I had a brainwave a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve griped about those Thursdays and Fridays at N2, my dreaded second school, more than once on TGTW. I’ve described how my heart sinks and my spirits drag around my ankles as I approach it — like going to the dentist or a colonoscopy exam twice a week. For a year.
Every week I was leaving the apartment for my 45-minute walk a little later, sneaking into the Fortress of Solitude at the last possible minute, glancing at the textbook, and cranking up some tunes on You Tube to squeeze some adrenalin into my system before those hideous chimes summoned me to my fate.
So then I thought, why not leave earlier — 45 minutes earlier — and take the river route? Make it a 90-minute ramble, pausing wherever you want to smell the flowers and take a few pictures, get some exercise and do something useful with your day?
And so far it’s working perfectly.
Four times now I’ve done this morning ramble, and I actually arrive at N2 feeling relaxed and calm. It keeps me away from the noisy road with its hordes of students, and provides a soothing morning brush with nature.
I’ve been scathing about the Daecheong River in the past, and it’s still a severely degraded, polluted waterway. But Spring and Summer transformed it somewhat, and I enjoy its banks now.
It really pumps after rain, transporting much of the garbage downstream and into the realm of Someone Else’s Problem. Rushes and reeds thrive in its shallows and there’s an exuberantly blooming weedy jungle along its unkempt banks.
The Koreans perplex me, though, as ever. Dusk will often find groups of kids in martial-arts uniforms training with their teacher near the water…
..or older folks strolling the banks, sitting in groups eating, drinking and even cooking.
Underpasses, no matter how dingy and dank, are favoured locales, with their shade and trickling water.
But the concept of taking your garbage home with you has not widely caught on here. In fact my riparian reveries are frequently disturbed by technicolor explosions of RAGE amid scenes like this:
In general, though, it’s very pleasant — not picturesque as such (although I never tire of the brilliant green of young rice shoots in the endless acres of paddies) but teeming with life and sound, the banks strongholds of urban biodiversity.
I have fun trying and failing to photograph insects without a macro lens, and particularly enjoy the unseen cuckoos whose resounding calls leap out from hillside thickets, all through the day.
Eventually I leave the river, skirt the rice-paddy plains, pass through a manure-fragrant dairy with a vicious cur and a joyously crowing rooster, before it’s out into the paddies again as the awful road comes into sight.
This is one of my favourite spots. You often see a lone tree of prodigious size and age standing guard over the paddies, a prized specimen left to stand when its peers were flattened long ago. There are often benches or a pergola where the old farmers rest, shoes off, in the midday heat, as they must have done for generations or even centuries.
This week at N2 was a weird one. It was oddly stress-free, and surely not just from my morning commute? The classes were relatively well behaved; the boys mostly subdued and occasionally even polite; the girls didn’t even curse me too harshly as I confiscated mirrors, brushes, combs, sprays, lotions, scissors, ointments, moisturisers and styling wands.
I have one class of utter deadbeats, 3rd year boys without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. A few weeks ago I gave up, seven or eight minutes early; “Enjoy the rest of your day!” I announced, and walked out, my co-teacher lashing them as I strode cheerfully down the hall.
A fortnight later they started better but soon deteriorated. I ended up thrashing them — unfortunately only verbally — throwing one punk out of the class and writing “OXYGEN THIEF” on the blackboard.
But yesterday they were almost angelic. Most necks remained vertical and mouths shut. Even the Oxygen Thief seemed almost humble. One punk amazed me with not one but two questions. They were annoying, but quietly so.
I smelled a rat. They’d obviously been spoken to.
“What did you threaten them with?” I asked my co-teacher after class. “Talking to their parents?”
“We used a…umm…? I can’t remember the word. Carrot?”
“Oh, I see. What kind of carrot?”
She seemed a little embarrassed.
I laughed out loud. I have six more months with these darlings.
“You’d better have a bloody huge ice-cream budget,” I said.
It’s my birthday today — a Saturday! Tonight I’m hiking up into the student-free hills to spend the night on the ground somewhere with a good view. A raging, raucous party of one…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote