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About that March…

On my previous post, I mentioned how great my March at work went.

Well,

This was presented to me from our April team meeting.

Apparently, I got the highest productivity rate for that month not only for our team, but for the whole department as well. Which was even cooler when it was announced from the previous townhall meeting.

So yes, suck it March detractors.

Long Overdue

I only got to posting a blog again thanks to a TED talk shared by a friend of mine called ‘Try Something New for 30 Days’. Although blogging isn’t actually new to me (been doing it since 2003 yo), this has been something that I haven’t done recently. So I’ve decided to try getting back the feel of blogging for the next 30 days.

Anyway, I’ve been planning to do this blog post for some time now, so I’m glad to finally get this out of the way: I’d like to thank my team mates in the office for being such an awesome company during our March morning shift. Yes I know it sounds corny, but that’s what I really thought of to say after that shift ended.

I’ve been through tough shit throughout that month, particularly about two instances: when I found out that I failed the JLPT N4 exam, and when I suddenly found out that someone in particular already had a boyfriend.

So it surprised even myself how I handled those situations. I haven’t told anyone about these (well, I told Boss Candy about the failed exam), but in a way the team made me act more professional in the office (instead of acting somber or going on a hissy fit). And oh, they’re fun dudes too, especially during lunch and on that team outing.

So there, thanks guys! I’ll be on leave on the 25th, but I’ll still make sure to buy you all dinner ;)

Disclaimer

Before I ‘continue’ with the Seoul Part 2 post, let me get something out of the way first…

Most of you know by now that I recently bought an Asus Eee Pad Transformer tablet. However, before I decided to do so, I had to eat up all those words I said before about getting a tablet.

More specifically, the ‘Bakit hindi ka na lang bumuli ng laptop?’ argument. I remember saying that last year when I went to Singapore with some of my officemates; During that time, one of us decided to get the (at that time) recently released iPad. She got pissed off from me being a total jerk about tablets. From there, I decided not to rag on anyone’s tech purchases again.

Over the next months, I realized something that sets tablets apart from conventional laptops/nebooks: Convenience.

I used to always bring home my office laptop at home during weekends, and I admit it is always a pain setting everything up: power cords, usb hub and devices. Not to mention the bulk in carrying those stuff.

It even dawned to me that I’m becoming tired of lugging it around when I came to a point where I was just using it to do basic stuff, such as browsing the web, watching videos, and listening to music.

Not to mention that the laptop I’m using is a drag to use, which made me, at first, to save up for a new, faster laptop.

But after giving it a second thought , I then finally decided to get a tablet. It’s a bit embarassing for me, considering all those things I said before. Humble pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And soon, after browsing around local forums and sites like Engadget.com, I decided to get my hands on an Android tablet. Hey, I may have accepted tablets, but I’m still not fond of Apple devices.

Sure, not thing still beats a full setup and the feel of a physical keyboard and mouse, but for basic stuff this does the job well, and then some. Besides, we still have a desktop PC at home.

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This blog post was typed in my Asus Eee Pad Transformer (no keyboard dock) using the WordPress app for Android.

Seoul Surprise – Day 1

(Warning: Quite a long, wordy post)

Though I was scheduled to appear in the airport at night, I still alloted February 14 in my 1-week Korea leave, so that I have the whole morning to prepare and finalize everything.

The thing is though, I woke up that day with a 38.1 degree Celsius fever. I already had it since the night before, and it really felt like a very offensive practical joke.

Fortunately one tablet of that magical Bioflu solved everything — drank one when I woke up, went back to sleep, and then when I woke up again at around 12 p.m., my temperature was already down to 37 Celcius. And we’re back in the game again.

 

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Fast forward to this funny scene in the airport:  While waiting in line behind the Cebu Pacific counter, this pair of Korean women in front of me started to ask and talk to me in Korean. I’m like “Uhh, sorry I don’t speak Korean :|”. As if it wasn’t enough, there came this another group of Korean women, went behind me on our line, and this one woman from their group started tapping me to ask something. I faced back, looked at her, she looked at me back, and then SHE ALSO STARTS TALKING TO ME IN KOREAN AS WELL. What the?!?!?! DX

As someone living in South East Asia, sure I can be mistaken as an Indonesian or a Thai, fair enough. But as a Korean? Yes, I always get a haircut in Tony and Jackey but come on, my face is way, way off.

Anyway, an hour or two later, I was finally able to board the plane. And based on the passengers inside, you start to appreciate Cebu Pacific for adding a Korean language version of their usual airplane prompts (and the one that only stand out to my brain from the prompts was ‘화장실’ hehehe).

It was a long flight (for me at least, my longest before I think was a 3-hour flight to SG), and I think I only managed to only get less than 2 hours from that scheduled 4-hour travel.

 

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When our heater-enabled 5J plane finally landed on Incheon International Airport, I was already expressing how excited I am with what I was seeing outside the plane window.

‘Holy crap, I am now REALLY in Korea!’

‘Wow, is it just me, or is the runway covered in snow powders?’

‘Hey, is this person who’s pulling the baggage conveyor belt a man or a woman? Androgynous? Dude who looks like a lady?’

As I walked out the cabin door, I immediately felt that -5C temperature that the captain was talking about earlier. Sure it was a short-lived chill, but it was something that I definitely have never felt before. When I went down the escalators and into the train that goes into the passenger terminal, I was still nanginginig.

 

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It was even more fun after I got past immigration and after I’ve claimed my baggage.  I went to a Family Mart convenience store to buy a T-Money, but the lady in the cashier said ‘No more,  all gone!’ Okay, I get it, geez.

Since I can’t find any other convenience store, I started to go outside to check out the buses. Rather idiotically, I somehow forgot that it’s negative -5C outside.  So when I stepped out, I felt this SUDDEN RUSH OF CHILL IN MY FACE. Holy freezer in my head, Batman.

(Mind you, I just wore a jacket and I had no gloves, scarves, bonnets, and not even moisturizing lotion on my face and hands. )

But… I was enjoying it. I was saying ‘Oh my God this is amazing!’ to myself, even though I was starting to feel that it’s becoming difficult to talk because the sides of my mouth were starting to freeze up, with that distinct dry feeling (A good comparison that I thought:  Try touching ice while still in the freezer with your bare hands, and then feel your palm).

And in my opinion, negative temperature isn’t really that bad at first (I’m saying this because that was only -5C, and I think don’t want to experience Canada’s -30′s). Sure it’s quite perilous to the skin, but I think it’s quite an enjoyable experience. Or maybe that’s just me, being makapal ang balat and all :\

Anyway, I really wasn’t sure if the bus needed T-Money or not (forgot to research on that one hehe), and I was really feeling cold, so  I went back inside to take the other alternative to go to the city: Via the Airport Express (AREX) train.

Before, it used to be that from Incheon, you need to take a train to Gimpo International Airport, and then from there you take a train to Seoul City Station, then from there you can transfer to whatever station you need to go. But Incheon International Airport, being the ‘Best Airport in the World’ and also being the awesome that they are, decided that they create a new route that will go straight to Seoul City station (by going through some other stations).

To even express how convenient it was, the nearest station on place I needed to go (Bebop Guesthouse) was Hongdae (short for ‘Hongik Daehakgyo’, or Hongik University) Station. Apparently, the AREX Commuter train passes by Hongdae as well. So I can just go down there, instead of going straight to Seoul City Station and taking the extra hassle of transferring train stations (which I will discuss how tiring it is, in a later post).

Anyway, I took the AREX Commuter train, and it…. was the most barren train ride of my life.

I got in, sat on the heated seats, and as the train went by, I looked outside the window… only to see factories, wide, unused lands, remote places. Sure it was not yet Seoul, fair enough. But still.

Most importantly when I checked the scenery outside, I was able to confirm what some people were saying in PinoyExchange Forums: There was no more snow.

After I finally got off of the train in Hongdae station, I walked around in what was my first intro into the Seoul city life.  Just about 5 minutes later, I finally arrived in Bebop Guesthouse (which was suggested to me).

 

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Thanks to the help of an ajusshi outside, I was able to get inside the house even though Olive or any of the hosts weren’t there yet. I got in there at around 8:30 a.m., but Olive only arrived at around 11. Geez, should’ve called her earlier. Or more so, I should have checked my GMail instead since apparently she sent a notice in my e-mail to call her. Anyway, that’s that.

I finally got in my nice room, and then started to prepare the pancit cantons and my two other gifts (a maroon bonnet and a Team Manila hoodie).  Maybe it was a good timing to do so (I mean, leave the room) since Olive said she still has to clean it first.

I passed by first on a nearby 7-11 store and bought a Seoul Citypass+ (T-Money) card. After loading it, I went back to the Hongdae station for a train ride to Idae (short for ‘Ewha Yeoja Daehakgyo’ or ‘Ewha Woman’s University’, pronounced as ‘I-hwa’) station, which was just the second station after Hongdae.

 

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Welcome to Ewha.

Strange landscape this place has. After climbing through what could be the steepest escalator ever inside a subway station, you pass by different shops that go along a downward road. Most of the shops are geared towards the feminine populace of the university. No worries, there are also places that are for us males, like, err, Starbucks. And Mr. Pizza.  Anyway, after you reach the main gate, the slope of the road goes upward again.

I was walking along and I approached these two ladies who doesn’t seem to look like they’re Koreans. Since they were tourist guides, I then asked for the direction of the Graduate Dormitory and the Human Life Sciences building.  They then brought out their map and looked for the said buildings using some sort of a numbered-legend system. Anyway, they did find them, and then just gave the map to me. Uhh, thanks. They could’ve given me the map and look for the buildings myself. Hey, at least they pointed some directions on how to go there.

So I went past the main gate and… sweet merciful Lord, this school is big. I felt like I went to another country or something. The word ‘prestigious’ seems to be just about right.

I was a bit nervous at first about the thought of going around in an all-girl’s university. I mean, what if all the women there gave me the bad look/s, like asking ‘What the hell is this guy doing here?’ Well as it turns out, Ewha is an open-university (like UP) and they also allow tourists to go around and have a look at their campus.

I passed by first the Graduate Dormitories and as expected, the entrances are only accessible to the residents. There didn’t seem to be a lobby of some sort, so I moved on and went to the Human Life Sciences building.

Remember what I was saying earlier about the strange slopes of this place? Apparently it also is in effect inside the campus itself, as I had to go up a verry steep hill just to get to one of the entrances of the HLS building. Geez. Also, thanks to the cold weather, I didn’t even break a sweat.

 

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Some challenges.

Anyway I finally got there, and the original plan was to call Kay and surprise her while waiting outside (since I was not sure if I can get in). But Globe decided to play the role of Belzeebub and decided NOT TO GIVE MY PHONE A ROAMING SIGNAL EVEN THOUGH I HAVE LOADED 1000 PESOS ON IT AND SENT AN ACTIVATION TEXT A DAY BEFORE I LEFT. I didn’t bother to rent a phone in the airport because I knew I have prepared myself with Globe Romaing. But no, the roaming did not activate. So I was not able to call her.

This got me worried. I was afraid that she might have already left and had lunch with Sarah and Jona (highschool batchmates who were also taking a vacation in Korea). Clearly I had to do something.

So I went back outside of the campus and looked around the busy shops. I went first to a local carrier’s store and asked if they have a sim card that I can buy. Apparently they didn’t have one, and the store manager gave me a map to one of their branches to see if that branch have what I needed. But that meant having to take another train ride, and I obviously did not have time for that.

I went around and saw the two tourist guide girls that I talked to earlier. I approched them to ask where I could use a phone. Amazingly, one of them told about a nearby pay phone. Sheesh! Maybe I was probably that frustrated, and a pay phone didn’t even cross my mind.

She told me that I can find that pay phone in front of Mini-Stop. And for a moment, my mind exploded in disbelief, that I had to ask her “I’m sorry, what was that again? Mini-Stop? Are you sure?”

So I went to look for the pay phone and indeed it was in front of a convenience store I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE IN KOREA: MINI-STOP.

There were two pay phone booths. The first one I approached didn’t have coin slots, and it only accepted a specific phone card. I went to the next booth, and lo and behold, it accepts T-Money cards! But… there was no handset, only the phone unit and the broken cord.

Things started to really look bleak. In whatever I do, it seems that I always have to go through a roadblock.

I was running out of time and options so I did the next brave, kapal-muks thing…

 

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As I was walking on the streets of Ewha, I stumbled upon the tourist guide girls for the third time. They asked if I was able to find the pay phone, and told them what I saw.

I also asked them one final question: “Can I, as a tourist, go inside the buildings?”

Rather unbelievably, they said “Yes, of course you can.”

I went back to the Human Life Sciences building, this time I did not settle on staying outside. Whether the two tourist guide girls were saying the truth or not, I went in and… saw no one.

I saw another ajusshi, showed the address in my itinerary, and then called for some more people inside that apparently was *gasp* a Faculty Room. The teacher and I talked for a bit and after showing the address, she told me to go to the 6th floor.

It felt a bit weird, because as I can see from the look on her face, she seems to become even more welcome-y and she was even smiling and looked as if she’s glad to let me in further inside their building.

To 6th floor then. Right, I went inside the elevator and, wait a minute… the button only goes up to 5. What the hell…

When I got off the elevator at the 5th floor, I tried looking for any clues for a ’6th floor’. I only found one, and since no one seems to be around during that time, I took that path…

Yes, I took the fire exit.

After getting there, I then realized that I may just have ended on the wrong side of the building. And I thought about that because as I was walking along, I found that for me to be able to continue, I had to pass through AN AUDITORIUM. Again, since no one seemed to be around, I (quickly!) ran to the other side.

And on that other side, I have finally saw Room 603.

I wanted to knock, but then again I thought there may be having a class during that time. I tried walking around to see if anyone comes out, but it seemed that everyone there was busy in their rooms/labs, and since I didn’t want to be caught idling around in their floor, I decided that I’ll leave the building and… actually I have no idea what to do next. Wait outside? Look for someone to make a call?

But then, as I was about to leave that area, I saw a woman come out of Room 603!

I called her, and asked if she knew Kay. I had a big sigh of relief when she said ‘Ah, Firipin saram?’ (Ah, (the) Filipino?), and of course I replied with ‘Ne!’ She looked like she was about to go somewhere, but she still bothered to go back to the room to call Kay.

 

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Surprise! :)

There she was, stepping out of Room 603.

And man, if only I had a picture of her reaction when she saw me.

It seems even the Korean woman who helped me earlier can’t help but laugh at what just happened! She went back in the room and went out on the other door! Haha! :D

Kay, still with the surprised look, walked away a bit, before going back and started hitting me. Good thing though she didn’t try kicking me because that would have been really perilous for me(as she is a 2nd-dan Taekwondo black belter).

