The Cheese

This Wednesday was another day off and I was determined to enjoy myself. So, naturally, I decided to climb a mountain. Just for reference, I will continue to say mountain here but I fully acknowledge it to be a Seoul ‘mountain’ (similar to an East Coast mountain) as it is only 338.2 meters tall–that’s about 1,100 feet for us Americans. Also, in the common fashion for Korean mountains I’ve seen thus far, it’s very steep. 인왕산 (Inwangsan) is pretty close to my apartment. Just on the other side of Ansan, where I’ve been many times. So I figured it was a good candidate. The rub was that Google Maps gave no indication as to how to get onto the mountain. I could see it, a big brownish blob with no roads, but couldn’t find an access point. But how hard could it be, so I decided I’d just wander around until I found something going up.

As luck would have it, there was no difficulty. Long before I got to my best guess for a trailhead (though still after about half an hour walking along the side of the mountain) I saw a sign that indicated this road went up the mountain. Good news. So I walked up this road for a while, going steeply uphill, but was still among apartment buildings and was wondering when the park part would start when suddenly it started. I’m still not sure what to make of the ‘park’ qualification so let me tell you a bit about what I encountered.

First, it is not marked as a park like Ansan and other places I’ve been. Not in Google and not in the real world. However, the signage was essentially the same. The major difference was that this one had gates and, it appeared, was not open all the time. Additionally, there were police guards and watchtowers quite regularly all along the trails. This was to ensure that no one took pictures facing certain directions. I discovered, reaching the first of like three summits, that there was some kind of (military?) installation, very small, running along part of the ridge. No idea what it was about, but no pictures of that. Also no pictures looking out toward the city in the direction of the river and one of the main palaces. I learned today that apparently from that one angle, you can see the president’s house and they weren’t taking any chances.


One small glimpse

The view was spectacular. The haze wasn’t particularly bad yesterday so I had a decent line of sight across the city. I could see all of Ansan park, Seodaemun-gu, Jongno-gu, and the truly picturesque Bukhansan park in the distance. The trees and rocks were gorgeous and the sky was blue and the air mostly smelled of flowers and pine, for once, instead of city. And, I nearly forgot, the old city wall of Seoul, which has huge chunks still intact across the city, goes straight up the mountain and the trail follows it a goodly way. Parts of it have been restored over time, but I think a reasonable amount of it is original and, like in Exeter, you can clearly see the different phases in its construction spread out over centuries.

All told, with a quick nip into Paris Baguette on the way home, it was a four hour excursion. I would call it an unqualified success, which is something of a rarity for me. So I went home and just basked in the lovely day. There remained something irrefutably (and sometimes inexplicably) urban about everything and I couldn’t help but wish that I was on some other mountain, far away from Seoul, and the view was only of further mountains and wilder forests. Nevertheless, the fragrance of certain flowers and the texture of hearty bark under my hands did assuage, in some small part, all the city unpleasantness.

Now for this week’s thoughts from Keegan.

Quirkily, I’ve been singing The Farmer in the Dell kind of often since coming to Korea. In the metro, there is a little song that plays when a train is approaching and the beginning sounds just like it. I don’t ride the metro all that often, but the song has wormed its way back into my brain and it plays ad libitum, ad nauseam.

It’s a strange sort of song. As a person who is very much interested in and appreciative of cheese, the final verse is of particular note: the cheese stands alone.

And I’m not the only one entranced (haunted?) by that line. Robert Cormier, writer of controversial young adult novels like The Chocolate War, wrote a novel entitled I am the Cheese based on the concept of the main character feeling alone. It sounds hilarious but the blurb is very serious, sort of a teen spy mystery thriller vibe is what I was picking up.

But why does the cheese stand alone? I always picture a hefty slice of Swiss sitting regally on a little hillock in the bottom of a lushly planted valley, a few farm buildings in the distance. Who would see such an alluring enticement and just pass it by? In what universe is the cheese not the main character of the song? In an effort to avoid the grimness of last week’s post I will not suggest that the reason is because this universe is just a dark cesspool of poor, unfortunate souls. Nevertheless, the mystery is confounding.

