Thursday, March 31, 2005

Foreign teachers can relax a little.

The Chosun has an article about another article posted somewhere (location not given in the Chosun) online. The Chosun quite reasonably gives a lot of qualifiers about the identity of the poster but the author claims to be a teacher who recommends bribes.

She said there was a direct correlation between gifts and
the care she takes of children. "Parents who never visit
teachers in charge of their kids throughout the year
behave poorly. I take special care of a pupil whose
parents gave me an embroidered cushion worth
W150,000 (US$150), in consideration of their
sincerity," she said.

Her excuse seems to be that everyone is doing it.

"I am aware that some of my pupils are at a
disadvantage because their parents fail to
give me presents. But are such practices
confined to schools? Bribery is rampant in
corporations and public agencies."

She also says that she receives an insufficient salary. I don't know how much an elementary teacher in Seoul makes but elementary teachers in Kyoungsangnamdo start with a significantly higher salary than a police officer.

After reading the title, I wasn't sure how I felt. Many students have bought me coffee but I would say that I spend as much on each class as I receive in gifts. In a semester, I will have three or four games and contests and bring prizes- usually chocolate or, again, coffee. The article, of course, describes gifts somewhat larger than can-coffee so I am safe in my disapproval.

Anyway, foreign teachers, who typically don't come from a culture of bribery, might look a little better to the public now that this news is out.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Sorak trail closings

Just last week I remembered that Seorak National Park often has trail closures during the muddy season. I looked into it and the highest peak, Dae-chung Bong, will be closed from April 4 until May 13. Other trails deep in the park will also be closed.

I believe that short trails near Seorak-dong will remain open so you can still get to Ulsan Bowi or Gum Gang Gul (cave). Both are short but rewarding hikes with fantastic views.

Odaesan may also have trails closed. Last year, I went to So Gum-gang with my full hiking gear. I knew I didn't have time to cross the park but I planned to go a few hours in, then back out again. I had lots of water and food, my hiking stick and other bits of gear, only to go thirty minutes in and finding my way blocked. The waterfall at the turn-around point was beautiful but I had hoped to go much further.

Oh, a comment on Korean place names. I thought I was hiking at 'Salt River' (So-gum Gang) and no one understood. Finally, I learned that the area is called 'Little Gum-gang' (So Gum-gang). Gum-gang Mountain, in North Korea, is so beautiful (so they tell me) that many places in Gangwon Province try to cash in on the name.

More sleeping students

I keep my digital camera handy during class in order to catch the ocassional sleeper. There were three, but the rightmost one woke up as I lifted the camera. As his face was clearly visible and recognizable, I cut him out of the photo. I try not to post identifiable faces.

Sleep in class, get posted on the net! Posted by Hello

Last semester, I caught two students sleeping, one of them twice. Their photos are here, here and here.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Last Snowfall?, Dust can't be far away!

The Joongang Daily Online posted a picture of the East Coast's recent snowstorm, noting that it was expected to be the last of the year.

I'm not normally a pessimist but I realized that officially stating that it was the last snow of the year means that the next weather event would soon be arriving. The dreaded 'yellow dust' or Hwang Seo.
hello, Hwang-seo Posted by Hello

Indeed, after a little searching, I found that Korea has recently set up dust observatories with China in China.

If you didn't know, hwang seo is dust caught by the wind and taken from, I think, the Gobi Desert and dumped, well, everywhere East of there. I think that some of th eGobi locations are dump sites for heavy metals, industrial waste and possibly even radioactive material. Anyway, it's bad stuff to be breathing.

I didn't notice it my first spring in Korea but I did think that Koreans did a lot of off-road driving in the spring. Funny how rain can make the roof of a car dirtier.

Spring 2001 or '02 in Seoul was a bad time. Visibility dropped to a hundred metres or so and everyone was terrified to be outside. People wore masks or breathed through their shirts. Dust actually piled in small drifts against curbs.

Any time of the year, Koreans are worried about dust. I have been told not to shake out clothing or blankets in the house. "Too much dust!", they say.

One great thing about the spring: soon the mountain flowers and cherry blossoms will be out. Yes, even I, a somewhat macho (macho wannabe?) guy, loves the flowers here. Soon there will be cherry blossoms, pear and apple blossoms and Jin-da-lae flowers in the mountains. Another two or three weeks, I think. I have photos from past year and I will some with more information as I find it.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Fukuoka and Pusan experienced an earthquake at about 9:20 (CORRECTION: 10:53 - I can't explain why I wrote 9:20??) this (Sunday, March 20) morning.

