Mar 21, 2013

Connubial Bliss --- Korea (5)

By sheer serendipity we find ourselves climbing the road hugging Mount Halla, Korea's highest mountain at 1,900 meters, a somewhat listless volcano that hasn't harmed anybody in quite some time and defines Jeju Island in a sort of materialistic way, almost vulgar-marxistically so --- Jeju wouldn't be there without the volcano, Jeju in fact is the volcano in geological terms --- so we climb Road 1139 and have already reached an altitude of 1,000 m when Michael has the idea that Chang could get carsick on this sinuous path across the high altitude forest, and we U-turn and descend again. Mentioning car-sickness wasn't perhaps the best idea, Chang is starting to think about his stomach and the stomach thinks back and new, or slightly altered, thoughts feel provoked by each turn. Thought-provoking, that's what this road feels, thought-provoking.

Mount Halla
Anyhow, the worst is over when we hit a stretch of road marked by red cross-stripes. They are well-done, these stripes, each marking is slightly raised, creating a bump per mark and accentuating our downward glide in this floating American-suspension car in unmistakable ways, warning us of impending danger. We wonder which danger we're facing, no stripes mark the upward leg of the road. We cross perhaps 5-10 marks per second, thus reverberating downward in a three-dimensional alert space, visual (red stripes), proprioceptive (the position of our limbs) and auricular (vibratory humming). This goes on for a while. After two kilometers or so you would assume we've been warned enough, but the stripes won't go away, one stripe following the next with unrelenting stamina, stripe for stripe for stripe. Ever tried to count to 100,000?

"You could have invented these stripes," Michael finally says to Chang.

It takes Chang a little while, but then he says: "No."
"This is so you," --- Michael.
"No," --- Chang.
"The more time I spend in Korea, the more I understand you," --- Michael.
"No," --- Chang.
"This is so Korean," --- Michael.
"What do you know of Korea?" --- Chang.
"The relentlessness of these stripes, their uncompromising, irresistible determination to prevail through sheer repetition," --- Michael.
"This is unfair," --- Chang.
"Why?" --- Michael.
"You spring this at me, unexpectedly, without warning, this is unfair."

Now we enter a repetitive cycle, rotating from "why" to "unfair" to "why" and so on. The stripes continue, we continue.

Finally the stripes relent. No more stripes. No more warnings. "See," Chang says, "I was right."

You wonder about pictures, right? Well, we went back and took pictures today:


...and up...

...and up...

...and up...
...and down.
(And here's a preview of our next adventure:)

(More connubial bliss here)

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