hills, bikes and Busan

It really has been too long since I’ve written here, and I really need a break from the novel-writing genre.  So I’ll just let fly here and post it without much looking it over. 


The specter of death has long since faded from my mind—though it never really will entirely, I don’t think.  Nonetheless, I am fully enjoying life here.  I was playing beach volleyball for a couple months toward the end of summer; that was a lot of fun but I have a lot of work to do on my game.  Paul, Keri and I did fairly well in the soju tourney we played in at Gwanganli Beach-ee.  Before each match, we had to drink a shot of Korea’s finest blechk-yak liquor and the winner of a match had to have 2 more each; it’s not as bad as it sounds since that booze is only about 20% alcohol, so there were no soju swerves on the volleyball court.  Anyhow, we made it well past what the experts predicted.  After falling on my ass a few times (not from the soju, but from competitive effort and general clumsiness), I was sore for a few days.  All good fun.  Am looking forward to the spring for more volleyball.  Am also considering getting a surfboard.  What the hell, right?


Speaking of what the hell, I decided to start a fairly regular jaunt up this hill or that here in Busan.  I am glad I didn’t get into it very much in my first tour here in this city, because there are so many new things for me to see.  My usual partner is a co-worker named Peter; he and I have started this ridiculous tradition of naming new paths that we find on our Friday hikes behind Silla University.  My first one was Nikolai’s Bitch.  Peter has Pete’s Paradise.  Other names include The View (for it’s unobstructed view of Gaegum, Seomyeon and all other points beyond out to the sea) and Lion’s Den (for some funky rock formation that looks like, you guessed it, a lion’s den).  Anyhow, the hiking and activities are good and I am seeing a whole new side of Busan.


I am also seeing a whole new side of Korea, a side that many foreigners—or natives, for that matter—don’t really get to experience.  Paul “Punchy” Dumont and I have gone on some epic scooter trips topping 125 kilometers in an afternoon of crossing valleys, going up and over mountains and into sparsely populated areas that are far from the filth and pace and sounds of the city.  After riding in the city to and from work, it is most exhilarating to really open up that 125cc engine on the open road (basically, thrills me but I don’t know if I’d be able to handle much more than 60mph on any two-wheeled motorized contraption).  And the sights we’ve seen (sorry there aren’t any photos) have been nothing short of spectacular: harvest time smells; vast open fields as far as the eye can see, hills a shade of dark green I didn’t know existed in Korea.  Now the fall colors are almost all gone, but last week we still went on a ride up a few mountains that I had actually hiked before (these paved roads were unbeknownst to me before I got my wheels); two or three weeks ago after we had gone about 50 clicks up the western bank of the Nakdong River; when we crossed back over to the eastern side and were on our way back to Busan, we came upon a temple.  Now, seen one temple, seen them all.  This is not true if it is sparsely populated, in the middle of natural beauty, and completely unknown to you before you come upon it.  This temple last week had just recently had a 20 foot Buddha carved in the side of the mountain.  I will be sure to return to that place in the spring, as the grounds beneath the carving were still under construction.


Ah, yes.  Under construction.  I am a mere three weeks away from my self-imposed deadline on my novel Toil and Sound.  It has been a long road, but the rewards are coming in almost daily doses as plot, theme and character are falling into place.  I also had some success teaching the writing, though in a far less creative setting.  I worked with a couple small groups over a ten week period and saw some major improvement in the ones who came to class frequently.  Their proficiency level went from barely sentence-level comprehension to almost coherent paragraphs.  I’d say that’s not bad for only 20 hours of instruction.  I hope my department head will be able to generate some support for a class with the same students that meets for forty hours for the whole semester and is a for-credit course; this will be sure to help with the immersion side of the class.


I’ve promised to keep these short, but there is so much to catch up on.  Please leave comments on the page (click below) so I know that you are reading and what you like and hate about me and my writing.  Future entries will include more pictures, a tale of a bachelor auction that I am going to be on the block for (a good cause: local orphanages), a three week working vacation on an island off the coast of Busan, and maybe, just maybe, even a snippet from the novel.  Also, since my vacation plans include a lot of reading, I’ll write brief reviews of the books rather than just the typical synopsis.

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