Sunday, April 22, 2012

Death March! (And barely alive April)

Hike Bukhansan day arrived early.. far earlier than it should have, courtesy of my clinically insane wife who arose at about 7:15 to get over the Seoul 4.19 Monument ‘in time’ for the Uni-wide hike up the mountain. This was insane because history demonstrates that NO ONE except the most anal retentive divisions (proctology, accounting and seminary studies – but with them it’s a BAD thing!) actually head up the hill before 10 or so. It was also insane because Yvonne’s pre-game approach to this early morning departure was to stay up the previous night until about 5 am.  I should note, that as I tippety-tap this out, she is absolutely unconscious in the next room and could be sold into any kind of slavery without the slightest whimper.

I slept an hour or so, then had a leisurely toilette, as we gentlemen of leisure do, and then a bit of breakfast. It was a quick bus ride to Samgakji Station (named after an octopus meal so immoderately inedible that it quickly became a Korean favorite) and then the subway to Yusu station. Disembarking there I got into the line for the Dongguk Bus Shuttle, and waited patiently until it had shuffled forward to the point that I was less than 15 folks from getting in. It was full, but as it was a shuttle, we weren’t concerned. Until, with scores of us in line and more arriving, some guy announced it had been the last bus.
I called a few people who, noting my phone number on their smart screens, refused to answer. Finally professor Kim answered (from home – she was wise enough to avoid the whole damn mountain climb) and I asked her to send me the name of the memorial we were to meet at.
Which she did, and the number of another faculty member who was going on the hike. I noticed three young-types with suspiciously bulging backpacks – just the sort of miscreants who might be at a University and embarking on a hike, and asked them if they were going to the mountain. I asked this in Korean, which engendered quite a bit of who-hawery from them, but in the end we all got in a taxi and headed off to the launching point.
Where I couldn’t find the department and called the professor who was with them. Except he wasn’t. He had got lost on a bus route and was struggling to make it. Somewhere along the way I ran into the foreign student contingent, and Yvonne, who was hiking with them.
I decided to start up the trail and find my department at the top. As I rounded the corner out of the memorial towards Bukhansan, one of the office staff materialized in front of me, and I realized I was just about to walk past the group.
Girls Clowning on the Pre-March
Instead, I sat there, and munched on kimbap that the staff had brought and pocketed an odd saran-wrapped package of trail food that included loose nuts (a problem I have often had), cucumber slices, loose cherry tomatoes (thank god I have never been afflicted), and two small candy bars. After two hours in my left pocket this mish-mash was reduced to the world’s most unattractive smoothie, and I jettisoned it at the first garbage can I could find.
After more waiting around we decided to head up the hill and let the laggard professor catch up with us.
So it was up to Bukhansan, on the way to which I shot several pictures including the two below. It was only when I looked at the pictures that I realized that despite the loose look of the formation, each row was walking in lockstep (look at the feet of the women in the front). LOL, how very Korean.


The hike up was the usual stop and go affair, punctuated by my favorite thing ever; the anguished look of hikers trying to navigate their way down from the mountain in the face of the Dongguk Wave. These are just ordinary citizens who went out on what they thought would be an ordinary hike and then ended up fighting the tide.

The lost professor caught up with me, but when the department (the students that is) stopped for a Makeolli break only a third of the way up, I just kept hiking. Just before the top, and a famous bottleneck, I caught up with some international students and, chatting with them, did have a couple of swigs of Makeolli, which made the short remainder of the trip, kind of glowy..
At the top we did the usual things.. had a bit of fried chicken (please note a technological advance, the “chicken eating plastic glove.” Last time we were all trying to eat chicken legs and wings with chopsticks, a daunting endeavor for even the handiest of chopstikers or chopstikettes), drank, and hooted.

I talked to what I call the “LA contingent” of students – ones who have lived in the US or Canada for long periods of time and don’t share the crippling shyness of some other Korean students.

After about 2 hours of that (and a raffle for an iPod) it was time to head back down.

On the Way Down
Two years ago we had headed down the backside of the mountain on a trail that would be illegal if submitted to judgment under the Geneva Convention.  This time we used a far nicer one, and I powered down the hill, far in advance of anyone else. At the bottom they noted that I was a “fast” walker. Ah, but in the day.. in the day I actually was; it’s just that I’m not a lollygagger.
On the Way Down
Anyway, the line at the single busstop was epic, and in a wise move we rented an 8 seat van-taxi which took us to Gupabal station for a mere 12 Chun. Horribly, and unaccountably, the train was full, so we had to stand all the way into Dongguk Station. From there it was  quick walk to a restaurant where we sat and ate, waiting for the students to arrive at which point we left.
Those last two steps kind of confused me, as I didn’t see why we had to wait around for the students if we were just going to immediately snub them (or get kicked out by them, depending on your interpretations).
Anyway, then it was off to the bar and the day was done..


Anonymous said...

sounds exhausting. Just why do you do that?

Charles Montgomery said...

It builds team spirit.