Monday, February 11, 2013

A strongend the opposite of a weekend.

Yesterday, Sunday, was Seollal, the Lunar New Year's Day,  the biggest holiday in Korea. It bothers me that everyone in America calls it Chinese New Year; it's also Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Vietnamese, and Mongolian New Year. On the other hand, it tickles me that ten percent or so of the Americans who think they know their Asian Zodiac signs are wrong. For example, the Year of the Snake (my year!) started yesterday, not on January 1; if you were born before Lunar New Year's Day, you're actually one spot ahead of what that cute paper place mat told you. Your friends may think you're a rabbit when you're actually a tiger, nuch like every movie librarian when she takes off her glasses and shakes out her hair.

Anyway, it's been an active weekend for me.

On Friday evening, a bunch of us teachers got together for poker. I started with an incredible run of bad cards and went broke. Then I bought back in and my brilliant strategic play soon had me hoarding the biggest pile of chips. Then, through unbelievably bad luck, and despite my tactical acumen, I went broke again.

On Saturday, my hash group said goodbye to one of our most popular members, After School Special (a.k.a Nina). She named the occasion the Afro Circus Hash, so we had hashers in neon-colored Afro wigs, tiger-head hats (me), even a monkey suit...
 Crazy foreigners.

We ended up at a bar whose owner probably didn't know what hit him, between the songs, the noise, and the bagpipes. My friend Val even brought her son Maddox; he had the best time of all and didn't want to go home.
Did I mention that we had a balloon artist, too?

On Sunday, I went with my friend Kat, her boyfriend Jason, and three of their friends to Bukhansan National Park, the collection of mountain trails and peaks on the far north edge of the city. Koreans adore hiking and ordinarily on the weekends Bukhansan is wall-to-wall people, but on Seollal, in the snow, it was pretty quiet. 
How hard could it be?

We bought crampons at the base of the mountain and started up through the snow and the ice and the stillness. It was beautiful, sunny, and one hell of a challenge. We scaled Baegundae, at 2744 feet the highest mountain in this part of the country. Bukhansanseong Fortress, erected in the 1700s, and a number of small Buddhist temples, stand on the slopes of the mountains.

 This is Jason's friend Matt. I got sweaty palms just looking at him standing out there.

The crampons were a life saver for me, almost literally, as the last stretch to the top of Baegundae involved using two hands to haul myself up a steep, uneven snow-covered granite dome. My knees (and my jeans) didn't always want to bend far enough to take the next step. Getting down was interesting, too. And, oddly enough for the mountains in early February, it was cold up there.
Jason and Kat.
I hope I don't make it seem as if I'm patting myself on the back too much. (However, in the interest of honesty, I am 59 years old and kept up with five people 30-plus years younger than I, four of whom are on active duty in the US Air Force, so... yeah, I rock. (I pretty much take my good health for granite.)
Me, bein' all manly an' stuff, above the city.

This was the first really strenuous hike I've done since leaving Daegu over three years ago, and my most strenuous since the three-waterfall hike in Yosemite 37 years ago. So I feel pretty good about it. About that, and about not plunging to my death.
Me, bein' all manly an' stuff over on the other side now.

And today, on the third day, I rested.

No comments: