Monday, October 27, 2008

Medical Mayhem

I was working on a project in my room and the roommate was washing dishes, which was fine by me. I hate doing the dishes and if I don't have to more the better. I worked on getting my work done when suddenly I heard "Oh, mother...dammit, fucker!" I hoped up and ran for the kitchen just in time to see my dear roomie running for the bathroom.

"Are you okay?"


"Are you okay?" I looked into the water running over his finger and notice it is deep bloody red and the water was running fast.

"That does not look good," I said.

"You think, give me some tissue."

"I think you are going to need stitches."

"I'll be fine."

"You need to go to a hospital and get stitches."



"It hurts."

"Right. Hospital?"

"Dammit, okay."

I run to get my shoes and down the street we go to the biggest hospital in town. It's a block and a half from my apartment so we decided to walk in the cool night air.

"Are you feeling dizzy?"

"I'm fine."

"You've lost a lot of blood. How many fingers am I holding up?"

"15 million."

"Your delusional, not good."

We skip into the hospital and go through the front door but find that we are not in the right place so walk down another hall. And another. Finally the roomie sees the sign that says emergency and starts to take us that way, but the hospital is big and does not provide great directions. We end up at a map but not where we are going. Finally I ask a passing doctor who walks us out another door around a bend and towards the emergency room.

We walk up to the counter and my roomie hold out his hand. They direct us to another counter. Here the attendant speaks English.

The roomie holds out his hand.

"This hospital is too big," she says. "I'll send you to another just cross the street and get a cab and you will be there." She prints off a map for us and sends us on our way. We walk across the parking lot and wait at the light for the change to cross the street.

"I wonder how many people have died waiting for this light to change," says the roomie.

"You're not helping."

Finally we manage to get across, get into a cab and get on our way.

"Shit," he says.

"You okay?"

"It's bleeding a lot more all of the sudden."

"I know how to tie a tourniquet. You need a tourniquet?"

"How do you know how to tie a tourniquet?"

"Where I grew up we all had to take hunting safety classes, it was part of the basics."

"Okay, what do you need to tie a tourniquet?"

"I will need one of your shoelaces."

"What if I don't have shoelaces?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm wearing Velcro shoes," he says, "let's use one of your shoelaces."

"Nope, I'm wearing loafers. No laces."

"We are woefully unprepared."

"Yep, guess your going to have to die for our lack of quality footwear." We giggle as we move closer to the next hospital. When we get there we walk into a very small room with two attendants and place the bloody finger on the counter.

They don't speak much English but the problem is pretty obvious. They usher us into an emergency room that is empty but for one other patient. The doctor comes around and asks us what the problem is.

"Stitches peer-i-o-hada," I say "hako Tetanus."



"Oh, yes, tet-a-NUS-uh! Nay, okay."

He and the other orderly take the roomie away and ask him some questions which the roomie answers easily in Korean. They take him around and lie him out on a bed.

"Can I get you anything?" I ask trying to be helpful.

"Well, he is sitting on my arm for no readily apparent reason, but I think it would be rude to ask him to move." I smile amused and the orderly settles himself in.

The doctor looks up and says something but neither of us understand. "Moy-ya?" we both ask.

"You will be in pain." Okay, I think, he is in pain. Then I realize that he is about to administer the general anesthetic.

"Oh, fuck!" Says the roommate as the needle is introduced to his finger. I think, he will be in pain, how accurate.

All together it took about thirty minutes from arrival to exit for the stitches and the shots. My roomie is uninsured and had to pay a whopping fifty dollars to cover the stitching (16 dollars) the tetanus shot (25 dollars) and an antibiotic shot for good measure (10 dollars) and then about 17 bucks for the miscellaneous supplies.

"In the US we would have waited four hours and paid like 500 bucks," I say.

The doctor looks at  us. "My Englishee no good."

"Maja," I say, it's good. We smile and walk a few stitches heavier into the cool fall night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bloody Red Drapes

As it was said before I was working on a little crochet project for my wardrobe. While I love sewing my own clothes on occasion you need something else in the closet to spice things up. I'm working up to crocheting an actual sweater.

