Monday, December 27, 2010

Do I know it's Christmas?

or "Hashing through the snow".

A few years ago, if you'd suggested I'd be sitting in an unheated bus station (at 15 degrees Fahrenheit) in a city I'd never heard of before-- in Korea-- at 9 p.m. on Christmas night, I'd have thought you delusional. Nor did I, oddly enough, envision running across a horserace track-- in my boxers-- at an equivalent temperature the next day.

But, in fact, I did both.

Actually, I guess that would have been an odd opening paragraph if I hadn't.

Christmas is hard far from home, with just a cat-- who speaks only Korean-- as company. So I jumped at the chance to join the Yongsan Kimchi (my group) hashers down in the city of Songtan, 45 minutes south of Seoul, on Christmas. I took the bus down and shivered my way to the Osan Bulgogi hashers' home bar, just around the corner from the US's Osan Air Force base.

After a long time of milling and mingling and chilling and jingling, the hash started. It was soooo cold, but the hares laid a great trail, through the city and up and down a trail on the mountain as the lightest of flurries started, and we all got back safely and happily.
Not actually me, but close.

Then the festivities began, amid the twinkling lights and Christmas music. We had the usual postrun circle, though people tried to clean up their comments and song lyrics because one of the hashers had brought his son and daughter. And finally it was time for the pot  luck, with draft beer and turkey and ham (though not for me) and fresh fruit salad (I cut it myself!) and cookies and apple pie and pumpkin pie and pecan pie. It felt like being rushed by the august fraternities, Eata Bita Pi and Tappa Kegga Brew.


Apparently the festivities went on long into the night, starting with beer pong and ending with people sleeping on other people's floors, but at about 8:00 I made the cold walk back to the bus station and waited for the penultimate bus back to Seoul.

The next day was Boxing Day, so the Southside hashers sent directions to wear boxer shorts on their run. So we did, over our tights and sweatpants. We met at the deserted Seoul Racecourse Park, just a few miles from my apartment. The windchill, I think, must have been in the single digits. That's actually plenty warm enough when you're running, but the gathering time and the circle afterward, in the light flurries... well, we took turns sitting in somebody's heated car.

Southside has the reputation of being more hardcore than my home group, Yongsan. And this trail was laid by Mr. Blister and Soju Sonata, who are a) active-duty military and b) insane. Their trail led us through a lot of shiggy (hash talk for hills, brambles, thorns, fences, some with wire of the barbed variety) and across both sides of the actual racetrack, which I had never known consists of thick soft sand... I really would have hated to be arrested in my underwear, by the way.) Then it was up the mountain and over, sliding down parts of the slope on my boxer-clad butt on a carpet of dead leaves...

For the second half of the trail, I kept company, far behind the pack, with LesBalls (a female South African friend) and Cooper.
Cooper. Lab plus beagle equals... Leagle?

Finally we lost the trail... I blame Cooper. Fortunately, I'd learned to always wear my GPS watch to hashes and to mark our starting point, so we went to the road and ran the half-mile back to our compatriots, who were frozen in place like people who'd seen a basilisk.
It was the shortest on-after ever. I decided to take the subway to the COEX Mall and almost forgot that I was wearing my boxers on the outside. So, for the first time ever, I dropped my boxers in public and took off into the nice warm underground.

The thing about Christmas is that you don't want to be alone; a few days ago, the Huffington Post showed what the said was "the saddest Christmas card ever": "Merry Christmas to you and your cat." It was very good to be among friends, however loosely tethered to normality they may be, and to have something fun to do. I topped off Boxing Day by watching the Doctor Who Christmas episode, which was a treat.

And now to do useful stuff during my two-week break. Almost all of my school friends have flown out of here. But I've got places to go, classes to plan, an apartment to clean, and treadmill running to do (I need 13 miles in five days to reach 900 for the year.) And an intraKorean peace to keep.

Happy holidays, everybody.


Almost Home said...

Actually, the hares were Soju and Eiffel Plow-Her. Remember, Blister ran with us for the first part.

Good to see I was named in a blog (probably the first time ever, kamsahamnida!)


Stephen J said...

Oops! Of course I would never forget that! "Blister" is a typo for "Eiffel", that's all.