Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sleeping thickness

Yesterday, our school had its Family Day, with all the students and parents gathering for tug-of-war, dodge ball, and assorted sports and games. I confess to doing ten percent more than the required grumbling about holding it on Saturday, thus making me miss my beloved YK hash; in past years, the school had always held Family Day on Friday.

Since I couldn't hash on Saturday, I did on Friday night, where I ingested a grand total of one beer. (One light beer, at that.) We ended at our fellow hasher Panzer's house, where I promptly fell asleep on his couch in the midst of the merriment. Val woke me at 2 a.m. and shepherded me home via taxi.

As it turned out, I missed both YK and Family Day, as I woke up at 10:15, too late to go to either. Apparently I'd forgotten to plug in my cell phone the night before; it died, preventing my alarm, as well as phone calls from work, from waking me up.

Swell. Way to make a good impression on the new principal! How professional of me.

I have been just exhausted every day lately, fighting to stay awake past 9 p.m. I don't know what's wrong. Yesterday, in the afternoon, I went for a gentle hike on the hountain near me, in hopes that the sunshine and breeze would wake me up. I ended up nodding off sitting up on a bench. Last night I fell asleep fully dressed. I woke up and jumped out of bed, ready for the day... till I checked the clock; it was 1 a.m. I went back to bed and got up at 7:00. It's four hours later and I'm still nodding off at my desk; I feel the way I do when I get up for a bathroom trip at 3 a.m., all disoriented, grainy-eyed, and walking through knee-deep pudding.

It's taken me twice the usual time to write this blog entry. Clearly it's not twice as interesting.

To sleep, perchance to dream...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Once more into the breach

It was too much.

In my planning period, at the start of the school day on Tuesday, I put my head on my desk and tears came to my eyes. I felt myself on the verge of weeping; I'd be no good for the next class. So I went to talk to Kate, our school therapist, and got myself back together. But the sadness lingers.

First, on Thursday evening, our student Jaesung (Louis) was hit by a car and killed. He was such a sweet kid, friendly and cheerful and quiet. He was a wonderful guitarist. On Friday morning, the school canceled our amusement-park field trip and went to a meeting room at the hospital, where waiting in the long, long line in the hallway was so hard, listening to the sounds of grief from the next room. On Saturday morning, according to custom, on the way to the funeral, they stopped at the places important in his life for one last goodbye. Many of us gathered in the school library to lay flowers in front of his portrait and listen to remembrances. On Monday, the school put up a bulletin board for his friends and teachers to post their memories and messages to Louis.

And then, on awakening on Tuesday, I turned on my computer to the headline MARATHON HORROR.

You can't quantify shock and sorrow; was September 11 a thousand times worse because a thousand times as many innocent people died? What about Sandy Hook, where all those pure, little kids died? I only know that this one, the Boston Marathon bombing, was personal to me.

Running is such a positive, life-affirming activity; it's all about self-discovery and breaking barriers and believing we can do better and be better. I've been running on-and-off (mostly off) since 1970, regularly since 1999, and it's changed who I think I am. It's changed who I am. I think of all the miles I've put in, the hundreds of thousands of miles those marathoners in Boston put in, the wonderful kids I coached in cross country, the lovely people who came out in Boston to cheer on strangers and show love and pride in their family members...

It was too much.

Boston's the Holy Grail for runners, the World Series, the Oscars. It's far beyond the abilities of a poor schlumpf like me to ever run fast enough to qualify for it. To the Church of Running, it's the Vatican and Mecca rolled into one.

As I wrote on this blog in November, I'd decided my days of running the full marathon were probably through. Training that much, through the Seoul summer, is not fun and the race itself is an ordeal.

Nobody who was in Boston even knows I exist, except for my hashing friend Sarah, who ran the race and, afterward, was standing in front of this Starbucks, but left a few minutes before the explosion. (She is fine, thank goodness.)

(Sarah's amazing blog about Boston is at 

None of the victims will know or care if I run another marathon. It won't help them in any way. In the end, nobody will care but me.

What I'm about to say makes no logical sense at all. But I can't help it:

I need to run a marathon this fall. For Boston.

Chuncheon, 2010; I was a little younger and the world was a little purer.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tell them

The lovely cherry trees are blossoming along the Yangjae Cheon, and it's spring. And a bitter, wintry wind blows every day.

Today was supposed to be our school's field trip; we were going to Lotte World, the amusement park. But when we got to school, we found that one of our students had been hit and killed by a car last evening.

He was a very nice kid, a sophomore, whom I had in my English class last year.

Instead of Lotte World, the rented buses took the teachers and almost all the students to a meeting room at the hospital in Bundang to pay our respects to the family. Based on the original purpose of my blog, I should tell you all of the fascinating cultural details of how such things are done here; but the grief was so raw and so deep that it would feel almost obscene to cheapen it with some kind of touristy retelling.

Instead, please remember the last time someone you know died unexpectedly, and it seemed so unreal, and how everyone said to tell the people you love how you feel, because you never know... and how maybe you forgot the principle a couple of days later.

Tell them now.