Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I know I'll get home

Hey you guys! I found the coolest things this morning.

Before last weekend, I had only been out running once since I got here, as the city seems to be made up entirely of dangerous main roads, little winding back streets with no room for both pedestrians and drivers, and (on the main streets) sidewalks with a lot of uneven and missing bricks. Sidewalks can rip up your knees pretty darn good anyway (or at least my knees, which are already arthritic). Getting hit by a car ain't no Whitman's sampler, neither.

Running with Anna on Sunday (as well as finding out that my scale is off by five kilos, so I haven't lost 11 pounds-- or 11 ounces-- after all) inspired me. But I'm not about to walk 20 minutes each way and take the subway twice to get to the river near downtown (and back) every time I want to run. This morning, I went out in my new warmup pants (I'm not so very brave that pj pants seemed like a good longterm solution) and headed east, away from the city center, toward the amusement park area I wrote about several weeks ago.

But this time I went a little farther, and I couldn't believe what I found. I came to a river, of which the one toward downtown is a tributary. It has miles of untrafficked road next to it, and paddle boats shaped like swans moored along the waterfront. I found a huge statue of some ancient hero (not John McCain) on his noble steed, and I saw a huge marble-blocked building (a ziggurat? a ziggar?), with an elaborate pagodaesque building on top. (When I went back to take these photos, an old man was beating a drum and another was playing cymbals, so I'm guessing it's something Buddhist.) I went toward the tall, pale tower I see every night when I come home; it has a big diamond-shaped space near the top that at night glows with ever-changing pastel neon lights. I had assumed it was part of some business complex; it turns out it marks a massive war memorial plaza with a black granite wall that has thousands of names carved on it, flanked by bellicose friezes and backed by dozens of Korean flags. It will mean something different now when I see it every night; appropriately, today is Veterans' Day in the US.

And best of all, I found a park! There's a long hilly strip, fifty yards wide and maybe miles long, up above the river, with dirt trails and grass and trees, all just about ideal for running. This is wonderful new knee news. My biggest complaint about Daegu, other than the air quality, is the nearly complete lack of parks, green space, and nature. I found some! I'll be out there running often.

And, maybe more importantly, I confirmed something that's been coming on for awhile now about timid little me: I should take some chances, try something new, let myself blunder about, and see what I find. (I think I mean that in more ways than just physically.) I have a decent sense of direction and I know some landmarks now, and I'm not afraid to strike out in some direction to see something new, come to an intersection, and take a guess which is the better way to turn. (As Yogi Berra said, "When you see a fork in the road, take it.")

I know I'll get home.

Today, once I was out of sight of anything I knew, I just headed westish sometimes and northish sometimes, ended up taking a tunnel under a railroad bridge, seeing a high school with an artificial turf soccer field (other schools have dirt), and inching and oonching my way back down alleyways and across eight-lane roads till I knew where I was. I ended up running ten minutes longer than I thought I could, but I made it.

I know I'll get home.

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