Here in Sokcho, I was reading the marmot and thinking that I spend too much time in front of my computer when I experienced what I first thought was severe eyestrain. The words got blurry and and seemed to shift. When I looked away from the TV, the walls of my apartment were moving. That clued me in.

Not much happened here but thinking about an earthquake while on the 12th floor of a building is frightening.

Pusan, hang on. A 20 inch (55cm) tsunami is coming!

The Korean Meteorological Association is taking some heat for not issueing a tsunami warning fast enough. From the Chosun:

The KMA is supposed to put out warnings within 15
minutes of a temblor, but Sunday’s warning came 12
minutes late. The KMA earthquake center said it took
some time to analyze the location of the epicenter and
effects the quake would have in Korea.

But experts say a tsunami would have struck Korea’s
southern coast no more than 10 minutes after the KMA
warning, rendering it virtually useless. Park Hyeong-ju of
Kyungwon College Disaster Management Department said
this was a typical example of Korea’s lax attitude toward
disaster prevention.

The KMA said it would upgrade equipment and personnel
so that as to be able to issue warnings within 10 minutes
of an earthquake by 2007.

There are many reasonable complaints about slow moving government officials. This seems like a cheap shot. I guess we are lucky that the tsunami was expected to be about 20 inches or 50 cm- unnoticable, really. In the future, tsunamis of nightmarish size might be created in the small space between Korea and Japan and a quicker tsunami warning would be important.

No, it wouldn't. This is what I picture. A giant earthquake underwater. A pulse of water moving hundreds of kilometres an hour. A warning system sends a message to all broadcasters and cellular networks within a few minutes. The news, of course, preempts all TV and Radio within one minute of the call (Impossibly fast, I suspect). Additionally, the entire nation's cellphones or whatever they will have in 2 years time buzz or ring. People look at their devices...

Then look up at the wall of water.

The time for this tsunami was 10 minutes to shore. That's not much time even for a perfect system. I guess the rescue teams can get ready to find survivors.

"Daemado is ours!" sign in Sokcho

Background (for my mother or Canadian friends or people in Korea who just crawled out of a hole): Recently, a prefecture in Japan announced a new Named Day on the calendar (Like Secretary's day...not exactly a bank holiday). The day would be in honour of Takeshima and encourage Japanese interest in and ownership of Take Island. However, Dok-do ( The Korean name) has been in Korean hands for a long time. Who had it first, I don't know. The Koreans are more than a little upset. They currently, uhh, own, possess, control the island with a small police force on the island. Nobody cares too much about the island itself but the fishing grounds around it are important. Two days ago, the Korean city of Masan announced a new Named Day: Daema-do Day. About 600 years ago, a fleet left Masan and took over the Japanese island of Tsushima (Korean: Daema-do). Tsushima is currently a Japanese Island.

I saw this sign this morning. It says "Dok-do is ours. Daema-do is ours, too!" The sign includes advertising for Bu-bu Hairstylists (I fuzzed out most of the number) so I guess the sign represents their opinion. And that they feel their opinion is common enough to make them attractive to customers.

Daemado fever is spreading! Posted by Hello

When I heard about Masan planning a 'Daemado Day', I was a little amused. Seeing this sign here, a long way from Masan, geographically and economically, I am beginning to feel concern. It's too easy for a foriegner to sit back and enjoy the strange goings on in a foriegn country. I don't think that I can get directly involved in the whole Dok-do-Takeshima debate (I feel the Daemado-Tsushima aspect is only a tit-for-tat phenomenom. Dok-do is the important one), but I should try to get more involved in Korea in general.

Anyway, the day after Masan announced Daemado Day, many foriegn bloggers complained about the childish behavior of Koreans. However, the Korean National government has asked Masan to calm down and consider cancelling Daemado Day. The Japanese National government has not done this thing. It's possible that Korea is trying to do the right thing this time.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wild Boars somewhere in Yangyang

A coworker of mine once told me he saw boars come down off a hill by our apartment and into a farmer's field, then leave again. I didn't believe him (sorry, Bill).

Today, I found this picture in the Joongang online paper showing four or more wild boar.
wild boars Posted by Hello

I don't know where this picture was taken. Yangyang is a district with several villages and a small town (Yangyang). It reaches up into part of Seorak National Park and covers a lot of empty (ok, relatively empty) mountain and river areas. I'll be hiking next week, I think and I'll have my eyes a little wider than usual. The one thing I miss about hiking here as apposed to Canada is, in Canada, you often have the chance to see wild animals larger than squirrels. Even when you don't see them, you always know you might. Maybe this picture will bring a bit of that thrill back into my travels.

