Monday, September 20, 2010

Seoul survivors

Our school has the week off for Chuseok, Korea's big holiday, on which Seoul empties out as everyone visits their families in their ancestral homes. In the days leading up to the day itself, Costco and E-Mart make it impossible to check out-- Costco's lines on Saturday morning stretched literally three-quarters of the way back through the store, and every cart was overflowing, especially with gift packs of delicacies like this:
I don't know why Spam is the epitome of fine dining in Korea. I hesitate to speculate.

(Speaking of Spam, imagine my delight in learning that Monty Python's Spamalot will shortly be playing here on stage, and my disappointment upon realizing that, of course, it will be entirely in Korean. Python's chaotic enough already.) But, as I always look on the bright side of life...

I've been busy. Last Thursday, Vanessa, our Chinese Chinese teacher, came over to translate for the cable guy, who was here to hook up my new cable and Internet. It's ten bucks cheaper than the old company's service and allegedly has faster 'net (not that I've noticed) and a better channel lineup. Well, it's got more English-language channels, including news from Russia, news from China, the Australia Channel, and EuroSport (German ping pong at last!)

All you need to know about what Koreans care about in the Western world is that the system carries CNBC and Bloomberg but not CNN; it's reminiscent of Kyobo Books, which has bookcase after bookcase of Anglophone business books but a measly fiction section in which Sidney Sheldon is considered a hot author. (But I digress... I lost a bunch of good Korean tv channels. At least there's BBC Entertainment, so I get an hour a week of Doctor Who from two years ago. Vanessa must have spent three or four hours last week helping Lauren, Bob, and me get the new hookup.

I'm glad the flag bearer on the left has made good use of the mustache I donated.

We had no classes on Friday; instead, we divided the students. Um, I mean into groups... let's not get grisly here. I had a group with Faina, our new English teacher, and Ron, the principal and his wife, Jill, and Faina's and my homeroom kids.
Faina's on the left. I dunno who's on the right... short white hair... apparently it's my dad. Huh.

All of the groups had the task of taking photos of themselves at well-known spots all around the historic center of Seoul. Our group was doing great until, after two and a half hours afoot and 15 shots, the kids ran out of energy and decided to, first, squabble about where to go next, and, secondly, spend a half hour of our precious time at McDonald's. We finished second, and by the time everyone got home, we were all happy to have survived the trek.

Tug's worn out, too.

On Saturday, I carted two packs of veggie dogs up the hill above Itaewon to the Margaritaville-themed social of the Seoul Flyers running club. I'd met a few of them at my last race but haven't been able to join the group runs. The get-together was at a lovely apartment right near Mount Namsan and Seoul Tower. Jae, the president (and everyone else I met) was friendly and helpful, and the Heineken and daiquiris flowed freely. I'd hoped to clear up some confusion-- should I do the marathon like this: run at nine-and-a-half-minute-mile pace for four minutes, walk a minute, all the way through, as I've been training for? Or just do 11-minute miles with no walking?

Jae's on the left, too. (When did I start to look like Tim Robbins?)

I'm delighted to say that I came away twice as confused as I went in... Jae, who hates run/walk, thought I should run the whole way. Shira, who likes run/walk, thought I should run/walk. In addition, Jae suggested that I appropriate one of the race entries of someone who had to cancel out of the Chuncheon Marathon, which I tried to enter two days too late. Chuncheon is two weeks earlier than the Joongang I'm registered for, has a prettier course, and allows six hours, not five, to finish. So now what? Try the run/walk there and if it doesn't work, the slower run in the Joongang? Two marathons in 15 days? What about my work friends who said they'll come out to cheer me on in the Joongang? They're not going to take an hour-long bus ride into the countryside for the Chuncheon...
People who are faster than I am are on the left. And the right. And directly in front of me... as usual.

Oh, my brain hurts. And my knee. And my calves are a little tight. And a few of the students have been giving me a pain in the...

On Sunday, I ran my six miles, got caught up with Lauren over coffee, and then wasted half of the day looking all over town for a couple of items I couldn't find in any stores. Today, well... no run, no Lauren, found one item.

I've been afraid of having nothing to do all week while the locals travel, but Nikki and Dex have invited me to their apartment tomorrow for grilled tofu, and the Seoul Veggie Club is having a Chuseok Day picnic on Thursday (on top of the buffet lunch ten days ago). And, dammit, I've got lots to do... that German ping pong isn't going to watch itself. long from me and from Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Jill and I will travel to wherever you decide to run your marathon. We wouldn't miss it for anything. Also, if it were me, I would do the walk/walk. Or maybe the run/crawl.