But rather stupidly, I didn’t give my gifts yet while I was still there.

We talked for a bit, then both of us went all the way back to the subway entrance to meet up with Sarah and Jona. They were already in Korea since February 10, and during that time when we met up, it was already their last day as they have to leave for the airport in the afternoon.

While we were there on the station entrance, Kay was talking to someone over the phone in Korean. I normally don’t listen in on other people’s cellphone conversation because that is none of my business. But then I started to hear my name being mentioned. At first I thought I may be mistaken, but then after a while, Kay was already spelling my name to the person she was talking to over the phone.

As it turned out, she was registering me to the skiing trip where she have been invited. That skiing trip also was the reason why I had to show up and do the surprise on February 15 instead of 16 (her actual birthday) because I found out beforehand that she will be going to that trip from February 16-18.

I kept on saying ‘NO NO NO NO!’ and declining her offer, but she won’t budge and still continued talking over the phone. Aside from already having a prepared itinerary for my trip, the reason why I preferred not to join is that the skiing trip was something that her friends prepared for her, so I thought it may be better for me not to meddle in.

(Or so I thought, as I will explain on the next post)

We went next to Mr. Pizza to have a late lunch (but we did not order pizza, which was weird), went inside the Ewha Campus Complex (the one with the gigantic stairs outside, but inside it had a library, classrooms, cafeterias, and… a theater/movie house :O), and then had a few photo sessions in the campus.

Kay had to go back to the lab as she had something important to attend to. After saying her goodbyes to Sarah and Jona, I went along with the two back to Seoul Backpackers (the place they stayed) and helped them with their bags. I went with them until they were able to find an airport bus.

After saying our goodbyes, I didn’t try to go back yet to the guest house because I wanted to go around and get a feel of the city first.

 

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Sure enough, I walked for a bit and found myself on one of the entrances of Myeongdong market, which was probably the busiest shopping street I’ve seen in my life (and perhaps, throughout South Korea). And of course, there wouldn’t be a lot of people there if it weren’t for the stores there. Sure enough, there’s alleys and alleys of shops that ranges from clothes, food, beauty products, and even K-Pop memorabilias.

Speaking of beauty products, if there was one thing that I noticed in Seoul, it’s the fact that there are tons of beauty product stores out there. Aside from the usual Etude House, there’s also Missha, Face Shop, Hanskin, Nature Republic, and more. What’s also ridiculous is that in every corner you go in Seoul, you can expect to see at least one store from any of those brands mentioned. They’re everywhere! @@

Another thing that women will probably go crazy about the beauty product stores is the amount of freebies that they get, especially on big stores along the likes of Myeongdong. For example after paying in the counter in Missha, the paper bag, aside from the one bottle of BB Cream that Aleli requested me to buy, contained the following freebies: a face tisse (which was already free if you take the small shopping tray given to you by the girls from the entrance), a mask-something for the face, and 5 small bottles of lotion. And it seems that the bigger your bill is, the more freebies you get.

Anyway, enough talk about beauty products o.o I was not able to cover the other alleys because I went back to the entrance I got in earlier and went to their underground market to look around. Exchanged about $200 to KRW, bought the SNSD CD for an online friend, and then I went back home to the guest house.

 

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Thoughts on Koreans.

As I was going back to the guest house, I realized that if there was one thing that I loved about the Koreans, it’s that they are very kind. For example, almost all of the Koreans I asked, ranging from the girl in the AREX Counter, to the subway station information man, and even to the girl in 7-11, all of them always has a ‘Have a nice day!’ at the end of our conversations. Whoever taught these people English, I salute you.

Another trait I liked about them is the fact that everyone was very helpful. Back when I was in the airport, whenever I looked lost and stopped walking to read my itinerary, someone would approach me to ask me where I was going. What’s even cooler is that they even asked me what I will be taking (bus or train), and regardless of what I choose, they’d still point me to where I should go to take the AREX or what entrance I should use to get to bus 6005.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned about going inside a local phone carrier store, and asking the tourist guide girls about where I could make a call. Well, I told them that I needed to call someone, and the amazing thing is that all of them offered their phones for me to use! I politely declined of course, but that was a really nice gesture from them.

 

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When I got back to the guest house, uhhh… it felt like there was no one there. I was kind of expecting what I call a ‘United Colors of Benetton Moment’ where I’d be talking and mingling around with people from different countries that were also staying at the guest house. But again, no one seemed to be there, so I used one of the computers there instead to upload pictures from my first day.

After a while, I talked to Kay via YM and asked if we could go out for dinner. She agreed, and since both of us don’t need to go out too late, I suggested that we eat somewhere in the Ewha area.

So I took a train again to Idae, met up with her in the campus main gate, and we then went to a local restaurant near the Charlie Brown Cafe. And I thought finally, my first authentic Korean meal.

