Archive for May, 2007

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Godspeed Eomoni!

May 29, 2007

Haven’t had much time to write recently. We had a great visit from our friends Chris and Carrie. During their time here, we did a temple stay for a few days, saw the ancient Silla capital of Gyeongju (or Gaengju – as the local dialect puts it), took in the Buddha’s Birthday Lotus Lantern Parade and Concert extravaganza, and…. and…. got sick for a few days.

Other than that, we’ve visited with relatives, had fun with both our hyeongs, and gotten some good running miles in. Only one month left in the fulbright, then an extra month on my dime, then onwards to Appleton (or, in Korean it would be sagwachon).

But in the biggest news, it’s been a long hard slog of a late winter/spring for our Mom. Two surgeries, recovery, taking care of Grandpa, etc. etc. She is recovering again right now, and we wish her the very very very best.

MOM~ Get well soon!

xoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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BAU house café

May 26, 2007

Matty and I finally bit the bullet and went to a dog café… NOT the kind that might first come to mind when you think of Korea, ooh nooo. Our fun neighborhood find of the week is the BAU house café (a remarkably clever western-appropriated name by Korean standards), a cute little place where you can have refreshments and hang with the luckiest pups in the country. They’ve got about 15 permanent residents and a handful of boarders at any given moment, all of which run around the café (and even on top of the tables!) at will and offer themselves up for good lovin’ by the clientèle. Not surprisingly, they all became much more interested in us after we bought the dog treats that are for sale there! We’ve become quite the cat lovers over the years, but having both grown up with dogs, we do thoroughly revel in a good dog fix when we can get it. Oh, and as the last picture shows, BAU house is also home to the bravest cat in Korea, Sarang (“love”). The sole feline resident of the establishment, she’s as calm and loving as can be, and just sits there purring, observing the fray of canine silliness with a look of bemusement on her face.

 

bauhouse.jpg

Seoul, Mapo-gu 서울시 마포구

Seogyo-dong 서교동 405-13번지 3rd floor 바우하우스

02-334-5152

This is a really nice part of Hongdae, with a great sangria bar, gourmet bibimbap place, and coffee shop in the immediate area.

Here are the best directions I can offer.
If you can bring your dog on the subway:

-Exit from Hapjeong Station (합정역) exit #3

-Walk straight ahead to first big intersection
-Turn right, walk straight ahead, over slight hill
-At Koryo restaurant, where the street bends left, turn right

-At the Praha Castle, turn left
-Walk straight ahead, Bau house is on the 3rd floor of a building on your left.

 

If you have to drive: If you come early enough in the evening. You can park on “parking lot street” that runs through the Hong Dae neighborhood. There are also parking spots here and there in the area.

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Quick Update

May 22, 2007

We were oh-so-sad to see our friends leave Seoul this AM, but could not have asked for a more wonderful visit with them.  At least we can re-live the memories on flickr.

 And now, it’s back to work for both of us….

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4 years and running, literally

May 12, 2007

If you have the misfortune of coming under my evangelistic gaze, I’ve probably bored and annoyed you once or twice by now with exhortations to go running, to start a running schedule or to work out X times a week. [In fact, I am so adamant about it, I now counter the “yaesu jaengi” (jesus freaks) who assail me on the streets of Seoul with antagonistic shouts of “yaesu mideusayo!” (Believe in Jesus!) with my own exhortations, “undong mideusayo!” (Believe in exercising!)] This “benchmark system” is something that I feel a passion for unlike few other things in life. I mean, I think meditation is great and all, but I know it isn’t for some people and might do more harm than good without the proper context, training, guidance, etc. But working out a certain time or length a week? It is quite simply the best thing that anyone, no exceptions, can do to immediately improve one’s life, cheaply and immediately, without buying any equipment or doing anything special.  And so, whenever I encounter a friend, acquaintence, or random stranger who looks in need of a pick-me-up, I always suggest embarking on a workout schedule where they pledge themselves to a certain level of working out that they will never again fall below, ever.

I got started in this because of the impending metabolic changes that occur during the late 20s. No longer could I eat whatever I want and stay the same weight. Having realized this, I had begun working out semi-seriously, about 10 years ago, but it was always sporadic, something that I’d try to fit in if time and energy allowed. Of course, time and energy rarely allowed, because, like almost everyone else on the planet, I “was busy.” What followed were a series of workout spurts, interrupted by workout lulls that would only end with the drastic realization that I was once again growing whale-like and in immediate need of a serious course correction lest I become Homer Simpson, Jr. It was these course corrections, and the horrible pain they caused, mostly mental but also somewhat physical, the aching, the burning lungs that are inevitable for the first month of trying to get back in shape, that really impacted me. Eventually, I got pretty steady about working out, and thanks to Domincia, bless/curse her soul, I even started doing some races, including the 2002 L.A. Marathon.  The race itself was interesting, exciting, some parts fun, some parts torture. I finished under my goal time of sub-4 hours (3.58.48!), but only because I got lucky (I stopped checking my time around the time I sat down on the curb at mile 23 and asked a spectator for a beer…). What I found out during the whole experience, however, was the fact that the training was what was really fun. The Saturday morning long runs with Dominica will never be forgotten (and just searching on the links for these makes me a bit verklempt, sigh): Lafayette Park, Lake Merritt, Coyote Hills, and the 15 miler through the rough and tumble Redwood Park mountains as a winter storm brought sideways rain for some two+ hours! The problem was, though, that even with those great experience behind me, I would still have these lulls now and then.  The low point came in Spring 2003. The Christmas season had passed, and with it, the annual inevitable 10 pound weight gain. I was busy with graduate school, and low and behold, this spring the weight wasn’t coming off. Too busy, too tired, too tired, too busy. I missed whole weeks at a time, with no running at all, summer was coming, my biggest shorts were tight, and I was straining to get through 3 milers without much pain. So, one day, I just made a strange decision. I’m not sure why or how exactly it happened, I guess part of the credit certainly goes to Dominica who got me logging my running on an online journal called coolrunning.com, but I said to myself, I’ll never drop below 10 miles of running per week again.