By the way, to me, 'I saw 3 boar.' looks better than 'I saw 3 boars.' Anyone care to tell me which is right?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Takeshima vs. Daemado!

Everywhere in Korean media we hear about Japanese claims on the (possibly) Korean island of Dok-do (the Japanese call it Takeshima). One prefecture in Japan has announced a new holiday, 'Takeshima Day'.

In a "Well, they started it" kind of move, Masan, Gyoungsangnamdo (Korea) has announced a 'Daemado' day. Daemado is the Korean name for Tsushima, which Korea invaded and took over about 600 years ago. You can read more about it at the Marmot.

Gyoungsangnamdo is a long way from Gangwondo and I'm only mentioning the story because I lived in Masan for a year and a half.

I'm not sure if this is related or not. Standing over the city of Masan is Muhak Mountain. It's a very pleasant mountain, a pleasant morning's hike, with great views of the area. But, from what I have been told, before the Japanese colonized Korea, it had a different name. The original name was Du-chuk San. I'm somewhat surprised that there are no moves afoot to change the name back.

In a month or so, Chinhae, a pretty little city next to Masan will have it's annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The blossoms fall thick as snow and hiking the mountains nearby is a surreal experience as the light penetrating so many leaves has a wonderful feel with a slight pink tinge.

In the years after the Japanese left, patriotic Koreans chopped many Cherry trees down as they were symbols of Japan. I really hope that doesn't start again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Club beautifly-flying lessons in Yangyang

About a year ago, I noticed a plane on our campus. A few months ago, I saw notices for Club-Beautifly and finally today, I visited the office on Kwandong University's Yangyang Campus.

Flying lessons and short charter flights of the area are available. Flight school costs ten million won. I don't know if that is a lot; I never priced it or thought about it in Canada. It's probably too much for me. There is no ground school. The instructor told me it was because of the problems with English, but that sounds strange; is ground school really optional?

They frequently go on cross-country flights to Pohang or Dokdo. The idea of flying to Dokdo appeals to me although it's probably priced out of my range. I don't know how the 'Club' aspect comes in. Perhaps, I'll ask about that later. Maybe club members fly themselves to Dokdo.

Here is their website which includes a little English.

Club Micronesia? Posted by Hello

If you click on the poster, you'll get a larger image. The only reason to do that is to see that the poster is actually for Air Micronesia with the Beautifly information glued on top.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gangwon Kotesol Meeting -postponed!

Because of the bad weather, the meeting has been postponed.

Looking outside at 9:00am, I see a lot of sun, but also some ice so maybe the roads are slick...and who knows about the high mountain passes for Wonju or Chuncheon members to cross.

Thanks to the gangwon Kotesol president for the heads-up.

Friday, March 11, 2005

trying to foodblog

I tried to upload and organize photos as a foodblog about cooking Salsa. It isn't working. Below might be a handful of pictures showing, in no order, how I make salsa. This might be salsa that no Mexican would ever recognize; yes, those are olives on the table. Still, I can make it with local ingredients and it tastes fine on Doritos.

Any visitor, please leave a comment if you can see the pictures in the post below.
Thanks. UPDATE: You don't have to leave any comments about the photos -**But you are completely welcome too**! Someone named Steve at Blogger Support showed me how to solve the problem. Thanks Steve!

foodbloggin- Salsa Kwandongbrian Style

Trying to foodblog

I tried to upload and organize photos as a foodblog about cooking Salsa. It isn't working.

UPDATE: The good people at BLOGGER told me how to fix the photo problem: use FIREFOX browser instead. Thanks Steve at Blogger Support!

Below might be a handful of pictures showing, in no order, how I make salsa. This is probably salsa that no Mexican would ever recognize; yes, those are olives on the table. Still, I can make it with local ingredients and it tastes fine on Doritos.

just begun. My ingredients Posted by Hello
Here are my ingredients. 9 tomatoes, 4 green, 2 red and 1 yellow sweet pepper, Pickled Valley brand Hot Chili Peppers (10), some garlic, an onion (I used half), salt, olives (I just had them around and wanted to use them up) oregano and cider vinegar. Don't be shy with the vinegar.

removing the stems with my Swiss Army Knife Posted by Hello

After boiling the tomatoes for a minute, I remove the stem with my Swiss Army Knife. I find it easier to control than my big chopping knives. I don't think I should boil the tomatoes so long; it just takes a few seconds for the skin to loosen for easy peeling. I figure, though, I'm going to cook them anyway, so longer won't hurt.