While waiting for our ‘tokramyun’ (didn’t read the menu, Kay was the one who ordered), she handed me a box of Hershey’s white chocolate because it was Valentine’s Day (in Korea, not sure if it is also followed in Japan, women give chocolates/gifts to the guys during Valentine’s Day; the guys return the favor on March 14, which is called White’s Day). Come to think of it, that was the first Valentine’s related item I’ve ever received from someone. Thanks again! :)

Going back to the dinner, I’ve tried eating using chopsticks before, but I was never prepared for the chopsticks they use in Korea: long, metal chopsticks that are flat.  It was definitely more difficult to use than the usual rounded ones. Nevertheless, I was able to be used to it (errm, a bit) and still continued with our meal.

Talked about a lot of things over spicy food, greeted her a Happy Birthday again, and then we went back to our own places for sleep…

Seoul Surprise – “Prologue”

Can’t believe it’s already been a month since I went to Seoul. And I also can’t believe that I have not made a blog post about how it all went. Perhaps everyone seems to be already contended with my albums in Facebook?

Anyway as promised over Twitter, I will be making a series of blog posts for each day I spent in Korea. But before all that, let me start of first by making sort-of a timeline of the events that led to my visit there…

 

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Sometime in November: It was a random night (so random, that I can’t remember the date and exact day it happened) and I just got home after finishing my work shift. I went straight to bed wishing that I would get more sleep that night, but being Irwin Oroceo, I was just lying there in bed before sleep for more than hour thinking about a lot of things. One of which is when I remembered chatting with Karen about visiting South Korea.

Then I had a thought: “How would she react if I made a surprise visit to her?”

From there it all started to come together; “Her birthday is February, so that means it’s winter time… which is the season that I have dreamed of experiencing. Moreover, I want to try visiting a country that requires a visa. Maybe, I wanted to experience the thrill and excitement of applying for one.”

Lots of things went into my mind, thinking about different scenarios and asking myself more questions:

 

“Will I be able to pull it off? Will I be able to save enough money going there? I wonder how snow would feel on my hands. It’ll sure be nice to finally put on winter gears! What if my visa application gets rejected? If I do get approved, where are we going to go? I wonder what her school really looks like. Will I be able to meet her foreign and Korean friends?”

 

“Man… I must really miss her that  much to think about these things”.

 

Days passed on, still going back and forth about those thoughts. I must be real crazy mofo just if I will be able to pull off such a stint. But then, one more question went into my mind:

 

“Should I be doing this?”

 

It’s a pretty embarrassing question that I know I shouldn’t be asking because for me it sounds that I’m forced to do this. To be really honest, I really wanted to visit her, but I had second thoughts about doing this. Miss her? There’s YM and Skype and Facebook to talk with her. Hey, calling her via phone is already a crazy plan, what more if I tried visiting her? I wanted to do it, but I felt I needed one more motivation to do so…

A few days later, I found my answer. I got a notification from Facebook saying that she made this post on my wall:

 

“Paship ng Pancit Canton dito. Yung express!”

 

Yes, as crazy at it seems, that was the new motivation. The one that triggered me to say, “Okay, I really need to do this.” During those times, I felt from our chats that all the lab work seem to be tiring her, and perhaps the thought of having something as simple as pancit canton, a taste of food from home would be something that can make her feel better.

 

December: This was the time I started going around online forums and checking different websites on how to apply for visa. I was able also to completely gather the requirements: certificate of employment, bank certificate, the application form itself, etc.

Speaking of the bank certificate, the 13th month bonus was such a great help in making my certificate even look better. No problems also since I used it as part of my budget for the trip anyway.

Again, I had some lingering thoughts about my application, about the what-if’s of being approved or not. I stopped thinking about it for a while, thinking that ‘If I got approved, then it would be great. But if I don’t get approved, it’s okay since I will be able to use the money I saved for something else”. But in reality, I got scared from the thought of not being approved.

I submitted my application after Christmas, and I had to wait until January 3 for the release. Between those dates, I started to pray really hard that I would get approved. The last time I prayed this hard is when my dad got hospitalized.

It is also worth noting that I did not yet bought any winter gears or booked any flight and accommodations because I wanted to make sure first that my visa gets approved first.

 

January: After finishing my first day of work for 2011, I hurried out of the office and went straight to the Korean embassy to pick up my passport back.  I went to Window 1 and received my passport from the ajumma behind the window.  I then took a seat on the waiting area, opened my passport, and much to my delight… a Korean visa attached on one page.

The first words that came out of my mouth was “It’s on!”.

From here on I started to do the rest of the things I needed to do:  Get a reservation on Bebop Guesthouse (Hongdae area though, but it was the guesthouse that was suggested to me in the forums), book a non-promo roundtrip flight (which was painful to my credit card hehe), and buy winter clothes.

Speaking of which, it was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Baguio: Knowing that they have a cold temperature, I wanted to pay the ukay-ukays a visit to see what I can be of help to me in my first ever winter season. Sure enough, that’s what my officemates and I did on the first weekend of 2011.

 

February, days before the flight: Keeping secrets is not easy, especially on the person that you are supposed to surprise.  So when she mentioned that she was going to go on a skiing trip from February 14 (the day of her birthday) to 16, I panicked a bit. Of course I did not want to force her to not join that, so I had to do something to make sure she stays on the 15th.

