The Sontaran, the snowman, and the long trek

Another hike, but the twist this time was that the weather. Though cooperative, it was very cold. Freezing in fact. I have to admit that I almost gave up, as my stomach, which was getting a strong, updraught of cold wind. One, right up the bracket you might say. I had on my scarf and down jacket. Ben, had simply zipped up his jacket up to his neck. He honestly looked like a Sontaran, a character from the Doctor Who series. He even gave a brief rendition of their battle chant. We both laughed at the chant, and the reference. Doctor Who is something we both knew. The target destination, as usual, was Yongsan station, and the electronics market.

Starting from Gu-il station, we started trekking up one of the Han rivers smaller tributaries was a wasteland of dirt and occasional parks. At one point we passed policemen doing their P/t. They might even have been trainees, but we we’re sure. The head instructor stood next to a PA, with maybe the intent of doing some karaoke numbers later to tired trainees. Before that, we walked past a driving course, the sort found at driving schools in Korea, except 75% the size. It might have been for training, but only for very small cars.

Ben and I had done this route once in the past, and before all the landscape was different, and now it was finished.

We reached the junction where the stream met the Han river. We sat, and rested, trying to work out the kinks and cramping we both had. I had particular problems with my right shoulder. It would be with great relief that I put down my bag on the hotel bed later that afternoon.

In the homestretch to Yongsan station was the electronics market. I commented positively that the actual market was a mere 300 metres distant. A grunt was Ben’s reply, as his feet were sore, and in retrospect, so were mine, I just hadn’t realised it. My new hiking shoes, bought in New Zealand off of a pal of mine who ran the shop, ironically were Asics. A Korean brand. Still they fit, and did the job. A new pair of shoes, broken in and christened.

After making a small purchase at Seong-in plaza, we continued onto Yongsan station and it’s relative comforts of low teenage Celsius temperatures.

Fuzz(y) impressions, brushes with the law

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The fuzz, Mr Plod or just the police. Impressions are lent by what’s around you, especially the first time. My impression of the police stems from my time in New Zealand. Yes, I am a Kiwi and proud of it.

Big cars, a clean and pressed uniform replete with cap made them look official and impressive. That aside, most of them look like rugby players. I heard that most of them bulk up at the gym.

But this entry is really directed at their vehicular mode of transport. Their wheels are, the biggest object that lends the impression.

NZ police have always tended to drive big cars. Back in the 70’s it was the Holden HQ. Come to think of it, the NZP has had a long line of Holdens. Going from the Holden Commodore, Commodore, and.. Commodore.  It’s quite a lineage.

The next photo is the Vatican Police. Given the size of Vatican square, it’s a small car. The photo speaks for itself. I did actually have a brush with real police (actually an undercover detective) who seemed to appear from no-where. I just happened to be asked for directions by a Greek national (also on holiday).  I think the Crumpler photo bag gave the impression that I had drugs inside of my bag. They went as quickly as they came.

The picture of the Chinese police, was taken in Shenyang. About six of them were mounted on bicycle. That in itself is okay. I’ve seen Mr Plod on a mountain bike. But these bikes had a red light mounted on the back. What would have been more comical is a light mounted on the helmet ala The Goodies or even Kenny Everett. Though these police officers are meant in no way to appear ‘daggy’.

The ‘Shenyang flying squad’ actually compares well to their Korean counter parts. The motorbikes were a par for the course, also had the red lights mounted on the back. Come to think of it, where else could you cheaply mounted on the bike? Jon and Ponch from the 70’s TV show, CHiPs can feel safe and secure that their image and their Kawasaki motorbikes have not been tainted. I have had encounters with the Korean police. Twice. Once for jaywalking; I got a very stern non-verbal sermons. He used his fore finger as he pointed to me, then to the road. He didn’t smile once. A true professional. The next encounter was much more friendly, in getting lost on the first day in the void, I came upon the local police station. Staggering up, I asked for directions. I was ushered into a police car, driven by a youngish policeman. Sat in the front seat, it was an uneventfull entrance as I pulled up to the school. Their cars, are of course, Korean made, the policemen, from the best Police academies.

One feature of Asian government agencies is the need for cute mascots. The first one is Korean, named ‘Podori’. I don’t know what it translates into English, but the idea was to soften the image of the police force. The Chinese mascot shares the big eyed features of the Korean one except it’s female. Frankly I’ve never seen an Immigration officer smile and salute, let alone have big bug eyes.

The Mapo broadwalk, big contrast

The last time Ben and I walked through Mapo, was about two years ago. Then it was shabby buildings that looked like they’d been bombed by some foreign power. This time, it was quite literally the other side of the railway lines.

What a contrast it was, setting off from the randomised station, we emerged, as it turned out, in the hagwon district of Mapo. Pretty posh, we pasted a Maths hagwon that ‘guaranteeing your grade’. I wonder how hard you’d have to sleep in class to flunk, and then how much more harragging from the mother to get a refund. In big cities, the schools aren’t run by the Principal or the head, they’re run by the parents.

Mapo has streets like any other street in Seoul, this one was clean with the usual stores, apartments and restaurants. Towering above us were candidates for the forth coming local elections. A booty of high pay and perhaps a more reclining lifestyle awaits the individual that champions his cause the best. Maybe not this guy. He needs to review his photos before they go to print on a 10m by 50 meter poster stuck on the side of a prominent building. Wincing your hands isn’t conducive to an image of integrity and honest policies. Even the crowd in my town have a better sense of decorum.

Onwards to what could almost be seen as the “apple cart”. You don’t have to travel far to see signs of Koreas agricultural roots.

It never fails to surprise me how lacking in testosterone men are portrayed in advertisements in Korea. From Boy bands, to selling Nikon camera to showing what the average police graduate might look like. He might look nice, but he doesn’t at all have the image of authority that Mr Plod in New Zealand might have.

I have to comment that the photos of the two police officers are would-be graduates of a Police hagwon. Not, just one, but one of many police hagwons, or ‘academies’. Joke anyone?