Wednesday, May 06, 2015


I didn't end up double-summiting on Tuesday, but I did get 20,000 steps in—something I haven't done for a long time. I was curious to see how much I'd fallen out of shape since leaving downtown Seoul and the small, centrally located mountain that had essentially saved my life (reduced weight, reduced resting heart rate, disappearing headaches, etc.).

As it turns out, I can still walk at a pretty robust pace. No one outraced me up the mountain or down the other side: I passed everyone who had been walking in the same direction.* This was surprising: if I walk with the daytime crowds, I normally get my ass handed to me either by bent-backed eighty-somethings or by angry-looking college girls far fitter than I am. I think that, because today was such a nice day for a walk, the bulk of the people I encountered were tourists merely out for a stroll, not people wanting to do some serious marching.

I took the subway down to Dongdae Ipgu Station, the Line 3 stop that's not far from Dongguk's jung-mun (i.e., middle gate). Instead of hitting the campus right away, I walked down to my old stomping grounds—the neighborhood where my yeogwan is—and stopped inside the glass-paneled CJ Building to grab a toilet and have myself a nice pre-walk dump. Turns out the ground-floor toilet was occupied: the single available stall had someone in it. I went downstairs to use the larger men's room... but that plan failed when I saw a sign saying they were refurbishing the restroom's interior. I mentally asked my intestines whether they'd be all right for the next little while; they whispered yes, so I marched several blocks over to Jongno Street and popped into Gwangjang Market. There, I sought out the stall that I normally visit when I'm buying armpit deodorant. (The Korean term for "armpit deodorant" was the title of a recent post.) The merchant had only one stick of deodorant (I normally get Gillette Clear Gel, which keeps me funk-free all day), which he sold me for W7,000. He told me to come back next time, and he'd have another stick ready for me.

With the deodorant now sharing space in my chest pocket alongside my cell phone, I headed back uphill to Dongguk University's main Seoul campus. I went inside my office and just sat there a while, drinking in the ambiance. It's been months since my last visit to the Seoul campus; the office looked completely unchanged. Apparently, though, things are less lively without yours truly around: on March 27, I got the following email from a coworker:

Well, Kevin, how's everything going up North?! Missing you here in the office, man—it's been like a morgue since the start of term.

The guy who wrote this is Irish; he might be missing all the raunchy, ribald jokes and the Europoseur pseudo-intellectualism that I bring to the office. I had another coworker who liked to run his girlfriend problems by me; I think I was something of a father confessor for him. Generally speaking, I got along well with everyone in the office, and just as my coworker misses my presence, I often find myself missing my colleagues. Teaching at the Ilsan campus is nice because it's quiet, but the isolation does have its downside.

After sitting in the office and ruminating for a while, I picked up a whiteboard marker and drew a parody of the Bat signal on the room's whiteboard: instead of flashing a bat, it flashed my face, with a huge "K" next to it—my way of saying "hey" to my coworkers.

I walked out the back of the campus and found my usual trailhead. The hike up the mountain along the ascending bus road was brisk; the air was cool, and the trees provided ample shade on the way up. As mentioned before, I passed everyone I encountered, eventually making it up the final, steep, 250-meter stretch at the very end. It was midafternoon, so all around me were tourists—mostly Chinese, but there were also some South Asians, Southeast Asians, Europeans, Japanese, and North Americans. As soon as I hit the top, I had the idea of grabbing a bus over at Seoul Station. I couldn't remember clearly, but I thought there would be a 9000 bus that went from Seoul Station to Madu Station. I elected to grab the 9000, ride to Madu, then switch to a local 080 or 081 bus for the final ride back to my place.

To walk to Seoul Station, I needed to go down the other side of the mountain. I tromped tiredly down the stone and wood steps, turned left when I got to the mountainside Hilton next to the border of Huam-dong, turned right at the street leading straight to Seoul Station, and found the proper platform to catch the 9000 bus. Before I could think about taking the bus, though, I was seized with the urge to take a dump, so I marched into Seoul Station, did my sacred duty, then marched back out to the bus stop.

Turned out, however, that 9000 was the wrong route number. I could tell that something was amiss as I watched the scenery passing by, and when I switched on my phone's GPS tracking, I saw that, if I stayed on the bus much longer, I'd be heading south to Suwon when what I really needed to do was head north to Goyang City. So I got off soon after that realization, grabbed a cab for Jongno 3-ga Station, and took the Line 3 subway back to Madu. Grabbed the 080 bus at Madu, trundled back to my neighborhood, and walked enough steps to bring my step count for Tuesday, May 5, up to a perfectly even 20,000 steps. All in all, Tuesday was a proud day for me, and a much-needed reminder of what it means to have a workout.

In the end, I didn't do my hoped-for double-summiting, but I'm not going to beat myself up about that. A single-summiting was fine. I got my steps in.

Now I just need to keep that up.

*Hell, I even passed people who were walking in the opposite direction! Fancy that!


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