Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Acupuncture Update #2

I worked out today, and although I wasn't 100%, my shoulder was closer to 100% than it's been in two months. I'm surprised to say that I think the acupuncture actually worked.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Acupuncture Update

It's better today, surprisingly. I'm healing nicely after having problems for so long. I'm actually healing SO well, that I think I'm going to chance a workout tomorrow (although with light weights). I'm sure there'll be another update after that.


After treatment #2 Posted by Hello

A closer shot. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Note on Posting Comments

I appreciate that some of you have commented, but be careful: only hit the publish post button once. It takes a minute for it to show up on the blog (longer than posting on the internet usually does). Just be patient, otherwise you end up with the same comment several times on the board (and I get like ten notification emails that fill up my box). Anyway, don't let this stop you from posting.


Acupuncture: An Update

I went back for a second treatment (he said if I woke up stiff the next morning, to come back again). I must say, that my shoulder does actually feel a lot better. But now my neck hurts. The doctor said this might happen, but it'd only last for a day. We'll see.

My shoulder looks even worse after treatment two. I'll post some pics on Monday.

A few highlights of my second treatment:

1) More needles. He used smaller ones this time, but way more of them. I have them all down my arm.
2) Notes. The helper women some how got some translation notes between my first visit and my second. They'd show me a card, I'd do what it said, then they'd flip it over and it would have a new command. They didn't try to actually say any of them, though.
3) More suction. They really worked to find flesh to stick the cups to. I ended up with five on me this time instead of three, but one just kept falling off the minute I'd even twitch. I just don't have much soft flesh to suction onto in the shoulder area.


Friday, November 26, 2004

Here it is, the aftermath of my acupuncture session. And I'm still supposed to go back tomorrow for a followup. Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Getting Poked

I hurt my shoulder about two months ago. I'm not exactly sure how, but I think it was a combination of playing with the kids at my school and then working out. I think one of the kids yanked down on my arm and pulled something, then I worked out and hurt it more. I'm not sure though. In any case, it doesn't want to heal right. I laid off shoulder exercises for three weeks. I put heat on it every night. I massage it a bit through the day. It does get better, but when it feels good and ready, I try to do my regular work out (instead of my lame "my shoulder hurts" one) and it starts to hurt again.

When mom was here last week, she wanted to try acupuncture for her back. It seemed to help, so I thought I'd give it a try for my shoulder.

I had a break between classes today, so I got a coworker, Rachel, to come down and translate for me. The place smelled like pine needles. I tried to say this to the receptionists in Korean. "Sow-Leap-Nah-Moo," I said. They chuckled a little the way Koreans tend to when you screw up their language (they're fast to chuckle and fast to correct). "Sow-Nah-Moo," said Rachel. I then realized I had said it smells like a pine leaf tree instead of a pine tree. These things happen.

One receptionist, a very pretty woman probably only in her early twenties, took me back to the doctor. I say she was in her early twenties, but Koreans tend to look much younger than they really are. She could have been 40 for all I know.

The doctor's office was very nice--as was the whole place. The doctor asked about my symptoms and how I did it, and then ushered me back to the area for the pokin'.

He first laid me down on a stone table. It was nicely heated. I felt like I could have just laid there and taken a nap.

Before I could get too comfortable, the doctor got out the needles. The needles are much bigger than just your average needle and when the go in, the doctor cranks a little thing at the end that seems to make them wider. The doctor tapped the first one into my neck, right near the base of my skull. He does actually tap then in and not just stick them in. It's like he uses his finger as a tiny hammer. The rest of the needles went much closer to the actual problem in my shoulder. I probably ended up with a dozen or so needles sticking out of me.

Before he left, the doctor moved a heat lamp over my poked area and then left. I laid there relaxing on the edge of sleep for about 20 minutes before someone came back. It's amazing how comfortable you can get with 12 needles sticking out of you.

