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Tag: exercise

Tourism and Voyeurism

It is a common psychological trait among blog-writers and Internet authors to assume that, not only are you unbelievably witty and insightful, but that everybody is interested and/or/in paying attention to you. There is a theory about people on the Internet which goes something like this:

THE INTERNET: ANONYMITY + FREE SPEECH = AWFUL PEOPLE

Unbelievably clean. It doesn’t even smell like the Tube.

Just like it’s easier to sound more intelligent in a text than it is when confronted with actual, spontaneous human interaction, it’s easy to come across as quick-witted when you have time to Think Before You Say. Perhaps the egotism of online geeks (myself enthusiastically and unashamedly included) is rooted in the comparative glory of ‘viewer counts’ compared to being largely overlooked by other people in the street; I don’t know. My greatest claim to fame on the ‘Net is a photo of me punching myself in the face.

Not so for a Westerner in Namyangju, it appears.

Being stared at is something we have become accustomed to, as Namyangju is  outside the metropolitan multilingual hub of Seoul and, while there are a damn sight more Koreans who speak English than vice versa in London, the language/cultural barrier is akin to the Berlin Wall. We can mumble hello, thank you, goodbye, where is the toilet but that’s about it in terms of social interaction. Being 6’2 (as my doctor tells me I apparently am, he said smugly despite not knowing it at the age of 23), Caucasian and somewhat bearded is enough to warrant people actually turning on the spot to stare at the back of my unkempt head; in Meg’s case we are told that having naturally wavy hair and sluttishly displaying one’s shoulders to the sun results in envious/outraged stares.

We’re lucky, apparently – while waiting to be called to our table at a restaurant in Itaewon we got talking with an African-American couple, the Williams, who have been living in the same area of Seoul for over a year but are still stared at every single day by the same neighbours, whereas we only receive passing glances for the most part. To quote Mr. Williams: ‘I mean, come on guys – we saw you yesterday, and the day before, and the day before – you know us by now!’

On Chuseok, pretty much the whole undercity is deserted – cue waving arms and running.

Not to say this even slightly prevents our flagrant and disgusting displays of Englishness wherever we go. I suspect I blind people in direct sunlight with my translucent skin.

Note the Cath Kidston-esque treasures.

 

 

 

 

 

I realise that the last few posts have become less a recounting of my experiences and more attempts at profound introspection, and I apologise to family members for this filial transgression. To summarise: we have gone for dinner at aforementioned furniture dealer family’s house and been subjected to smartphone photoshoots avec Chuseok fireworks; we have explored a (real) consumer heart of Seoul, Myeongdong; I have been subjected to round 2 of Boot Camp on the otherwise scenic lake and returned at night tonight for photos and carnivorous insects; we have raided the ‘sample electronics’ sale at Emart and wandered off with an otherwise pristine Canon photo printer for £15 with no small amount of pride.

Still ‘sploring at every opportunity, and picking up around 1 word a week. Slow progress, but on the bright side I now know the words for ‘(restaurant)bill’ – kyesanso – and ‘delicious’ – mashisseyo! Almost as helpful as the oft-used French expression je suis un papillon.

Tomorrow holds another venture into Seoul to try our hands at Namdaemun Market, which may or may not still be entirely closed for Chuseok. If not, I fully intend to smear the windows of as many camera shops as is physically possible, despite the fact that, were I even remotely able to afford said equipment, it would be ethically(/legally/medically) better-spent on repaying the queue of financial favours which got me to this point. One way or another, it should be an exercise in cultural wonderment and disappointment.

How British.

Courtesy of Mr. Ryu’s phone. Just to prove that we are capable of socialising.

 

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It’s Working Out So Far

The running route. Hideous, isn’t it?

Before I begin, I would like to establish that this title is in no way any of the following:

A) a proclamation of my Herculean metabolism and/or proactive outlook on life,

B) an exercise of self-guilt by informing the world of my routine, thereby forcing myself to keep to it, or

C) even remotely indicative of my chemical inclinations or lifestyle choices.

It is, however, a desperate attempt to ingeniously focus on the ‘working’ of ‘working out’. Specifically, the narcolepsy-inducing combination of exercise and working with children.

This happens literally every time we attempt to wash clothes. Judging by the waterproof paint five inches up the wall, this particular water-feature is intentional…

To summarise the pre-shift morning today: wake up, swear, attempt to return to dream. Conscience overrides craving. Highly supportive Meg mentally preps me for first run in Korea/months, to which I respond with grunts and negativity (standard).

Run itself feels like I’m approximately two-thirds of a mile from the surface of the Sun, and climaxes spectacularly with me tripping on the pavement and crashing slow-motion into a vegetable stall, sending bags of garlic flying. Choe soong hamnida, choe soong hamnida, choe soong hamnida, I mutter as I restock the table and run with a hitherto unseen haste and athleticism.

However, I know as well/better than any the tedium of reading about another’s exercise habits; either I’m doing far less than you and it’s amateur (likely), or I’m doing far more than you (unlikely) and I sound Full Of It. I assure you, I do not work out with anything approaching willingness.

One of many neon crosses dotted around the area. I gather it’s not so much a ‘Church Here’ sign as a personal expression of faith…?

To refer to previous social experiences, we are now official friends with the Ryu family, which we know to be true as they told us so. When we dropped in to see them yesterday, they gave us (refusing payment) a glass surface, chopping board, packets of bizarre-yet-delicious blueberry energy drink (…?) and, while leaving, casually picked a pot of yellow daisies from the shop for our house. We’ve given up working out exactly how many favours we need to return, but are intent on taking them out to dinner, finances permitting…

Meg, admiring more antiques.

There’s something wonderful and strange about having lived in a country for two weeks and already being able to greet a familiar shopkeeper, be invited to sit in the corner and be offered tea while they run the shop. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before I give in to braces, chain-smoking and leering at women and weyguks(foreigners) from a plastic table outside. I can base my persona on a particularly wicked character in a restaurant yesterday who continued to grin, gesticulate and cackle at us in Korean as we ate his recommended (justifiably so) Korean stew. His gestures seemed to indicate our ‘couple’ status repeatedly and energetically; we’re still unsure if he was offering advice on wholesome nutrition or enthusiastically telling us it was an aphrodisiac.

Meg and myself cross the pond to Jess Neale, in all her wonderful Englishness. It means a lot.