Sunday, January 15, 2012

"...and, doggone it, people like me."

You know that stuff I wrote two entries ago, "I'm not alone"? Yeah, well, never mind. I was only kiddin'.

Seems I'm a ramblin' guy again; Kyung and I are off. I won't pretend I'm not disappointed, but I'm fine. Maybe I am alone, but 2011 was still a success because I learned I don't have to be alone.

Anyway, we're three weeks into our four-and-a-half-week winter break (necessitated by Korea's biggest holiday, Seollal-- Lunar New Year-- coming so soon after our usual two-week break). My colleagues are beginning to trickle back from their excursions to such strange, exotic locations as Vietnam and California, but most won't be back for another week.

I've been keeping busy writing, hiking, milling on the tread at the gym (shut up, I'm an English teacher), going to a movie, soaking in hot tubs, and hashing. During the school year, the Saturday morning Yongsan Kimchi hash is about all I can commit the time to each weekend. Now that I'm on vacation, though, I'm hitting both YK and Southside HHH on Sundays. It's a delicate balance, trying to keep the January cold out without being so bundled up I sweat through all those layers while running. Usually I fail.

Yesterday's YK hash, going all the way up and over three mountains while covering six miles in two hours, was epic, but it was last week's Southside that I'll really remember. We clambered over and between and around boulders all the way to the top of a mountain so high that even the traffic sounds of this metro area of 22 million completely faded away.

Halfway up: Headshot, Burt Reynolds, Mr. Blister, some guy, 
Dead Porno Society, Corndog Millionaire.

Top of the World, Ma! (The escalator was out of order.)

The long, long way down was enchanting, with a beautiful little stream frozen solid all the way down through the silent woods. Maybe the best thing about Seoul is that spotted all through this huge city there are the hills and mountains, so natural, so peaceful, so quiet.

But in case one is ever tempted to forget that this is still Korea, near the top of the mountain is a bunker, built after the war, that's used by the army to train their men how to watch out for invaders from the north.

Still, it was a lovely day, and the hash means so much to me in terms of conditioning, friendship, and self-esteem.

And you know, though it seems improper to say it... friends and acquaintances tell me it's impressive that someone my age (58, if you're keeping score at home) has run over 80 hashes, and completed two marathons, in 15 months. And I always go, aw shucks, tweren't nothin'. But you know... it is impressive. I rock. In some ways.

And now for something completely different.

When I was new in Korea, every day brought something funny, or sad, or odd enough to want to blog about. After a couple of years, though, I stopped noticing as much, or caring as much to post it. And there is a lot of funky stuff here. For example: 

-The underground shopping malls have so many rotundas and stairs and corridors branching off in all directions that they were apparently built by gophers with architectural degrees.And then there's inexplicable stuff like this:

-One of the moms in the English club I emcee at school gave me a Christmas present: a shocking-pink bow tie with gold filigree. (She knows me so well.)

-There are always so many salespeople standing around in stores that you can't twitch without having someone suggesting stuff you should buy, but for Seollal they're mostly decked out in lovely, traditional hanbok outfits. And you can't find half the stuff in its usual place because of all the gift packs on display, including Korea's favorite holiday delicacy:

-Close your eyes, delicate readers: as written in Korean characters, hope and hof (beer hall) are spelled identically; so are rub and love; so are park and fuck. (It's important to remember the difference in a no-parking zone.)

-There is actually in Korea a "free" cat who cost $1200 at the vet's due to nasty plumbing problems, an eye infection, and fluid in the lungs. Unfortunately, he lives with me.

If he wants legs, too, they're coming out of his allowance.

...and so, as Nick Carraway said, I beat on against the current, and survive the winter, and occasionally remind myself that, though I may be thoroughly single again, doggone it, people like me.

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