So a few days later, I told her that I’ll be sending her pancit cantons via FedEx. I also realized that it was a cunning way of asking her exact address in Ewha University, so I thought that this delivery-thing was a great idea without her giving a hint that I will be coming there.

I did get her address, and the rest will be discussed on my next post…

My God, I am so much in love with this song. <3′s all around for Yuna-san!

Yet another proof that you don’t have to know the language to appreciate the music.

But still, check out the lovely lyrics here (c/o jPopAsia). My favorite in particular is this bit:

あなたを守りたいから もっと守りたいから
私にできること 教えてほしい
あなたがいつも 笑えるように 暖かな場所を用意しておくよ
愛してるから

Because I want to protect you, because I want to always protect you
I want you to tell me what I can do
So that you can always smile and laugh, I’ll prepare a warm place
Because I love you

PS. Dear Youtube, please don’t take down the video YY

Evaluation

I’m looking again at my monthly output report summary for the first half of FY 2010-11, and the results show that it’s been far bleaker than ever. Average productivity rate for the first half of the year was only at 3.66 (the lower, the better), in which the target we have set for that first half was 2.25. Even worse, my productivity rate for December (start of the second half) was at 12.98, which is disastrous and beyond unimaginable. January was a bit better, but still not enough.

The problem now is making up for the next three months. Obviously, I will not be able to make it on our target 2.00 productivity rate by the end of fiscal year, but the goal now is to make the overall productivity rate look better.

So how did I end up here? Who’s fault was it? Somehow, I tend more to answer the second question. Were the cases that difficult? Am I just performing not at par? Well, the answer goes both ways.

 

Image courtesy of HubPages


During my mid-year evaluation with boss last week, she asked me if I’ve been distracted at work. Later on, she told me to focus more on my cases and how I’m working on them.

I will sound guilty on this, but for me those were clearly her indirect way of pointing out on my procrastinations at work. In short, my tendencies to browse other websites during work hours.

It’s more or less the same: Check outside e-mails, visit forums, read blogs (albeit gaming blogs have been lessened — just more into Gizmodo and Jalopnik nowadays), check a coupe of forums, and then social sites (very much less Facebook to be honest, but added Twitter).

There were a few days before that I tried not accessing any non-work sites at all. I felt those days were very productive, but to be honest, it was driving me mad. Perhaps I was just being accustomed to it, but there was a difference for sure between ‘browsing to keep you sane’ and ‘browsing just because your lazy’.  I remember opening and closing my Yahoo Messenger every now and then, probably because my brain sensed it was my only non-work window during that time.

I then realized that probably the best way to handle this is not by stop opening non-work sites, but rather asking myself when should I open them, and ask myself  if do I really need to.

 

Image courtesy of this awesome ‘What’s the deal with Angry Birds?’ comment thread.


Now how about my actual performance at work? I’m also at fault here because I think I’m getting dumber recently. That’s an honest assessment, really, but I won’t discuss it here because I believe it will be best discussed on a separate blog post. Anyway, moving on…

I’m still disappointed by the fact that when another colleague is trying to ask me on work stuff from my modules, I am unable to provide a quick, immediate answer to them. I believe that reflects on the way how I handle cases — most of the time I have no immediate answer to some of the client’s queries, especially on critical cases. Perhaps I have been too dependent on using the Advanced Search box and trying to find similar occurences.

And for most of the time, it ends up in frustration and panic, especially for urgent cases.  It gets frustrating because not that I don’t want to handle that particular case anymore. But rather, I wish I knew the answer immediately so that I could solve that case faster.

 

Image courtesy of XKCD.

 

I do remember mentioning earlier that the problem goes both ways. One of the reason I said that is that lately, cases have been more and more difficult. That is expected for me as a P2 (some sort of designation telling that I am not an associate anymore) though, but then again it goes back to my problem earlier of not being able to solve cases quickly.

It would be nice if we will be assigned relatively easy cases every now and then. I do remember having one a few weeks ago, the client advised me to close it since the proper instruction was provided to them. It was a great feeling, knowing that I’m adding something to my monthly output that isn’t a workaround problem that won’t be counted in my analysis output.

Sure, if we keep on getting easy cases then we will only keep a good output, but the growth developed from solving difficult cases will not be there. But there will be always a great feeling of confidence, seeing your output count continuously increase.

Another issue that in some ways is out of our control, is that at times the client can be also the cause of our dip in outputs. Primarily those who do not reply when we need it the most.

I’m pretty sure you (assuming you, the reader, have the same line of work as mine) have had those times where you wanted to follow-up something, but we get no answer from them.  And only when we give them a deadline, they reply with either a ‘No’, or a ‘Yes’ that is too late and already counted for the following month.

Worse, these cases get stuck in an eternal void that is our queue. When you try to get back on them, you end up with a time that could’ve been spent on other cases.

