When Brittany and I showed up to the subway station, we were happy to see the carnival like atmosphere that precedes all the races I’ve ever been to. There’s something awesome about 20,000 people getting together to be out on a beautiful day pushing through a tough race. Everyone at a race is really in it together. You come to admire the people you are running with. There was the usual medley of music dancing, pre-race battle cries, and excitement all about. There was something else about the runners when we got off the subway this morning. They looked wayyyyyy more serious than me. There were groups in matching uniforms, doing their pre-run calisthenics, people taking laps through the subway station (before running 26.2 miles!), and a whole mess of people who looked generally more prepared and serious than I. I had been sick all week and my butt had been pretty smashed up from a night of drunken snowboarding the previous weekend. On the couple of short runs I took during the week, my stomach tightened up within a few miles and I felt horrible. But by Sunday, I was mostly better, and felt like the 26.2 was a real possibility. The story of my run can be told from the perspective of running lessons that I learned. When I ran a half marathon those many years ago, I was pretty motivated by the act of catching and passing the people ahead of me. I was able to maintain a pretty good pace for most of the race just by deciding I wanted to pass everyone. So, for the beginning of my race this time, I thought I’d do the same. I took off feeling great, passing pretty much everyone from my starting group. Within 10 miles I was running almost entirely with the group that started 20 minutes ahead of me, and within 13 miles I was starting to see some people from the first group to leave the starting line. At this point, I’m thinking I’m quite the badass. I cruised the first half like nothing. And then I had to run the second half. After running the first half pretty damn fast (and 13 miles isn’t usually a huge run if I run at a normal pace) I started saying to myself, “I have to run 13 more miles. That’s not good at all.” I hit a big wall long before I’ve heard the average marathoner hits the wall. I thought there was no possible way I could run 13 more miles. After 5 more miles the subway pass in my pocket was starting to feel real nice. From 18 miles on the words of George Sheehan kept me from throwing in the towel: “Some think guts is sprinting at the end of a race. But guts is what got you there to begin with. Guts start in the back hills with six miles to go and you’re thinking of how you can get out of this race without anyone noticing. Guts begin when you still have forty minutes left and you’re already hurting more than you ever remember.” So with that in mind, I carried on slowly and step by step. I hit some good fortune at mile 18, when I felt my absolute worst. A random couple was pouring out cups of Coke on the side of the road. In desperation, I ran up and they offered me cola. This was the first time that I was grateful beyond measure. The next time came 2 miles later. I left my running pack at home because I had the vague impression there would be occasional snack stops along the way, but by mile 20 there hadn’t been any and I was hurting pretty bad. And that’s when I saw bananas. Out loud I said “Thank you” with about as much gratitude as I have ever had. I slowed to walk through the aid station so that I could double-fist bananas and drink 4 or 5 cups of Pocari Sweat (the Korean/Japanese version of Gatorade.) From there on it was painful but steady running. But with just two kilometers left I saw one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed. On the side of the road, a man wearing a clown wig, who started the day in such high spirits with everyone else, lay on the side of the road as a man desperately gave him CPR. As there were already people attending him, there wasn’t really anything I could do, so like everyone else, I ran on. But the I couldn’t shake the sight. I got really faint and felt like I did a few weeks ago when I cut my finger really deep and went into shock. I was a little bit dazed, and after slowing to a walk for a little bit, I just sat on the side of the road for awhile. Eventually, I stood to finish the race (just in time, as my legs were ready to cramp up by the time I stood again), and I trotted the last 1.5 km in. At the end I didn’t have the joyful feeling I had running with everyone all day. Maybe it was my altered state of consciousness from running 26.2 miles, maybe I was just really tired, but I was still thinking of the man in the clown wig. I walked around getting food and drink after the race almost in tears. When I found Brittany I couldn’t tell her what happened, so I just showed off my medal and smiled, but she thought I was a little too sad for having just run my first marathon. As I lost