31 March 2010

Alex v. Gravity

Two weeks ago, I joined Korea Ultimate League ... my first time really playing ultimate (frisbee) since lifting at BodyTribe (actually, since July 2007, before I left for two years on my island in Caribbean Paradise), and I was pleasantly surprised at my enhanced abilities on the field.

In a former life as an NCAA Division-I distance swimmer and 200-butterflier, my relationship with Gravity was truly of the love/hate variety. In the pool, it helped break records, acquire and defend D-I National Championship titles, and train for Olympic Trials. Anywhere on dry land, however, that devil bore down on my entire existence. Going up a flight of stairs, especially after a 10K Monday afternoon practice, or a 6K V-o2 Max set, was the most difficult physical activity known to every aquatic athlete of this caliber (not just me). It was not uncommon for us to wait en masse for the world's slowest elevator to take us up one floor after practice. The crazy people, obviously with something to prove, would slowly, arduously, ascend the dreaded stairwell, and still lag behind the ones in the world's slowest elevator. Make us do stupidness like stadiums, or run, or jump on boxes, and we'd injure ourselves and be in the training room with weeks of physical therapy...that's physical therapy in addition to the 25+ hours and 45-60 miles in the pool/in the weight room/doing dry land training every week. Gravity has been my mortal enemy for at least eight years of my life. In general, up until about 11 days ago, I was never that fast or graceful or agile on land (that jerk Gravity gave me a pretty rough way to go outside my Life Aquatic). 11 days ago, I noticed something strange. Something foreign. Something so totally bitchin', I want to do burpees to celebrate: moving is just...easier. Stairs? Two at a time. Always. Elevator? Never heard of such a thing. Walking? Like I need to be somewhere fast, even when I probably don't (or maybe that's cause I live in a big, crowded city, and if I slow down, I'll be trampled under a stampede of stilletoed feet and other fancy leather shoes). Ultimate? Playin' like I was on a (beer-bracket) team in university!!!! Gravity, I accept your challenge, but you should probably know: you have already lost.

Case in point:
Last night, in place of lifting (after my first gym in Seoul closed down unexpectedly), I improvised with the following combo in the parking deck/on the street of my apartment building:

Warm up: Mosey, 150'. Then carry my 12.5 L (3.3 gal x 8 lbs/gal) water bottle down the 5 flights of stairs

(5 sets, no rest between sets) -- 10 x 24" box jumps in the parking deck
-- 10 x burpees (various: scissor, B-girl, squat, BodyTribe)
-- overhead farmer's carry with the water bottle, 200'. Increase by
~50' every round
Cool down: Carry the water bottle (still full, of course) back up the 5 flights of stairs

It was awesome. By the last round, there were spectators from afar. I'm certain the middle-aged Korean women oogling my 8 pm battle with Gravity were calling all their friends to tell them about the crazy foreign female giant doing the nonsense with her water bottle. I hope my victory was obvious.

20 March 2010

Why WOULDN't you?

Dear Colin,
You need to be here. This place is full of greatness. All-night saunas (ten bucks to sit in a warm room or take a non-sexy bath with your friends for the entire evening, with extras available, like massages). Noribang ("singing rooms" = karaoke!). Korean BBQ. Cheaaap, strong booze. Kissing rooms. A 4-D movie theater. Digital everything. Indoor water parks. Cell phones with tv antennae (you know, if you're into that sorta thing). High-speed trains to faraway places. Private DVD-viewing rooms with couches (yes, for messing around, cause everyone lives at home and nobody has a car...gotta get jiggy somewhere). REALLY cheap taxis & subway. And, of course, me. Oh, did I mention the sexy Korean women? AND men? This here country has some attractive people, let me tell you. When you move here, your quality of life will increase a hundredfold.
MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!!!! You won't be sorry.
Your friend,

In like a lion, indeed.

::This post contains material taken from a post I started last weekend, and am only now getting around to finishing.::

This afternoon, after my brutal Turkish Get-Ups combo (with the janky free weights, in the midst of the skinny Korean muscle-head wanna-bes on the machines in front of mirrors...I digress), I ventured out into the blustery cold of Seoul--alone. Solo exploration of big cities via user-friendly & cost-effective subway systems is the Number Two way to gain confidence whilst traveling and living in strange lands. Number One is, you know, the ability to communicate, using words, with people. Having a basic understanding of the language to the point of knowing whether or not the door you're about to walk through is a Kissing Room or a kalbi (Korean bbq with the marinated flesh) restaurant is useful, too. I suppose one could just walk into any business establishment at random, ask the proprietor "Kalbi chusaeyo?" and look like a complete jackass (which is, more or less, my current level of understanding, that I am only slightly ashamed to admit). But really, other than attending weekly free Korean lessons, how else am I supposed to learn what is what around here? Speaking of Korean lessons, it is almost time to brave the paralyzing negative-degree C wind chills that still plague this city. Going outside is so, SO hard when I still have to dress in layers upon layers. Days like today, I am kicking myself for being in such a hurry to get here, leaving the perfect people, the long, warm Sacramento spring days that lead to evening porch-sitting, with drinks and food, and midtown-wandering at night on foot, because it's still warm when the sun goes away.
::sigh:: Off I go, trying to learn the sounds and recognize the nearly indistinguishable characters of double vowels. And terminal consonants. In the freezing ass cold. Two years at 12-degrees N latitude thinned my blood (and thickened(?) my whining capacity) considerably.
Yes, in dreary weather, woe is me.

