Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Pinoy Who Went Up A Hill And Climb Down A Mountain

The title sounds familiar, I know. I couldn’t help borrowing from Hugh Grant’s 1995 film (which I highly recommend if you haven’t watched it yet):  The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill and Climb Down A Mountain.
 Well, Hugh Grant and I went up on separate mountains; he up Garth Mountain, while I up Nam-san.  And while he had all the strength to climb his mountain on foot with his walking stick, I didn’t.  After two hours of tennis, my legs were wobbly to walk up Nam-san on this sunny, spring Sunday morning.
 He had to climb his mountain to measure it; I had to go up Nam-san to check on the blooms.
 On cool weekends, people would usually climb Nam-san on foot. While parents with babies, a few lazy tourists and one tired tennis player, take the Yellow Bus. Ha-ha-ha!
 After my tennis at the Jangchung Tennis Courts across the Seoul Club, I just walked a hundred meters to join the other tourists crowding the bus stop.
 And we were all lucky! The yellow bus that stopped for us was not the ordinary yellow bus, but Nam-san’s Electric Bus!
 The bus was packed!  And on our way up, I saw bikers, hikers and everyone else tracing the southern trail going up the mountain, stopping for photos and enjoying the blooms.
 It was just a short ride up, less than five minutes actually, if  we didn’t slow down to avoid sideswiping tourists and the tour buses parked along the already narrow road.
 And at the peak, it was an international party!  I could hear several languages spoken at the rest area and noticed different nationalities taking photos of the N-Seoul Tower right after alighting from their tour buses.
 And from there, the best part for me -- it was downhill all the way! Or should I say, down-mountain? Ha-ha-ha!
 Nam-san is 262 meters high, which is about 859 feet; while Hugh Grant’s Garth Mountain was only 984 feet on initial measurement, but eventually reached over 1,000 feet, the required height for a mountain in that movie. (As to how the mountain got taller overnight, you have to watch the movie. And that’s how the movie got its title, by the way).
 As for me, climbing Nam-san in a bus was a breeze, literally spring breeze. And climbing down was even more enjoyable.  Looking at the photos alone is not enough to duplicate the enjoyment.
 Hugh Grant’s going up a hill and climbing down a mountain may have turned into a movie, but my bus ride up and hike down Nam-san today turned into a photo album, a blog and an enjoyable day.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Who Are Your 100 Most Influential People?

I was reading Time magazine's issue on its 100 most influential people in the world and I wondered whether each of them has ever influenced me. Hmmm...Some faces I recognize; some names I don't. And worse, some names I don't even know how to pronounce. 

There were some familiar ones: Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, Aung San Suu Kyi and Kim Clijsters, the tennis mom.
And if I enumerate: Oprah Winfrey, Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Bineta Diop, Aruna Roy -- I bet you would only recognize the first one. Like I did.

So, in between those flimsy Time pages, I began to think that perhaps some of the 100 may have actually influenced me (or my TV habits!),  there were and are people who influence my life. Time has its own team who gathered these 100 names. But I didn't need a team to help me gather. All I need is an iced cafe mocha. Ha-ha-ha!

The names that would definitely come up are those of my grandma, whom I called Wawa, since I could not properly pronounce Lola (grandma) when I was little (and all the adults around me called her Wawa, too, as her name became endeared to everyone), and that of one grand dame, Tita Luz, who led a life of prayer, wisdom and philanthropy. In short, she was a real Doña. If someday, I decide to write a book about the people in my life, these two women would definitely get top billing.

Of course, naturally, my hardworking parents have influenced me as well: both very diplomatic, friendly and talkative. Ha-ha-ha! They both love to tell stories. Before, stories of their kids. Now, stories of their apos (grandkids).

But there are other people I would love to pay tribute to. These people I talk to everyday, I bump into everyday, and people who make my day easier. 

There's the driver of the Green Bus 0018 (formerly 2013), who would open his door to let this commuter in and ferry him to Yongsan on weekdays. And of course, on rainy days, the taxi driver who stops to pick up this passenger from the rain and gives him a dry ride to Yongsan.

There are the engineers of Subway Lines 4 and 6, who make sure that the trains moving through Sinyongsan Station to Samgakji, and to Itaewon get there on time so that this passenger arrives at his playground safe and quick. (Ha-ha-ha!)

Of course, the people cleaning my neighborhood and gather the trash everyone leaves behind at the dump, making my day smell-free and pleasant. Without them, this neighborhood would smell and look trashy.

And there are the baristas (Ha-ha-ha! I need to mention them!) of Starbucks in Itaewon who generously put extra spoonfuls of green tea powder so that this customer will enjoy his extra sweet green tea latte. (And that latte generates a lot of creativity. Ehem. Ha-ha-ha!)

And years of playing tennis on clay and hardcourts in Seoul, my tennis friends Lynette and Rene, Jin-woong, Dong-Eun, Seung-Ho, Dong-Hyun and all other friends whom I have played with and against -- have sharpened, improved and polished my game, and of course, helped me lose a few pounds while running around the court. And a couple of Korean instructors, who, even if they could not speak English, have reminded me to get rid of bad habits on court through sign language. Ha-ha-ha!  And most especially, those tennis stars like Rafa, Pete, Roger and Martina H. (whom I have seen up close), and Monica and Steffi ( Ha-ha-ha!) for helping me learn a trick or two.

