Wednesday, January 17, 2007

In Honor of the Good Doctor…

Posted in Diversions, Foreign Service Life, Generalities, Korea at 7:34 pm by graceandpoise

. . . I went skiing. For the first time in a few years. And I had a really good time.

What I’ve heard about skiing in Korea prior to actually going on Monday is the following: It’s insanely crowded. You spend more time dodging people who are creeping down slopes that they’re not comfortable with than you do actually skiing. Lift lines are crazy-long. You should bring your rock skis instead of your nice skis because there will be bare patches sometimes, rocks sometimes, and ice all of the time. Koreans don’t know how to ski well but they buy themselves the latest and greatest ski gear. Fresh powder does not exist and the vast majority of the snow is completely manufactured.

Monday’s experience, by contrast: yes, there are major patches of ice on the slopes, making it difficult now and then to turn, and yes, the snow is manufactured and completely groomed, but the latter is not necessarily a bad thing. But because it was a normal working day for Koreans, there were far fewer people on the slopes than I’d been led to expect (and a greater than normal proportion of Americans). There were no lift lines. They had made snow the night before, and because the number of skiers was so much smaller than normal, there was pretty good snow on many of the slopes well into the afternoon.

The verdict: very glad I went. Very glad I got the email from a colleague saying, “hey, who wants to go skiing on MLK Day?” and signed up to go, then dragged my lazy butt out of bed early enough to be out the door by six o’clock on a non-work day. Very glad to have gotten out of the house and out of Seoul (incidentally, the countryside we drove through bears a striking resemblance in my view to much of Bulgarian countryside, with the major difference seen by the naked eye being the roof tiles). Very glad to have gotten in some good exercise, breathed some fresh air, seen the “East Sea” (aka Sea of Japan, though the Koreans cringe to hear it called that) from the mountaintop, and gotten the chance to get to know some of my colleagues a little better.

So thank you, Doctor King. For all that you did for civil rights and equality, absolutely – that’s a given, something that changed the world for the better and can never be discounted nor forgotten. But also, secondarily, for being inspirational, memorable, and important enough that the U.S. government decided to give people a day off in your honor. This year, I’m more glad than usual for this secondary aspect.

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