my time chip, I don’t have an official time to report. The last I looked at my watch before starting to run, it was 8:26, and I finished at 12:04, so I am conservatively reporting my unofficial time as 3:40. I’m not sure if or when I will run another marathon. The marathon was incredibly fun, but as I said before, I really just want to enjoy running for the sake of running. And I have definitely done that. Last week, a friend asked why I run big distances, and I the time I just said that it’s fun when you get into it. But there’s something very free about running; in Seoul, I go a few miles through the city, find myself on a mountain in the early morning with only a few people around, and suddenly every step is the only thing to focus on. Removing my focus means falling or slowing down. When you run, you’re light, and just let your feet decide where to go. It has been a most excellent 6 months of running. It’s been over 1,000 miles of enjoying the fresh air, exploring a new city, the occasional unforgettable adventure, meeting and running with new people, exploring my own mind and abilities, and enjoying what it is to have a body and consciousness. I’ll still be running. If anyone is ever in Seoul look me up and we’ll take a good run together. -Ryan
With the decision to say in Korea for at least a year and a half more, we decided it was time to start looking for a dog. Getting a dog was one of those things that we kept saying would happen one day… later… when we’re going to be somewhere longer or have a yard or a house or a nearby network of free and willing parents… ahem… pet-sitters. But after deciding to stay in Korea somewhat more permanently, and after extensively researching the boarding, pet-sitting, and travel options available to us with a dog in Korea, we decided to go for it.
We checked with our boss and our school next year to make sure that we could have a dog in our apartment and began perusing a website here in Korea that organizes pets needing adoption, Animal Rescue Korea. This organization isn’t a shelter itself, but provides a central place for pets in multiple shelters and fostered pets looking for good homes. In Korea, any dog in a shelter can legally be killed after 10 days, the theoretical time period it would take for someone to claim their lost dog, if they were looking. So when we found Roxie’s profile, we learned that she had been saved from puppy “death row”, found in a questionably abusive vet’s office/shelter, where she had been for 9 days.
After seeing Roxie’s profile on Friday, we got to go meet her on Sunday. Within one week with her foster family, she had been mostly housetrained and was becoming more and more outgoing and friendly. She crawled into our laps and played with her stuffed donut toy as we talked to an adoption coordinator and her foster mom.
We decided Roxie was awesome and that we would like adopt her. After reading an article our adoption coordinator referred us to about solving potential issues with landlords in Korea, I emailed our boss to get written confirmation that we could have a dog in our apartment. The next day, she emailed back that she checked with our landlord and we actually couldn’t have a dog because someone in the building is sensitive to the noise and the smell.
Very bummed out, we told our adoption coordinator the news and decided we would wait to ad0pt a dog until August when we would be moving to our new school and new apartment. But our coordinator suggested that we talk with our landlord about ways we could resolve any potential issues. In the meantime, Roxie had to move from her first foster family to her second, making this her third move in as many weeks. We asked our boss if we could communicate directly with the owner of our building, but she didn’t want us to talk to her directly. Instead, she suggested that we adopt the dog and it could be our “secret”, and that she would help address any issues that might arise.
Hesitant of this arrangement, we let our adoption coordinator know and expected to be turned down. But because our boss was willing to help address concerns, they decided to go ahead and let us take her home. Ryan jokingly referred to Roxie as the Anne Frank of dogs, and I was indeed worried that having Roxie in our apartment might feel like smuggling her anytime she had to go outside or might bark at a noise. If we hadn’t already met Roxie we would have waited until a better living situation, but since we knew we could offer her a good home, we agreed to a trial adoption.
We were scheduled to take a snowboarding trip the weekend we could pick up Roxie, so Ryan went on the trip while I went to pick her up. We had a vet appointment where she was pronounced very healthy, having gained 2.5 kg in a two week period, albeit still quite scared of the vet. I took a taxi home with her in a crate, and hung out with her all weekend until Ryan returned on Sunday.