Perhaps my cases were the most strangest compared to everyone in the team. So far I have a case that has not reoccurred in the last 2 years but they still put it in their priority list, a case that is outside of our scope but the client still insists otherwise, a case that goes back and forth because the solution was made for another product, and a number of cases that keep on growing because of ‘testing’ that is yet to be completed.

 

Image courtesy of IMDB.

 

All of these leads to another dilemma — Sure I will have another chance of getting all of these right for next fiscal year, but will I even make it there without being sent into Performance Improvement Plan (PIP, because ‘being fired’ is way too pessimistic for me)? I had a sigh of relief when I got a ‘Successful’ rating last year, this year though, I’m still hoping that it’d be the same.

I REALLY do not want to end up in PIP because that will be very embarassing on my end. A P2 who’s performing badly? It would not only give a bad impression, but it may even spark some non-P2′s into bitching again.

Yes I am performing badly, but yes, I am doing something about it.

I’m back(?)

It’s another Saturday evening and I’m bored to my wits trying to wait for a download to finish. So I suppose I could go back and try posting something, eh?

On studying Japanese.

日本語を勉強するのが好きですよ!

As most of you would know, I am currently studying Japanese via an extramural class in UP.

But first, a jikoshoukai (introduction):

はじめまして。私はIrwinです。23歳です。QCから来ました。月曜日から金曜日まで仕事をしている。今日本語を勉強して、来年韓国語を勉強するつもりです。子供の時、バスを運転したくて、今はお金持ちになりたいです。伊藤由奈は私の日本人の歌手好きです。よろしくおねがいします。

Errm, anyway.

There are currently 4 modules (it used to only have three, but they decided to open up a new module) and I am now currently on the third one. Well, actually, today is the second to the last meeting. Next week, we’ll do some presentations, and that’s it — end of Module 3 already.

It’s kind of sad though, to have it end. It’s nice that I have met yet more amazing people. I’ll have to thank Karen as well for introducing me to this — if not for her I wouldn’t have become a UP student (which I failed to do about 7 years ago) hehe. Yeah, sentimental much.

Though it was a bit unclear, I heard from our class earlier that the next 4th module class will be offered, but next year. I suppose I could start studying Korean in between, but then I thought that I wanted to master first what I have already taken up. It feels disappointing not to be able to talk and listen to Japanese properly, so that’s why I wanted to go back to the first lesson and study and practice everything again.

On Gundam.

Aside from watching some Gundam anime shows again (as part of learning Japanese), there was also a point in time where I got rekindled with my old Gundam modeling hobby.

I bought three models first, a 1/144 RX-78-2 30th Anniversary version, a 1/144 Unicorn Destroy Mode, and a non-graded 1/100 00 Gundam + 0 Raiser (which I bought separately, but I counted as one model since they become 00 Raiser). Afterwards, I stepped it up a bit by buying an MG (Master grade) Sinanju Ver. Ka, which was considered as one of the most challenging MG’s to build out there.

Without the ridiculously-hard-to-apply dry transfer stickers. Sits nice in my office desk now hehe ^^

I stopped doing it now, but maybe I’ll come back some time. Most probably with the Ex-S Gundam, which is bigger and more difficult to build x_x

The reason why I stopped is because of a new hobby…

On headphones and other audiophile stuff.

Yep, this is my new hobby. The first time I think that I got into this is when I bought my first real audiophile-grade stuff, which is an AKG K518DJ headphone. After that, it led me into joining a local group, Headphiles.org (Head-Fi is too confusing  and cluttered for me -__-).

This local group is a great one — the last time I was impressed this much on a hobby forum is when I joined Digital Photographer Philippines.

Let me put it this way: When I first joined, I was about to buy a Grado Labs Alessandro MS1i headphone, but then I posted a thread asking for a good alternative at the same price range. A day after that, one of the guys there PM’ed me, suggesting that we could do a “mini-meet” for me to try out some of their proposed alternative headphones. I’m sorry, but doing something like that on your new members is just fan-bleeding-tastic.

I don’t have the knowledge, and I don’t have anything much to share in the forums… but I do attend some of the meets. It’s also one of the things that made me stay in this hobby — what they do in their meets is simple: they just put their stuff down and share them to everyone. They allow you to try their headphones, even the most ridiculously expensive ones!

They’re a great bunch of guys as well — nice to talk to and very informative. Mechapinoy.org mods can take a lesson or two from these guys on how to become not anal with the rules and newbies.

I think the reason why these kind of meets are great is that this is a very subjective hobby. As mentioned by one of the guys there, it all boils down on your preferences.

For example, I wanted to get a Sennheiser HD650 before, and I really liked it when I was finally able to ‘audition’ (that’s the term they use when you want to try out a particular audio item) one from a previous meet. However, I still preferred the fun musicality of the Beyerdynamic DT150, which is about $200 cheaper than the HD650.

One thing to note though is that this is an expensive hobby as well. Spending here, in my opinion, is comparable to drinking gin mixes. You know, the “traydor” drinks, where you drink a lot and before you know it, you’re already drunk.

If that didn’t make any sense, here’s I think is a better comparison: Spending in photography is more a “one time, big time” deal. The time in-between upgrades there is longer and the price is more expensive than in this audiophile hobby.

