Thursday, May 14, 2009

Episode 62: In Which DFM Falls 25 Feet And Has A Party Thrown For Him

Today I was planning to meet Choi, Ji-Hyeun, and the rest of Ace for a trip to one of Seoul's many large outdoor climbing walls.  Unfortunately, Choi and Ji-Hyeun had worked so hard over the last five days completely stripping the climbing wall of holds and rearranging them that they were too tired to go climbing today.  Coincidentally and fortuitously, Perry had told me that he was planning on going to an outdoor climbing wall today too, and so just like our first hiking trip I asked if I could tag along and off I went on another adventure.

Before I met Perry I had to catch up on some e-mails and unwritten blog posts that were piling up because of my trip.  While I was working in my room the fire alarm started screaming in my building.  I didn't really feel like leaving though, so I just hung around and kept typing.  Everything turned out to be fine though, and ten minutes later the alarm was turned off.

The climbing wall to which Perry and I went was located in Boramae Park.  Boramae Park used to be an air force base from 1958 until 1985, when it was converted into a 420 000 square meter park.

Today (Tuesday, May 5) was Children's Day in Korea, a national holiday.  That meant the park (and probably every other park) was packed with children and their parents.  In some places I saw people sitting on the pathway to eat their lunch because there was no room on the grass.

There were many activities going on in the park, the most impressive of which was put on by the emergency rescue service which gave helicopter rescue demonstrations and tours of their fire trucks.  Unlike Canada though, the question "what's the number for 9-1-1?" isn't so stupid in Korea (look at the fire truck).

The Boramae Park climbing wall is 15 meters high and is overhung everywhere, even the easiest section.  I'm not sure if it was used for any X-Games climbing, but I know that some facilities in the area were used for an X-Games competition and have ample signage to remind visitors of that fact.

The Boramae Park climbing wall is managed by the woman in the yellow shirt, who also happens to be the number one climber in Korea for her age group.  Perry said she sometimes climbs in the evening when it is cooler, and once climbed up and down the wall 20 times in a row without stopping.  Perry was belaying for her at the time and said his arm pumped out from belaying before she even started to get tired.

Luckily Perry had brought some grapes and break along for lunch, because I had forgot to pack one for myself.  Actually, I did not forget, I just did not have any food at home.

After "warming up" (or was that tiring ourselves out?) on the medium difficulty wall, Perry and I tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to climb to the top of the most difficult section of the wall in the middle.

Later, one of the top climbers at Ace Climbing Center came to the outdoor wall and easily climbed up the most difficult wall... twice.  He told me that I had the strength to get up the wall, but I did not have the confidence.  That information didn't really help me that much though, as I still fell off in the same spot the next two times.

By mid-afternoon a large number of visitors to the park had gathered to watch all the climbers.  Anyone who made it to the top of the wall received a round of applause.  Although I was not able to make it to the top while the crowd was there, I did take a spectacularly large fall of roughly 25 feet which garnered quite a few "oohs" and "ahhs," not to mention a good number of gasps as well (I was only 35 feet up, so I came relatively close to the ground).

After climbing, Perry invited me back to his place for a "party" in honour of my last week in Korea.  His wife only arrived home from her hiking trip five minutes after we walked in the door, but she is the fastest cook in the world and had a delicious feast on the table in under ten minutes.

After the party Perry showed me back to the subway station, but not before we said good-bye to his friend from the health food store.  Upon being told that it was my last week in Korea, his friend frantically looked around the shop for something to give me before finding a box of Korean ginseng tea (this was the item he was holding in the picture I took of him the first time I met him).  It was a touching gesture, and indicative of how much Koreans care for people they consider their friends.  I once again felt that I would miss Korea very much when I left.

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