Home > Employment, Life > Summer in Seoul, part two

Summer in Seoul, part two

Sleep

Over the past four weeks, I’ve been teaching summer classes at the hagwon, and this has involved getting into work for 8:30 (or thereabouts) six days a week. As I can’t really go to sleep between about 9 pm and 3 am, this schedule presented some problems, and for the first two weeks I wasn’t especially punctual (although I was never late for a class – that happened occasionally in Ansan).

I seem to have got used to the early starts, though. I don’t like them, but either my body has acclimatised somewhat, or – much more likely – I’ve simply learnt how to manage my sleeping better. In particular, I’ve been in the habit of going to bed as soon as I get in from work at, say, 5:45 pm. Then I either sleep for a few hours, get up for a few hours, and sleep again until my alarm goes off at 7:30, or I just sleep right through to around dawn.

북한산

On Saturday I had lunch after work with Botond. He offered to show me the library he went to, but then he suggested we could take advantage of the good weather to go up a mountain in Bukhansan National Park. After umming and ahhing for a bit I agreed to the second proposal.

As we started out, the sky was largely overcast, and it seemed that the little rain earlier on in the day had dissuaded the usual crowds from visiting the park. We got a bus, then walked up some roads through the forest, then on to a track leading to Baegundae, the highest peak in the area at 836.5 metres.

It was a fairly long walk. For the most part, these urban mountains are completely forested, but here you have great slabs of rock showing, usually near the summits. The paths through the woods are also often crudely paved with rocks. We passed a campsite – or at least Bo said we did: the trees made it difficult to see anything at any distance. Then, following a path following a stream, we also went by a small temple – where we stopped to gather fresh water running from the stream into a large covered plastic bowl and out through a pipe. This temple also had a white shag-haired dog, a little like an old English sheep dog.

We also stopped briefly at a gate in the old fortifications. Bo climbed up on to the wall and followed it upwards along the newly rebuilt section looking terribly incongruous with its bright grey stone. From here there was a wooden staircase and then we were on the rock face. The climb to the summit from here was a little challenging, but was made possible by the steps carved into the rock and the metal railings driven into the mountain and joined with thick steel rope.

Bukhansan National Park

And then we were at the summit. The view across Seoul was obstructed only by Baegundae’s sibling peaks, Insubong and Mankyeongdae (there is a movement to rename Bukhansan Samgaksan, which means Three Horn Mountain; Bukhansan means North Han Mountain (‘Han’ referring to the Chinese dynasty)), but it was spectacular. The sky had cleared so it was mostly blue, but with some clouds drifting across, and the sun was setting. I filled the remaining space on my camera’s memory card – more than once, as I kept deleting extraneous shots to squeeze in a few extra.

Darkness fell in earnest as we descended. Bo had a headlamp – without its light the descent would have been tricky. We stopped again at the little temple to get more water and were given an apple each.

30th

On our last Friday before the break, Botond, youngster that he is, was 30. His wife, So Young had been in touch with me previously to enlist my help in arranging a surprise party for him. I’d been informed a couple of weeks earlier that there had been calls for me at the hagwon from a Korean woman who said she was a friend but left no name. Eventually, I called back – but not before mentioning it to Bo, who said he’d ask at home.

Anyway, the plan for a party at Bo and So Young’s place was replaced by one to go for a meal. Not wanting to be late, I arrived well beforehand, wandered up and down the street for a while. Then settled to wait in front of the restaurant in the drizzle, umbrella up. A while later a couple of westerners approached and headed towards the restaurant’s entrance – I turned as they passed and there to greet them were So Young and a friend of hers.

Also in attendance was So Young’s sister; another couple of guests were late – as was Botond; the western couple were Hungarians in Korea for a year to learn the language. The meal was galbi – often described as a barbecue – and it was the first time I’d had it since being back in Korea. When I’ve had galbi in the past there have only been a couple of different types of lettuce to wrap up your morsel of meat, kimchi, beansprouts etc, but here there were at least eight different kinds. For dessert someone had brought a cake that tasted like cheesecake, but had a very soft texture – in fact, it fell apart when it was cut.

Bo received an electronic dictionary and some brie among his presents. I’m slightly embarrassed to say I hadn’t even thought about buying him something.

Hirsute return

With the early starts for the summer classes, it’s been easy to neglect to shave. I’ve taken advantage of this to grow another beard – my third, or maybe fourth, this year. And this time I’ve opted for a format I’ve never had before – shaved on the neck and central cheeks, leaving a band of beard all along the jawline and around the mouth. I think it looks pretty good.

Whilst growing it, I’d had a few comment from my students comparing me to 예수님 – Yesunim: -nim being an honorifc suffix, Yesu from the Latin. In other words, Jesus. Although, for a time, while I had only scalloped out a little area of bristle from my cheeks, and while my hair was in the right condition, I looked more like a member of the Beegees.

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Categories: Employment, Life
  1. 26 September 2008 at 4:19 am

    This was fun to read now. Before that dinner Soyoung told me it would only be the three of us with her sister but I had a feeling that Yesunim might show up and he did 🙂

  2. 26 September 2008 at 6:29 am

    I was happy to bless you with my presence. 🙂

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