Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Night of the Living Dead

The night before our medical Korean Mother made one of her regular visits to our apartment, but thinking we were bored she persuaded us to come out and exercise with her. It was 9pm, and quite dark. Feeling the desperate and likely futile need to work off as much excess body weight as possible before the next day, we agreed, though I had little idea of what lay in store.

We made our way to a nearby school where, she assured us, people would be exercising in the grounds outside. My scepticism was confirmed when we reached the locked gates and the empty space beyond. Apparently they close at nine. Not to be deterred, she insisted on trying another school, which we reached via a rather interesting route. She had more luck with this school - it had no gates - and sure enough, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the all-weather pitch in front of the main building, I could make out shadowy figures moving in lines around its perimeter, in one of the more surreal sights I've seen in Korea which seemed straight out of a horror movie. I tried to take pictures, although most were blurred as there really wasn't a lot for the camera to focus on - although one clear shot on an appropriate ISO shows the scene - even if it is artificially light. The second photo here is a better depiction of the level of darkness, even if it is a little blurred.

It seems that in addition to people coming here in the morning before school starts, they come here afterwards, walking quickly around the playing pitch using its border lines as a track of sorts. There are also a few pieces of exercise equipment along one of the edges, which could also be utilised.

We did nine and a half fast laps of the pitch (we cheated towards the end to beat Korean Mother who'd embarrassingly pulled ahead of us), working up quite a sweat.

I couldn't imagine such a thing happening back home - it's just asking to be mugged or worse - but here it's fine on the whole, and by all accounts a fairly common sight if you know where to look. Most of the shadowy figures were elderly - though not all - and in a reminder of life back in England, and a suggestion that not all is as it sometimes seems in Korea, four obviously under-age youths passed by to lurk in a particularly dark corner of the school building - where shortly after four tell-tale red dots in the distant darkness told its own story of non-adrenalin based addictions in this society.

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