Then again, maybe it’s not such a problem that the cheese stands alone. I often have difficulty describing to parents or other concerned parties that I don’t mind being alone for extended and repeated periods of time. I feel like I’m almost inundated with Buzzfeed posts or articles on Facebook about introverts and I guess I assumed that people just generally got it. But it is not so.

Introverts don’t mind being along for extended and repeated periods of time. We’re not anti-social, just differently social.

So there you have it. Who’s to say cheese can’t be introverted. Maybe the cheese likes standing alone. Maybe it’s having a great time just so. Maybe I am the cheese, too. Wow, I hope so. What a life. And what a great mantra.

I am the cheese.

I am the cheese.

I am the cheese.

Are you?


He Was Not at All Afraid to be Killed in Nasty Ways

Most important news first.



I got to video call home this past weekend and, obviously, the cats were a major topic of discussion.  I mean, I talked with the parentals too. But cats. I mean, it’s too precious when you hear your kitty purring when we’re 4,500 miles apart. Too. Precious.

Also in the realm of good news, you may not have been aware, but this week marked the fortieth anniversary of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Apparently theaters across the world were showing it in celebration. I don’t have a definitive favorite movie (I’m non-committal that way) but I do have a top-five-in-no-particular-order and it is in it. The others, if you’re curious, are The Lord of the Rings (as one film), It’s a Wonderful Life, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Australia. Though, in all honestly, those last two I’m not 100% behind including, though I do love them. But yeah, Holy Grail is a fantastic film, really into it. I’m a believer that most–if not all–of life can be lived quoting only it, Lord of the Rings, and maybe Harry Potter. And, thanks to my older brother, I can basically quote Holy Grail, among a variety of Monty Python sketches, in its entirety and could from a fairly early age. I’m eternally grateful for that ability.

Other than this frankly momentous occasion, this week was fairly quiet for me. My classes are really interesting (with the obvious exception of Research Methods which continues to be a source of pain). This week we talked a lot about the Northern Ireland peace process (so-called) which I knew some about before but have greatly increased that base and seen some new perspectives. So basically the reason I’m in this course, yay! Shoutout to my coursemates who are all truly wonderful and who, apparently, have started reading this. My fault for putting it on Facebook, I guess. Looking forward to a wine and cheese social with them tomorrow, should be nice. The Irish are real proud of their cows, which means their beef and their dairy are highly esteemed. We’ll see, I haven’t tried much yet so far. I’m hoping their faith is well-founded because, as some of you are all too well aware, I like cheese.

On an unrelated note, I’ve had a song stuck in my head periodically for the past long while (as frequently happens with me) and I thought I’d share a bit about it. When the AU Chamber Singers went on tour to Russia, we sang a liturgical piece called Неизреченное чудо, a beautiful and almost haunting, if brief, song. (I laugh at those of you who were expecting something you might recognize). I highly recommend a listen, just copy and paste that title into YouTube, it’s really lovely. A very free translation of the text might say something along the general lines of, “Inexpressible wonder that the one who rescued the youths from the fiery furnace is now laid breathless in a tomb for our salvation.” The single line ‘inexpressible wonder’ (which is, by the way, the title) keeps coming back to me. How incredible is it that literally the most important entity in the universe suffered a horrendous death for my sake? And that he then rose again to prove his victory. It’s just wow.

In another Monty Python film, Life of Brian, a random man in Jerusalem is mistaken for the Christ and accidentally develops this whole following. It is, in accordance with Monty Python style, very quotable and just generally humorous. But I’m reminded at this juncture of 1 Corinthians 1:18 which says that the message of the cross is foolishness to the world. The idea of the cross is just silly, that God would sacrifice himself for us. How radical. What an inexpressible wonder.