This piece was in the most delightful blood red acrylic yarn I found in a sale box at an hajuma's stall on yarn street in Seomun Market. This is pretty much the only district in town to find any selection. At the same time sadly the yarn can be really expensive going for eight to fifteen dollars a skein. Often I am rather pragmatic about it, look but don't touch, oogle from afar. It was the summer which helped me to keep my shopping under control but the color and the price were just too attractive so I ended up getting about six dollars worth, what she had in the bin.

As I started to work on this project I realized I was going to have to go back to the market. I got lucky and she had four more skeins in the same color at the same price and I had enough yarn to finish my wrap, which is as lovely as it is terrifyingly bloody.

It should prove to be nice and warm on a cold Korean night.

The funny thing about pieces like this is that they create their own mood. This makes me feel when I wear it as if I am somehow more vulnerable. Maybe it is the cape-like quality, how it pins my hands down keep them close to the sides of my body. Or they way it wraps over shoulders, breasts, arms, all together, trapping and bringing warmth all at the same time. Snug but not a cocoon; safe but without freedom. An interesting effect.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quiet Night at with Lonely Hearts

I couldn't deal with staying home any longer. The economy has been keeping me in doors but I decided it was finally time to take a trip to the Lonely Hearts. I hadn't been in almost a week which is a long time in my apartment with my dog. So I packed up my current crochet project and headed down the cool Korean streets.

The wind blows but not cool enough, the Koreans stare. Two children are playing at ten in the evening, the young girl who is standing smacks the face of the boy in the stroller. "I go" shout the mothers as they separate the children. The waning moon shines down in the glitter park as I walk through on my way to Lonely Hearts.

The bar is quiet and I'm the only one there.

"I saw them, I saw them" exclaims H.

"Was it good?"

"It was so good I pissed my pants." He plays a video of the concert on his phone, showing me exactly where he lost control of all bodily function for the beauty of a second in music.

He relates his story.

"I'm on the subway platform, and smoking, and then my friend says 'lool' and there they are. My cigarette it just burns to like here and then I run over and hug them and they signed my bag."

I pull out my crochet as the story goes on. Red red red bleeding all over the bar, a scarf of red for a night of blue, and lonely fingers weaving idle roads in the lonely hearts club.

H plays a tune from the show. I call out a band. H finds the band and pulls it up. We toss to each other back and forth, bands, and words, names, meanings half hidden behind our desire to fill the quiet with someone who can mean more then we mean.

A writer walks into the bar and orders a beer. "First time I've been alone in two weeks and I come here." H pours him a drink and we continue our musical serenade to each other.

"She keeps bees." I say.

"St. Vincent." He returns.


"Los Campesinos."

We go back and forth. The writer pulls out his black notebook and writes in in with a felt tip pen, pressure on paper and letters bleeding through. My crochet drapes the bar, my hands in motion and mind out of touch.

"First time I've been along in two weeks." says the writer.

"It's just a different kinds of loneliness." I say while the music fills the webs of silence weaving over us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making a List, Checking it Twice

On my weekends I tend to do a lot of work. This particular weekend I had offered my considerable talents for a speaking engagement on reading and writing. I figured why not and even though it would be a three hour trip to engage a very small group of teachers I felt it would be worth the effort. I made arrangements for a road trip and otherwise tried to enjoy my pleasantly light on work week.

Now here is the thing. Knowing this trip was three hours away one would think that it would be important to take certain things. Things like say my blouse and pants, my computer, my varying products, you know the stuff you need when you are doing the professional thing on  a weekend.  But somehow my day got rushed. I felt like I was out of it, it started to rain while I was walking home so I took off my clothes before packing and started to put things together. Among the clothing articles that had been removed was the pants that I was planning on wearing to the presentation the next day. Not a big deal, I knew where the pants where and placed them on top of my back pack so I could remember to bring them with.

After packing up a car, a dog, a driver, a backpack, and mp3 player, and other sundries, it was into the car and onto the road. The drive was mostly uneventful with some humor from David Sedaris to keep everyone awake. Even the dog was amused.

Eventually I ended up at the city in the middle of no where. It was nine in the evening I would need to sleep so I fired up a bottle of wine, the t.v. and found some dinner. All was going well and I was getting a little tipsy. I recounted to the Driver, "You know, I didn't get my pants out of the car."

"You want the keys."


So, a little tipsy I held the key. I stared at the key. I was daunted by the key. I starting laughing, a little half hearted giggle pre-hysteria laugh.

