2012.05.05 - Dragon-boat

Dragon-boat race and Croatian theme dinner

A bit behind matters here, so better get straight at it:

It was great to be on vacation, but there has been a steep price to pay afterwards. Late days at the office the rule rather than the exception and still there are not enough hours in the day to catch up. Well - not even catch up, as I wish I could just keep up with the daily work. Paula has been really understanding but I can't (don't want to) keep going like this. Gym has only been visited once since our vacation .... squash twice but the bike rides are sacred !

Last weekend we were signed up for the yearly dragonboat race on the TaeHwa river. So on April 22nd we picked up Olav and drove down to TaeHwa hotel for a training session. None of our team members had any prior experience with dragonboats, so the training session seemed like a really good idea. Unfortunately only 6 of the 18 paddlers turned up, so the value of the training was limited ! It had been raining up to the training, so the river was wild and raging .... well, maybe not, but it was slightly higher and more muddy than normal. We joined another crippled team of English teachers and went up and down between the bridges a couple of times before calling it a day. Already after the first round trip I was knackered and could have killed the girl who turned around and asked - with a surprised look on her face - "are you tired already" ! It may look easy enough but it's actually pretty hard going (if you actually try to paddle and not sit there for the sake of the ride !!!).

At our favorite tuna sashimi place (Tomo) with Pietro

The dragon boats were all half flooded by the rains the day before

Safety first - Erkan, Ruaraidh, Olav and Paula

18 people in each of these boats seemed to be a little crowded, but it wasn't too bad. Some of the bigger boys were complaining about the shoulder space though - not a problem for me ....!

So the poor turn-up had me a little worried. I had arranged 8 paddlers from among my colleagues and knowing their priorities I found it necessary to boost up these numbers with a few reserves. But even with 11 names on the list, we were struggling to make a team on the race day the following weekend. So we had to recruit one of the spectators for the first race and still we were one person short. Even at 17 paddlers instead of 18 we were able to win the heat and advance to the second round. Next race we were boosted up to 18 rowers and second place in that race saw us advance to next round with a time improvement of 4 seconds to 1:09. In the semi-final we rowed 2 seconds faster to come in on as third in our heat and advance to the Championship ! So far we had done really well for a bunch of newbies. The kiwi boat had beaten us the two times we had been up against it - I put it down to the fearsome haka they performed at the startline of one of the heats. Pretty well done considering that they were sitting 18 people in an oversized canoe ! Our technique had improved for every race and we were at times even paddling in unison ! But for the final we decided to change the weight distribution in the boat a bit to just gain that last second we needed. So we paddled down to the starting line, 300m down-river. By now all the zig-zagging boats had been eliminated and only the 5 fastest boat were left. Start signal sounded and off we went. The next minute or so is a little hazy to me. I remember pulling like mad and I remember giving it absolutely all that I had. I have been told later that we were set to win until the last few meters when we lost momentum. We crossed the line in forth - half a second from 2nd place. Pretty good going. Anti-climax was when the helmsman forgot to steer and we almost capsized ! Water poured in on one side and number 5 were coming right at us at alarming speed! In the end we stayed afloat and avoided both capsize and collision - barely!

A tent for each team and a stage for the post-race concert

I have never seen so many foreigners in Ulsan before - and I didn't know any of them. Most were teachers, I believe.

Heading down towards the start line

One team couldn't even make it that far and had to be towed down to the start! About 10 meters into the race they were facing the wrong way again !! Lucky they were much slower than the other teams or there would have been a collision!

Paraglider/ultralight coming in for a closer look at the poor suckers who had to be towed to the start line

3 - 2 - 1 - GO !

After the race the 15 teams (all foreigners - the real regatta was to take place the day after) enjoyed free food and beer in the sun. This is when the remaining team members turned up ! A little late ....

Pietro chatting up the girls

Jamie and Pietro

Paula and I were home by 3pm so I had time for a bike ride before dark. And next morning as well, when I took the car over to Muryong Mountain and cycled two hours around it on the fire access roads. This was my first time on that side of Muryong and it wont be the last. Great ride and I loved the fact that for miles it was impossible to see any roads or houses.

