Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nanoomi Running and Cafe Monsieur

Running gear in backpack... check
Refillable bottle of Arisu*... check
Supportive wife cheersquad... check

*Delicious and safe Seoul city tap water

To run or not to run? That was the question eventually answered yes by a small slice of the Nanoomi blogging community half a moon ago.

How far did we run? Ten kilometres.
Where was the event? World Cup Stadium.
Why were we running? For a free* pair of socks and an excuse to wake up early.

*Free upon payment of the mandatory fee

I myself don't mind too much paying money to someone to do what can always be done alone for free. Was that an awkward sentence? I hope not. My grammar tends to funny up a bit when blogging in evening late. But let's not digress. What you're paying for when you pay for a run is the luxury of running with others along a predetermined track guaranteed to be free of bicycles approaching in the opposite direction.

Which you can only do by leaving Seoul, or simply wiring $30 to some guy somewhere who knows how to get permission from the city council to cordon off a portion of public space for a limited period of time.

Here's the World's Most Underappreciated Running Team, minus Keira who arrived shortly thereafter. This snap was photo'ed by my lovely wife, who hauled 2.6kg of baby all the way to World Cup Stadium just to show support. On the left is Hannah, then me, then Alice and on the right is Ed.

I like to think that we were all smiling in anticipation of this particular sentence.

Without so much as a starter's pistol, off we ran into the sunny unknown. I'd been jogging around campus as well as running various errands for Professor Tsang in the weeks leading up to the event, so was in fairly good shape.

Helium filled balloons are nice, although they're all destined to land as a potential traffic hazard or a miniscule component of the Pacific Trash Vortex.
What the world needs is some kind of alternative biodegradable balloon. Something that stretches, is natural, would normally be discarded, is opaque and can be filled with helium.

How about lamb stomachs?

If you leave a camera with your pregnant wife, it's possible to determine what she was up to in your absence by inspecting the photos left behind.
Using special powers of deductive reasoning, I can surmise a few things from this photo. At some point in time she was obviously inspecting the lens of my camera while holding it up in the air, and accidentally pressed the shutter button. She also looks a bit like a bug when wearing those sunglasses.

And from this photo I can see that she enjoyed a Vegemil A while sitting at a park bench.
Apparently she also knows how to read Korean.

This is me crossing the finishing line. I never realised my legs were so sinewy. They don't look like that when I'm sitting in a chair.

I just checked.

Post-race we were all feeling a little proud of ourselves, mostly for not bombing out halfway and dejectedly sauntering off to Dunkin' Donuts. Not that Nanoomites would consider such a thing. We all received a medallion for our efforts and the promise to one day partake in such an activity again.

It was a good time.

Now we're in the Gyodae area. The lady behind that counter is Taewon Seo's wife, busily making a green tea latte' for Heather and myself. Her coffees are among the best in the northern hemisphere. I'm also fond of the wine glasses on the shelf below, featuring sequential volumetric increments of coffee beans. It probably represents the shared linearity between consumption of mutually diuretic beverages.

This is how to get to Taewon's Cafe Monsieur. For some reason I have the Sesame Street song in my head now.

"Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?"

A few characters from Gyodae Toastmasters were also enjoying our favourite coffee retreat that day. In this photo you can see Trinity on the left, David Koch and good ol' Vronny Jentakis.

That's cream cheese in the middle there. I tend to avoid repeating myself on the blog wherever possible, but let me say once again with utmost conviction that while Taewon's wife's coffee is the best in the northern hemisphere, Taewon's bread is the most delicious bread south of the Han River. 

And I'm not just saying that because Taewon is a nice guy.
His bread really is delicious.

Mmm, here's our green tea latte'. Needless to say, deliciousness rarely appears in such a light shade of green. I myself prefer drinks more traditionally befitting of a masculine character, like ox blood or dragon tears, but every once in a while depart from my usual ungrantable requests.

If you're in the Gyodae area, pop over to Cafe Monsieur and order yourself a coffee and a baguette. And if you're familiar with the ever-widening sphere of Nanoomi influence, consider coming along for a 10km run sometime.

See you soon.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Rebecca and Anthony's Wedding

We recently found out that Big Baengy is a girl, and is due for her grand entrée into the wider world next month. She spends most of the day in suspended animation, enjoying the cosy confines of Heather's Tummy Hotel and seems to wake up at night. When Heather lies down, Big Baengy will become more active and sometimes push a tiny foot or elbow out as a bulge in Heather's stomach. It's quite comical. Heather will often tap the new protrusions and ask "Baengy, ii ge mwo ya? (Baengy, what's this?)"
My theory is that there's more room in there when her mother is lying down, so Baengy reacts to the extra space by having a stretch.
Now all we need to do is think of a name for her.

Heather's not too keen on Big Baengette.

A sign of the times, perhaps? This one isn't ours, it's Heather's second sister's daughter, Yujin.

Yujin spends a lot of time staring at me knowingly, as if aware that my germ-free and toilet trained life is very soon going to be tsunami'ed by a representative from the baby realm.

It's not often that the Queen Ant and I can be drawn out from our familiar and optimised schedule in Seoul. However, the murmurings of Anthony Nguyen's activities in Busan were becoming more than a distant rumble, requiring a special journey by this small time blogger and his heavily pregnant better half.

Some of you may remember Anthony as the English-teaching, American football playing surfer that John Ngo and I used to live with. That period of time in the old Hansol Polaris building were among the most enjoyable of our Busan years. He is often referred to by the nicknames 'Anne-Sony,' 'Ants-on-me,' 'Tones,' 'Tony,' or 'Ants,' depending on the particular blood type of the person.

He summoned me down to Busan to help pitch a seminar to some medical doctors, the day before his wedding. Needless to say, we were both feeling a little pressure. Luckily, my black belt in Powerpoint proved useful, and we co-delivered a high impact presentation that I was still modifying on the train ride down.

No sweat, hey? One of the most useful things that weekly attendance at Toastmasters confers, is the ability to organise a fairly good presentation in a very short amount of time.

And then, in true Anthony style, less than a moment's notice passed before the next epic event. Anthony and Rebecca's wedding ceremony was held at 3pm the very next day. They had bestowed upon Heather and me, the monolithic task of MC'ing their wedding in replacement of a celebrant. Family members from across the pacific had arrived the week before, and Anthony had spent the week taking them around the city.

Photo: Anthony Nguyen

Somewhat experienced from our own wedding exactly 18 months to the day prior, Heather and I did what we could to lend an air of officiality to the proceedings. Rebecca was impressively calm throughout, and Anthony demonstrated the finest example of grace under pressure I've ever witnessed. A hectic week eliminated any possibility of a proper rehearsal, and the details of the ceremony were finalised in the 30 minutes before he came down the aisle. Dancing.

Photo: Anthony Nguyen

One of Anthony's relatives posted this video of the ceremony up on Youtube. It was a truly wonderful ceremony in every aspect, but if you're not up for watching all of it, just have a look at entrance of the wedding procession at 3:30.

How did we feel about our roles?
Well it was a tough thing to do, but also one of the greatest honours we've ever had.

Video: Christian Nguyen

When the ceremony had finished, we enjoyed a very relaxed reception overlooking the Gwangan Beach area. The food was great, the company was excellent and the atmosphere very much alive.

The band for the night was Pokolambro, an amazing duet who pulled all of the right strings. If you're getting married in Busan, these are the musicians you need to call.

Needless to say, I was a happy chap that day. Being useful makes me feel good, and helping long time friends even better.

사본 -172823_10150431921875230_663670229_17879296_3606090_o
Although of course, it wouldn't have been a success without the one to whom I'm married. Heather, in general, gets things done without much fuss.

Luckily, both Anthony and myself have managed to find ourselves a diamond in the rough.

Here's to their prosperous future together.

Photos: Charles Jeong