The home stretch

Here I am 20 seconds from the end. While I have definitely had better runs (hoping mid-race, as my back spasmed from a now-apparent lack of proper hill training, that the organizers had secretly gone with the non-traditional 26 km 'marathon' distance), I am glad for the experience of running in such a large race. I go back to the drawing board for the next one, as Deanna and I both look to the Seoul International Marathon in March, at 26000 participants bound to be a spectacle unto itself.


Off and running

Here's Lee 20 seconds in, unaware of the Korean peculiarities that lay ahead, including acupuncturists every 10 kilometers and an aid station selection of Choco Pies, cherry tomatoes, and iced green tea.


Runners, take your mark

Chuncheon, a small city in the mountains north of Seoul, is an ideal setting for a marathon. As you can see from this photo taken seconds before the start, 21 000 runners fill up the stadium rather impressively. Runners line up in seeding groups from A-N. A-K are based on finish times in marathons within the last year, with A runners sub 3 hours and K runners 5+ hours. L-N are reserved for runners who haven't run a sanctioned marathon in the last year. Lee was in L. He crossed the start line 27 minutes after the first group left. After 30 minutes, all the runners were on the road. Fall leaves and a mountain lake make this Korea's most scenic and popular marathon. The mountains make it quite a challenge. Lee made us all proud, finishing in 4:26:54 with a big smile, already planning to run again next year.


Long way from Nome

In the land of scrawny dogs in sweaters and designer dogs with their tails and ears dyed some garish shade of fluorescence, it is a banner day when a true exemplar of the genus is spotted.


Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow

Shangri-la, the Garden of Eden, that Thai beach Alex Garland wrote about...into every paradise a little hate and madness must intrude. It seems trade disputes and a contract won by a foreign company have made certain Muuido residents more than a bit disgruntled. The signs above read "Jack Rosen, Kempinski, and their Jewish bastards - prepare to be peppered with rocks of Yong-Yu and Moo-Eui" and "May Ahn and his entourage are traitors. May you spend the rest of your lives licking their asses and kissing their filthy toes." Apparently vitriolic insults translate well from Korean.


Good eats

A day at the beach just wouldn't be a day at the beach without kalguksa, a delectable chili broth with noodles and fresh shellfish.


Primetime Comes to Life

Those of you who are familiar with Korean television will recognize this house on Hanagae Beach as the setting of the popular drama Stairway to Heaven. The location is marked on every map and explained in detail in a brochure which outlines the small and big screen history of Muuido Island. While the set of a soap opera may not seem like a big deal to those of us who don't watch the show, we had our first indication of its magnitude while on the ferry. Two girls saw a poster of the show, ran over to it in a fit of squeals and giggles and began posing for pictures next to a pinup of the male star.


Safety first

We like to think that this sign was raised on the causeway to the Muuido ferry by the local clammers in the interest of workplace safety. Foraging for clams in tidal mud flats probably requires the highest levels of dexterity and concentration, and wayward cars raining down from above would tend to get annoying.


Hut with a view

Hanagae Beach is lined with rental beach huts, raised on stilts to keep their inhabitants dry at high tide. Since it's the off-season we had the beach mostly to ourselves, but it's easy to picture the beach chockablock with tourists in the summer.


Subway to seashore

Sometimes living in the world's largest third largest city is all-consuming, and it's easy to forget that Seoul is actually close to the sea. Since we've been enjoying clear skies and glorious crisp and cool fall days, it seemed a perfect time to get out of the city. We accomplished our mission, and it only took us three hours, a subway, three buses, and a ferry to get us 50 kilometers to Muuido, a world away from the big city hustle.


Angels and Easels

Does God give helpful advice on techniques such as perspective and shading? Any points on pointilism? Do I need to bring my own paper and pencils?


Zen and the Art of Motorcy...nah, too obvious

Chalk up another for odd juxtapositions. One could scarcely imagine Gautama blasting up and down the Middle Way on a hog, yet he stands serenely by as the over-priced, under-muffled two-wheelers tear up the streets of Itaewon.


A double scoop of spaghetti

On the heels of the classic buger [sic] with strawberries and kiwi we offer this abomination. Good old garlicky pasta, in a waffle cone. How could you eat this? With a fork? Chopsticks? A spoon? The mind boggles. They didn't even have whipped cream and sprinkles.


Pa rum pum pum pum

A sunny day, a quiet spot in the shade, and a few friends with bongos of their own - no better time for a little percussion.


