Sunday, January 16, 2011

O Seoul mio

I was coming back from yet another icy hash run yesterday when, just as the train crossed over the Han River, I felt a change in my consciousness. I've been in Korea for 28 months, in Seoul for 16, and I've always felt very much a stranger in a (very) strange land. But somehow at that moment something shifted in my mind.

I think it started when I got my bicycle. I'd had individual routes in my mental atlas... home to Itaewon, home to the COEX Mall, home to the ballpark... but biking from place to place started these imaginary dotted lines to coalesce into something resembling a map. Then again, doing the marathon training, even though it was almost all along the Yangjae Cheon (the stream), opened up the world from Gwacheon City in the southwest all the way to the Han and along the waterfront.

But it was the hashing that really did it, taking buses and subways to areas I'd never have otherwise gone to and then running the streets and alleyways, the mountains and bridges, seeing the people far from my neighborhood and far from the tourist areas, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of so many different parts of this huge city.
In that moment in the train on the bridge over the river, I realized something: though I'll never belong to Seoul, it belongs to me, in some totally illogical way that St. Augustine, in my 13 years there, never quite did. I've biked it and run it and bused it and trained it.

Now it's mine. And I'll have it with me always.

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