Fresh Air

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After our pottery class in Haeundae on Sunday, we went to Songjeong Beach. It wasn’t far, which surprised me. I realise in retrospect that every time we’ve been there before it was by car, and since separate trips to Haeundae and Songjeong have never connected, I’d never made the geographical connection between the two. This tells me I’m still orientating myself when it comes to getting around Busan.

After our pottery class in Haeundae on Sunday, we went to Songjeong Beach. It wasn’t far, which surprised me. I realise in retrospect that every time we’ve been there before it was by car, and since separate trips to Haeundae and Songjeong have never connected, I’d never made the geographical connection between the two. This tells me I’m still orientating myself when it comes to getting around Busan.

I found some clean air on the beach, and it was more than welcome. As one might expect, the atmospheric quality of a large city like Busan is never going to be high, but the day before Korea had been hit by the worst recorded Yellow Dust storm since records began in 2003. I’d noticed it late on Saturday afternoon, when an apparently descending fog took on a brownish hue, in-between the mountains where we live. There were warnings not to go out without a mask on the next day for fear of breathing in the potentially damaging cocktail of heavy metals and other pollutants, but by the time we awoke, it seemed to have passed.

When I think about my life in Korea, weighing up the pros and cons, the increasingly severe Yellow Dust and its potentially life-shortening properties are a significant negative, although it does have one small benefit. Koreans often ask me what I like the most about their country, but sometimes the braver souls ask what I don’t like. The truth is that the extreme sensitivity here to any kind of national criticism is a fact of life that I find incredibly tiresome, and it’s also why answering that question unprepared is a minefield. The Yellow Dust is as perfect an answer as one is likely to be gifted with, because it’s immediately something Koreans can identify as being a problem in this country while not in any way being their fault.

So a beach with an accompanying sea breeze offers the rare pleasure of non-life-shortening deep breaths in Busan, especially during Yellow Dust season. Unfortunately, it was rather cold, though this hadn’t put off a number of people who were also to be found strolling along the sands, and the even braver souls in the water with their surfboards trying to find the perfect wave. As I discovered before, Songjeong is very much a beach for surfers.

We hung around for a while breathing, watching the surfers, and at one point, being buzzed by a large flock of seagulls which were inexplicably trying to claim my section of beach as their own. I stood my ground.



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