Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Travel Safe, Mark

When I first came to Korea in 1997, my hagwon placed me in an apartment with a few other foreigners. One of them, Mark, had been here a few years. And, until this weekend, he remained. He stayed at the same hagwon for around 15 years.

He's fine, by the way. He's in the US, clearing up some details before bringing his wife and son home. I will miss him but this isn't really a eulogy.

He was to fly out on Sunday. I don't know if he did as Kyoungsang province had some serious weather and many flights were cancelled. I'm sure he's gone by now.

We met in the apartment and said the non-committal things new roommates do. The thing that started a real friendship occurred on my first Sunday in Korea. He, a friend Erich, and I went hiking. We started really early toiled up during a hot but beautiful day in late August. The test of our friendship, which I guess I passed, was when Erich mentioned that we were doing this hike to see if it was the toughest one up Muhaksan.

"Hey. Welcome to Korea. How tough are you?"

I didn't whine and either kept up or didn't slow them much so they were satisfied. I'm somewhat of an outdoorsy guy so I was happy they considered me capable of joining them.
Later, I learned it was a test of sorts. Mark doesn't invite that many people to hike a second time.

One of my five best hikes was with Mark on Chirisan (now called Jirisan). It was Dec 28 of '97. We started in all the clothes we had but at one point we were down to shorts and t-shirts before bundling up for higher exposed ridges. It was a 20km hike and if it had been 20.5km , I would have cried.

I left Korea, then came back after an 18 month absence. We were both married at a traditional home in traditional ceremonies almost exactly a year apart. We each have a son.

We competed together on Arirang's The Contenders and won four games, losing the fifth humiliatingly badly.Mark actually added up the questions we answered and decided that we were within 50 points of each other so we made a good team.

Have a safe trip, Mark. Good luck finding work and all the rest. I will probably follow in 2009 (To Canada, not Oregon).

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