Prince Charming, I presume?

I'm unsure why there were large glowing frogs being transported on trucks through our neighbourhood last night. I think the most likely explanation is that the frogs are filled with dashing and handsome young Korean men, who are waiting for young Korean women to come kiss the frogs and release them. What do you think?


New-school colonialism

Yes, we are! With rabbit ears, for local flavour.


Korean Graffiti

Artistic communication of a socio-political message or unwanted and unsightly vandalism? You be the judge.


Information age

No more the leisurely cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. Busy commuters can now save a few trees and catch up on world events in the local rag from these news stations. We still prefer the old-fashioned way.


Winged Victory

A hearty congratulations to Chris and Alison who have just completed the events of the Kelowna Marathon. Chris ran a 1:45ish half marathon, which, for those readers who have endeavoured to cover 21.1 kilometers on foot will know, is an excellent time. Alison, in her second of three full marathons this year, finished 42.2 km in an incredible 3:49ish, demolishing the four hour barrier with style. We are thrilled and very proud of them both. Their email after the run stated they are both well, so we hope much less scathed than the goddess from Samothrace seen here.


The bridge to Seonyudo

Seonyudo is an island in the Han River best reached by footbridge. Originally a retreat for gentleman scholars and poets, then home to Seoul's water purification plant, Seonyudo was converted into a public park a few years ago. Some of the industrial aspects of the water plant still remain, but most of the space has been given over to a greenhouse, gardens with carefully labelled flora and fauna, and an emphasis on eco-preservation and environmental consciousness. The postmodern combination of industry and nature make it impssible to forget one is in the city, but the island is a nice respite from the traffic.



Though native to the scrub fields and meadows of Mexico, the Cosmos seems to be the de facto national flower of Korea. Elderly folk stand and marvel at the fields of wildflowers, and six year olds in English schools, who can't make heads nor tails of cat and car can lift up the flower's name to the heavens.


First we take Yeouido, then we take Berlin

Sometimes referred to as the Manhattan of Seoul, Yeouido is a small island in the Han River which features both the greenest of green spaces and the shiniest of megastructures. Home to the Korean Stock Exchange, the 63 Building, the corporate headquarters of both LG and the Korean Broadcasting System, the Full Gospel Church, which at 800000 congregants is the largest Christian church in the world, and the National Parliament building, pictured here.


Lift the ban

We've written on here before that the hardest part of living overseas is missing the people. Friends and family are what we miss most, even more than that amazing breakfast we have some weekends at Calories, when Deanna gets the Eggs Benedict with spinach, and the Hollandaise sauce is creamy but doesn't smother the eggs, which are poached softly to perfection, so that the yolk oozes slowly out to soak into the bread. And I order Bagels and Eggs, seasoned expertly and baked long enough to crisp the bagel, but never long enough to dry out the eggs, which are washed down with cup after cup of the house blend coffee, always served at the perfect temperature when the first sip is on the verge of nuclear fusion hot. Yeah, it's the people we miss most, some of whom communicate at regular intervals, either by phone or email, forming a much appreciated and anticipated part of our weekly schedule. And then there are the brothers, all indubitably articulate and blessed with the gift of the gab, yet inexplicably incommunicado. Well, Mark, Ian, and Chris, consider this a cyber-call-out - don't make me get on the blog and tell the loyal readers of OOFALWO that our brothers don't love us anymore.


The efficiency man

The banks of the Han River are lined with fishermen. Some appear to spend most of the day napping under an umbrella set up next to their lone fishing rod or imbibing in soju with fisherfriends. Others, like the entrepreneurial gentleman seen here, have the act choreographed to near perfection, baiting, casting, and reeling in each rod in turn with near balletic grace.


Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?

Not much says comedy like Korean kids roller skating in full body armour. From some of the spectacular faceplants we saw, the extra protection was fully warranted. Of course, it's all guffaws until the repressed memories start flooding back. The Great Skate Roller Rink in Regina, circa 1985, when all my friends had twirling skills, backward skating skills, and moves galore, and all I could do was feign indifference from the bench, while my inner Boitano skated sublimely to Journey's Open Arms.


Walk the line

The army base in Yongsan-gu covers a massive area, the perimeter of which is outlined with two blue lines. The inside of the army base and the entry gates are guarded by soldiers, while the outside is watched over by these young police recruits. Every block sees two officers given the onerous task of walking the line; slowly and without respite these boys pace back and forth in what is essentially a quiet residential neighbourhood.