Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Vacation - Ready, Set, Sweat!

Summer vacation officially started today for me and my friend Zach, who teaches at the middle school on the same campus as the high school at which I teach. We met up around 11:30 and went to the gym. Now, some of my readers may find this surprising. In fact, I have been going to the gym with some regularity for the last few months (excluding June). I figured that if I spent a modicum of time maintaining my body as much as I spent maintaining my laptop, tablet and phone, I may just live a longer, more comfortable life in the future. There is a community (read free) gym that is very adequate that Zach showed me months back. We spent about 50 minutes sweating our asses off and headed off to one of the local saunas.

I have not spent much time on the blog dwelling about saunas, one of my favorite places to go. Korea has a long and extensive public bathhouse culture. The process is quite relaxing and very rewarding after a long day standing and teaching a bunch of apathetic teenagers (hyperbole). Every sauna has a little different setup but the following is more or less the process: upon entering the men's sauna (남탕), you enter the first of two rooms. This first room is the locker room. You put your shoes in a locker and find a locker for your clothes (sometimes it's assigned). Once as naked as the day you were born, you enter the actual sauna room. There are a series of pools, each one a different temperature, from searing hot to nearly ice cold with assorted personal pools with jets. The pools are not for swimming but for soaking. Some pools are unique in offering different bathing experiences. Some pools are made into a giant brew of rooibos tea while others are artificially mixed with the same minerals and elements as found in the Dead Sea. There is an endless variety of preparing the pools. There are also dry and steam sauna rooms around the perimeter of the pool area. These also vary, with, for example, miserably humid Philippines-style 70 degree C room to dry rooms where the walls and the floor is made of sodium rock and you cook at an even 50 degrees C. After showering with an exfoliating rag at a row of showers, the series of dips begin! Zach and I tend to the following routine: shower, warm pool, cold pool, hot pool, cold pool, steam room, cold pool, shower. And how much is this luxurious experience? About $4.50 each. So far, this morning of health and fitness has cost us just under $5 each.

We then hit up our favorite Korean-style Chinese restaurant for some fried rice and egg drop soup. We're now at $9 each for the day's activities, and we head to our favorite cafe, Yoger Presso, which is where I find myself now.

I'm not sure how this summer vacation will go but I like where it's been so far. My brother will be here in less than a week and Megan (whom I know from Peace Corps) and her boyfriend will be arriving the evening of the 31st and staying until the 3rd or 4th. I go back to school on the 2nd but I'll be able to spend some quality time with them before my apartment ceases to be a transient motel and life in Yecheon goes back to its quiet ebb and flow...until I move to Andong later in August!