I use knives a lot. One of my hobbies is wood carving. Another is Hai Dong Gum Do, a kind of swordsmanship using what most Canadians would call a Japanese Katana. It is a wonder that I am so slow and clumsy with knives then.

I like using my Swiss army knife for removing the stems because it is a good length for the job. Despite that, I did poke the hand holding the tomato once (only once! Hurray!). Luckily, there was no blood.

I also need to learn how to chop veggies better. I was about an hour chopping up the green, red and yellow peppers.

wash Posted by Hello
I frequently forgot to wash veggies in Canada, but having worked on a farm in Korea, I don't forget much nowadays.

ready after an hour to cool Posted by Hello
I can't actually see the pictures as I type this. One of these (above or below) pictures is of the salsa in a tupperware box and the other is of three jars and the tupperware box. Although it is finished, you should let it cool for a few hours. The cooling lets the flavors 'marry' (I'm pretentious- I don't know what that means, I just read it somewhere and it sounded good).

Of the three jars, the smallest is just the 'pot likker'. That's Southern for the excess fluid that I chose not to boil away. I like to scoop out and save it for future cooking. I could have boiled it down but I wanted to try to keep the cooking time down to one hour this time.

result of two hours cooking. Posted by Hello

Temporary outlet blitz in Sokcho

One finds these short-term outlet shops all the time in Korea. First, all areas nearby are wallpapered with ads offering 90%-50% discounts. That seems a strange way to write it unless, they mean the prices are 90%-50% of the total - 10-50% discounts. I don't know. Then a few empty shops fill with sports clothes and junk for a week or two then are gone.

One opened today in Sokcho, next to E-mart. While I wouldn't normally shill for these shops, I was excited to see footwear in my size. My feet are 300mm or size 12 and normally I have to go to Seoul to see anything above 280cm. I usually go to Gumgang in Myoungdong, which has casual or work shoes but they seem to pick the most expensive or ugliest or frilliest shoes and make large sizes of them only.

Anyway, the outlets have running shoes that fit me so if any other big-footed foreigner will be in Sokcho in the next week, you might want to look into it.

One of the shops had a variety of products, including a few laser pointers. Now my classes are small; seminar sized, so I don't need a pointer but the ones I saw would keep my student's attention. On movies, you often see pistols with laser sights. At the outlet, I saw switchblade knives with laser pointers. I guess that if you frequently throw your knife and have trouble hitting the target, a laser sight might be useful. I think I might be terrified if my teacher ever had one.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Gangwon Kotesol meeting

I've known a little about Kotesol for a while. A Hai Dong Gum Do buddy was Gangwon president or something, maybe last year. Anyway, while taking the bus home from Yangyang, another foreigner got on and we talked. He's big in Kotesol and told me of the next meeting. From their website:

Our first meeting of this new year is set for Satuday
March 12th from 3 to 5pm at the Sokcho Office of Education.

To start this season, we’re pleased to offer a special
presentation by Jason Renshaw on the theme of writing.
Jason is a motivated & experienced speaker with lots of
knowledge about teaching writing in the Korean classroom.
This promises to be a valuable & fun workshop that will also
provide practical materials for use with your classes.

He told me that he would post details of how to get there on the site but I think I found a map here. The map is below and above. I'm not sure what the problem is but I only get an 'X' in this post.

UPDATE: Problem fixed. The picture is below. If you can't read Korean I gues you could print out the map and take a bus to Anam Plaza (That's bottom-centre on the map), then show a taxi driver the education building (Inside the pink circle). I could be more helpful, but I tried to fix this post a half dozen times already so you're getting the lazy version.

second attempt Posted by Hello

On Sunday, Waterpia is having a discount day with locals (ID with Sok-cho) getting in for 6,000won instead of 25,000won. Out-of-towners can also get the same price with a coupon. There's a great mok-yok, a so-so wave pool (lifejackets required and for rent) and some heated outdoor pools. I think the Sokcho Kotesol people are going to encourage visitors to stay overnight.