I was a bit of an anxious mess, truth be told. She hardly barked, but once or twice would bark at the door when she heard a noise in the hallway. After 6 months passing where we saw just ONE of what we think should be 4 neighbors, we saw three different people in our building, with us walking out of our apartment with Roxie on a leash. When we left the house Roxie would cry and scratch at the door, and she has a tendency to bark when she hears a noise in the hallway. I was convinced we were going to be forced to give her back, and her with nowhere else to go.
As the week has gone on, with no complaints from our neighbors yet, we’re feeling better. Roxie is already completely housetrained, likes to play tug, always has a little bit of tongue sticking out (which makes her look like a dweeb), and is quite lovable.
Well, after months of having “our fishing lines in many ponds” (as my wife would say), the week came upon us quite suddenly and unexpectedly when we had to make a decision about what to do next year. This was not only our first big decision as a married couple, but also one of the biggest decisions either of us have ever made in the sense that the outcomes of any of the decisions were quite obviously and radically different.
After months of applying, thinking about possible scenarios, and waiting, we heard from pretty much everywhere within 3 days of each other. My philosophy with jobs is that I’ll get one when I get to a place. I never really plan it out before, but just go and find something to do for a while. Brittany, however, had a few different applications out in the ether, which meant that our possible scenarios were painted from these plans.
After hearing back early from an international school in Kyrgyzstan and a PhD program in Boulder, two of our top options got swept away. So we had anxiously been waiting to hear from other PhD programs and international schools, when they all came at once. Brittany was accepted to UC Santa Cruz with $40,000 of funding for the first year only, offered a job at an international school just outside of Seoul, and to top it off, offered a job at her old school in Denver. So we had 3 very different, very good options, and we had to decide within just a few days, due to the terms of the offers from the international school and university regarding funding.
I’m more of a seat-of-my-pants kind of person, whereas Brittany likes a plan of sorts. This actually made the decision-making process quite difficult. Whereas I imagined myself adjusting well to any place, I think Brittany was worried that I would be restless in some situations. Of course, I wanted to make sure that Brittany was happy and fulfilled in any choice she made. Then there were separate considerations of making and saving money so that we are in a position to have greater freedom to pursue interests of travel, business, leisure, and adventure (sooner rather than later), and greater ability to see friends and family and to start a family (sooner or later).
That said, nothing covered the entire spectrum. We love living and traveling in Korea, but we miss friends and family in the States. The PhD program in Santa Cruz was still pretty far from family and would leave us in considerable debt for some years after, but academia and exploring a topic in depth is attractive to Brittany. Denver is wonderful and where our hearts often are, but we would have limited travel time and spend more years being a little stressed about money.
Obviously, it’s difficult to weigh any of these matters as being more important than the others (we tried), and then constantly considering and trying to communicate what might make the other happier was a big challenge. We both saw any of the options as awesome choices for many reasons, but none of them stood out as the absolute right thing to do, not even for one of us.
Our decisions all hit at once, and we had only until the end of the week to make one. We were able to have a surprisingly logical and well thought out discussion. It became clear that while going to school in and living in Santa Cruz was an exciting thought, it probably wasn’t the right move for our lives. Among other things, there was the probability that we would be in quite a bit of debt for many years after. And we both agree, debt sucks.
While we miss Denver and will probably be back there one day it isn’t quite the right time. We are happy clams traveling on this side of the world for a while, and doing so for a couple more years gives us plenty of time to travel, and it will set us up well financially to have more adventures and eventually start a family in Denver.
So we’re going with the international school in Korea, which means we better start studying our Korean more intensively^^ We are very excited that Brittany will be working at an international school with a very strong curriculum (the freshman class this year spent a semester analyzing the Odyssey in English and modern works inspired by the Odyssey), beautiful campus, good salary, free housing, and best of all…13 weeks vacation! Plenty of time to visit friends and family or travel.
For the time being, I am waiting with sparse hope to hear back from the same school regarding a teaching assistant position. Apparently there are minimum visa requirements and it’s unclear whether or not my experience meets these. If that doesn’t work, it’ll be kindergarten or hagwon again! But I would be so jealous of those 13 weeks…