Elwood 5566

Back to the Treadmill

Posted in Diary notes, Entertainment by 노강호 on February 23, 2010

새해 복 많이 받으세요! ‘Happy New Year.’ I’ve been practicing this for the last week knowing that it’s a phrase I can’t use for another year. I returned from the UK with a nasty cough, several weeks ago. My first job when I returned was to buy a new PC monitor to replace the car size contraption sitting on my desk. I bought a 23 inch plasma screen from E-Mart at 198.oooW (£111 sterling) which was around the same price as one I recently bought in the UK. Luck would have it that two days later my antediluvian hard drive decided to pack in. I don’t have much patience with inanimate objects and after kicking it and administering it a hefty palm heel strike, I proceeded to smash the DVD loading trays with a six-foot bo (a martial art staff). I must admit I lost it for a few moments and was surprised I didn’t suffer coronary.  In my defence however, my defunct hard drive had plagued me all year and the work I can now do in a day, previously took me three.  I have a fleeting suspicion that when I tried to reboot it, I may have inadvertently turned off my monitor and diagnosed the lack of activity as death.  By the time I had viciously assaulted it, it was quite useless.

Half an hour later and a PC technician was installing a new PC in my apartment. A local PC shop, like most other services and facilities, is only a two-minute walk from house. I brag about the convenience of Korea when I’m back home and though I think services and culture here outstrip what’s on offer in the UK, I am especially well located. The unit cost 424.000W (£237 sterling) and as usual, the call out installation was free. In addition, he uploaded all the programs I  use with the operating system and Word 7 in English. In rip-off-Britain and probably most of the western world, the Microsoft Word Package alone would have cost me a hundred pounds. I have no sympathy for money grabbing Microsoft and the constant changes of software, deliberately made incompatible with operating systems or other software, are analogous to having to buy a new car every time the road markings are changed or re-painted.

I spent two intense weeks re-organising the various blogs I write and nursing an annoying cough which has  almost cleared up. This morning I decided it was time to start doing some exercise so, at 7.30, I walked the 5  mins to a local sports complex, a five storey complex owned by the father of one of my students. I plan to give a full account of this facility at a later stage as Korean bathhouses and jjimjilbang, a speciality of mine, warrant some lengthy posts. The gym, situated on the top floor is luxurious and not  representative of all Korean gym facilities. Naturally this is reflected in the fee. My last gym, actually on the floor under my school, was both a  little grotty and tended to pump out pop music, in competition with the TV’s mounted on the treadmill machines, at such a volume your MP3 was rendered useless. Pak Sang-il is the trainer usually on duty when I train. He’s a lad of about 24 and like many Korean men he is gentle and attentive. In summer he would regularly bring me new towels when I was sweating on the treadmill or top up my water bottle with cold coffee or water. Often, he  beckons me into his office for breakfast; sometimes fruit, boiled chicken or hard-boiled eggs. And when I ‘m  aching or have tight muscles, like many Korean men, he thinks nothing of massaging my legs or back. Many westerners would interpret this as a sign of homosexuality and probably find the intimacy threatening.

유가 자

On the day I left for the UK he gave me an especially big hug. Pak Sang-il is quite masculine with a good body, six-pack, pec’s and muscles that many men would love to posses. The combination of masculinity and effeminate personality, which is probably the best way to describe it, make an alluring combination and again, a combination that characterises many Korean men. I have trained enough in gyms in the UK and taekwon-do schools throughout Europe to know that such intimacy is deemed suspect and if anything, the combination of men and gyms usually results in increased aggression and machoism.

I took Pak Sang-il a large pineapple as a small gift, not an unusual thing to do  in Korea. After my session we had a coffee in his office and he told me he had ‘thought a  lot about me’ and ‘wanted to see me’. No! Nothing homo-ey! This is Korea and men can be quite intimate both physically and verbally without it implying they are gay. So, he insists that after my visiting the bathhouse, on the floor below,  I return to his office. When I finally oblige him he presents me with a jar of grapefruit tea neatly wrapped up. It resembles jam and is a remedy for bad coughs and sore throats. Accompanying the tea is a handwritten note  wishing me good health and a Happy New Year. Then, as I step into the lift, he shyly thrusts a hard-boiled egg into my palm. ‘You haven’t eaten breakfasts,’ he reminds me.

Pak Sang-il's note

Creative Commons License
© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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