One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” –Henry Miller

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exploration+No phone+ No money+ A fragile sense of Direction = Lost

I nearly got lost... again. I swear I'm not a totally incompetent navigator. If you give me a general direction and an end point I can usually stumble and bumble my way there and probably back again (note: "probably"). It's just that living in a Korean city has shaken the foundations of my already delicate sense of direction.

With that said, I've been exploring different directions from my apartment on my long Sunday runs. Today I looked at the map and saw a sizable chunk of green south of me. A park! I had to find it. From what I could tell, I could run south along one road that started with a "D" for a ways and at some point veer right, which would put me smack dab in it. It was a large enough park that I thought, surely there's no missing it and I was right about that. There was no missing the park... getting back was a different story.

I found the park without a hitch. It was a bit of a trek to the top because it appears to be the highest point within the city limits. I tried running up the hill.  That was a Swing and a Miss!  I couldn't tell you the grade, but whatever it was it was way too steep for my sad legs that were already fatigued from running (figuratively) around Busan this weekend.

The park was really nice. I wasn't there for long because the sun was going down and I knew I had to get back.  I saw quite a few hiking trails and a really big fitness facility with basketball courts, tennis courts, and a running track.

I haven't notice this until now, but in parks or even along the side of nicer pedestrian walkways Korea has exercise equipment set out for the public. I'm talking ellipticals, stationary bikes, calf presses, and places to do sit-ups and pull-ups. I haven't seen very many young people using the machines, but plenty of ajimas (a Korean word for old married women).  Ajimas, fully equipped with their neck to toe track suit and visor, move spryly on the ellipticals.  But don't let these little ajimas fool you! They look cute, but they have quite the reputation for their less than amiable personalities and aggressive shoving on the metro or anywhere on the street if you happen to be in their way.

As I said, the park looked to be the highest elevation in the city so I thought I might catch a clear view of the city. I walked further and further along a ridge in hopes that it would open up. It never did. It makes sense hindsight.  I wanted to see a view of the city because I'm not native. The Koreans who go to this park go to get away from the city. They want their own patch of green not more brick and concrete.  

Part Two: The Journey back:  On the way back I made a grave mistake. I found the entrance to the park by taking a series of lefts and rights until I ran into it, really, by chance. So my thought was that on the way back I would try to find a more direct route.  (Mistake, I know. It made sense to me at the time.) The problem being that (as in the case of getting lost before) city planning is not a true grid system here. Streets cut across one another in every direction.  For example, I started on a street that looked to be heading northward (where I needed to go), but I found that it was really running northeast (ever so slightly, but enough to knock me way off course).  I knew I was looking for a street that started with a "D" and I thought that if I saw it again it would look familiar, but all of the street names began to look the same. "Was it Dongsero or Daedeokdaero or Daedunsanno?... ?? " Mistake number two: I left the apartment with only my key and music. I didn't have a phone, I didn't have money, and I was lost.  I'll admit, I started to panic, which meant that at that point I had terrible images of myself crying, begging someone to help back to Galleria Timeworld (the biggest landmark near my apartment). Thankfully, I didn't have to resort to that. The sun was going down on my left so I knew I was walking north and I (by the grace of some higher power) found my way back.

There is a lesson here: stay away from the Ajimas (they body check like pro hockey player) and always, always have a cell phone (or a way to buy one) when I leave the apartment.


  1. HAHA that is so you jess lol glad you made it back though I would hate to fly out there and have to find you :) Love the stories as always!

  2. haha! what can I say? We don't all have the internal GPS like you have always seemed to have ;) love you!

  3. Believe me GPS wouldn't even work if you had one..and yes..lesson learnt..never leave the house without some cash!!

  4. LOL! I second what Lauren said. Remember us trying to navigate around NYC? Fun times :)

    Glad you made it back ok!!