Saturday, February 24, 2007

Alex's Year End Retrospective

Another year has passed and I guess I should write something about what I supposedly have learned over the last two years. Again I think it might be short, but I have learned some things. And even as I look forward to about two months of wandering, and no longer having to be responsible for other people’s children, I will miss much of Korea. But the one thing that I have learned that has the most lasting impact, the one that will stay with me long after the memories have become hazy, probably as it will be the cause of that haziness, is that I am becoming an old man, and faster than I would like. I can sense that you might now go look at our profile or mine at my defunct (due to my laziness) blog, and say to me that I am not yet thirty. Very true that is so I guess I should elaborate. These are the ten ways in which I am becoming an old man before my time:

  • Hair Lines – I am balding and quickly, and my body hair is increasing daily. I
    know that this is not something too special, which is why it is first.
  • Graying – Not only am I losing it, but it is also going white, mostly in the beard which can be a sexy thing so I do not mind too much.
  • Memory Loss – Now we are getting into weightier stuff. I even forget things mid-sentence. Very frustrating especially if you are trying to have a conversation with me.
  • Bunions – It is not just a woman’s issue. I started getting one late last year because Korean feet are so much smaller than my clompers.
  • Joint Pain – I have a bum knee that will need surgery, again, some time in the future and I cannot get out of bed in the morning for my back.
  • Noises – I found this year that I have started making many extraneous noises, most obviously while bending over to pick up stuff, even pencils.
  • Stiffness – You are only as old as your spine, and I really need to do more regular Yoga.
  • Sense of Humor – Perhaps it is not a sign of aging, but more a sign of being stuck in an older time. My sense of humor is painfully corny, or should I say buniony. Best shown through examples.
  • Hearing – I cannot hear anything in a crowded room, and sometimes I do not hear things people say when it is just Audrey and I. Couple this with the memory loss and conversations become nearly impossible.

And now for the kicker, perhaps the most bizarre, and at the same time the most telling of my destiny to become old quickly. . .
  • Medicine – I am not taking any daily medications, not even aspirin, and I do not use ointment or creams, though they might help my achy joints. Yet still in the morning I smell like medicine. Audrey first noted it and now I have become obsessed, as is my habit. There is no objective proof I can give you, but just talk to Audrey.

There we have it. The biggest thing I have learned all year.

I could end it there, but I suppose there are a few more things that need a little attention. I have found that bosses are bosses, and it is not so important to have a job you love as a boss who treats you as a member of a team and respects your input and the value that you bring to the company. I am still looking. Also in that vein, hoping for better prospects can lead me to ignoring my better judgment, and things that look too good to be true probably are. I also found that I would love to be an uncle. I do not dislike kids, I have a lot of fun talking to them, but I do not want to have the responsibility of dealing with them all the time. When the kids in class get annoying I can take comfort in the fact that they will soon be out of my hair. The last job related learning I have come across is that teaching English is something I never want to do again.

As to the rest it is not very enlightening or of much interest to anyone but me so I will keep this blog short. I am excited about getting back to the states for a while and I know we are not done with living overseas. I have no convenient or cohesive way to wrap up this blog so I will just stop writing. I cannot remember the rest anyways.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Nervous Nurse's Needles & The 2-for-1

I really don't have an issue with needles. I don't mind getting my blood drawn, and don't get nauseated at the sight of a syringe. Most of that ease comes with the idea that the person wielding the needle is a trained professional. That being said . . .

Thursday morning I was scheduled for Hep A & Tetanus boosters. I think the nurses drew straws to see who would have to poke me as they huddled around the vials in a tight circle. The unlucky nurse, looking pale and nervous, brought in the two syringes. I did my best to alleviate her stress by pretending to be distracted by my cuticles or the chart of sport injuries on the wall. In other words, giving her room to do what she does without feeling the pressure of a foreigner's gaze.

I vaguely remember the last tetanus booster I received. It was after I had been attacked by the neighbor's German Shepherd. The sensation was that of being punched in the arm over and over and over and over and over . . . and then a constant ache that didn't subside for 24 hours. I was prepared for the discomfort figuring that memory usually exaggerates, so it’d be a minor annoyance this time around.

Well the “Hep A” booster hit my arm like a ton of bricks in slow motion. Nervous Nurse took a couple practice line-ups to my arm after wiping it with not one but three alcohol pads. I thought she must’ve been mistaken, that she was probably giving me the Tetanus shot first, because from the moment the shot began the discomfort slid down my arm and into my neck. It hurt much worse than my memories had suggested it would.