Update (March 11):
A little 'mouse' thought that Waterpia's discount day was the first Sunday of the month - March 6, not the second Sunday - March 13, coming up. The coupons I have are for the second Sunday but I'm not sure about locals without coupons. The coupons are good for 5 visitors, at least one of whom must be local (Yangyang, Sok-cho or Koseong ID). I don't know if I am going to shar my coupons so I guess I'm just bragging (Meee-long : -it's Korean for 'Naa-naa).

By the way, be careful coming here. We had a lot of rain yesterday which melted most of the snow, but now it's cold and snowing again, so it may be slippery tomorrow.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

shovelling in Sokcho Posted by Hello

Snow removal in Sok-cho

The picture below (and above in the next post- I couldn't seem to get the picture to work in this post but it does in the next post above) is from the Korea Times and shows citizens clearing sidewalks. As far as I can tell, that only happened in a few places. Near my apartment, the bakery, "The People of Bread Village" did a great job of keeping their sidewalk clear. Other places? Not so good.

shovelling in Sokcho Posted by Hello

clearing the harbour roads Posted by Hello

Until Sunday that is. Today, it seems that everyone was out with shovels (cheap plastic shovels that broke after a few minutes, but still out and working hard). Even the Coast Guard was busy. They cleared the roads along the harbor and cleared paths to all the fishing boats in the area. I should say we did because my wife is a member of the Coast Guard we went out together (That's me centre in the picture).

We could only shovel paths to the boats and not clear the entire pier area because the nets were there and hidden under snow.

We dumped the snow directly into the ocean. It was almost all fluffy white stuff, without much in the way of visible contaminants so I guess that's okay.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Buy a car?- Maybe not.

Here are some good reminders for why I don't want to own a car in Korea.

Why I don't want no car. Posted by Hello

Don't want no car 2. Posted by Hello

The above two pictures are of my apartment complex's parking lot. I leaned out the hallway window to take these pictures (and the one below).

We had heavy snow yesterday. Heavy enough that I skipped work. To be a good Samaritan, I helped push cars that were stuck and cleared several windshields with my Canadian scraper/sweeper thing that is so common back home but non-existent here. Yes, I have a scraper but no car to scrape off.

Korea doesn't have a lot of snow-removal equipment. At my apartment parking lot, snow was just moved around. With the result that the man below is working in piled snow (heavier and harder than fallen snow) that is deeper than the hood of his car.

Snow piled deeper than his car. Posted by Hello

There are a few good reasons to own a car. Weather like today's, and it's attendant problems, is a very good reason not to.

Safe driving, everyone!

Movie review- Windstruck

I don't know if I'll do many reviews, but it's nice to have a DVD player and so be able to watch Korean movies with sub-titles. Don't expect too many long reviews here!

Windstruck- 내여자친구를소개합니다.
This is a movie of two parts. The first is pretty funny although the romantic scenes are a little too cute for my taste. The second part is one hour of unrelieved crying (not by me, I'm too tough..Okay, I didn't cry but only because the sad parts were overdone and that had a distancing effect on me).

Jun Ji-hyun is very easy to look at and she will be instantly recognizable from her commercials. This is for two reasons. First, her commercials are everywhere and second, many of the movie scenes have the same feeling as her commercials. The part where the two drive a jeep along backroads had me waiting for her to say, "...My digital story"- the endline in her Samsung digital camera ads. She also conspicuously ate a cereal and yogurt mix that she advertizes for and I suspect that she is in Giordano commercials becuase she wore their clothes in several scenes.

The male lead was fine. He was the straight man for Ji-hyun's antics so he didn't have the same presence. Also, he dies in the first hour and I mainly remember Ji-hyun crying for the entire second hour.

The police work had me frightened. You don't see the heroes in many films gun down the bad guys in the back in films. Do they do that here?

There are many better Korean films out there. Do yourself a favor and watch them instead.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Maybe I'm not such a good teacher

Classes at my university started March 2. There is still a lot of confusion among students as to where to go so the classes this week are just get-to-know-you sessions. Yesterday, in two classes, I had a total of four students.

Today, Friday, I took the day off, skipped classes and just stayed home and watched movies (I'm trying to decide if I liked 'Sky Captain and the world of Tomorrow'- it was interesting but the special effects made the image blurry through most of the movie).

I have an excuse.

Overnight, Sokcho, and I guess the whole Gangwondo coast, got about 40 cm of snow. It is still falling.

I did some snow shoveling and helped push a lot of cars but that doesn't really fit the topic of this post so I'll write about that later if I think I can make it interesting.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Yangyang Airport in the news again

In a previous post, I wrote about flights in and out of Yangyang airport (there aren't very many).

