Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Sorry folks, long overdue for an update and I¡¯ve been mighty lazy when it comes to sitting down with my thoughts.

Where did we leave off¡¦ I think when I last wrote, I was staring down at the DMZ¡¦ which reminds me, I learned an important new phrase in Korean recently ¡°Shille hamnida, ijiyogae bukhan gancheobi issulsudo issoyo?¡± Or ¡°Excuse me, are North Korean infiltrators possibly in this area?¡± It¡¯s fun to say to taxi drivers and on buses¡¦ but anyway...

As usual it¡¯s been a busy couple of weeks, marked by decent weather, increasing temperatures and horrifying levels of air pollution. Let¡¯s just say that in Ulsan, when it rains, you have to bring an umbrella or else the acid rain will eat your hair and clothes. You know it¡¯s bad when you can taste the air and it tastes like vinegar. If I ever complain about the pollution back in Vancouver again, somebody smack me hard.

So what have we been doing? Well, between long scooters rides, ultimate Frisbee tournaments and cleaning up chicken shit, we¡¯ve managed to accomplish a fair bit. Oh and I guess that and we¡¯ve worked a little bit in between too¡¦

On a rainy Sunday morning two weeks ago, 15 of us brave souls woke at the crack of dawn to board a bus headed to Okpo, on Koje Island, which is about 3 hours drive from Ulsan right on the southern tip of the peninsula. We were on our way to HATROK 2003 (Hashing Around The Republic Of Korea) and meet up with Hash groups from Busan, Seoul and Koje for a big inter-Korea Hash. From the beginning, things did not bode well¡¦ rain is too weak a term for the weather that day, monsoon may be a bit better - torrential, hammering, driving (thank you thesaurus) are perhaps the best words to describe what we were facing.

We arrived in Koje about mid-morning and bussed up about ten minutes up to the trailhead. Most of us gave up right away any pretext of staying dry, and as we hashed our way through the countryside we jogged right through flooded rice paddies, jumped right into shin deep puddles and hurdled over and into muddy bogs. Amy and I were both recovering from fairly nasty colds, so it wasn¡¯t perhaps the brightest of ideas to be out running, but we ploughed on nevertheless.

Down Downs were postponed till we returned to the clubhouse in Okpo, and we spent the remainder of the afternoon drinking beers and socializing with some of the other hashers. By mid-afternoon, half-buzzed from the beer and full from the food, we re-boarded our bus to Ulsan. The drinking and merriment continued the entire bus ride home, and resulted in several emergency pit stops along the way.

This past weekend our friend¡¯s Dave and Fin threw a party at their house. Co-founders of team Ulsan Ultimate team and members of our Hell¡¯s Ajummas scooter gang, Dave and Fin were excellent hosts and nearly all of Ulsan¡¯s teaching community showed up. A well-placed bomb by those North Korean infiltrators could have wiped out most of the waygooks (foreigners) in Ulsan that night. The party continued from the house and moved downtown some time in the early morning, I don¡¯t remember exactly when. I do remember it was daylight as we staggered out of taxi and arrived home, much to the bemused looks of the Koreans heading out to work.

All of which was great training, of course, for the Ulsan Marathon that we had signed up to run on Sunday morning. It wasn¡¯t a full marathon (only ten kilometres in fact), but I guess any long distance run is referred to as a ¡°marathon¡± in Korean. The course set out from Munsu Football Stadium (a legacy of the 2002 World Cup hosted here) and wound down through a park and back. Considering our previous evening¡¯s escapades coupled with the worn out shoes (and resulting blisters) I was wearing, I think I managed a fairly respectable time.

We left the stadium in a hurry, because in addition to a 10km run, I was scheduled to play in our first Ultimate road game against the squad in Busan. Fin and Dave had procured their academy¡¯s school bus and so we all piled in and headed down to Hyundae beach, perhaps one of the most famous beaches in Korea, to go head to head with the waygooks from BUDA (Busan Ultimate Disc Association). Impressed by their creative acronym, USLUT (Ulsan Saucer Launching Ultimate Team) was born on the bus ride down.

The beach was crowded; tens of thousands of people were out enjoying the sunshine and warm water. Somehow we managed to carve out a small, but useable, Ultimate pitch in the sand. We played several evenly matched games, until USLUT¡¯s collective enthusiasm wavered and we all plunged into the water for a swim. Dinner was some excellent Indian food (a rarity in a sea of Korean restaurants), after which we traveled back to Ulsan.

So there, you¡¯re up to date in my adventures to date¡¦ I promise to make an effort to remain regular with the updates¡¦ but you may have to forgive my continued tardiness.

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