Olav on Yeompo

Every little bit helps - getting help from one of the trees! On the singletrack on Yeompo - note the lady on the trail .... now that the sun is out all the Koreans dress up as Darth Vader! (i.e. to escape from the sun they wrap towels over their heads, wear full-dface masks and HUUUGE sun visors)

In the Japanese restaurant in Hyundai Hotel on our 8th year wedding anniversary !

Zohreh made an very successful Iranian cooking class - Randi, Dawn, Agnieszka and Bella

Paula brought home some very nice yogurt

Green ... finally green!

.... and nobody around

Sunday at noontime we drove down to Busan to say goodbye to Ms. Lee, who was off to France the next day. We picked her up and drove down to the small fishing harbour of Cheongsapo - just north of Haeundae. Here we had a nice shell-food lunch before heading back to Haeundae for a hot choco. Pietro wa son the beach playing soccer with his Speedo friends ! I will never let him hear the last of it !!

A last meal with Ms. Lee

Cafe Bene - should be called Cafe Male!

Pietro in the white t-shirt - Haeundae beach where he spends all his weekends (Ulsan is not good enough for him !)

Monday I played squash for the second time and stupidly I didn't do much warm-up before playing. So overstretched my butt-muscle already at the second point ! Need to take better care of the old body. Tuesday was a holiday, so I stayed home with my new sewing machine instead of going to work. Have a few projects going on and as my butt was still a little sore ....

Chris and Trygve in the New Compound

Rolf and I

My resized Chilean soccer shirt. Paula's family have large thoughts of me - but now I can change that to Medium on my own !

Kristin brought Kimchi over to meet Peo

... she's so small ....

... and still Peo is scared of her. She is such a wuss!

Friday we went to the ballet with Serhiy. Here we met Marion who we had not expected to be in Korea. He left Ulsan about 3 years ago and is now back for another 2 years. His wife Viera and their kid (s) will follow in October. Nice to see friends return to be with us again ! The ballet was called Carmen TV and was performed by a modern ballet troupe from Kiev. Paula really liked it - I was a little less impressed although it was still good considering where we are !

Saturday morning I went out cycling with some of my colleagues. we were 5 who took off at 7:40am but two fell off pretty fast due to the events of the previous evening. Håvard and Rolf were steadfast though and kept up with me on their new bikes for the full 4,5 hour ride. The sun was out and it was in general a beautiful day. After the ride Paula and I drove up along the coast and stopped at Angel in us up past the Turkish Soccer field. I dipped my feet in the ocean and was a little surprised that it wasn't uncomfortably cold. May be going in sooner than I had expected - give it a couple of weeks more.

Rolf reaching the Pagoda after a long climb (or walk)

In the barly fields

Back down from my favourite singletrack - stocking up on chocolate before the ride back to Ulsan

Håvard on his way back up Magol

The beach was unusually popular this day

Not bad ... not bad at all

Not Malaysia but give it a few more weeks and then I will consider jumping in.

In the evening we had bought tickets for the Croatian theme dinner at the club house. 3-4 Croatian families had gotten together to give 150 other people a taste of their traditional food. Robert came by our balcony for a sun-downer before the dinner. He had the nerve to bring an Argentinean wine into our home ... (it was actually really nice, but we can't say this publicly!)

The dinner was amazing. It was a buffet of about 12 appetizers, 10 main dishes and 10 desserts. All the Croatians had contributed with whatever they had lying around of typical Croatian food in their homes. Some had driven up from Geoje 2-3 hours away to be part of the event. They had contacted their embassy in Japan to get bags of tourist brochures which they handed out to all the ladies. The walls were decorated with Croatian tourist posters and they ran a slideshow with fantastic Mediterranean photos throughout the evening. All tasted amazing - a really great evening in good company. Finished off with Robert and the remaining Argentinean wine in our apartment!

Serhiy, Mario and Michael at the clubhouse

Still only at the appetizers

Mika, Agnieszka, Paula, Zohreh and Andrea

Leif Idar, Robert, Randi and Olav

Michael looking pretty content !

Kasra with the present Zohreh won on the pronunciation of Croatian proverbs

Anatoliy and Serhiy enjoyed the food (as always). They said it was a little similar to the Ukrainian food.

Live music was arranged ...

Our table - Paulo is the only one I haven't mentioned yet. Just a fantastic arrangement!