Monday, 16 April 2012

An Awful Lot of Running

“Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when it's morning again, they'll wash away.”
- Katniss Everdean

I was looking forward to this weekend for several reasons the main one being that it was the first weekend in three weeks that Natalie and I had the chance to be lazy and do whatever we wanted. Not that I haven’t enjoyed having company, as I obviously have, and would rather opt for my friends and family to still be here than to have a lazy weekend, however, it felt good to have the opportunity to relax.

Friday night was incredibly lazy as we literally did nothing apart from bum around the apartment and cook dinner. We did watch ‘The Iron Lady’ which was thoroughly enjoyable and exquisitely English. Although, it lacked direction and wasn’t really sure about what it wanted to say about Margaret Thatcher it was great entertainment, which was all I was really looking for on Friday. Sometimes, although you’re living miles away from home in exciting new places you need to take the time out, to kick back and do something ordinary. So, I guess we embraced that.

Saturday morning we awoke to the new comedy drama by Ricky Gervais: ‘Derek’, which was everything I wanted it to be and more. If all television was that heart-warming and genuine then I’m sure that the world would be a much better place. Deciding that we had watched enough television for one morning we got up and headed into town with Nathanael. We were mistaken initially as it wasn’t market day like we had expected it to be, however, we headed to Kim’s Mart to pick up some essentials. It’s not really the most interesting adventure to write about however we did pick up some gimbop at the ‘Morning Cafe’. The usual cafe which we were used to purchasing our gimbop from has been closed for months now with no sign of reopening so we’ve had to venture on to new horizons.

The sun has been veraciously shining all weekend and we went up to the roof to eat our dinner. Call it a picnic if you will as we did have a blanket, cake, crisps and all the usual trimmings and we laid and basked in the sun that has been so dearly missed all winter. After eating and basking like a few lizards we decided to head down to the courtyard outside the school next door and play like children on the swings for a while. There’s something about swinging in the sun that makes me smile. We even spent at least half an hour trying to get a skipping rope down from a tree next to the swings. We succeeded and gave the skipping rope to a little girl that had been eyeing it up all afternoon. You do what you can.

So, the swings got boring after a while. We walked through a garden and read signs we couldn’t understand. We enjoyed the spring like weather because we didn’t know how long it would be hanging around for and we headed home. I finally watched ‘The Swell Season’ a film I’ve wanted to see for longer than I can remember and it didn’t disappoint. Nathanael cooked us all Cincinnati chilli for dinner which we ate on the roof. That was, Nathanael, Russell, Natalie and I, joined by Amanda briefly. That sentence was full of major grammatical errors which we won’t talk about. Cincinnati chilli was great, and Nathanael continues to master his culinary abilities. The sun set behind the mountains and a cool breeze wafted over the roof. Time to settle in for the night. Time to finally kick Nathanael’s ass at Scrabble.

As it happens, I did beat Nathanael at Scrabble, but it was a close competition. Russell was so furious that he lost that he challenged Nathanael and I to a race around the track at the school next door. How could we decline? I actually thought, naively, that I would win. Before coming to Korea I was running on a daily basis at the minimum of 2 miles and maximum of 4 miles a day. Running was my escape from the banality of my life. Oh gosh, that sounded rather arrogant didn’t it? I wasn’t really escaping from anything, what I meant to say is that running was an experience I longed for after work, it was a place where I could feel free for a short period of time and think over everything in my head. I genuinely miss running through the New Forest every Saturday. I used to park my car up at a small gravel parking lot behind the quaint English village of Burley and set off down the moors and through the forest, back along an abandoned railroad and along the side of the road back to my car. I miss that run immensely and one of the things I’m most looking forward to when I return to England is running it once more. Coming full circle.

However, since being in Korea I have been running maybe six times. That’s less than once a month. That’s shameful. What our race proved to me is that I can’t run like I could when I left England eight months ago and that is something I must remedy. Russell won. In fact he won twice. The first race started shamefully as we all fell over one another on the first corner when we joined up on the inside line. The second time it was close between Russell and I, but I kept slowing down on the corners, Russell came first fair and square, how shamefully disappointing. I thought, well, I’m not used to sprinting anyway, so, I challenged Russell to five laps. I started off confidentially but sprinted the first lap which was a mistake. I kept pace pretty steadily after that but on the fourth lap I could hear Russell catching me up and I didn’t have the energy to fight him, as he came around he overtook me and proceeded to kick my ass. Whilst, I don’t really believe in competition of any sort, especially when running (I prefer to run alone in the woods miles away from anyone) I felt a desire to prove to myself that I could still run, but alas, I can’t. Russell on the other hand can, although we were both rather red faced afterwards. I think I’m going to take up running again, once Natalie has left I’ll plonk on those shoes of mine and hit the trail. However, I don’t think there will be a re-match.

Bed time was inevitable after running at 9pm, and we settled down for an early night. Sleep is good.

On Sunday we arose at the break of dawn and got one of the early buses to Chuncheon. When we arrived nothing was open and the mission to get my haircut was proving fruitless. The main reason we headed to Chuncheon was to see ‘The Hunger Games’ a film which I had very sceptical expectations of. We purchased our tickets and walked around Myeong-dong for a while trying to find a hairdresser. We found a whole row of them right next to the cinema but as it was so early they were all closed. When I say early, I’m talking 10:30am. What hairdressers isn’t open at 10:30am? Ridiculous. It seemed like everything was getting going at 11am but our film was at 11:15 so we thought we’d do that first.

‘The Hunger Games’ was brilliant and I really didn’t expect it to be. I was sure that it would be a tame version of Battle Royale that will be trying to appeal to that teen romance market that is oh so fashionable these days. It’s not, it’s a thought provoking, blood pumping, heart racing, action packed thrill fest and is a must see. I may even read the series of books on which the film is based. I never read that genre but I was so impressed with the film that I might make an exception. I won’t let the cat out of its bag but if you know nothing of ‘The Hunger Games’ it’s about a contest that takes place in a dystopian future in which America has been divided into 12 districts, each district must put forward 2 teenage children once a year to take part in the hunger games, a fight to the death in an arena where there is only one victor. That pathetically sums it up and its best to go with no prior assumptions. I’ll leave it there. It was fantastic. I can’t get it out of my head.

I did find a hairdresser that was open for business after the film and the experience was much the same as the last time I had my haircut in Korea. Through broken English and Korean I communicated what I wanted. I was shown pictures of Koreans with outlandishly ridiculous hairstyles which I politely rejected, my head was moved ever forward by my hairdresser and my cut was cheap and successful. There’s not really much more to add. The hairdressers was a pleasant experience, refreshments were provided and I came out feeling pretty good about my new style. We had a McDonalds because we could and cooked Pad Thai for dinner. We went to the market and brought our fruit and vegetables. The sun continued to shine and is still shining as we speak. I don’t want to seem obsessive over the weather or anything, though, I’m aware I’ve mentioned it in pretty much every blog post this month and last.

Monday is planning day and I’m sat at my desk wishing I was outside in the sunshine. Perhaps, running through the forest, however, the planning is going well and my kindergarten class was good fun. I’m going to be doing some more planning for the big trip this week and its getting so close now I can almost smell it. Just think, in four months my contract will end and I’ll be onto the next chapter. I may have the dreaded third grade after school class at three o’ clock but you know what, I’m feeling pretty good.

Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favour...

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