very hungry by the time I left the office at around 7pm because I had not gotten up all afternoon, even for a drink of water. I was so glued to my laptop. So after dropping off my things at the hotel I walked around in the freezing cold to supposedly look for a place where I could have a quick bite to eat before getting some much needed rest.
I’m not kidding when I say freezing. It was so cold that my breaths came out in puffs of smoke. I bought a pair of gloves from a vendor near the subway and ended up walking for four more blocks before finally settling on a barbeque place, or a place where they cook the meat at the center of the table right infront of you.
I couldn’t help walking, all the Christmas lights were just wonderful to look at.
After dinner I walked all four blocks back to the hotel, all the while holding my gloved hands infront of my face because the cold hurt a lot When I got to my room it was time for another warm bubble bath in the tub before diving under the comforters for the night.
The next day I did my trainings and then met with a few contacts to sort out issues. For lunch, some office girls took me to lunch in one of those places with low tables where you had to sit on the floor and we had some soup, something I hadn’t tasted before.
At night, my tax contact Eunju was great enough to bring me to the Coex Mall (one of the biggest malls in Asia. It’s s bit, it covered an entire avenue) in her car and not just that, she actually toured me around the mall. We took some pictures outside their cinemas.
We had dinner, which Eunju insisted on treating me to because I was a guest. We had some flavored rice, which is one of my favorite foods.
Then she brought me back to my hotel.
Even though it started out pretty bad, my first solo travel turned out pretty well! I even got to do a side trip in Hong Kong afterwards. Thanks, P&G!