A woman came in after an alarm went off and took out the needles, blotting away the blood (there was a little, but not much). Then she wrapped a heating pad around my shoulder. She did this with great difficulty, a lot of giggling, and an awkwardness that I wouldn't have thought characteristic of someone who does this for a living. Of course, I'd like to think that this is because of my disarming good looks. I mean, I'd have a hard time remaining composing in my own shirtless presence. In reality, it's probably because I'm probably one of two foreigners to come there all year, the other being my mom.

She said something before she left, something that I didn't at all understand. When I told her I didn't understand, she said something else, laughed a little and then left.

I was left alone with the heating pad for another 20 minutes or so, then things got weird. The woman came back and hooked me up to this machine. It essentially was a sucking machine. Imagine a cow milking machine and you're half way there. Four suckers from the milking machine were hooked to my shoulder. The machine sucked at odd intervals for another 20 minutes (I know for sure this time because the machine had a timer). This felt a lot better than you would have though--something like a really deep massage.

After the milking machine came some more sucking. These special little cups that were put on my shoulder and all the air was sucked out. These didn't suck at intervals, they just sucked hard. This is indicative of how much weight I've lost (and how good of shape I'm in right now): the woman could only get three cups on me even though she tried to get five. There just wasn't enough loose flesh to suck. The woman, of course, thought this was hilarious, much like everything else that happened at the acupuncture place.

These things hurt like you would imagine something sucking really hard on your should would hurt. Luckily, they only stayed on for about 10 minutes. When the woman took them off, she tried to explain to me that everything was done. I didn't understand, and tried to ask what was going on. She said it about three different ways, laughed a lot, then went and got the doctor. Even though the doctor doesn't speak English, he at least knew the word "finished."

I paid 5,000 won (less than $5) because acupuncture is actually covered by insurance here. My shoulder feels a lot better now, but I wonder how much of that is just because those last cups hurt so much, and I'm just relieved to be rid of them. I'll keep you all posted.

In the mean time, it looks like my shoulder was sunburned, stabbed by a tiny man, and then pelted with baseballs. Heat lamps, needles, and milking machine cups will do that to ya.


Happy Thanksgiving

Enjoy it for me, because it's not celebrated here (even by me, since I don't know how I'd go about that by myself :) ).


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Korean Rag Doll

I was walking home last night at about 10:30. I was on a back road, but not an alley, in a pretty nice part of town. Lots of people were around because it's a road with a lot of shops.

I was passing by a small apartment building when two women walked out carrying a third. One of the carriers was a woman in her early 20s dressed to relax at home. The other carrier was a woman in her 40s dressed casually, but not dressy. The woman they were carrying was young, but it was hard to say how young, probably around 18 or so. She was dressed like people do here then they go out.

The carried woman was completely passed out. She looked like a rag doll. And her hair was wet with something, not blood, but something. The two women took her out the doors of the building and sat her on the sidewalk. The one then went back inside and threw the woman's shoes down beside her. Then they went back inside.

No one around seemed to notice. I looked up at the building. No bars, no night clubs, no nothing. I didn't know what I should do: my Korean is not nearly good enough to call the police, I couldn't be much help with CPR (if that's even what she needed), and I couldn't even really ask what was going on of any of the other bystanders.

I walked home, unsure of what I had seen. I still haven't a clue.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Mom's Side of the Story: A Guest Post by My Mother, Kelly Shepherd

Part I: Arrival

I had never flown before I left for Korea and everyone kept asking me if I was nervous and I wasn’t until the morning I was going to leave. Suddenly I began to panic a little bit but I had the ticket and I was going. My first plane was a little puddle jumper and it reminded me of starting out on a roller coaster ride, which I hate. I felt hot, nervous and claustrophobic. For one brief moment I almost yelled, “Let me off!” but I told myself to relax and breathe. I always wondered why people hate to fly. It seemed kind of glamorous to me. It’s not.

It was a very long trip and I was very tired but by the time I made it to the Incheon Airport, I was so excited to see Ryan and my plane had been late. I was hurrying so fast down that moving walkway, that I didn’t notice my shoe string getting caught in the end and fell flat on my face. I jumped up fast and tore my shoe string out. “You all right?” “You all right?” Yes, Yes, I said without looking at anyone and got the hell out of there.