11 March 2010

Korean Vibrations, Vol. II

This life has great potential for Fantastic.
My school is one minute from my house, I just joined the "fitness center" (to continue the progress Al Mike and Megan thankfully pushed on me at the world's greatest gym, Body Tribe) that is above my school, and everything I need is within a ten-minute walking radius: food, subway, noribang ("song room" = karaoke!), shopping, 3D movie theater, and everything else is close on the subway. The next thing I need is to GET PAID, so I can fully participate in this city! Having to watch my spending is really boring, especially since I keep finding myself in social situations that require cash. April 10th, get here faster!!

Last night, we* checked the vibez of a free Korean lesson near the Women's University (Sookmyong), then headed to Homo Hill in Itaewon for darts, an hour of singin in our noribang, and dancin to Korean pop music in a venue full of very attractive (gay?) boys and girls. I danced with one especially tall boy (my second choice, only to the 6'8" cross-dresser who didn't even give me a second glance when I shimmied across the floor for some hip swingin, and, who was not in drag that particular evening). After two or three giggly songs and lots of jumping around, I gave Second Choice my email address, even though he spoke probably two words of English and probably only likes boys. I gestured excitedly for him to send me a message, though I'm certain I can add this one to the Good Practice archives.

At 3 am, we caught a cab back to Guro, to replenish electrolytes and calories via kamjetang aka potato soup aka spinal cord soup, "the antidote to a hangover." We made friends with a group of 5 men (one was sprawled across the bench in the restaurant, passed out, face down) who knew probably 7 words of English between them. The oldest one in the group, possibly their boss, really wanted to communicate something to me, but lacked the language skillz necessary. Instead, he reached out to shake my hand every five minutes, closed his eyes, squeezed my hand tight, and said "thank you," with a slight bow of his head. It's still a mystery as to what he was really trying to convey, though I suspect something possibly offensive, because one of his friends started saying "sorry, sorry!" (which sounded like "saudi, saudi!" in his Korean accent) and making the "he's crazy" gesture behind his boss' back for my benefit. Finally, around 5 am, our groups parted ways, with lots of laughing and flashing of peace signs. I even got two phone numbers out of the deal. (Again, Good Practice archives.)

Potential? Wrong. Fantastic already achieved.

* "We" = me and Jack (Jack and I?), the British ESL teacher from my school, who arrived in late November. It's very convenient having an expat friend who lives two floors down and is willing to show me what is the what, as far as universal entertainment (eatin & drankin) goes, in this country.

07 March 2010

Korean Vibrations, Vol. I

My kindergartners are SO cute I want to eat them right up. My favorite is when I'm sitting on the floor or in a chair and they come up to me and put their tiny hand on my knee or poke my nose ring cause they don't know what it is and get all up in my grill cause they want attention and throw themselves across my back when they want to play or pet my hair or climb into my lap or hold my hand when we walk down the hall*. It's taking every last ounce of my self control to not pick them up and throw them over my shoulder, or sit them with their legs dangling for a shoulder ride around the school as an 8' tall 5 yr old.
On Thursday, this tiiiny boy, probably 3 years old, was sobbing the entire class cause he had a fever, so I was rubbing his back while the other kids colored. Later during the class, while I was cleaning up, he stopped sobbing for half a second, came over to me and gave me a juicy, snotty kiss on the cheek, then toddled away and continued sobbing. God, these little turds are gonna turn me into a big softy in no time at all, getting caramels and playing Heads Up 7-Up every day, just for being so nauseatingly adorable. All of what precious little credibility I have as a teacher will quickly dissolve into a sticky puddle of sugary buttery goo...in the form of candy and games.

*Why don't adults innocently touch each other more often, the way children do? Americans** are a seriously cold group of people that would benefit tremendously from more tactile interaction.
**Germans, though, as a whole, are even more mechanical and frigid than we are. One day, I will tell yall about The Social Experiment we conducted at a tekno party in Berlin, which perfectly exemplifies my theory.