"What's funny?" asked the Driver.

"I was just thinking how funny it would be if I forgot to pack my pants."

"You did pack your pants, right?"

"Yeah, they were on top of my bag. I didn't put them in my bag, but I remember they are next to the dog case." So, after finishing my glass and close to midnight I wandered down to the car to find the pants. Only, I did not find the pants. I checked the front seat. No pants. I checked the back seat. No pants. I looked under seats. I ruffled through things. No pants.

Huh, I thought. I'm just missing them. I'll have the Driver come look.

So I walk back up to the room and open the door.

"Where are your pants," asks the Driver.

"Good question. I couldn't find them, but I know I packed them. You go look, it's your car." And I tossed the keys at the Driver. You must understand that among other things the car currently had a unicycle and an inflatable kayak stuffed in it so it was not impossible that I was just missing the pants. However after being gone long enough for me to finish a good half of my bottle of wine the Driver returned sans pants.

"Well fuck."

And now is when the fun begins. Because I live in South Korea and I'm not a size two. So after discovering that I have left my pants at home I have to figure out how to get a pair of workable black pants for a presentation and I will not have a whole lot of time to do it.

There is this odd thing about Korea. It's not that there are not fat Koreans, there are. There are Koreans who are a hell of a lot bigger than I am. The question here is "Where do these people shop?" I know from experience and I know from friends that a size 0-1 anywhere else in the world is an extra large in Korea. In the States I would have driven to any local Wal-mart and found what I needed in a regular section with no questions asked. In Korea I hadn't the foggiest idea.

The next morning after very little sleep (freaking night club district hotels) it was decided to try the Korean equivalent of a Walmart and hope for the best that they have a pair of pants in the size I was looking for. I had a rough idea of what I needed. The question was whether or not it could be found.

There is nothing more exciting then shopping for clothes in Korea. As soon as you start to look at clothes the retailers freak out. "Chingu?" For your friend? "Andi, na-peer-i-o-hada" No, I need these..."No, andiyo, andi," You, no, no no, get the heck out, no! The Jamacian once had a retailer refuse to sell her an eighty dollar dress because the retailer was convinced it would look bad on her. Not becuase it wouldn't fit but if she were the dress it might imply the store had things for regular sized women and that would be the deat of the store.

Knowing all this I went shopping anyway. Or rather, I poked and prodded the Driver who went shopping while I peered over a shoulder and tried to determine if the pants in question might fit me. Within twenty minutes we had managed to convince some nice sales lady to seach through the racks for the size that was required and oddly enough managed to find two workable contenders and a pair of sweat pants.

I hate sweat pants but bought the evil vile things as a last resort. Sixty bucks lighter I went into the bathroom, whispered a short prayer to the goddess, and started to wiggly my curvy ass into some pants. And to my surprise and amazement the first pair not only fit, but actually made my curey ass look FANTASTIC.

Somewhat relieved I tossed my paint spattered travel pants into the shopping bag and didint' even bother with the other pairs. I figured why tempt fate.

All things aside I looked professional, the workshop went well, and know one even suspected what an idiot I am.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Politics: Palling Around With Who Now?

You have probably heard, seen, or read in many different media outlets that the McCain campaign has stepped up its rhetoric an unleashed it's Pitbull Palin to make some grossly un-American statements about the opposing party for President.

Honestly, I think the attacks of the McCain campaign go beyond looking at character. Questions of character I could understand by trying to tie Barrack Obama by associating him with terrorists is unfounded. The fact that they are trying to make him into a terrorist is disturbing fear mongering of the worst level and any canidate worth his salt running for president should be above it.

But if you want to play the guilt by association game, then let's, for a moment, look at some other associations.

Palin's for example:

Ted Stevens: Currently Under indictment for violation of provisions of Ethics.

The Alaskan Independence Party: A group that advocates Alaska as a free country.

But, it's been said before Palin isn't running for president. She's just standing in glass houses throwing stones for her principal. Her Principal is John McCain.

So, who does McCain associate with?

McCain and G. Gordon Liddy

"Liddy, who worked for President Nixon's campaign,
was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for multiple crimes
in burglarizing the Democratic National Committee office in the
Watergate building--part of a broader plot to steal the 1972 election
through sabotage, illegal spying and other dirty tricks. He even
planned the murder of a journalist, though that idea was overruled.
Bombings? He proposed the firebombing of a liberal think tank.

