I spent most of the morning reading, thinking and communicating about the disappearance of and ongoing search for the poet Craig Arnold. Craig and I had an energizing long chat a couple weeks ago about poetry, research volcanic and otherwise, and his travels in Japan. He was in Fukuoka that day, getting over what sounded like food poisoning. We made plans to meet in Kobe in June. As Craig had kindly given me plenty of detailed, helpful advice, and I was looking forward to chatting with him again soon, I kept his window open. At 10:18 am (before I'd read the announcement that he had gone missing) Craig's chat lamp came on green ("Craig is online."). At 10:19 am, the lamp went red again ("Craig is offline."). I called a few people in Japan and the US to let them know about this and see if I could help in any way. When I explained what happened with the green light, Mr. Kawahigashi (the local town officer) perked up. He suggested that even though reception on the island is bad, one could pick up an intermittent signal higher up on the volcano.
I'm glad to see they have extended the search and hope they find Craig soon and safe.
A little later, as I'm trying to concentrate on schoolwork, Dr. Park calls and invites me out for lunch, suggesting bi bim bap. Dr. Park, aka "The Spin Doctor" (to be explained), is a research biologist at Seoul National University Hospital and my neighbor here in Jewelry City.
Dr. Park does genetic research on diabetes. We head outside (beautiful day) to find a restaurant in Jongno. "What do you want?" "I don't know." "How about fermented bean soup?" "Looks good--smells gnarly." "How about sushi?" "Nah..." "How about bulgoki?" We settle on grilled fish. "Have you been here before?" "Yes, it's good. How about dog?" Pause. "They have dog here?" "Yes! Very good for your stamina." I feel like leaving, but we already have the menus and side dishes. "Ok, let's just have fish."
Clockwise from lower left: egg custard, kimchi, beans, burnt rice, grilled fish (mackerel?), glazed squid tidbits, spicy bean sprouts, fermented bean & tofu soup, seaweed, soy sauce + wasabi.
After lunch I walk over to Seoul National with Dr. Park, then back to Jongno. I try to capture this billboard, but riot police keep getting in the way:
I keep trying; more police
There we go: Human, Natural.
There are a lot of riot police in Jongno. There also many demonstrations here. Last year it seemed like there was one every day for three months (initially over American Beef imports, then Labor issues, then about the current president, Lee Myung-bak). A few weeks ago during a late-night Kinko's run, a compact car jetting through police bus traffic and crowds of protesters caught my eye. There was a tripod mounted video camera on the roof of the vehicle, camera man and all. Apparently some citizens found the nightly news footage of protest activity supplied by the police somewhat lacking, and decided to collect their own, which they later broadcast online.
After taking my roomate for a quick walk, I change shirts and hustle over to the nearby KBC (Korean Boxing Commission) office for our five o'clock meeting.
"Korean Pugilists Association." Police are everywhere.
Our meeting begins:
Left to right: Amy Berezowski, Kyunghoon (Thomas) Lee, S.K. Kwon, Major Lee, unknown, C.K. Kim.
Take a look at the people above. You can tell a lot from body language and faces.
1. Who is in charge?
2. Who speaks the best English?
3. Two of the people seated here are/were professional boxers. Who are they?
*Answers will be provided upside-down in an upcoming post. A prize will be awarded to the first to post all three correctly.
We discuss many things, and I am appointed Vice General Secretary of the Planning Committee for the 47th Annual World Boxing Council Convention in Cheju Island. I've never been to Cheju Island, and am looking forward to the convention in November. Please send suggestions and ideas. Meeting adjourned!
Waiting for Thomas, I snap a few shots of the Korean Boxing wall of fame:
I think it's safe to say Hong Soo-Hwan is the most famous boxer in Korea. Watch this fight and you'll see why. I feel fortunate to have befriended him, and to have received "a scholarship" that allows me to train for free at Hong Star Boxing Gym.
Yum Dong Kyun, Hong's old rival, now a leading boxing promoter and impressario.
Three Korean champions I had the pleasure of seeing live in action: (l to r) Cho In-Joo, (vs. North Korean-Japanese Masamori Tokuyama, both in Osaka and at the Walker Hill Ballroom in Seoul--will never forget the atmosphere of that North-South clash); Kim Jung-Bum (when he won the title by KO from Masakazu Satake, one of the best Japanese boxers I've ever seen), and Chi In-Jin (vs. Takashi Koshimoto in Kyushu--forget K-1, Mr. Chi! We want you back in boxing!).
Back outside, there are even more policemen lining the streets. "Why are there so many police today?" I ask Thomas. "Because Roh Moo-hyun (former president) is coming from his hometown, Pusan."
One great thing about meetings in Korea is that they are all followed by amazing meals:
We start out with kalbi tang, and Thomas orders yuk hwe ("Korean steak tartare").
Kalbi tang is one of my favorite dishes. Instead of rib meat ("kalbi") -- whether because of beef import restrictions, the current economic slump, or other reasons -- this one is full of chopped up knees and ankles. Ain't bad.
Separated at birth?
The meal was good, but heavy. Only one solution: Ping Pong! Thank goodness for our weekly Thursday International Jewelry City Table Tennis Tournament (TIJCTTT). Tonight pits the finest representatives of the respective table tennis communities of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the host country, the Republic of Korea.
The players stand ready: Dr. Park (ROK); M. Michael (UK); L. Goodman (USA) (not pictured).
The moment of service: a hush comes over crowd. Now you know why he's known as the Spin-Doctor. Dr. Park has the uncanny ability to put English on the ball. I suspect this is due to the illegal application of banned glues and polymers to the racquet's surface.
Note the "Asian" grip
Michael in good form
*Applications for next week's International Table Tennis Tournament are currently being accepted. Contact me here for an entry form.