Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Golden Goose and my new mountain

Let's start with second things first and move back to first things.

After work today, I got a wild hair and decided to explore Daemo-san (I talked about it here) the mountain that sits almost exactly a mile away from Daecheong Station, the subway station that's right next to Daecheong Tower, my soon-to-be residence. The map made the walk to Daemo-san look easy and direct enough: it's a straight shot south from Daecheong Station to the foot of Daemo-san. So in the heat and humidity, I schlepped a mile over to the mountain, and it was indeed easy to get to. As the map showed, there's a robotics high school; you see a night-blurred picture of one of its buildings above. Seoul Robotics High School in southeast Seoul might or might not be a prestigious school; I've done no research on it (but you can start here if you want), so I don't know whether all its graduates go on to stellar academic careers at KAIST. I'm pretty sure, though, that the use of the Google Android icon as the school's mascot is illegal—a shameless copyright infringement. Seems apropos, given what it says about modern Korean culture: the school supposedly encourages creative thinking, but no one had enough imagination to design an original mascot.

If you look closely in the photo (again, sorry for the blur and graininess; it was after 8PM, and digital cameras suck in bad lighting conditions), you'll see the shoulder of Daemo-san in the background. You'll also notice the upward slope of the ground: the school is located right at the foot of the mountain. I took a guess and skirted around behind the school in search of a hiking path. I found one, and it began formidably with a sloppy, poured-concrete slope that rose at almost a thirty-degree angle, leaving the school's campus far below. I chugged upward, listening to the night sounds of the mountain forest to my right and to the pok-pok sounds of tennis being played below and to my left. I was gambling that this wasn't merely some access road: my hope was that I had found one of the mountain's many trailheads.

Sure enough, I struck gold: this was indeed a trailhead, and where the poured-concrete slope leveled off, high above the school, a large map of the mountain had been set up. The map showed several subsidiary paths and a few larger paths; one such path spanned the entire ridge of the mountain, which delighted me, because I was hoping I'd be able to walk the entire five-mile ridge. One fact sobered me, though: it turns out that Daemo-san is only half of the dragon's body. What I had thought was one big, long mountain turned out to be two mountains, and the other mountain is named Guryong-san (Nine Dragons Mountain). If I'm not mistaken, there's another, more famous Guryong-san somewhere south of Seoul; this must be its modest, stunted cousin.

So I'm set as far as hiking goes. From the trailhead I found, I can hike up to the mountain's crest, turn right, and follow the ridge over both peaks—Daemo-san's and Guryong-san's. In theory, I could spend a whole day just hiking that ridge back and forth three or four times. That would be a memorable workout.

Earlier in the day, I spoke with the demanding Mr. Y, the Golden Goose executive who had given me that sudden load of work to do. Mr. Y insists on speaking to me in rapidfire Korean, so I spend a lot of my time just smiling and nodding at what I hope are the appropriate moments to nod. I do get the gist of what he's saying to me, but I don't have the vocabulary and grammar knowledge to follow every little thing he's saying. Mr. Y, being one of the company's big cheeses, like to hear himself talk, and when he talks, he talks at length. It's more that he discourses, really.

Today's discourse included another assignment. Since my regular boss is on vacation, I suspect Mr. Y feels free to use me as his personal resource. This will change once my boss returns. For now, my vacationing boss has emailed that it's best to keep Mr. Y mollified by doing what he asks because Mr. Y, being a high-level executive, will have a large say in my eventual hiring.

And that was part of what Mr. Y and I talked about today. Mr. Y broached the topic with a question: "So what's going on with your being hired here?" I explained my visa situation, noting that I'd likely have to wait until sometime in October before I could draw up a contract with the Golden Goose. Mr. Y frowned and then said something that was music to my ears: "Nah, we could probably bring you in earlier than that." I don't know exactly what time frame is implied by "earlier than that," but if "earlier than that" means "before August 30," that would be marvelous. Mr. Y made clear that he didn't have the final say on my hiring: that would be up to the company president. But he also mad clear that he was on board: like my immediate boss, he likes me a lot and wants to see me become part of the company.

So I'm ecstatic to have two heavy hitters—my boss and Mr. Y—in my corner, advocating for me. I've told myself that, once I'm full-time and on salary with the Golden Goose, I'll simply commit to working there—no questions, no complaints (well... almost no complaints). With the huge jump in salary, the nearly free housing, and the chance to continue working weekends at KMA, this really is a decent setup for old Uncle Kevin. I told Mr. Y that I think the three of us need to sit down together and talk further about this "bringing Kevin in earlier than that" business. Mr. Y concurred. How wonderful it would be to, say, begin working full-time in August. I wouldn't receive my first paycheck until September, but the timing would be perfect: I'd be getting about $3,500, which would allow me to both buy my plane ticket to the States and get a hanbok made in plenty of time for Sean's wedding.

Stuff to do, money to earn, and a new mountain to climb. Life is good.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

It appears you are on a roll as well! It was fortuitous that you made the up close and personal connection with Mr. Y. Here's hoping they can bring you on board next month.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Is it "wild hair" or "wild hare"?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Charles said...

I hope things work out with the early hiring!

So I'm just catching up with what's been going on with you; you're in the south of Seoul now? If you are where I think you are, then I lived at the foot of the Guryong-san for a short while some time back. It was always nice for hiking, and there used to be a spring(약수터) that HJ and I would go to for walks in the evening.

And if that's the same Daemo-san, then I think you should just refer to it as "the big mother" in all future posts. "I climbed up the big mother and then went over to the nine dragons," etc.

(You know where Guryong-san gets its name, right?)

Kevin Kim said...

John Mac,

Fingers and tentacles are crossed.


The Straight Dope (or, rather, The Straight Dope's worshippers) asks the same question. At this point, I assume the spelling/diction is regional. "Wild hair" comes from "a wild hair up the ass," whereas "wild hare" is a self-evident, and fairly countrified, metaphor. (Not too many wild hares in the city.)


Thanks, as always, for your patronage of the blog.

I've heard a certain legend associated with nine dragons, but I'm not sure it's the one you're thinking of. The story I'd heard or read was rather exciting, and it ended with the dragons flying through the air and smashing into a mountainside. Is that crazy talk?

Am still in Goyang, but Golden Goose is located by Daechi Station, near Yangjae. I work part-time at GG on Tuesdays. Won't be moving back to Seoul until the end of August, and unless I do get hired early, I don't expect to be full-time at GG until October. At the end of August, I'll have one of three options:

1. move into my Ajumma's apartment for a month or two until I'm hired by GG.
2. move into a yeogwan for a month or two if Ajumma's building is full.
3. move straight into Daecheong Tower if I'm hired before the end of August.

Perhaps a more authoritative story about Nine Dragons Mountain is here.

Charles said...


The one I've always heard with regard to that mountain is the one you're thinking of. The one you cite doesn't sound nearly as exciting (or, for that matter, really have anything to do with dragons, other than perhaps the yin-yang connotations of dragons and tigers).

And I've read recent posts about your upcoming move, but somehow did not make the connection that you had not moved yet. Or had a brain fart. Or both.