Liddy, now a conservative radio host, has never expressed regret for
this attempt to subvert the Constitution. Nor has he developed any
respect for the law. After the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian
compound in Waco, he endorsed the shooting of federal agents: "Kill the
sons of bitches."

Yet none of this bothers McCain. Liddy has contributed thousands of
dollars to his campaigns, held a fundraiser for McCain at his home and
hosted the senator on his radio show, where McCain said, "I'm proud of
you." Exactly which part of Liddy's record is McCain proud of?"

You can listen to McCain's praise for Liddy here:

And McCain, John Singlaub and the US Council for World Freedom. John McCain was on the board of this organization. The same way that Barrack Obama served on the board of an organization with Ayers. If serving on the board means being good friends then this is completely relevant.

"But John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League – the parent organization – which ADL said “has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.”

John McCain Rick Davis and Raffaello Follier

"Raffaello Follieri, the 30-year-old Italian who used his purported ties with the Vatican to win entry into the inner circles of billionaire businessmen and top politicians, including former President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in connection with his business of buying property from the Catholic Church. Mr. Follieri, who not long ago was sharing a $37,000-a-month Manhattan penthouse with his then-girlfriend, actress Anne Hathaway, now faces 51 to 63 months in a U.S. federal prison under sentencing guidelines."

McCain and his campaign manager Rick Davis didn't sit across a board table from Follieri, they spent McCain's birthday in 2006 on Follieri's yacht.

I suggest that Senetor McCain get back to politics, get back to putting the country first, and get back to talking about how to fix our nations problems, rather then trying to tear down the man he sees as standing in his way to the throne. McCain's ambitions are at stake, maybe that's why this thing is getting so ugly.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On being non-Korean in Korean Medical land

The worst thing about not being Korean in Korea is that doctors simply don't get it. End of the day I'm from the good ole USA and that means a couple of things. First, even the lowest back-birth has some education in the field of medicine particularly in diagnosis. At an early age Americans learn to diagnosis illness, determine the cause, create a treatment plan, and then implement a treatment plan. This is a necessity because, as all Americans know, going to the doctor is too damned expensive or requires insurance and one are both will prevent going.

However being very well versed in the medical sciences we also know when it has become apparent that a doctor must be brought in damn the cost. You know how it is you are having a conversation with your neighbor....

"Bill, you think that bone should be poking through the skin like that?"

"Well, no Chuck, that looks like it might need a doctor."


"Bertha I been coughing up blood for a few days, what you think?"

"You try mustard?"

"Yep, lot's of mustard."

"Time for a doctor then."


"Joe, take a look at this rash will you?"

"Um, dude, go to a doctor, seriously, that's disgusting."

So, yeah, we know when it gets to a certain point that The Doctors Book of Home Remedies has been maxed out and it is time to hit up the local quake and get either a)antibiotics, b) the prescription for actual condition, c) a diagnostic to find out whats wrong, or d) surgery, jesus man it's freaking broken already.

As an American, when going to the doctor it is a safe bet that I have spent some time researching the possibilities of what is wrong with me (god bless Google and Web MD which saves Americans thousands in insurance and health care dollars each year). And yet, I live in Korea.

There is a basic Korean truth. Koreans don't know the first thing about the human body.

I had a girl in class once that was pale, flushed and running an easily 103 degree fever. She was shivering and sweating. I brought her personally to the office and asked that she be taken to a doctor. The teacher talked to her for a few minutes and then told me she wanted to go back to class. I was irate. She needed at the very least an IV and definitely something for the virus she was suffering from.

In other instance in the middle of summer I would excuse students to go drink water. I kept telling teachers that hydration would help calm the kids down and get them to concentrate. I was told that they kids had water at 10 am and should be fine after a day of sweating and gym at 2 for a class.

Had a kid with a broken finger. Took him to the office. Said, pointedly, "his finger is broken."

"No, it's not, he's fine."

He came to class the next day with a splint on.

This is Korea. Korean's don't really know if something is wrong until an actual professional diagnoses them. At the same time, while stubborn, Koreans will go to the doctor for pretty much anything. Docs are a three dollar visit with not waiting. You have a tummy ache, go to the doctor after work. Kid not well, take them to the doctor (after school, you leave classes only on fear of death). You have a runny nose, head to the doctor and get a three day run of antibiotic to clear that up. It's a little wacky.

