Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Night Walkers

Can I just vent to you here for a second?

Ok. So. I should first set this up by explaining to you that during the day, next to no one is out on the jogging path next to the river. It would be perfect if it weren't so dadgum hot outside right now. I swear, I've never experienced so much back sweat in my life! Too far? Sorry.

Anyway, Koreans (who are clearly much smarter than me), limit their time outside during the day (apart from the farmers),
1. because it's effing hot.
2. (and this is probably the bigger reason) to protect their skin from the sun. Not as much to prevent skin damage as to avoid becoming darker-complected. What a foreign concept to us Americans, huh?

...which means that everyone must do their exercising when it gets darker, right? Right. But just hang on a second there...

I, personally, go running or biking at night,
1. because I don't particularly like the fullness of daylight allowing others to see me -- with my long, gangly limbs flailing about awkwardly -- run. I just don't.
2. because my dadgum (I'm aware that I've pulled that word out twice now) job keeps me till 8pm.

Therefore, I must go out among the horde of night walkers. And, boy, you don't even know...

I went on a 30-minute bike ride the other night, and because I had forgotten my iPod at work, decided to occupy my mind by counting every person I had to maneuver around on the path. One hundred fourteen and a dog. ONE HUNDRED FOURTEEN STINKIN' PEOPLE AND A DOG! And this was at 9pm! At night! And I didn't even take the main path that most people go on. I took the loner path across the river. Clearly wasn't as abandoned as I had hoped for... I imagine the number would've been at least tripled had I taken the main path. I tell ya -- it's like a party out there. Not only is the jogging path -- it's 3-laned, mind you -- swallowed up by so many people. But there are actually huddles of ladies lying out on blankets in the middle of the basketball court. And a tent. There was actually a tent with people cooking in front of it. It was like Wednesday night, too. I guess that's actually kinda cool, though. I would totally do the tent thing.

So besides the people, there are the bugs. Millions of them. There's a cloud of them surrounding every light pole and I smack into every cloud, every time. I'm certain I've consumed a fair amount of protein by now. Oh, and spider webs. They just float around everywhere, unseen; waiting to tangle their stringy, invisible selves around you. I was absolutely covered the other night.

While I am aggravated right now, strictly for selfish reason, deep down, I'm actually really happy that so many people in this country are so concerned with staying active. Because the majority of those I see out at night are actually the 50-plus-aged population. I even had a bike race with a 70-something elderly man once, who couldn't bear to let a young, foreign girl pass him up. I eventually let him win, for fear of heart attack on his part. But he stood his ground for sure. I'm almost certain the average 70-something American man wouldn't be able to hold up the way he did. So props to the elderly here. We should definitely learn from them. This has got to be one of the most healthy countries.

And while on a positive note, I feel I should also balance this post out with two reasons why I DO love this country:
1. Today, I was buying some plums from a sweet lady in the market. The total was 3,000won ($3 for 5 plums) and I only had 2,000won. Instead of just giving me less plums, which is what I actually wanted, she --without ever having met me before, nor knowing whether I would ever actually come back again -- told me to just pay her the rest next time. What a doll. That just doesn't happen where I'm from.

2. The 7/11 outdoor bar. Yes, I'm referring to your good ol', neighborhood 7/11 convenience store. We have those here, too. But they all have tables and chairs and umbrellas outside of them, and my friends and I have taken to skipping the bar altogether and going to 7/11 instead. It's so cheap! Korea has these wonderful 1,000won ($1) bags of juice in so many different flavors that come with a cup of ice, and we like to mix those with our 1,500won bottles of soju for a delightful and inexpensive cocktail. Then, of course, just sit outside under the striped umbrella and watch all of hundreds of night walkers pass us by, since you can actually do that in Korea. Sit outside in public and drink, that is. We could even walk and drink if we wanted to. But why do that when we have 7/11. :)

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