Some say that he has two left hands, and his nose can tell when it will rain. All we know is that he's called DFM.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Episode 57: In Which DFM Holds A Stack Of Bills Two Inches Thick And Fights A Korean

Today (Thursday) is the day of my big trip.  My train wasn't scheduled to leave until 8:10 PM, which was nice because I had a lot to do before then.

I spent most of the day trying to catch up on my backlogged blog posts, doing laundry and packing for my trip, but I also had to find time to rush over to Lee's office and pick up a package.  Thankfully my tendinitis seems to have settled down a bit and I did not notice an excessive amount of pain in my knees while running there (I had expected to be crippled for a month or more after my half-marathon).

Around 6 PM I took the subway to meet my boss.  I was supposed to get paid on Tuesday but there were some unfortunate bank errors that ended up pushing my payday back until today.  When I showed up, the errors still had not been cleared up yet, but my boss had been given a promise that the money would be ready by 7:30 PM.  

In the mean time my boss took me out for some dalkgalbi (spicy chicken pieces grilled with vegetables and rice cakes in a spicy sauce).  Not wanting to waste an opportunity to learn about Korean culture I asked about, and was treated to a lesson on the responsibilities of the first born son in Korea.  All too quickly 7:10 rolled around and we left to find a bank and get my money.  

After all was said and done I had about $1200 in cash in my backpack.  I did not have time to go back home and stash it, so I was forced to travel around with it.  In hindsight I'm glad I packed all my stuff along with me when I went to see my boss (my mother would be proud).

The KTX bullet train travels at 300 km/hr, so the trip to Cheonan/Asan took little more than 30 minutes.  After departing from the train, April and I took a cab to her friend's apartment where we would stay for the next two nights.

If my trip were to consist only of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Kim I would have still considered it a great success.  Mr. and Mr. Kim are both public school teachers.  Mr. Kim teaches regular subjects in Korean, while his wife teaches English to Junior High students.  With April and myself both teachers as well it made for some interesting conversations around the dinner table.

Speaking of dinner, Mr. Kim is a great cook and served me a great meal of delicious, home-made samgyetang.  My boss and friends had told me that Korean mothers always give young men a lot of food and expect you to eat it all.  Even though I had stuffed myself full of spicy chicken just a couple hours earlier, I pushed my way through the whole bowl and all the rice.  Mrs. Kim looked at my empty bowl and said "good boy."

My bosses lesson came in handy in other ways as well.  Mrs. Kim had told me earlier that she stayed with her parents-in-law.  My boss had told me the first born son always has to take care of his parents, so I mentioned to Mr. Kim that I thought he might be the eldest son.  Mrs. Kim was impressed and told me that April had told her I had a "Korean soul," and that now she understood what that meant.

I had noticed earlier a picture in a newspaper of a ssireum tournament taking place (traditional Korean wrestling), and after supper I asked Mr. Kim about it.  I soon found out that Mr. Kim has the spirit of a young man.  After trying to describe the sport to me in his limited English he had me stand up and we did some sparing.  I wasn't able to take him down, but I was able to block all of his attacks (Mr. Kim didn't count on my past experience as a wrestler).  It's a good thing the Kims live on the ground floor.

Mr. Kim gives me hope for my own middle age.  Not only did he want to wrestle me on this night, but on another night he challenged me to an arm wrestling contest.  I can tell he's as competitive as I am, and it's a good thing someone called the arm wrestling match a draw because both of us would have continued fighting until someone became injured.  

Mr. Kim also showed me his numerous medals for running, including one from a recent Seoul International Marathon and another for running 13 km barefoot through the woods.  He also had a certificate for his successful summit of a 5005 meter peak in Nepal last year.  To put that feat in perspective, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mt. Robson, is less than 4000 meters, and the mountains I have been hiking around Seoul are about 700 to 800 meters.

I could have stayed up talking with the Kims all night, but it soon grew late and the Kims had to get up early and teach the next day.

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