Doctors here are also completely infallible. You go in, the tell you what is wrong, you thank them, pay them, and come back for every follow up visit they demand.

So imagine the surprise of the doctor I went to see on Tuesday when I practically begged for a blood test diagnostic.

Instead he told me I had an interesting story and he wanted to do some trials. At first I was all for it. What kinds of trials.

What he then lays out is the exact same "trial" I've been running on myself for the last six years. I pointed this out mentioning that I did not believe that his "trial" would be effective, that what I needed was to stop hypothesizing and to actually test some freaking theories. What was his response....

"Sara, Sara. You don't listen. I'm a doctor. Okay? First I will talk with some other Doctors about your problem."

I hold out my arm. "Take my blood. Please, run some kind of test on it."

"First I will discuss the case with another doctor."

I want to kill.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that illness in Korea is like Korea itself. It's homogeneous. Most people here get the same sick. Even major illness have consistency. Stomach cancer, gall bladder problems? Come to Korea you can't get better care. Have a strange disorder like say celiac disease? You will die before they figure out what is wrong with you.

It is both the blessing and the curse of the Korean system. Here I have full health care coverage for $25 dollars a month, no co-pays, or deductibles or premiums or being told what doctor to choose or confusing plans. I can walk into a doctors office and see someone within five minutes and pay three bucks for the visit no matter how long I'm there. For getting my prescriptions refilled or for other basics its no problem. For something that might be major, though, the cheapness and the ease truly fails.

And so here I sit a week later still wondering what is wrong and trying to find out if I can order home kits on the internet to test myself.

American medical know how, Korea style.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Politics: McCain and the Keating Five

If you are worried about money, or if the economy is the biggest factor to you in the election, I ask you to take a few minutes, sit down, and watch this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Really? One of those days.

The day is the beautiful fall day that Korea, with it's four seasons, aspires to have.  I was heading towards the primarily outdoor section of the market and it was lovely. I decided to have lunch outdoors with my favorite hajuma. She was happy to see me when I pulled up a side of bench next to another aging grandmother who was also stopping in for a bite.

She was happy to see me as I haven't stopped in to eat anything for a while and she set me up with a proper lunch. As I put my bags down the other hajuma started to talk to me around pieces of fish-cake and point at my bag. I can understand Korean alright when it is not obstructed by fishcake but I have no idea what she is talking about. Finally, she points to my bags several time and tries to get me to put them next to her, and I realize she is worried for me things. I place them between my feet and she relaxes. This was before the day exploded.

As we talk politely in Korean and I tell her what I've been doing someone else down the aisle eating and apparently having an early morning case of soju suddenly starts yelling loudly. It's hardly even noon and he can't stand up. The hajuma who runs the cart bar he is passing out at yells back at him. It finally ends with her grabbing him by the arm and dragging him up to his feet and down the street to deposit him in a cab. The hajumas lining the cart-bars smile and shake their heads in amusement. I finish my lunch and figure to head up to look at fabric and see if there is anything interesting.

What I found instead was more shouting as two of the hajumas who have shops in the fabric section are yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. It's loud and angry and violent, and you can hear it throughout. Others are doing what Koreans do in the face of that much anger, shaking their heads and waiting for it to pass. Finally one of the lone ajoshi retailers decides to step in and gently scolds them, and old grandfather asking his two daughters to calm down. It works to a point. One of the women finds a customer and tries to convince her to buy some fancy printed silk. The other hajuma gets on the phone and starts repeating the entire argument at the top of her lungs to the person on the other side of the phone.

I'm amused so take back to the streets. As I walk outside another hajuma starts yelling at a passerby who bumped into her stall. Some workers are yelling at cart bar owners of stands that are not appropriate. People are yelling and screaming all over the place. I finally start to have to wonder if everyone is off their meds.

After watching yet another fistfight break out I decide to call my shopping done and head home to sew some shirts in my nice, quiet scream free apartment. DefinitelyDefinately a better way to spend a fall afternoon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

John McCain: If I were a dictator

"If I were a dictator, which I will always aspire to be..."

Copy, paste, share this video. Everyone needs to know that this is something a person running to be president says.

Be afraid people.