The area around City Hall has become a vast memorial to former President Roh. Thousands of people came to mourn, leaving flowers, messages, and in one case, a giant portrait. The funeral was Friday at Gyeongbokgong. When I arrived in the area, police had cordoned off all the streets around the palace, so I've nothing to show you except them, many of whom were sitting on their riot shields, waiting patiently for a call to action that, fortunately, never came.


Crane technique

We have new neighbours upstairs. They decided the best time to move in, with assistance from the world's loudest moving crew, was 7:10 on a Sunday morning. I'm not unhappy it rained that morning.


Summer begins

In celebration of nothing in particular, we've been spending our evenings out lately, making up for all the early nights in the weeks leading up to the ultra. Fortunately for us, we have great friends and colleagues who are supportive when we go home right after work so we can get up early and run, and still happy to see us when we decide to rejoin the world of people who don't get up at the ungodly hour of 4:45. BBQ, beer, soju, May sunshine, and fun people - it's been a good couple of weeks.



That's how many days my eyes held out before they could go it alone no more (though, if I'm laying my cards on the table, this realization came about 400 days ago). I am now the proud owner of my first ever pair of spectacles, and am amazed at how much more clearly I can read bad spy fiction.



In terms of current events, this has been an eventful week in South Korea. First former President Roh's suicide, then nukes in the north, and now swine flu. Obviously, H1N1 has been in the news for awhile, but now it's rearing its sneezy snout in our backyard. Two weeks ago a group of American and Canadian teachers flew to Korea, where they spent a week living in the same building and completing teacher training in the same classroom. Just as they were being sent off to begin work in schools around the country, one was diagnosed with swine flu. Now they've all been quarantined in a hospital south of the city. If you're interested in following the story, click here to read the blog of one of the inmates.


Worst neighbour ever

Our maniacal comrade to the north appears to have successfully detonated a secret nuclear device in a secret underground lair a few hundred kilometres from our front door. Normally not one to get worked up over secret nuclear devices in secret underground lairs a few hundred kilometres from my front door, this one hits home with a 1% devaluation of the won on the eve of exchanging a stack into ringgit for our upcoming voyage to Borneo. I'm thinking of sending him a strongly-worded letter.


A nation hushed

We learned from a taxi driver on our way to do some shopping that former President Roh pitched himself off a large cliff near his hometown this morning. Much beleaguered as of late for his alleged complicity in a very extensive bribery scandal, Roh remained a popular figure, with ardent supporters loudly proclaiming his innocence. Within hours of finding his suicide note, police and prosecutors have announced a halt in the proceedings against Roh, several key aides, and the family members who seem to have colluded in some shady dealings. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the English-language media here over the next few days.


Higher porpoise

After much delay, my school has its website (mostly) up and running. As I was checking out the new format yesterday, I discovered that our mascot is the dolphin, a creature believed to be intelligent, creative, compassionate, and playful. This particular exemplar looks also to be heavily tattooed, also a sign of the intelligent and playful.


The end. Or is it the beginning?

The Ganghwa-do ultra was a 100 kilometer race. I, having never officially run more than a marathon before, decided to make 60 kilometers my goal. I ran to 80 and stopped at the last aid station, where one of the race organizers offered me a ride back to the finish. By the time Lee crossed the line, I had showered and caught a quick nap on a nearby park bench. Now that a week has passed and I've discovered that recovery has been far faster and less painful than I had anticipated, I feel like giving it another go. I'm pretty confident Lee will want to join me. Anyone know of a (preferably flat) 100 km run in the fall?



Our loyal readers might remember our first trip to Ganghwado, when we climbed Mt. Mani with Moon and Matthew. Last weekend offered a much different view. The run course followed the coast for the first 30 kilometres, and these windswept tidal flats made up much of the scenery.  


Getting ready

For those readers who have no idea what we were referring to in the last two posts, we participated in our first Korean "ultramarathon festival" last weekend. Our friend BJ caught us unaware as we prepared for the long trek ahead. 


Size matters?

Marathon running is considered one of Korea's national sports. For most of the year, there are at least two or three marathons held each weekend around the country. The large races, like the Seoul International in March and Chuncheon in October, draw upwards of 25000 runners.
Ultramarathons are a much cozier affair. The Incheon Ultramarathon Festival had one sign-up table, a few hundred intrepid souls, and a handful of enthusiastic volunteers.



We're back from Ganghwado, weary but pleased. As soon as we've rested our tired legs, we'll post more photos and share more details about the weekend. For now, here's a pic of the island and the West Sea.


어버이 날

May 8th is Parents' Day here in Korea. So to all of ours, thanks for everything and we miss you very much.


They Paved Paradise

A few weeks ago, we saw workers taking out many of the trees as we walked down Gangnam Daero. I assumed they were going to put them in a tree museum and charge us a dollar and a half just to see 'em. See those large black poles running down the side of the street? That's what they replaced the trees with, and they have CCTV security cameras in the top. People are fined if they impede the flow of traffic by parking in the third lane. More interestingly, the sidewalk sides of the posts have computers in them for the use of passersby. One of the features is Photomail, which takes your picture, allows you to decorate it, add a message, and email it to someone. It's almost worth the price of admission to the tree museum.

Here's a Photomail example.
On a sadder note, Mike and Angie, who we met in our first month in Korea, have returned to Canada. Temporarily, we hope, as Mike will complete his Education degree at Queen's University in June 2010. Hopefully, the promise of Coffee Bean chai lattes, our treat, will lure them back.



As we spend a fair amount of time running and walking the paths of the Han River, it's reassuring to know there is a range of options should an emergent situation arise. Within a few hundred metres of each other, amenities range from scented paper, piped-in Crystal Gayle muzak, soap and hot water, and ceiling fans to mosquitoes, poison oak, and a possible charge of public indecency. Here they are, from first to worst...


For Sidd, on his 2553rd

O baby buddha
resting on the small white rock -
you're not so young now.