And of course, my friends in Korea: Pinoys, Koreans and other nationalities, who make my life fun and enjoyable, and who never forget to feed me with kare-kare, pancit malabon, biko, ensaimadas, brownies, buko pie, chocolates, cheese rolls, dulce gatas, valenciana and a lot more! They all make my days sweet, yummy and fattening. Ha-ha-ha!

I am not sure if 100 is enough to list my own most influential people. I don't even feel I could complete my list. But complete or not, I thank them for making my day, for cleaning my neighborhood, for giving me safe ride, for sharing a dish or two, for welcoming me into their homes, for making me run around the court, or for simply helping me out with the language.

Time came up with their 100 most influential people because they have a magazine to sell. 

I am just coming up with my own 100 because I have people to thank and a life to enjoy.

Now, who are your 100 most influential people?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Going To The Seoul Friendship Fair 2011?

I just hope there the yellow dust won't be sprinkling all over the Seoul Plaza on Saturday, May 7 and 8, 2011.
The Seoul Friendship Fair will be held next weekend, and what I usually look forward to at the fair is enjoying the international cuisine offered by booths from different countries. 
The Philippine booth is, of course, a regular at the fair with Pinoys living in Seoul volunteering to help out the Philippine embassy's participation at the fair.

The schedule says the fair opens at 12 noon, just in time when my stomach starts to rumble. 
I just hope the rain stays away from the Seoul Plaza and the yellow dust from Korea.
I am going to the fair. Are you?
Here's the official link:


Sunday, 1 May 2011

One Spring Night ... In Yeouido!

Although spring always comes during my busiest time of the year, I always make sure that I still squeeze in a few things  between work and sleep.
And during the Yeouido Cherry Blossom festival, while I am underneath a few piles of paper work, I make sure I'd be able to run to that island (yes, it's actually Yeoui Island if translated) and squeeze in a few shots. Not of soju, but from my camera, that is.
I know I wouldn't want to go and join a million people at the festival during day time. I already experienced the huge traffic and the hordes of tourists cramping at every inch of space to enjoy the blossoms. 
 But what I actually wanted to do was to take more shots of the cherry blossoms bathed in colored lights at night.
Although I did that years ago when I didn't have this blog yet, I wanted to do it again so I would have fresh photographs to post.
So a couple of days ahead, I called 1330, the tourism information hotline to check whether the colored lights at the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival are turned off at night, if ever. And they are! Like Cinderella! 
From early evening until 11:59 PM, people are enamored with their blue-ish, orange, magenta and light green (at least those were the colors I saw) blooms, and at the strike of 12, some killjoy somewhere, turns off the switch! Ha-ha-ha! And the blossoms go back to their natural, pale-white appearance in the middle of the dark night. At least, Cinderella had a carriage, one glass slipper, and a fairy godmother.

The Yeouido cherry blossoms only have the moon and the soft beams from the street lamps.
To the Yeouido park authorities:  Can you at least keep the colored lights on until it's the morning sun's turn? These cherry trees only bloom once a year for crying out loud! Are you afraid of getting humongous electric bills? 
Going back to my appointment with spring.

So, on the last weekend of the festival, that Saturday, I rushed to finish my work and decided to call it a day...or a night. It's already 9:30 PM, and I only have more than two hours before those colored lights are switched off!
So, I hurried home to get my cameras, hopped on the Blue Bus 400 from Hannam-dong, and got off Hanggang-no 1-dong to take a cab to cross the Wonhyo Bridge. I thought this was the fastest way for me to get to Yeouido. 
I couldn't take the subway because the intervals between train arrivals at late nights are longer. I couldn't go for the Mapo Bridge because it's too far.  And definitely, I can't take a cab from Hannam-dong because it will be too expensive! 
I wouldn't know how much it will cost as I don't know the traffic situation along the way. For all I know, a million cars are jamming the routes going to Yeouido!
And I was right!

It was already past 10 when the cab I took from the Yongsan Electronics road crossed the Wonhyo Bridge, and on reaching the end of the bridge (on the other side of the Han River), the cab turned right and bam! Traffic!
People were still at the festival this late! Perhaps, they just got off from work, too! Ha-ha-ha!
So, I just got off after a few hundred meters of slow-pace drive and paid W5,000! A bargain if I took it from Hannam-dong!
I lost track of time as I made my way to the Yeouiseo Road where the trees are outnumbered by parents, kids, couples, tourists, vendors and of course, pets! And as I expected, there were fewer people this late night, compared to perhaps a million during the day.
And while I was still busy trying to capture the colored trees deep into the lane, guess what happened.
Like a cursed Cinderella, the colored lights were turned off! I heard people ask 'Why?!'  We better ask the Yeouido park authorities. 
This festival only happens once a year, and people stay up late even after midnight to enjoy this spring weekend. But someone out there just wants to turn off the lights that give colors to the cherry blooms at night. 
Oh well, I guess I was lucky I made it before midnight. And the photos above were taken before 11:59PM. 

And the one below was taken at the same time when Cinderella was hurrying into her carriage. With only one glass slipper.
Well, good for Cinderella. She had a free ride home. While I had to take a cab back to Hannam-dong. My cab fare? More than W10,000.

Good night! Er, good morning na pala.