I made it to the lobby and got all of my luggage on a big cart. My stomach hurt from being so tired or the atmosphere or something. I wanted a 7up and tried to walk into a little convenience store. “No cart!” I put my cart back at the entrance. Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t read anything and hadn’t even looked at my Korean money to see how to spend it. It was hopeless so I left without anything. I could tell it was Ryan from very far away by his walk and hurried up to him so fast, he didn’t even notice I was standing right next to him.

Ryan has already written about the first night and I can’t add anything to make it seem more pleasant. On top of it all I had a headache and stomach ache so all I hoped was that it had to get better. Just getting rid of my damn, heavy suit cases had to be an improvement.

Part II Daejon

When we got to Ryan’s apartment, I felt more relaxed and got to watch something I understood, That 70’s show, while he made us lunch. I thought his apartment was very nice and bigger than I expected. We then found a hotel for me that was so cheap and much nicer than the first one. I chose to ignore what the sex toys in the hallway and the THREE sex channels on TV (that I found that night) might mean. I was just grateful for the nice place, and it was such a relief to dump the luggage. We went shopping. Cheap stuff, lots of purses and shoes, what woman wouldn’t be happy about that? We went to a very nice Vegetarian restaurant for dinner but I had a hard time eating because I was still having trouble with my stomach. 7up is called cider in Korea and Ryan got me some. It helped, yeah!

The next day we headed for a hike in the mountains. WOW! The pictures are beautiful but they can not capture what you actually see. It was overwhelming. I still don’t think I’ve processed it all. First of all, it was packed and we only saw one other foreigner the whole time. People were staring but you learn to ignore it real quick. Most everyone there, especially Ryan, was in better shape than me. I thought I might have a heart attack but of course I didn’t. Ryan had to keep encouraging me. Come on mom, just a bit further, it’s going to be better in just a little bit (I think he was lying sometimes!). The whole while, I had the false hope that going down would be better. It wasn’t except that my breathing wasn’t so hard. I was so happy on the way up to see a few people, a couple toddlers and old men, who seemed to be having as much trouble as I was. Anyway, I made it to the top and going down, I must admit, I was grateful that Ryan was injured. I think there would have been trouble otherwise. After all, I have trouble walking through an airport without falling and he wanted me to RUN down a mountain. The views, the temples, the bamboo groves, everything was amazing and then our luck with a stranger’s kindness getting us home.

By the time we got back to Ryan’s place, I collapsed on his bed and didn’t want anything to eat for dinner but “cider”. By this time, I felt sorry for Ryan who had to limp out and get me my cider, then later limp me all the way back to my hotel and then he had to limp back home. I felt bad but couldn’t do these things on my own. He insisted I get something to eat for later and I was grateful that I listened because after I got a bath and settled in, I was starved!

Part III Still Daejon

The next day, I went to visit at Ryan’s school. I was grateful that it wouldn’t involve any climbing. I made it out to get myself a cup of coffee and to his school on my own. The students are adorable and just as rowdy and ornery as any American kids. It is a very nice school and I really enjoyed my visit. Ryan introduced me to everyone and to kids he has on different days. They seemed disappointed that he wouldn’t be teaching that day. I was amazed about how much these kids do: For some, regular school, English school, extra math classes, martial arts AND private lessons. American kids have it easy! I also had some acupuncture for my back during the day and with it were some electric stimulus treatment, some hot packs, a massage table and some suction things. I was treated for over an hour and all for less than ten bucks!

We had lunch with two of Ryan’s friends. They were so kind and lovely. They bought me a gift and paid for our lunch. We ate at the same vegetarian restaurant I couldn’t eat much at before. This time I felt great and enjoyed the food and company.

That evening we bought our bus tickets for the next day’s trip to Seoul, did a little shopping and met some of Ryan’s coworkers for dinner. It was a wonderful way to spend my last night in Daejon. I really enjoyed his friends and the sit down of the floor type dinner!

