Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The little things you notice...

While I'm on the thought of the little things that one notices in another country besides their own, like, say for example, the Korean guys checking themselves out while they pump iron/exercise at the Gym I recently subscribed to. I find it the funniest thing in the world! Back home, if a guy even thought to admire himself in a mirror in the presence of someone else, they would be considered vain. Not here, however.

My gym is called Sky Health Club and it's truly is cool. It's a triple level gym located on the 6th floor of a building, fairly close to the KiungPook National University that I visit often. Plenty of weights, cardio machines, and separate changing/bathroom rooms for the sexes---including a sauna and bath to use after working out. It runs nearly w50,000 per month, but since I go to work out everyday---I've opted to pay the w5,000 extra per month to use their clothes (shirt, shorts and endless towel usuage). It's pretty neat. I figured why not--since I sweat so much when I work out, it would cost me at LEAST that much washing my workout clothes everyday!

Another little thing I've noticed here in Korea, is how the women wash themselves in the shower rooms. Toilettes are separated from the changing room, which are separated from the actual bathing area (or shower room)--which resembles quite often more like a Spa than a gym shower room. Crazy. Oh, and thank GOD the toilettes are Western, sit-down style. No one told me you squat on a hole in the floor when you need a bathroom from a restaurant or a public venue (library, etc.) Now that is crazy. So, back to bathing.

The women actually sit down when they take a shower---hence the many little chairs that are to be found with knee-level sinks, and showerheads. It's odd to me. I tried sitting down to bath after working out once, and I nearly slipped trying to soap up. So I resorted to the usual Western way of standing while bathing.

Interestingly enough, I'm usually the only white American to be found within a 500 meter eye shot around me--so I've gotten used to the quick glances and body comparisons from females at my gym or the local swimming pool where I swim occasionally. I find it rather strange, too, that I'm usually the only female working with the weights, too. There's supposedly a 'woman's floor' and a 'men's floor'---with weight machines and specific weights that correspond to gender. But more often than not, I find myself on the 'men's floor' (not that it's mandatory that the floor I spend the most time on is 'men only', etc. it just means that there is a higher concentration of men than there are women on that floor.) In any event, no female uses the free weights--except me. So I often get a few looks, and quizzacle glances. In fact, just last week, another Korean guy working out asked me, "Are you going to use this?" (the machine being a controlled dead-lift with various weights option, othewise the squat machine) "Of course, I said. Are you using it?"

"Why are you using this machine? What will you do?" he sort of snapped at me, wondering why in God's name would a female use this machine. I simply stated that I wanted to concentrate muscle strengthening to my calves, quads and shoulders, while improving my core with correct postering (I am familiar with the machine, so to me, it's not an issue that I would dare to 'build muscle' while so many Korean women shy away from the very thought!) Needless to say, he smiled and went on his way. "We can use this machine together." Explanation given, well-recieved.
I guess that's how an American foreigner integrates themselves into the health club scene, without too much violation to the standard rule!

More little statues carved from rock from the KiungPook National University Campus: I love the place!

What do they mean? Haven't a clue, only that this little garden is an icon for the campus, and it's quite pleasurable to sit around and stare at them. Since I can only read Korean, but at this point don't know what the Korean means that I read---I've understood thus far that these statues resemble the indigenous people that lived there on campus, way back when, in ancient times. Just behind the length of the statues is a huge, monolithic rock that represents the 'gateway' to the old world. Rather interesting. I've even made faces at these figurine statues while walking past, hoping they might respond--like a little child who doesn't understand that these rocks are not people. Hmm. I amuse myself. As expected, these rock statues didn't smile back.

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