In 2011, I began working at a Christian school in Pusan, Korea. And one of my bosses was a crazy gym teacher named Mr. Lipps. Mr. Lipps looked on Christ as if he were an exercise instructor. Jesus, according to this lunatic, hated fat asses and out-of-shape wimps. To that end, Lipps enjoyed torturing both the children and the teachers by taking us on mandatory extreme field trips.
I was forced to climb Sorak Mountain at the age of forty-three. It just about killed me. The journey took fourteen hours, and my knees and feet ached for the next two months. And the hits just kept coming. Chaik Mountain. Taebaek Mountain. Odae Mountain. In fact, I’ve dragged my sorry ass up and down every fucking mountain on the peninsula because of Lipps. These excursions have left me in chronic pain. Don’t laugh. I’m deadly serious. To all you of assholes who are currently living in South Korea, go climb Jiri Mountain this weekend. See how you feel after you’re done. Then try to imagine what it must be like for a fifty-year-old man.
To make matters worse, the staff couldn’t say no. It would have put our jobs in jeopardy. Lipps doubled as the assistant principal, and the principals (we had four over the course of my seven years) loved him to death. Why? He did all the shit work for no extra money. In essence, he ran the school. It would be fucking stupid to scold the man who is doing your job. So Lipps was given carte blanche.
In 2016, it was announced that our next field trip would take three days, and we’d be marching 100 kilometers. I was relieved. As bad as it sounded, at least I didn't have to climb another fucking mountain. Nevertheless, I did my best to get out of it.
I went to the principal’s office. The man in charge at the time was a reasonable Korean who used to teach physics at a local university. He certainly had a formidable intellect. I figured that I had a fifty-fifty chance.
I said, “Dr. Park, I’m not getting any younger. Could you cut me some slack on this one. I could stay at school and get some paperwork done.”
But he was having none of it.
He smiled at me wanly. “You know how Mr. Lipps feels about these trips. He takes them very seriously.”
“I just don’t think that my body can handle it.”
“Let’s compromise. Try your best. If you fail, we’ll let you ride in the van.”
Upon hearing these words, I wanted to kick Dr. Park right in the face. However, I just smiled and let it go. I’m one of these idiots who always looks on the bright side of life. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
After the second day, my feet were completely covered in blisters. Plus I had these strange red splotches on my legs. But I only had another twenty miles to go, so my plan was to power through the adversity. I popped the blisters and got a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, my ankles felt funny—like they’d both suffered a minor sprain. Yet I didn’t let the pain deter me. I walked to the 90 kilometer mark. Then I fell down. My feet were so swollen that I literally could no longer stand. I was carried to the bus.
To make a long story short, I had somehow managed to contract a disease called cellulitis. Consequently, I spent six days in the hospital with all types of needles connected to my veins. I hobbled around like a cripple for the next two months before the extreme pain finally subsided.
I bring this up because yesterday I went on a field trip to a nearby botanical park. The children looked at the flowers and complained because they were bored. But I was in heaven. I really had a great time.