Part IV leaving

Ryan was to pick me up at my hotel at 7:30 am and I woke up at 7:27 so I threw on some clothes and threw my stuff in my bags and we headed out. We got my stuff to the hotel in Incheon and they assured us, I could be shuttled to and from the airport in the evening so I was confident I could make it on my own. We had a great lunch in Seoul and did some sight seeing and shopping. I was exhausted and not hungry yet by the time we should have been having dinner, so reluctantly I admitted to myself that it was time for me to head back to my hotel on my own. I wanted to spend all the time I could with Ryan because I probably won’t see him again for another year. We hugged good-bye quickly and I got on the bus before I could cry. I was the only one on the bus but I sat one seat back from the driver so he wouldn’t see me struggling not to cry. On the way to the hotel, I made the switch in my mind from sadness in leaving Ryan to happiness in going home. The trip home involved a lot of standing in line, but since I knew more what was up it seemed easier. I was exhausted but thrilled to see the rest of my family. We had a great dinner together and they surprised me by having our new home decorated with Christmas lights!!

Part V In conclusion

I am so very glad I made the trip. I think anyone who has the chance should travel outside of the US. The top five things in Korea for me besides seeing Ryan were :

1. The people.
2. The mountains.
3. The Shopping
4. The fruit (especially mandarin oranges)
5. Swaton and the students/staff there

The thing I can live without.

Smelling squid.
The crowds
not knowing the language
subways, trains and buses ( I really appreciate my car!)

I am grateful for the whole experience and for getting to see Ryan where he lives. He seems happy and I appreciate how well he took care of me while I was there!!

My morning class. I love these guys. Check out Jason in his hat. He looks cooler than I could ever hope to in my entire life. The only one missing is Sue. She always hides when I take pictures. Posted by Hello

Sue couldn't hide forever, though. Posted by Hello

The kids getting ready for the fieldtrip. Close to the camera on his knee is Justin, Sue's older brother. Posted by Hello

Jun on Friday with his normal hair. Posted by Hello

Jun on Monday morning with freaky hair. Apparently, he had a rough weekend. Posted by Hello

This picture is great. It's Jun with a mouth full of egg and Nicole behind him about to mess up his hair. Posted by Hello

A pic of most of the early classes at Swaton. We were on a fieldtrip to see Alice in Wonderland (see "Alice in Korea" below). Posted by Hello

Another one. Posted by Hello

A flame red neon cross. How freaky is that? Posted by Hello

Here's a blue cross. The crosses come in red, white, and blue (that's I've seen). I'm not sure what the colors mean. Posted by Hello

A blurry pic of a neon cross, but you can see the church better in this one. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Maternal Koreanism Part 1: The Arrival

My mom's trip to Korea started by falling down on a moving sidewalk, followed shortly by getting ripped off in a cab. The day was rounded off by spending the night in a hotel that we paid way too much for. Honestly, I'm a little surprised she didn't just turn around and go home.

The next day didn't start out too much better. We were awoken early by the pleasant sound of old men rummaging through trash. That's not as bad as it sounds. People in Korea get good money for turning in recyclables, so retired people often do it for something to do.

Having woken up, we headed for the subway. Traveling around Seoul (one of the most densely populated cities in the world) with three heavy pieces of luggage may sound like a good way to spend your first jet lagged morning in Korea, but mom didn't seem to enjoy it.

We decided to head to Daejon, but I couldn't leave Seoul without first checking out an English language book store. It wasn't too far out of the way. That was the highlight of the day...or I should say the highlight of MY day. Mom could probably buy English language books anytime she wanted.

The pleasantness continued as we had to stand on the train back to Daejon. It was Saturday, so all the seats were booked (unless we wanted to wait). It's a two hour trip. Could have been worse, we could have been forced to do pushups as well.

But, I must say, things really turned around for mom's visit when we actually made it to Daejon.

Maternal Koreanism Part 2: Daejon

We stepped off the train into a nice, albeit brisk, day.

"Does it feel like Korea yet?" I asked in the cab back to my apartment.