Audrey's arm (Feb. 3, 2007)As she prepped for the second shot, I used an alcohol pad to massage my arm. Damn that hurt, I thought. She hit me with the second shot, which managed to feel just as uncomfortable. At this point, I figured that in her nervous state she had perhaps hit a nerve since my elbow was tingling. Nothing can be done now, so just grin and bear it.

Friday was Alex’s turn, and when he returned from the doctor’s office he said, “I have some bad news”. There had been some confusion (shocking to me as this was) during my vaccinations the previous morning. They had accidentally given me Hep B instead of A, so I needed to go in Saturday morning for the intended shot (free of charge, of course). I was initially quite annoyed because my arm had a welt the size of a golf ball, was fiercely hot, and painful to the touch. However, Dr. Park is a very gentle man and it wasn’t as though they had intended to give me a freebie vaccination.

The moral of the story? Shit happens, but even shit can have a silver lining (please don’t paint a mental picture of that). Dr. Park gave me some free meds to deal with the swelling and was very apologetic. Though the Hep B was a pain in the ass, that shot completed my vaccination series . . . and completed it for free.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

more than green tea, though there was a lot of green tea.

Whirlwind is the only word that could possibly describe our weekend in Boseong. Maybe it’s the short winter days or our dwindling time in Korea that made it feel so brief, maybe it was the haste with which we moved through this tourist town’s off-season offerings that turned the quiet streets into a blur. Whatever the case, Boseong was certainly a good time.

Boseong is roughly 1.5 hours from Gwangju by bus, and after a restless night, I was certainly glad for the allotted snooze time. However, when we entered the mountains near Boseong, it was difficult to nap. Of course the scenery was gorgeous as is the case whenever you wander into the more rural areas of this country, but my sudden alertness had more to do with the winding mountain road and the bus seeming to hop its way around corners. Even a year after our bus accident, I still get jittery. Seung-gyun’s sister picked us up from the station, and whisked us off to their family’s restaurant where we were treated to a lunch of roast duck eaten bulgogi style (lettuce wrap). Then, thoroughly stuffed, we hopped into the car for an afternoon of sight seeing.

The beaches at Boseong are limited in size, but we were assured that they saw their fair share of action come summertime. Our personal guides, told us about the girls in bikinis and summer love from their teenage years. I wandered to take pictures and breathe in the salty air being careful not to stumble over the constant stretch of ropes across the sand. Fishing boats anchored to shore, nets carefully folded, patiently waiting for warmer days and better fishing. We continued on noting strange odds and ends like a burned VCR/Radio manual, a potato lazing along the waterline, tiny crab carcasses. The men skipped rocks. It sounds unhurried, but Alex and I both wished we could’ve lingered longer on the shore. It was time to continue on.

Climbing from the foot of the mountains to the very top, the green tea bushes ripple in perfect rows resembling the back of a squatting dragon or the ominous climb of a tidal wave. Despite the recent harvest and the winter weather, the tiered rows still hinted at green. Winding down at a much gentler slope, a path offers a nice stroll that come summertime is probably packed to overflowing. On this particularly brisk but mild day, it was ours. We took pictures quickly and moved on.

The second green tea field we visited was a full-fledged tourist operation used to shoot TV shows and commercials and is bordered by restaurants and gift shops. Once up on the trails, it feels more isolated. As we walked the winding paths amongst the carefully manicured shrubbery, we indulged in vanilla-green tea ice cream and green tea cookies. Snow flurries came and went as did the sun, and the ice cream was still delicious even though I could barely feel my face.

That night we stayed with Ki-hyeok’s family that, lucky for us, were preparing for a wedding. His mother put together a thanksgiving-worthy feast, while his father plied us with jujube liquor. Later we took the quiet walk into town to meet with another friend who owns a PC Bang (internet cafĂ©). Happy to have company, he took us out for beer and cow heart before we wandered sleepily back to Ki-hyeok’s house and a night in the country.

Sunday we found ourselves back at Seung-gyun’s house for lunch before bussing home. The weekend was a flash, but from what we’ve seen, Boseong is the best of all worlds. It’s a city, it’s a beach town, and is gracefully bordered by mountains and breath-taking tea fields. If only there were more days in a weekend. If only.

you know the drill . . . click the picture for visual stimulation.