I have never taken a photo of anything ever remotely related to a sport. So instead, enjoy a picture of this weird dog.
The gym teacher sat across from me, looking stern and unimpressed. I had been fat the entire semester, which didn’t really jam with the subject he was teaching. And here I was, sitting fatly despite all of his best efforts. He asked me what grade I felt I should get. He pre-emptively gritted his teeth, already hating my reply.
I launched into what I thought was a fairly compelling speech detailing all of the reasons I should get exactly 75%. I showed up every class in gym attire and put in my best, awfulest effort into whatever fresh horrors he had devised for us. Despite obvious discomfort and a truly thrilling lack of ability, I showed up and did all of the things. The lifting, the running, the kicking, the hitting. Terribly and thoroughly greasy, but I did them.
Gym class was going to slash my average, but I felt I had earned a modicum of understanding for giving it all a go. I laid out my feelings for the gym teacher, who sighed and agreed. Gym class being mandatory only until grade nine, he knew this would be the last he’d ever see of me and the last time he’d ever have to hear me talking so fatly, so pathetically, about sports.
Bring more, and don’t stop.
A fledgling tradition, a mutual love of face-stuffing quick set into ritual. Dim Sundays were birthed when a friend noted that she had the connect for a cheap smorgasbord at a nearby fancy hotel. We all piqued: with the ease of access to foreign foods, it was simple sometimes to forget the delights and variety available in Chinese food (particularly those parts of China or not-China not terribly close to us).
Immortalized here are the happenings of one such Sunday, my words drenched in soy vinegar and soup dumplings as they are.
-0:14 We arrive early at the hotel, taking a taxi from our apartment complex, which is a thirty minute walk away. A well-dressed hotel staff-member opens the door for us, beckons us inside. I already feel embarrassed at the deference with which I am being treated. I maybe regret wearing flip-flops.
-0:06 The first Dim Sunday, we arrived nearly half-an-hour before the proceedings technically began, and the eternally patient waiters allowed us to sit while they scuttled around us, furiously setting up for the coming onslaught of food, saying group prayers and hoping not to be devoured with the meal. Today we wait outside, our patience tempered only by the knowledge of how much we will consume.
The untold horrors of Vangvieng
Vangvieng had a bit of a reputation. Adventurers who had forded the Mekong before and returned to Korea told of a kind of dark partyland filled with drugs and terror. In this lucid, bacchanalian hellscape people were forever blasted out of their gourds on cheap, bathroom-brew LSD and radioactive mushrooms, swirling through life in a semi-permanent haze that left them brain-damaged and covered in body paint. It was a town insomuch as people sometimes lived there, but really it was a gateway to the river of sin and villainy.
The river was a gurgling, slow-moving pleasure obstacle course surrounded everywhere in jimmied-together shacks full of bargain booze and drunk foreigners. A shop in town would rent you a large, poorly maintained tube, which you then took to ride down the river. Locals, who were really just personified manifestations of human desire and low will power, would hook your tube as you floated by, make a margarita in your mouth, load your capillaries full of hallucinogens, and shove you back out into the rapids.
We imagined a sort of outdoor opium den, clouds of dark purple smoke puffing up into the sky in the shape of psychedelic dragons over the prone bodies and lolling tongues of dozens of foreign corpses. It was widely known that the town boasted an impressive death rate, as addled backpackers leapt from rickety bridges and fraying rope swings directly on to piles of jagged rocks while screaming, one supposes, “I AM THE ARCHBISHOP OF THE TUBE KINGDOM!”
The foreign population is very ready.
Living in Korea has made me acclimate to a number of weird phenomena. Probably the weirdest thing that I’ve grown gradually comfortable with is semi-regular blastings of air-raid sirens, assemblies of small children into terror formation, full-scale evacuations of which I am no part, accompanied by the sounds of frenzied screaming over intercoms and people fleeing towards local shelters. These are just drills, and really, after the first few times, you barely even notice them. With water on all sides, Japan’s nuclear exhaust and China’s metallic yellow particulates regularly invading our airspace, and some wacky neighbours just north, there’s something to be said for preparedness.
Preparedness is pretty goddamn terrifying the first time around. But it gets easier.
"Teacher... head is... curly. Why?"
I have never had so many people so deeply invested in the ongoing travails of my hair. As discussed, its texture and whackness were a matter of considerable debate and conversation amongst the many Koreans in my life, particularly those at my school. It became my calling card feature, other than the whole, you know, being white thing. People also became very, very used to it, thinking of it as a natural part of the landscape.