"Yes," she said wandering a bit. I could tell that it was really sinking in as we whizzed past all the signs and traffic.

I was happy to get rid of her luggage in my apartment, nearly as happy as I was to finally open her suitcase and see what she brought me: Books, comics, refried beans, tomato soup, vegetarian jerky, and a couple outfits. A good haul.

After lunch, we headed downtown to the Korean markets. One is a modern market underground, while the other is a much more traditional market (and even uses the traditional Korean word for market--Shee-Jang--in its name) in the alleyways.

The underground market is nothing special. Imagine a punch of specialty stores selling cheap crap. Now imagine those stores go on in four directions for about a kilometer each way. If you can picture it, you've got it. Mom liked it, though. She made the interesting point that if you didn't know it was down there, you'd never find it. That sounds pretty obvious, but I guess it's true.

The traditional market is another best entirely. Imagine portable tents. Imagine cheaper than cheap crap. Imagine eels in buckets and sliced up dogs on hooks. Now imagine this for several city blocks. There ya go. Mom bought a supercheap purse up there, but we had to hide from the sliced up dog. So it goes.

The day was rounded out by finding a hotel and having dinner. Mom's hotel in Daejon was much nicer than the one in Seoul and about half the price. One interesting feature was that it had sex toys in a vending machine in the hallway. Kind of surprising since it was an upscale place. Eh, could've been much worse for the price.

Dinner was at the vegetarian restaurant I go to a couple times a week. Good times.

Mom was pretty exhausted by this point and wanted to rest up for mountain climbing...told about in Part 3.

Maternal Koreanism Part 3: Conquering a Mountain

We awoke early trying to get out to the mountain before too late. Mom called me and said she was headed over, then called me an hour later and said she couldn't find the place...but found her way back to the hotel. I decided, of course, to just come to her this time.

We made it out to the mountain before noon. We checked out the shops and the temples before heading up. Mom seemed to like them. There's really no story to tell about climbing up: mom and I climbed, mom got tired and rested, we had some tea, more rest, then the top. I'll let the pictures tell the rest.

Luckily, I got hurt. I say luckily because I probably would have been pissed coming down having to wait for mom if my knee wasn't slowing me up. But it was. Coming down actually took longer than going up.

More temples at the bottom and some bamboo on the way: whoopee!

By the time we got to the bottom, both of us were ready for a sit down. Even though I do speak half-assed Korean, I really couldn't figure out how to get home. I'd never come down the way we had before, and the signs weren't much help. I was about to test out my finding out skills on Koreans around when a car pulled up.

"Where are you going?" The man asked in Korean.

"Daejon," I said.

"Yes, but where in Daejon," he said.

I told him, to which he replied, "Bus not going long way doesn't go." I'm getting to be a pretty good code breaker, but still, that one was beyond me. Luckily, his speech ended with "Get in. I'll give you a ride."

And he did, all the way home. He even gave us some food. Nearly the whole way (or so it seemed) he talked to me in Korean (with a little English thrown in for flare). It was probably the most mentally exhausting car ride I've ever taken. I understood maybe 1/4 of what he said and I'm not sure that he could really understand my half-assed responses. Still, we became fast friends.

The drive was over a half an hour. I couldn't believe someone would be so kind as to pick up two strangers...two strangers that barely spoke Korean no less...and take them all the way to their front door. I wish I could have done more, but all I was equipped to do was say "thank you." It's pretty amazing how great people can be sometimes. Guys like this cancel out the jerk taxi drivers that rip off foreigners coming from the airport.

Mom was too exhausted to do anything else, so our day ended there. But the fun would continue tomorrow when she came to school with me...continued in Part 4.

Maternal Koreanism Part 4: School

So mom met my kiddies. Nothing too much to tell really. I totally forgot to take pictures of her with them. I'll let her tell about the experience.

She also got acupuncture that day, went out to lunch with one group of my friends, and went to dinner with another group of my friends. Good times.

