Friday, November 24, 2006

While You Were Sleeping

Cold, we left the school event at ten-past eight and went up to the Pusan National University area to get something to eat, ending up at a branch of 'Mr. Pizza', where - without my girlfriend who'd gone to the toilet - I blagged fluency in the Korean language for the first time by paying for the meal with a '여기 있습니다' (here you are while handing over the money), '감사합니다' (thank you when receiving the change), and the stock-phrase on leaving a store '수고하세요'. Thank God they didn't ask me how my meal was. The downside of being embedded in a Korean family is that everyone does the talking for you so opportunities to fly by the seat of your pants in Korean are few and far between.

My girlfriend's friend joined us at twenty to ten and we shopped for an hour before snacking at an 'as seen on TV' (apparently) food vendor near the station. They did seem to be doing good business though.

So it was 23:15 by the time we set off on our forty minute subway journey back home. Bad enough for us, but a very long day indeed for our friend who'd taught all day before taking part in the event she'd organised - and tomorrow was the school's 'sports day' which meant more long hours. How does she do it? She sleeps between four-and-a-half and five hours
every night. I wondered - given what else I've observed here - whether that was so unusual for a Korean.

Of course, our friend sleeps on the subway - as most Koreans seem to - and that may go some way to make up an additional hour or so every day - but it doesn't seem very good quality rest time to me. And despite Koreans' uncanny ability to usually wake up in time for their station, there are the inevitable times this doesn't work, and you spend more time backtracking the other way to the stop you missed. In fact, just that morning our friend had awoken a stop beyond where she was going, but that pales into insignificance against the time my girlfriend, returning late one night from
university, not only slept right the way to the end of the line, but was only finally awoken by the sound of the cleaners cleaning the carriage in the subway depot some time later.

Meanwhile, since coming to Korea and finding the pace of my lifestyle vastly accelerated, I've found myself involuntarily sleeping eight hours a night rather than the six I used to back home, because all the activity is making me tired. I'm going to need to work on reducing that if I'm to keep up with the Koreans.

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