Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Look Out Kim Yu Na

I have adopted Korea University as my home rink in Korea. Or maybe they adopted me. I don’t usually travel with skates, but this time I was going to be gone almost two months and couldn’t stand the idea of being away from the ice that long when I KNOW Korea has good figure skaters. Kim Yu Na was both Olympic and World Champion and inspired a generation. 

(I brought more things for my feet this trip than on any previous trip when I wasn’t actually moving. Besides my skates, I brought hiking boots, tennis shoes, flipflops, loafers and heels for Easter and any other special occasions. It all fit in two roll-aboards and a small carry-on.)

My Lotte World skating experience was less than satisfying, so last Thursday I tried the university rink. I had directions from the internet: 2 subway changes and a bus. My only mistake was getting off the bus one stop too soon and having to walk further up the hill. (This is Korea; everything is up hill.)

But this sign just inside the university gate told me I was on the right track.

 The rink building is pretty ordinary modern.

But the university building across the street is anything but ordinary.

Last week the hockey team was practicing when I arrived. They zambonied the ice, but it was still pretty rough. Also crowded with speed skaters around the outside and lessons in the middle, but it wasn’t as hot as Lotte World, and the ice was the hardness I’m used to. All around it felt more like a “real rink” instead of a tourist attraction. At one point I was skating around the outside and found myself facing a 10-year-old skating backward (something I wasn’t anxious to try with the rough ice and speed skaters). She stopped her skating and gave me a polite bow from the waist, then went back to skating.

It was her coach who spoke English. I talked to her a bit after the session, looking for a time when moves-in-the-field and dances wouldn’t be hampered by orange cones marking the speed skating track. The answer was 6 AM, pretty common for serious skaters, but not practical when I have to travel about an hour to get there.

Today the hockey team had NOT been there, so the ice was much smoother. There were not as many kids having lessons, and I essentially had my own patch at one end of the inside section to work on jumps and spins and outside mohawks. The coach I talked to last week greeted me warmly, and not one, but three little girls skated across the ice to smile and bow, hands clasped in front of them, in greeting. I felt very welcome. Today is Buddha’s birthday, so next Wednesday might have more activity again, but like I said, I will consider Korea University my rink for the duration.

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