As of yesterday, I just passed a milestone – 4 years in a row of running at least 10 miles every week. Now, for some of the hardcore folks, such a milestone is really laughable. There are the ironmen and ironwomen out there who haven’t missed a DAY of running for over 25 years. But for me, it’s made a huge difference in my life. I don’t need to make excuses any more, because there simply aren’t any. It’s like making excuses for not brushing your teeth, you just don’t, you brush your teeth instead cuz it’s simply what you do, part of life, something you can’t go without. So, I’ve rearranged my sense of normal, permanently. Through sprains, world travels (I’ve kept up the streak in France and Korea), colds, flus, and mild depression brought on by life’s inevitable setbacks, every week I’ve done at least 10 miles for some 200 plus weeks now. The fewest miles in a week – 10 (I ran .5 miles in my hiking boots and street clothes on the streets of suburban Chicago at 10.30 pm on a Sunday night ((my weeks start on Monday and go through Sunday midnight))). The most miles in a week – 35.2 (helping Dominica with her training for her second marathon ((I quit marathons after one, but thoroughly enjoyed helping D train for her second))). Now, I’m in the process of amping it up a little bit. Come September 10, 2007, I’ll have done one full year at 15 miles a week and I’m also throwing in a minimum of 100 situps and 100 pushups, too.
Given that I’m a bit superstitious, I hope this post won’t jinx me. Ah, whatever. I’ll start a new one if I must. I just wanted to save for prosperity this little (10)milestone of mine… and, if I can get just one more person to take up some lifelong weekly benchmark, I’ll consider my evangelism a success.

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odd sights in seoul

May 5, 2007

– two folks riding by on their bikes with huge parrots nested comfortably on their shoulder and handle bars, respectively

-an older gentleman, retired soldier from the looks of his all-fatigues sartorial choices, scooting along the same trail, on a tiny bicycle, with training wheels. He managed to rock both the “bad ass” and “childlike innocence” looks in one odd package.

-finally, also on the Hangang, a man walks across the river on a wire. Dang… don’t see that too often, do ya? And only a mile from home! Click on the pick to watch the video. Sadly, we didn’t have the camera two days earlier when we saw a more talented athlete accomplish the same task on a blustery day, by RUNNING across the wire… seriously… running. You know you are good at when you make other people who do something incredible look tame by comparison.

highwire

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bien arrivée

May 5, 2007

Just a quick post to let everyone know that I arrived safely to Korea. The plane ride was direct from Chicago to Seoul, and therefore the 13 hours actually seemed short in comparison to the 20+ hours it generally takes when transferring through Tokyo Narita. So far, we’ve been busy, but busy having fun playing, eating, and visiting friends and cousins before our friends arrive next Monday. “Real life” (i.e., back to teaching, research, and writing) begins after they leave. We’re making sure to photo document as much as we can, so you can check out the fruit of our efforts here.

Two noteworthy events/observations that are not mentioned on our flickr site: First, for some reason, I’m noticing more so than before that seemingly close to 90% of women in Seoul under 40 have undergone s’sangkapul, or double eyelid surgery. At only between $500-$1000 (compared to over $3,500 in the US) and with all of the social pressure to undergo the procedure (my own mother, for example, has told me that she’d be thrilled if I came back having had it done), it’s no surprise that natural eyelids are rapidly becoming a novelty. Speaking of suffering for beauty, it’s now also possible (and not surprisingly a Korean specialty) to have plastic surgery to obtain slim calves. Those who grew up with me know how much I complain about my own stumpy stems, but actually cutting out the calf muscles? Yikes. [So, if I come back with much bigger eyes and skinny legs, but unable to walk, you’ll know what happened!]

Secondly, the oddest thing happened yesterday in the subway. Matty and I were standing in the train on our way to my cousin’s house. I was holding a medium-sized giftbag and standing in front of a seated middle-aged man, who, after watching Matty and me speak for a bit, suddenly grabbed at my bag, as if he wanted to hold it. I refused and moved away from him. The only explanation we could come up with was that he was likely trying to show Matty (i.e., “whitey”) up by insisting to hold my bag, since no proper Korean man would allow his woman to hold a bag that he himself should have offered to carry. Maybe this wasn’t actually the case, but I have to wonder whether or not he would have done the same thing if Matty was Korean.