August 10, 2015

Cross-cultural Stair Climbing


Guest post by Jan Bono

Blog contributor Jan Bono recently snuck off to do some traveling, and what's your guess: did she loll around the whole time in a lounge chair sipping exotic cocktails? Or did she find ways to get exercise even while dealing with a hot climate and a foreign culture?

For those of you new here, Jan is an intrepid weight-loss warrior, who despite the statistical odds, shed an enormous number of pounds and continues to maintain her healthy habits.  You can check out her book Back from Obesity: My 252-pound Weight-Loss Journey” in print or as an ebook on Jan's smashwords page.

Meanwhile, the purported host of this blog, Crabby McSlacker, has been having a great summer! She has been working hard on her novel, except when she is not working on it at all, and she been traveling a bit herself, and having awesome sessions with her lovely life coaching clients, and enjoying all the wonders of Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Has she been getting lots of exercise? Yes she has! Even though she doesn't seem to be blogging about it much anymore.  She senses she is overdue, especially since she has discovered some fun new toys to play with.

But in the meantime, let's take a vicarious trip to the Far East, shall we? --Crabby McSlacker.

A former colleague of mine has a son and daughter-in-law currently teaching in Seoul, Korea. Using their apartment as a “home base,” (a.k.a. “free place to stay!”) we were able to spend the full month of June in Asia, including a week touring southern Japan and another week in China, split between Beijing and Xi’an.

I’d worried that I wouldn’t be active enough while “on vacation,” and that without spending two hours on my recumbent bike each morning, as per my regular routine, I’d not be burning enough calories to justify all the exotic foods I was eager to taste.


Not to worry! I came home with the strongest (read: rock-hard) calves and thighs of my entire 61-year life!

There was a nice park right across the street in front of my hosts' apartment in the Nowon-gu District of Seoul. It had a pleasant (level and paved) walking trail around the perimeter, and many pieces of exercise equipment strategically placed throughout.


Exercise equipment has never thrilled me, but my friend and traveling companion, 82-year-old Miriam, hopped right on to take advantage of it.


Me, I’m more of a purist when on vacation. I prefer to get my workout while going about my day-to-day living with enthusiasm and zest.

And to that end, crossing the bridge up and over the multi-lane highway dividing two areas of the park, I always opted for the stairs. The Rainbow Bridge was fully-ramped for handicap access, but climbing the beautifully-painted stairs was truly appealing, and had the added benefit of helping me meet my fitness goals.


(Singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the top of my lungs every time I did so was just the sprinkles on the frosting of the cupcake of my efforts to improve lung capacity.)


Occasionally, more to feel noble than to get any cardio benefits, I chose to take the stairs for a few flights when we entered or exited the apartment building.

And all that was well and good, but now here’s where I get CRANKY...

Seoul (population 11.5 million, which is roughly the combined populations of the STATES of Washington and Oregon) boasts the third largest subway system in the world. (Tokyo and Moscow are one and two.) I, however, was not raised anywhere near a city with a subway, and in fact, have only twice in my life navigated an underground transportation system, and not until this trip did I attempt to brave it on my own.

And what surprised me most about the subway systems in all three countries I visited was this: in all those miles and miles of tunnels and platforms and transfer stations, I’d estimate that at least half the time, you’d be hard-pressed to find a working escalator to get you from one level to the next!

That means, as you rush, helter-skelter, to find the right train, on the right track, going the right way, to the right destination, and buying the right ticket (or tickets) for the right transfer(s), none of which is explained in English, you must also hike yourself up and down seemingly endless sets of cement steps, often without the benefit of a handrail.



The only “good” thing about being trapped (and/or lost) in any subway system in Asia is that in June it’s sure to be cooler down there than above ground. But there were times I’d be so tired of mandatory stair climbing that I’d want to sit right down on those darn steps and take a good long rest.


But that would never do, as I’d have surely been trampled by hordes of young Koreans, or young Japanese, or young Chinese, who have mastered the art of walking everywhere, whether upstairs or down, with their faces glued to their smart phones, thumbs just a-flying across the buttons and keys.

Nevertheless, “bad knees” and all, I hung in there and continued to opt often for the stairs, even when an escalator or elevator was available, throughout the month-long, three-country trip, through eight airports and countless museums and palaces and shrines and temples and even when I hiked up through the stone portal to stand on the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen—The Great Wall of China.


I did, however, need a boost up those last six steps... No handrails! Indeed!

