Wednesday, January 14, 2015

much accomplished

Today might be one of the only days in my life on which I actually accomplished every item on my to-do list. Life coaches everywhere are having orgasms. Haircut? Done. Bank transfer? Done, and I finally signed up for online banking. Electric heater? Purchased—and running as I type this. Gift for my student? Bought, and I'll box and wrap it tomorrow evening. Train tickets? Done. Eat at California Pizza Kitchen? Eaten, baby! All this traveling and purchasing wiped out my account, alas, but I can make that up (in fact, the ability to recuperate lost finances rapidly might be a topic for another "frank" post later on). I even managed to get in a 16,405-step walk, which puts me right on track for this month: thus far, I'm averaging over 15K steps, which is definitely a new record.

When I get back from Yeosu, I'm going to see about joining a boxing gym. There's one up the street, it turns out—not too far from the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, just a 25-minute walk from my place. It's called Boxing Diet, and I'm pretty sure it's primarily designed for fat kids (this is the same cultural role to which taekwondo, once this country's proud national sport, has now been relegated: TKD is like league soccer in America, i.e., just a way for parents to get their kids to do something other than watch TV or obsess over their smartphones). I don't know whether Boxing Diet teaches actual boxing, but if it gets me doing a ton of situps/crunches, pushups, pullups, jumprope, medicine ball, kettle bells, running, and who-knows-what else, that'll be a good thing. And if the "diet" component of Boxing Diet focuses on good eating, then maybe I'll learn something from that, too. (True, it could end up just being a bunch of gimmicky high-carb bullshit, but I'll keep an open mind for the moment.) If I start the boxing regime in late January and work out through February, I might be visibly thinner come March. It's time to break through this plateau that I've been on for so long.

I did, however, recently dip below the plateau: I was down from 119 to 116 kilograms until the CPK binge; I imagine that today's orgy of Western food—my only meal of the day—put me back up around 118 or even 120 kilograms (thanks to all the soda refills, which were surprisingly prompt and frequent). Before today, I'd been putting myself through the rigors of the kimbap diet, and had even lost a couple kilos. There's nothing quite like exercising and not eating to make a person lose weight. The body might want to drop into starvation mode, but by exercising, one is preventing the body from holding on to its coveted calories, forcing it to burn them. Besides, I was eating two rolls of kimbap a day, which comes out to about 700 calories. That's hardly a starvation diet. Christian Bale was averaging 150-200 calories a day, for four months, on his grueling "Machinist" diet.

The guy who sold me my new heater was a trip. I had come to him wanting to buy an oil-based electric radiator; he had one in stock, but after I told him about my living circumstances, he persuaded me to buy something smaller and cheaper: an electric heater that is little more than a glorified lantern, like something out of the movie "Dragonslayer." "It heats up faster than an oil heater, and it doesn't use nearly as much electricity. And the oil heater will make your power go out," he said. "Also, even though the oil heater uses a lot of electricity, it really doesn't produce that much heat." He also said the smaller heater would set me back W55,000, but at the last minute, just as I was about to ask him for a discount of W5,000, he made the discount himself and asked me for only W50,000. Then he told me, "If you have any problems with the heater, don't throw it away; just bring it back and I'll switch it with a new one." Nice guy. And the heater seems to be working perfectly ("It's made in Korea!" he'd said proudly), so I don't think he secretly fucked me.*

My experience at Shinhan Bank, however, went the opposite way: as pleasant as it had been to speak with the heater guy, it was decidedly unpleasant trying to sign up for online banking. This wasn't the fault of the Shinhan Bank staffer who helped me; she was an extremely friendly and efficient woman who has worked with me before, and if it hadn't been for her expertise, I would have been utterly lost. The process of applying and registering for online banking is labyrinthine, byzantine, serpentine, philistine— pick your "-ine" adjective. I had to create and use three different passwords just to set up online banking for my cell phone.

When the lady asked me whether I wanted to set up my computer as well, I quickly said "no," because she had already mentioned that I'd need the same electronic certificate as the one now installed on my phone. I knew, from bitter experience with both Dongguk University and Catholic University the year before, that the electronic certificate would be an .exe file, which can't run on a Macintosh without even more special software. Having already spent the better part of an hour just setting up my phone, I told the lady that I had no interest in setting up my computer for online banking. Besides, the only online function that matters to me is the ability to check my account balance remotely. If I can do that from my phone, that's fantastic.

The lady gave me a plastic card covered in numbers; apparently, this was if I wanted to do online bank transfers. The card's jumble of numerals was there for security purposes: before doing any transfers, the user has to answer a series of questions like "What is the first digit of the third pair of numbers on the third row of figures on your card?" That sounded absolutely insane to me; as I told my buddy Tom later, there's no way in hell that I'm going to do an online transfer via cell phone; I'll just stick to ATMs, where transferring is much easier and more straightforward, thanks.

My California Pizza Kitchen experience was all right; the restaurant's interior had that familiar CPK-ish feel to it, and the service was better than I expected: the appetizer came out first, and the main course came out several minutes later, giving me time to enjoy the appetizer—a small quesadilla, in this case—in peace. (Korean-run Western restaurants often plop the appetizers and main courses down in front of you at the same time, which means you have to rush to eat everything while it's still hot. The gesture often feels rude, as if the restaurant staff were telling you to leave early for the sake of turnover.)

The main course, a standard pizza, was quite good, though it seemed a wee bit smaller than I remembered from my many visits to CPK in America. The dessert, a "chocolate-mousse torte," was nothing to write home about: I could taste the refrigeration in the cake, which is never a good sign. Next time, I'll do dessert somewhere else. Before I left, I asked the lady how long this particular branch had been here; she said it had started up five years ago. I also asked how late the kitchen was open; she said you could order food until 10PM, which sounded fine by me. Finally, I asked her for a copy of the menu; my brother David used to work at CPK, and I wanted to show him what was on offer at the Korean branch so he could compare those items with the American version's menu. In all, it was a positive experience; now that I know this CPK branch exists, I'll very likely be back.

So that's where things stand. I got all my to-do's done, and there's only final prep left to go before I'm off to Yeosu on Thursday. Actually, no, that's not exactly right: I'm off to Daegu on Thursday, and will stay overnight there because there's no train to Yeosu from Daegu after 3PM. The lack of afternoon local trains felt a bit third-world to me, but be that as it may, I'm staying overnight in Daegu and taking the train to Yeosu the following morning. Because of the one-day delay, I've extended my stay at the beach until Tuesday.

Am looking forward to this, drained bank account or no.

*Oil-based radiators are cheap in the States, costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-$60 for a decent midrange heater, and up to $150 for a top-tier, multifunction unit. In Korea, the exact same heaters cost almost three times as much. Back when I was living in Hayang, I went to the local Hi-Mart during the winter and saw oil radiators on sale for about W120,000 to W140,000. Crazy. So I just bought a tiny heater, in Korea, for the cost of a large American heater in the States.


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