The title of this post is, of course, a reference to an episode of Father Ted – ‘Rock a Hula Ted’ – that I’ve recently re-watched (‘Of course – they all have lovely bottoms.’).
On Friday night, straight after work, I went to taekwondo for my half lesson with I Sabeomnim. By the time we’d finished our short training session the dojang was pretty much deserted. I tried once again to persuade her to let me give her English classes. Once again, she professed her interest, but said she was very busy. She also told me, however, that she was studying by herself. I asked her what exactly she was looking at and she said, ‘Bulbs.’ ‘Bulbs?’ ‘Yes, uh, vulbs.’ She meant ‘verbs’. She also said she was planning to maybe go to America in a couple of years’ time.
She also invited me to go to a camp for the taekwondo students next weekend and be a ghost with her. I agreed, of course, but I have my doubts about the latter part of the deal.
On Saturday, I went to meet Lucy, or Lucia, or Ji-hyeon – I prefer the latter, although she was introduced to me as the former – a friend of our colleague Ally or Yu-jeong. I’d asked a few of my Korean colleagues about finding someone for a language exchange – someone to teach me Korean while I taught them English. I was bracing myself for failure in this enterprise, but Yu-jeong – the flame-haired Valkyrie – came through with Lucy’s phone number.
I gave Yu-jeong a small present. It was pretty paltry, I suppose, but I’d been collecting cards from Starbucks offering free drinks. Most of them were extra shots, but I had one for a tall Americano. Last week, distributed them amongst the Korean teachers, and I gave Ally my sole ‘second prize’ card.
Anywho, I met Ji-hyeon at Sinchon (pronounced ‘Shin-chon’) for lunch on Saturday. I thought I might be late, but it turned out that she was. She offered to cover lunch because of this, but I didn’t let that happen. I’d been to the area once before – although it’s right next to Hongdae, which I’ve been to a few times – when I went out with the foreign teacher from Ansan shortly before I finished my previous job; I remember visiting a Burger King in the early hours of the morning. Lucy and I went to an Italian restaurant, where she had some seafood pasta that she didn’t like much; I had a rice croquette in a rich tomato sauce – mine was really good.
We talked for a while about what we wanted from this language exchange. Lucy tried speaking Korean to me, but it was aju eoryeowoyo (very difficult). She took my level two textbook to study to come up with excercises for me. I suggested she write essays for me. Her English is very good – better than your average Korean English teacher – so I’m apprehensive of how to go about ‘teaching’ her. She’s currently in Italy at a book fair, buying books for education publisher she works for. We’re meeting again next weekend – although I’ve just realised there might be a clash in my schedule (see below).
She’s 30 years old, I think, which is about 32 in Korean terms (for instance, I’m both 32 and 34). She’s also very good-looking – as many Korean women are. We went for a walk after lunch, to Ewha Women’s University. The campus is pretty interesting. It’s completely open to the public, and seems just like a normal park. There’s a kind of manmade gorge running through a shallow hill; this is all paved, and there are steps at the uphill end. The sides of the gorge are all fronted with glass and house various university faculties. As this is a women’s university, I couldn’t help thinking that the overall design is rather vaginal.
On the following day, Sunday (just in case you didn’t know that Sunday follows Saturday), I went down to an area called Ttukseom to ride bicycles with Habiba, the woman I met on the DMZ trip, and some of her colleagues.
I thought I was going to be just about on time, but I was late. The reason being that there’s a Ttukseom Station and a Ttukseom Resort Station; I’m familiar with the latter because it’s on the subway line I use for going to Gangnam and roleplaying – I just assumed that it was that stop we were meeting at when I was given my instructions. I rang Habiba to inform her there wasn’t an exit 8 at this station – but, of course, I was at the wrong stop.
Anyway, once I arrived I met Habiba and one of her colleagues, an American chap, the Korean girlfriend of another of her colleagues, and her school director, a Korean woman of about 40. We walked to Seoul Sup – Seoul Forest – which didn’t really seem to be a forest, just a big park. Once there, we met the director’s husband, their two daughters and their two friends.
Bike hire turned out to be ₩3,000 per hour – about £1.50. The bikes themselves were nothing special – bog standard 21-speed mountain bikes with several gears not working (my bike only went up to 14th gear). There were also ladies’ bikes for the ladies; Habiba got one of these and then had to swap it for something more manly because it didn’t handle so well.
We rode round the park for a bit, then paid for more time and took our cycles down to the river (which was possibly against the rules). The Han River – or Hangang – is a lot broader than the Thames (in central London, anyway) and much of both banks is lined with parkland and cycle paths. It’s a very pleasant place to go for a walk or, in last Saturday’s case, a ride.
I stuck with Habiba most of the time, but I chatted a little with the others. Habiba and I got separated from the others for a time and we rode our bikes to a rubble-strewn dead end and got off to look over the water for a while.
When we got back to the cycle hire place in the park there was some waiting around as other members of the party made their way back. The director’s family left us and there was talk about going for a meal. When we returned to Ttukseom Station (not Ttukseom Resort Station) I took my leave and headed back up to Nowon, having run out of things to say for the time being. Later in the evening I went to see Gran Torino, which was very good.
I like Habiba a lot, and I guess she likes me. I have to reason these things out as my insecurities regarding women are little short of crippling. She must like me – she invited me to go paintballing with her next weekend, and I invited her to come and see a film with me tonight. Both invitations were accepted. By the time I post this, that date will already have happened; I’ll try and write it up tomorrow.