Warm weather has brought with it many opportunities for being active.
It was recently revealed to me that near Hannam University, hidden on this balcony above an alley, is a batting cage. Stick about 50 cents into the machine and step inside the dingy netting for a chance to whack the small ball that is hurled randomly in your direction. No helmet included. Good lesson in self-defense.
Check out that form!
We also went with some Chinese friends to play ping pong. Ping pong is a very popular "sport" here, and it is intense! There are many many ping pong clubs. It really is a workout and people generate quite a sweat. This is not your kiddie ping pong game. Well, except when we played. But it was still fun to go check out a club and "do like the kids do."
Chang Moon and Katie
I have mentioned before about how many mountains are in Korea and how Daejeon has some really great hiking. Turns out we also have some great mountain biking. A professor at Hannam was awesome enough to take me with him mountain biking at Gyejoksan Mountain (he goes about twice a week), and Sue let me use her super sweet mountain bike. It was tough but great fun and absolutely beautiful. I wouldn't at all mind getting more into mountain biking!
At this same mountain a week later, there was a Barefoot Festival that I am really glad to have participated in. It was a 7 km walk up the mountain barefoot on this clay/mud that they claim has ALL of these health benefits! Check it out:
Tons of barefoot people.
After walking through a big pit of Loess Yellow Mud.
At the finish line, flower petals were strewn.
There were hundreds and hundreds of people, and all sorts of musical performances, acts, things to walk on, etc along the way. The weather was gorgeous and my feet felt fine. Plus, it was sponsored by a soju company so all participants received two big bottles of soju!
And speaking of athletic endeavors being sponsored by alcohol companies, a friend, Juli, and I went down to Gwangju last weekend for a race. If you remember from a few posts ago, you loyal readers you, Gwangju was the site of the May 18, 1980 uprising/massacre that remains a symbol of the struggle for democracy in Korea. So, every year, there is this race (among other activities) to commemorate the event. There is a half marathon, a 10k and a 5.18 k race (5.18 like May 18, how clever). There were thousands of people which made it pretty hard to run, especially since a lot of them were walkers and not really paying attention just kind of goofing off, but it was a great day, the course was nice, and it was fun to be a part of it!
Plus, as I hinted at, it was sponsored by Cass beer, so we all got beers both in cans and on tap after finishing the run. A makkoli (rice wine) producer also sponsored the event, so there were free samples of that. The 10k runners took home a big bag of raw onions. And the snacks afterwards were shrimp chips, soy milk, and mocha sandwiches--even after eating half of one I still don't know what it is. So, even though my running time wasn't that stellar compared to other 5k races I have done, it sure was an interesting experience!
Next, an athletic endeavor that was a little less strenuous and a little more American-like: bowling. Not too much to report here--turns out that bowling in South Korea is pretty much exactly like bowling in the States. Leagues, funny shoes, inappropriately sized finger-holes, malfunctioning lanes and cheesy cartoons when you get a strike or spare. Seems pretty popular too, as we had to wait a little while for a lane.
Hurling a ball down the lane with a tremendous amount of strength and precision.
FINALLY, a few weeks back I moved up to yellow belt (level 2) in Taekwondo! I know, I know, I am a fearsome sight to behold. It's probably only a matter of weeks until I start breaking bricks with my head.
And that's all for sports at this hour...