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Potato Slices on My Shoulders. And They’re Not Falling Off. (Thin Sliced. )

Well, having arrived back in Korea a week ago, having noted the slight growth of my gut, having that weird uneasy feeling of laziness begin to creep into the whole of my body, I have been making an effort to get back into some kind of better shape than I am…

Why I have thin-sliced pieces of potato on my shoulders, well, that’ll all be clear in a bit. Bear with me.

So I began to cycle, a few days ago. It was inevitable, really. As soon as the heavy rains stopped, it was just a matter of time and necessity… after all, my bicycle is my main mode of transport here in Jeonju, and having bought some cool saddlebags for the thing, I’m not about to stop riding it. (And no, it’s not a death-wish.) Well, cycling, when you’re even just three weeks out of the saddle, is tough. Cycling across town in absurdly humid heat is even harder, and I have taken to carrying at least one change of shirt and underpants(and today even an extra pair of shorts.) I am sweating so profusely that I constantly drink fluids and still have very little need to urinate all day.

And then, last night, I decided I would get into this “getting back into shape” thing full-on: I decided to go swimming. I’d heard rumors of a beautiful big new pool in my neighborhood, and once I figured out where it was (the directions I was emailed included a left turn where I needed to make a right, but I guessed that was the case, avoiding an unnecessary detour), it was only a matter of minutes before I was paying the entry fee.

After a short chat with a student of mine who happened to be in the changeroom, leaving as I was going in, I got ready and headed into the pool. Now, the pool is double the length of anything I’ve ever swum in before (well, anything I’ve swum in indoors, anyway); and the net effect was that, after being four months out of practice but with a year of continuous practice previous to that, I pushed myself to make each lap. Needless to say, what followed was one of the most taxing forty-periods I’ve experienced thus far in 2004; but afterwards, though I couldn’t move my arms, I felt good. I felt so good that I couldn’t sleep until 5am, so I just posted a ton of pics to my blog.

Then I woke this morning. Today was the day I was supposed to cycle across town to check out how long the ride is from my workplace to the apartment I may be living in next year. Now, when I left my house, I left under two assumptions:

Now, if you examine these two assumptions, you’ll see that the reliability of the former is really quite dependent on the veracity of the latter.

Unfortunately, I did not know the way to Palbokdong. I realized this somewhere most of the way to a town called Wonju, at least that’s what I remember. I remember that because I tried to call ahead to the people waiting at the apartment to let them know I’d be late. (There was no answer, so I just turned back.) Finally, I found my way; a little country road led windingly down to Palbokdong, and after that it was relatively easy to find my way.

When I arrived, I took the offer of a cold shower and changed my clothes. I’d been drenched with sweat and my tanktop and shorts were thoroughly soaked.

Note that: tank top.

Over the next few hours, my shoulders became more and more red, hot, and painful. My legs? Fine. My back? Fine. Forearms? Fine! Face? A little red, but fine. But my shoulders, now they felt funny even in the icy water of the shower I took. (It had to be icy, the gas had been shut off due to disuse in the flat. I shrieed a few times. I don’t like icy showers, not even in summer.)

Well, after dinner with Lime, who wrote some rather absurd exams this morning, she decided to take me to get some sunburn lotion and some sunblock. We couldn’t find anything decent in either category, so she told me about her home remedy for sunburns, and asked that I try it.

And now, what you would see if you could see me, is a bunch of very thin, thin slices of potato all over the “affected area”. I never, ever expected them to stick, and they sometimes haphazardly do drop off, one or two at a time, but mostly they’re sticking to my skin and not just cooling but also moisturizing it. Lime, who is, I may remind you, a student of medicine, insisted that this is precisely what she does herself when she gets a sunburn.

Oh, I forgot to mention, on the way home I got my bike looked at. The owner of the bike shop is crazy about bikes, you can see pics of him touring all kinds of places, and he really knows what he is doing. He tightened spokes, fixed my brakes (and reversed them from the Korean standard to what I believe is the Western standard, so that the right brake is the rear and the left is the front brake… which is good because it means I don’t have to fight to reverse my braking instinct in those split-second instants when you have to rely on actions that are not thought-out); what else? Oh, he ordered a taller seat post for me, checked the gear-shifter (which still misbehaves a little but not too badly), oiled the chain, put a little air in the tires, and advised me about the safest way to affix my saddlebags to the bike.

All of this, for W3,000: the equivalent of about two American dollars and some odd change, or about $3.00 and a few pennies, in Canadian funds. This was the price he asked for, mind you, for about 25 minutes of work on my bike, but then he also knows that whenever I need hardware or repairs, I’ll come to him. And, best of all, my bike runs like a dream once again. Cycling is danger and a pain on a bicycle in even slight disrepair, but on a finely tuned bike, it’s a joy to cycle wherever you need to go.

As long as you remember to put on some sunblock first.

These potatoes have been in place long enough. Time to get the cream onto my skin and relax and watch some kind of movie while I think about this essay I’m trying to write…

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