Sunday, 12 January 2014

Getting into Nature

Whilst not being a fan of new years resolutions, I have decided that this year I want to make an effort to get out in nature more. I've spent the last few years living in cities- and capital ones at that- and find it's easy to get sucked into the charms of the man-made and forget to do anything else. When I'm at home especially, I spend the majority of my time in Coventry, Birmingham, London or other cities, with not much chance to get out into the countryside. It was only last summer when I had the use of my Mum's car that I have the chance to see some fields and trees.
It is often argued that how much time we spend in nature can have an impact on our mental health. In today's world it's easy to go day to day from building to building, from concrete to concrete. We are guilty of sometimes valuing technology and money above animals, trees and water, which when all is said and done are things we cannot survive without. To not ever experience the natural world, is, quite simply, unnatural.

Our school here in Seoul is right next to the mountains. A few days ago I went on a hike with a friend, finding ourselves away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city within ten minutes of leaving the house. There are various trails, a Buddhist temple (with chants emanating through the doors) as well as a tower that shows an incredible panoramic view of the city. There are also some outdoor gym areas dotted around. One place was like a youth club; music blaring, people hanging out and chatting, the only difference being that they were all over the age of fifty.
The mountains are such a calm and tranquil place so close to home. I must remember to go there more often, and next time I will attempt to fit in with the Koreans by taking some makkoli (rice wine) to enjoy at the top.

Yesterday Lee and I went to Seoul Forest, which is meant to be the biggest park in Seoul. It has been compared to London's Hyde Park and New York's Central Park, but I have to say it paled in insignificance in comparison to either. Perhaps it would be nicer at a different time of year, with leaves on the trees and running water features, but I still couldn't help being a bit disappointed. Seoul is known for its lack of green parks, and Seoul Forest is no exception, favouring concrete over grass in most instances. We had hoped to hire bikes but were told when we got there that you had to hire them from the subway station. The park is also so surrounded by freeways that the constant hum of traffic was never far off.   
Complaints aside, we had a good walk and had fun playing in the children's play areas. We drank warming coffee and visited the adorable baby deer park. 


Some rules for the park. No burping? Seems a little strict.

And one last ramble on the theme of the 'natural.'
Recently I've been going to the gym a bit and am thoroughly enjoying the Korean attitude towards nudity. The women parade around stark naked in the changing rooms, chatting and blow drying and generally seeming ultra proud of themselves. One girl even put on her bra, t-shirt and jumper before even thinking about putting on a pair of knickers. I'm not sure whether to call them weird for being so open, or to admire their lack of prudishness, but either way it's pretty entertaining. 

Well that's it from me. Have you been anywhere nice recently?

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