The highlight of the day, for me anyway, was getting to have dinner with mom and my three favorite people in Korea: Darryl, Rose, and Rachel. We went to a traditional Korean sit-on-the-floor restaurant, ate a bazillion side dishes (which happens in traditional places), and chatted it up. Mom really seemed to hit it off with Rose. Too bad that's the only time she got to spend with her.

The night again ended early so we could be rested up for our trip to Seoul...which is detailed in Part 5.

Maternal Koreanism Part 5: Seoul and Farewell.

We left early to find mom a hotel room. The room we found was cheaper than, cleaner than, and less getting ripped off by taxi drivers than the first hotel in Seoul. It really was a nice place and it made it all the worse that we could have stayed someplace like that the first night if we had just made it a few feet further to the hotel info desk instead of getting caught by the cabbie. So it goes.

From the hotel, we went right into Seoul proper. I wanted to go to Itaewon, the foreigner section of Seoul, because they have good Indian restaurants, something very hard to find in Korea. The food was, in fact, great.

We toured around Itaewon a bit, but I wanted to get out of there. It's boring, like being in a Korean version of Fort Wayne but with more Koreans and more military guys. Really, it's weird for me to be in an area where everyone speaks English.

Anyway, from Itaewon, we headed to a Korean Palace. It was nice, but unfortunately it was mostly closed off for repairs or something. I didn't totally understand.

We left the Palace and headed across the street. This was harder than it sounded because there were no clear crosswalks. We made it, though, and checked out a nice photography exhibit at a museum nearby. Great stuff, really.

From there, we stumbled into another bookstore. Just as nice as the first one with at least as good a selection of English books. Now I know where to get me some books, that's for sure.

Unfortunately, mom ended her trip with me by doing the most boring thing I'm sure she could think of: checking out prices on laptop computers. But I had to make use of my Seoul trip, and I knew I'd be back in a month to by a laptop, so I needed to price them and see what I could get.

From there we parted ways: I threw mom on a bus, and headed off to find a train back to my apartment. I missed her as soon as I walked away. It was weird to be sitting at home, going to sleep, and getting ready for school the next day knowing my mom was just a few hours away in Seoul. I wished I could've seen her off, but it was hard enough getting one day off school. They never would have gone for two. These things happen.

Well, mom, thanks for coming to see me. I really appreciated it, and I liked sharing what I've learned with someone else first hand. I hope you enjoyed the visit as much as I did.

Other folks, look forward to mom's version of the story, as she's agreed to guest-post the story of HER trip.


Friday, November 19, 2004

Alice in Korea

My school went and saw a Korean version of Alice in Wonderland today...in English. Here are some highlights.

1) A two or three minute song about a password to open the door to wonderland.
2) A song about "bad cats" (who replaced the cheshire cat) that's lyrics were mostly "we're bad cats" and "we're happy to be bad."
3) An on stage transformation of the caterpiller into a butterfly accomplanied by a song about how cute she was.
4) Wonderful lines such as "Let's go inside. It'll be funny," and "I can't wait to go to wonderland. It'll be funny." (I imagine they meant "fun").
5) The Korean accents, which brought on such fun as "everybody shit" when Alice wanted the cast to sit down.
6) And then, of course, there was the fact that no one actually sang the songs, but instead lip-synced poorly.

Really, the play had little to do with Alice in Wonderland, but instead was just an excuse to have actors run around on stage and do weird things. And believe me, they did.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Proof that mom actually came to Korea. Here she is at the top of a mountain with me. Posted by Hello

Here we are half was up the mountain. She's starting to get tired. Posted by Hello

Mom near the top. Posted by Hello

Mom most of the way up the mountain. Posted by Hello

Mom ready to head up the mountain, notice how well-rested she looks. Posted by Hello

Mom at the top. She wasn't paying attention. Posted by Hello

Another of mom at the top. She wasn't paying attention here either. Posted by Hello

From the top. Posted by Hello

From the top. Posted by Hello

A peak. Posted by Hello

This reminds me of a sleep giant. His nose is in the middle (top of the head is hidden). His mouth is to the right of his nose and then it goes from there. The trees even kind of look like sideburns. Posted by Hello