Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kiteboarding in the Han River

Sunday afternoon I looked out the window and saw the trees blowing. I decided to take a chance and hop on to the subway with my kiteboard gear and head down to the Han River. I was pleasantly surprised to find a stiff breeze on the water and a couple dozen windsurfers and kiteboarders. Apparently, there is a wind club for kiters there and they've got a pretty decent air compressor, changing rooms, showers, astroturf, etc and are really nice guys. I lost my spreader bar somewhere on the subway and these guys had an extra one to loan me.

The club chases wind on the east and west coasts of South Korea every weekend and
they tell me they sometimes kite in the waves there. I found some pics on their website that look like there is some good potential for cracking lips. They have a website,, which is where I took these photos from...I'm not sure who took them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The little guys.

From Recently Updated

We play a lot of games in my ESL class. One such game is Pass-The-Ball. The purpose is to practice asking and answering questions.

Student 1 asks a question like, “What time is it?” Then Student 1 tosses the ball to the Student 2 to indicate who he’s talking to and that an answer is required. Student 2 catches the ball and answers the question appropriately, “It’s 3:30.” Student 2 then needs to ask a question and likewise pass the ball, and so on.

So, Yesterday, I heard lots of laughing and screaming coming from the hallway beside my classroom where the students like to hangout during break time.

I found them voluntarily playing their own form of Pass-The-Ball. Only they had evolved it into a much more violent activity.

Instead of tossing the ball, Jay hurls the ball as hard as he can and screams, “WHAT’S…YOUR…NAME?” The ball nails Tom, another student. Tom doubles over from the impact and lets out a yelp, but quickly recovers. Tom retrieves the ball and fires it with as much force yelling, “MY NAME IS TOM!!!! HOW… ARE…YOU?” The ball flies down the hallway and pounds Eric in the back of the head. Eric falls over, but gets up laughing “I’m okay….WHERE ARE YOU?” and sends the ball again. Pass the ball is now a very aggressive game of dodge ball.

My first reaction was to tell them to stop, but then I thought, it’s cool. Afterall, they’re practicing English. They just happen to be venting their frustration with the language simultaneously.

It’s really funny to watch.

Here are some pics of the students and video of another game we play that isn’t so violent.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


From Ganhyeon

This Saturday I woke up early to catch a train to Ganhyeon . Chong, who runs my climbing gym invited me to come climbing with him and few friends.

I was very nervous about the climbing part, because I have never climbed on real rock and while I may appear to some Koreans to have some basic ability and skill in the gym, the fact of the matter is I'm muscling my way through a lot the routes.

The foot of the climb is about a 20 minute walk from the train station and stands to be the most tranquil area I've seen yet in Korea (albeit I haven't seen much). It sits along the edge of a slow river and there are plenty of trees to provide shade from the strong sun.

We arrived about 9:00am and the group I was with started stretching, donning their gear, quick draws, unfolding ropes, etc. I was a bit lost to say the I know how that beginner kiteboarder feels--you know the one who shows up at the beach, doesn't really know anyone, doesn't know the routine, fumbles around with his equipment and takes about 8 times too long to get on the water. Yep, that was me at the climb.

The social embarrassment and fear was striking. It kinda felt like being dropped off at the 1st of day of 1st grade. Not to mention, being white, I stand out like a soar thumb and can't understand a word anyone is saying. It could have been worse right?...peeing in my pants would have been par for the course.

So there I am not really sure what to do. So I start arranging, rearranging, unpacking, packing, and trying to look busy, waiting for some kind of cue.

Then I start getting nervous and forget everything. I struggle putting my harness on!

which way does the harness go...oh no, it’s twisted...Jesus, I think everyone's watching me.

I hear some Koreans casually talking and then laughing off in the distance and I become paranoid,

I think they're laughing at me. Which way do I unfold the rope...what am i doing. Ahhhhh I wanna go home.

I decided I needed too chill out. I found a good viewing spot and just watched for about 45 minutes.

Sensing my hesitation some people encouraged me to try a few easy routes which helped me get comfortable and back in my skin. I have to say climbers are some of the friendliest, helpful, most mellow groups of people I’ve had the pleasure to hang out with.

After trying several routes I settled on a fun juggy 10b route that had a couple difficult sections that sent me dangling a dozen times. Talk about the school of hard knocks though! I'm sure my friends gave me important tips and advice about how to fall---I just didn’t understand it because it was in Korean. So I learned a few lessons the hard way, fortunately with only a few scrapes, bruises and loose teeth to show for it.

Lesson 1: don't grab the rope as your falling. Instinctively, I grabbed it twice. The first time I got a good rope burn; the second time I got my palm pinched in the quick draw.

Lesson 2: That length of rope you were holding in your teeth as you're trying to clip in to the next draw...remember to spit it out BEFORE you fall. I damn near lost all my front teeth as I dropped a good 6 meters and the rope was ripped from my bite...

So I learned a few lessons, but came out relatively unscathed and can't wait to go back again. Here are some pics.