In a January editorial (I'm a little late noticing it) about government selfishness and, I think, pork-barrelling, I saw this very accurate description:

There are innumerable cases where lawmakers try to
get money for "exhibitionist" projects that would win
them popularity and votes among their constituents but
eventually waste taxpayers' money. The airports in
Yangyang and Muan are such cases: They have become
obsolete because of lack of demand.

Despite being a virtual ghosttown most of the day, the Yangyang airport now hosts charter flights and tours to Japan, by the way.

Anyway, the article was short and mostly about abuse of highway building funds. In my opinion, there's a lot of that going on around here, as well; a lot of overpasses and bridges really leading nowwhere.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

overseas adoption of Korean Children

The Herald has an interesting article about overseas adoption of Korean children. Apparantly, there's a lot of it. [I cannot link to it. Somewhere...Blogger. Korea Herald...there is a problem. Here is the url - I had to break it into two lines make the margins fit:

I have a good friend named Vicky, in her mid twenties, who was adopted by an Alaska couple when she was about 20 months old. She was a high school student of my sister's and when I got married and my sister was making her arrangements, she asked Vicky if she wanted to join her. On a Sunday in December I got married and the next day, Vicky visited the adoption agency that her parents had used. I really don't know who had the bigger day; me with my wedding or her, learning about her parents. Since then, she has returned to Korea a few times and met some English speaking relatives. She has had to walk a difficult road; managing her excitement over her biological family and keeping her adopted family firmly in her heart. Ah, I think I may have miswrote that. She clearly loves her adopted family and knows the sacrifices they, like any good parents, have made for her. Her excitement over learning about her biological parents has made her adopted parents a little uh, concerned, I guess.

So far as I know, the adoption agency Vicky's parents displayed exemplary ethics but according to the article some agencies are not so above-board:

...from the 1980s and even more since the 1990s, the
absolute majority of children who are nowadays sent to
foreign countries are born by young and unwed girls
attending high school or college. These young girls in
their teenage of early 20s, often from a middle-class
background, are locked in secretly at maternity homes
belonging to the adoption agencies as soon as they get
to know that they are pregnant. At the maternity
homes, they are persuaded to relinquish their children
to save the honor of their families and in reality to feed
the adoption agencies' need of a steady supply of
children for overseas adoption. In other words, a
combination of patriarchal attitudes and economic
greed lies behind today's overseas adoption from
Korea, and thus the rights of both women and
children are completely ignored.

There is a lot about the Swedes in the article as the author is Swedish and wrote his PHD dissertation on the subject. As a random connection in my head:I think the backstory for the lead investigator in the movie JSA was that she was an adoptee from Sweden.

Tricky exercise equipment

I have been aware of this problem since I started weightlifting. The numbers or masses on nautilus or other lever operated weight machines, as opposed to free weights, might only be estimates. I found today that the numbers given on other exercise equipment might also be questionable. Hell, are just plain wrong.

When I was serious about fitness and weight lifting I managed to benchpress 175 pounds, about 80 kg. In early February, I started going to a health club for the first time in many years. Imagine my surprise when I quickly got to the point of benching 80kgs. Indeed, just recently I started doing two sets of 8 X 90kg - pretty much my own mass. I just rationalized it as "I've reached my mature strength", whatever that is; I'm sure I've heard people say that before.

Late last week though, I had a real breakthrough in my running but it ended up smashing my self-delusions. Last week, I started running 40 minutes on the running machine. I maintained a moderate pace through a long warmup because I had previously over exerted in the first ten minutes and had to stop. Anyway, after 15 minutes, I started increasing my pace. Because I had a long warmup and was ready to race, 16km/hr felt as easy as 10km/hr, even over several minutes. WRONG!

On today's run, I noticed that my feet seemed to stick a little when they first impacted the treadmill belt. Maybe because I weigh almost twice what most Korean users weigh, I was bottoming out on the track and slowing the belt down. 16km/hr felt like 10km/hr because it was the same.

When I ran on the edge of the belt, it quickly reached full speed and I found that 16km/hr is pretty darn fast- for me, anyway.

I've never had good balance. I could run on the edge of the track but it wasn't easy and twice I stepped on the running board and only luckily managed to avoid some wild pratfall. I will try a different machine next time and maybe work on my balance.

So now, I don't know how much I'm lifting, nor how fast I'm going, but I can say that I am improving, just how much exactly is the mystery.