For example, I bought the MS1i for 5.6k, then bought a 2k amp, then a 9k Cowon S9 source, then a 1k DAC, and then a 1.4k IEM. Compared to when I bought a D60 (26k) and a tripod (5K) and a lens (12k) and a 6-stop filter (6.5k), not including the 27k wide-angle lens that I’ve been eyeing before. I hope you finally got my point.

This new hobby is a learning gold mine as well, especially if you’re technically-inclined. Or maybe you’re just a geek like me.

Thanks also to this hobby, I have grown a rational hate headphones like Skullcandy. I gotta admit, there was a point in time where it was one of my options. But thank God I didn’t go with it, as I have then learned that those headphones are overpriced piece of shit.

Just like PowerMacCenter.

Did I also tell you that those different brands like Oboe and Skullcandy and those Chinese knockoffs are basically the same headphones?

And please, let’s not get into the Beats by Dre argument, shall we?

ANYWAY, one of the best things about this hobby is you get to appreciate your music more. You enjoy more, you try out lots of headphones to see which fits the music more, you get better amps, you try improving your formats, and then you enjoy listening even more.

Perhaps I’ll stay on this for a while. I certainly do not plan to go overboard right now, but we’ll see. When I get the Beyer DT150 I mentioned earlier, I think I won’t have to do anymore upgrades for a long while.

========

Hey there. If you’re reading beyond this point, I’d like to say thanks for visiting this site. Or, I should say, thanks for clicking that link in my Multiply post… which led you here.

I suppose I could talk a couple more things…

On work.

Pretty much the same, execpt for some.. *eherm* changes. Let’s just say that those “changes” involve bigger expectations and more difficult cases to handle.

Not that I am complaining though :D

I could go on ranting about how I’m still bad and how I am having difficulty meeting my monthly quota. But then again, at the end of the day, I am still thankful because I have this job and I will still continue working.

Ranting isn’t bad; it’s a way of letting things out. Especially when your medium of letting are things like blogs or your social network sites. But try to be careful though… don’t go posting bad stuff when you have added seniors in your page.

Going back to work: the “change” I said a while ago… I’m not going to say that I didn’t deserve it, but with my situation now is a bit disappointing to know that I’m still this bad but now there are more things to expect out of me.

But then of course, I also think it’s a way for me to improve.

On… that.

You know that previous GY shift? That probably had the most number of awkward 7:00 a.m.’s I had in my life! It’s been more than a year already, and you’re still treating me like that?

See what I did? It’s really ironic, because now I’m actually helping you do the things you are doing. I now avoid you at the end of the shift. I make sure we don’t get on the same bus. I really do hope you know how it felt.

There, I said it.

The thing that I wanted to point out is that is this: It’s like Nas and Beth where they use the same route going home. Do you know how stupidly awkward it is when both of them leave the office at the same time, but each takes a separate taxi?

Sigh.

Blog update, huh…

So, Module 2 ended two weeks ago. Here was the noobish script I made for the presentation…

皆さん、こんにちは。これは4つの有名アーケードゲームです。
1.クレーンゲーム
クレーンお使て、プライズお持ちます。それから、穴でプライズお落とします。100円1つプレーはアーケードおしてもいいです。そして、500円二6つプレーはアーケードもしておもいいです。
>> こちら中島床さんです。彼女は日本のUFOキャッチャークイーンですよ。床さんのだいすきゲームはリラックマとクレーンゲームです。炊飯器は床さんのとても面白いプライズお勝ちました。
2.ステッカーアーケード
これはゲームじゃありません。ここに人は自分写真おとって、写真おはかります。 それから、かわいいステッカーお印刷おしています。ステッカーアーケードは女の人がだいすきですよ。彼女たちはよくプリクラのメッカに行っています。あそこにたくさんステッカーアーケードがあります。
>> こちらさくりなさんです。彼女はステッカーアーケードのモデルです。かわいいですね。
3.リズムゲーム
日本にたくさんリズムゲームがあります。
>これはダンスダンスレボリューションです。ここにプレヤおおいどっています。
>これはビットマニアです。ここにプレヤおDJおしています。
>これは太鼓の達人です。このゲームにプレヤが太鼓お使っています。このビデオお見てください。
4.格闘ゲーム
このゲームは男の人のだいすきですよ。ここにプレヤーはファイターお使って、ステージにプレヤーおたたかいます。 プレヤーは1つジョイスチックと6つボタンお使います。このボタンはパンチとキックです。
>> こちら梅原大吾さんです。彼は世界の一番いい格闘ゲームプレヤーですよ。先週2010エチャンピヨンシプで第五さんおかちました。
このビデオは第五さんの有名ですから。これは第五さんのヒットポイントバーはみじくて、ジャスチンさんのヒットポイントバーは長いです。彼のプレーはむずかしくた、とてもすごかった。このビデオお見てください。
——
:|

So uhhh… lots of things happened lately, but I didn’t have the time to share everything here.

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