20 comments:

  1. Oh, that bridge! I think I would have opted for the ramps just to be in tune with the pure curviness of it.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. It IS aesthetically pleasing, isn't it? :-) AND it was a great "landmark" when (not if) I got lost walking around the neighborhood. "RAINBOW bridge," with accompanying arm motions, was pretty well understood when I got myself turned around coming out of the back side of the grocery store. LOL

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  2. It all looks lovely! Especially the exercise equipment. So pretty! Glad you persevered and weren't trampled!

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    1. Meeee Tooooo, Kimberley! .... On BOTH counts!

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  3. I wouldn't mind the escalator being down I can take the stairs but if there is no elevator that is bad. Disabled people are out of luck and anybody dragging a heavy loud is in trouble. I will grant you not all stations but most have elevators here. The big problem is when they break down and of course the regular users get a big surprise.
    We have a couple bizarre work-arounds where the disabled person has to take a bus out of the station get off at the first stop and then get on an in-bound bus which enters the station at a different level and get off at that level as there is no elevator.
    I feel for anybody with a disability that want to be able to go here or there on a whim just like anybody else.

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    1. There were elevators, Cindy, just hard to find, tucked around corners and down long hallways, and since I didn't "need" them, I didn't want to wait in line with those truly disabled.

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    2. Dunno about China and Korea, but in Japan, helpful train station attendants will materialize out of nowhere to help get wheelchairs up stairs when there are no easily accessible elevators.

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  4. Jan,
    Very cool, sounds like an interesting (and long!) trip. Those first stairs would be great for me, as ladybugs are my favorite, and there's a blue one!

    That must have been a tremendous amount of stairs! I am weird enough to somewhat enjoy stair-climbing and hills. My son just shook his head when I was visiting him in San Francisco and suddenly decided to run up the hill that approaches Coit Tower.

    But I can see where stairs could get pretty old in subways, especially if you're carrying any gear - In New York (and just last month in Montreal) it's easy to take escalators for granted.

    I, too, wonder how many flat heads and traffic accidents are created by walking while texting.

    And wow, getting to the Great Wall, fantastic! I have some DNA from over there, and I haven't made it. :) I'll just have to do my usual and Photoshop myself in there instead!

    Thanks, Dave

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    1. Yes, Dave, the Great Wall was one of the true highlights of my trip. Back during the 90s... the decade I lived through at over 375 pounds, I couldn't have imagined EVER being in "good enough" shape to make such a challenging pilgrimage. I am truly blessed. :-)

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    2. BTW, if you'd like to see photos of the entire trip, you can check out my "Asian Adventure Series" at www.JanBonoBooks.com/blog

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    3. Windy,
      The transformation of your health you've done is just amazing! I visited your blog, too...the Korean Barbecue post is cool and scrumptious! I've only done that a few times (and not there). One time we were in NY visiting our friend and he took us over to "Korea Town" for barbecue.

      You should have seen the faces of the staff when this regular-looking white guy explained what we wanted in fluent Korean! It almost caused whiplash. :)

      Dave

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  5. It sounds like the adventure of a lifetime, and i'm so glad you were able to do it even with the escalator/elevator troubles.

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    1. If I didn't have something to whine about, Mimi, I probably wouldn't be "happy." LOL Yes, it was a GRAND adventure... You can follow along if you wish on my regular blog: www.JanBonoBooks.com/blog I'm doing an Asian Adventure Series. :-)

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  6. What a wonderful adventure!!! Fitness facilities in public places is not unique to Korea. My son returned from Northern Ireland yesterday and told me the public parks have gym equipment. Pretty cool! Just think of the burn you got from all those stairs!!! whew!

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    1. Yes! I enjoyed every moment, even "the burn!" ... At 396#, it would have been totally IMPOSSIBLE!! If you'd like to follow along on my full trip, go to www.JanBonoBooks.com/blog

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  7. Death Ride GrandmaAugust 11, 2015 at 6:46 PM

    Wow - sounds like a great, if strenuous trip. But strenuous is what we like here, isn't it? I am actually on a bike tour now, and my legs are squirming in sympathy! Plus we started this trip in a city with an underground system and had some stair experiences, but yours make ours sound like a gentle walk in the park. Thanks for the story about a great-sounding trip!

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    1. Thanks for reading my post! Hope you're having a fabulous time! My own biking is limited to the recumbent bike in the rec room. :-)

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  8. (((runs to check if her husband has miles she can steal as she needs to GIT back traveling!!!)))

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    1. Hi Carla! I was "grounded" for two years as my best friend/traveling companion lost his battle with congestive heart failure. He made me promise to "get back out there" and see more of the world, and that's exactly what I'm doing... Except that when I can't find a friend to travel with, it's a whole lot more expensive to pay the "single supplement."

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  9. Its all looking very cool. Visit here for easy and great weight loss. http://www.amazingaus.com/best-exercises-to-lose-weight-fast/

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