My friend Liz called me on Friday afternoon to ask if I wanted to take a hike with her. Since Friday was field day, I got off several hours early. I haven’t gotten enough exercise in the past few weeks, so it sounded like an excellent idea. A nice scenic hike along the hills surrounding Daegu would be an excellent way to kick off the weekend.
I told my coteacher that I was going hiking, and he said, “oh yes.” I tried to explain it to him, but it didn’t seem to register. No matter – I’ll show him pictures later and he’ll understand. An hour or two later, Mr. Kim told me that I missed the bus. Nobody thought to tell me that the bus left two hours early on Friday. No worries – Mr. Kim offered to drive me home.
I didn’t realize that he wasn’t taking me home until it was too late. About half a mile before the subway station, he pulled into an underground parking garage. We parked and walked up to the street. After milling about for five minutes (just wasting time), the clock struck 4:00 and we walked into a bar. Uh oh – we’re going drinking.
When we walked into the bar, the owner was still in the process of opening shop – pulling chairs off of the tables and setting them on the ground. Mr. Kim ordered us each a tall beer (32 oz). Because of Korean culture, turning it down was not an option. I had to drink it all. I tried several more times to explain that I had to meet my friend to go hiking in less than 90 minutes. He kept saying, “oh yes…very good.” Shit.
I excused myself to use the restroom as soon as I finished the first beer. When I returned, it had magically refilled itself. I began to get desperate, because I realized that he may be expecting me to get drunk with him before dinner time. I had to think fast. Suddenly, I remembered that my new phone has a new translation app that seems to work pretty well. I gave it a whirl and, to my surprise, he understood. He told me to hurry and finish my beer. As soon as we finished gulping down our drinks, he walked me to the door and pointed me toward the subway. Despite all of my frustration in communicating with Mr. Kim, times like these remind me that he is a really nice guy. He didn’t think twice about covering the bill and hurrying me out the door so that I could make it on time.
I hurried home, got changed, and met Liz at her subway stop. I was a little buzzed, but I was sure it would wear off by the time we reached the park – or wherever we were hiking. The trip took less than an hour, but it was plenty of time. When we stepped out of the cab near the trail, I felt better. About two minutes later, as we walked through the city toward the trail-head, I realized that I was in trouble. Liz pointed to the temple at the very top of Apsan Mountain.
I was out of breath by the time we got to the trail. We met Liz’s friend, Zach (USA), at the bottom of the trail. Zach lives near Apsan and hikes it on a regular basis. He told me that it is still difficult for him. This meant a lot, considering the fact that Zach appeared to be in excellent shape.
Two beers on an empty stomach, months without adequate exercise, and a damn-near vertical trail. I was in for a treat.
It was a difficult hike. I hated every minute of it. There were several times when I had to swallow hard to avoid blowing groceries on the trail. I was too out of breath to truly appreciate the Buddhist temple that we passed half-way up the mountain. When we reached the top and I had a chance to rest, I realized that it was worth every step. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the city was at night. Because Apsan is on the southern edge of Daegu, we could see almost every inch of the city.
We spent about half an hour at the top. There were a few groups of Koreans hanging out at the top with us. A middle-aged Korean man came over to us shortly after we arrive and offered us all rice snacks and chocolates. It was the perfect end to an exhausting climb.
Until next time.