Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hashing and hearing

Yesterday, Thursday, was a bee-yoo-ti-ful day. It was Independence Movement Day  here, a national holiday commemorating the initial uprising of the Korean people against their Japanese occupiers. Our school has a four-day weekend, and nearly all schools and hagwons were closed, which means one thing in the tight-knit hasher world here: time for the ESL Hash.

We met at noon at Triangle Park, at the base of Seoul's most prominent mountain, Namsan, near the foreign-friendliest neighborhoods in Korea, Itaewon and Haebongchan. The weather was incredibly gorgeous, in the mid-fifties and sunny, and I had the kind of Spring Fever that I never got living in North Florida. Hashing every week through the winter here can be a real grind, and it was wonderful to wear shorts again! If anything, I was overdressed, with two shirts on.

We scrambled up a gully toward Seoul Tower. It was hard work and for a while I wished I'd worn warm-up pants after all; who knew bushes were so scratchy? The long jog down on the road was gorgeous, and we would have had an incredible view of most of Seoul if the air had been clear. (This year's clean air in Seoul is scheduled from 5 to 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8.) But, oh, the sun and the breeze. People in the American South can have no idea of the feeling of the first spring day.

After the hash, Tirty, VVD, Encyclo, WOPS, T3 and I walked to the Wolfhound Pub in Itaewon for brunch, beers, chat, and drinking games. I stayed too long and ate too much. (I wasn't going to order the apple crumble, but, you know, somebody else did, so I had to.) I didn't get home till dinnertime, at which point I fell, exhausted, into my bed for a nap.

 Apropos of nothing, I'm rockin' a goatee now. 
I may look distinguished; I may look like a billy goat. Your call.

Today was not nearly as bee-you-ti-ful. It was cool and spitting rain most of the day, and it was time to head to the hospital. I've had a stuffed-up left ear, periodically with a loud whining noise, for almost two weeks. (It's ringing now; if I hooked up my webcam, you could hear it.) It's very wearing and even more bothersome, especially when I have to ask my students to repeat what they said, and it hasn't done a very good job of going away.

I go to Dr. Choi at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, a branch of the Catholic University of Korea, for my BP meds; with nobody in the school office today to phone them on my behalf, I thought the best thing was just to head over there (45 minutes by foot, bus, and subway) and at least make an appointment.

St. Mary's has some doctors who speak good English and a small International Medicine office to help foreigners. I went there first because the receptionists in Family Medicine, Dr. Choi's department, don't speak it very well. The woman in IM got me an appointment with Dr. Choi ten minutes later, which is amazing, and the doctor suggested I have tinnitus and wrote me a referral to otology.

Incidentally, when you're waiting for your appointment, a monitor shows your name and your place in line; they black out the last syllable of your name to protect your privacy. So you will see (in hangeul letters, of course): 1) Bak Ji *  2) Geem Yeon *  3) Kor Maen Seu Tee Beun *. I am so relieved that the 20 Koreans in the waiting room might have thought it was some other Seuteebeun Kormaen who was having health problems.

She re-upped my prescription for BP meds; you take your sheet to a desk, wait, pay for the visit, feed the paper they give you into an ATM-like machine, then take that sheet to one of the dozen yakguk (pharmacies) within a block of the hospital. All in all, it took five minutes for my appointment and 30 to get the drugs. This was the first time today for that, but not the last.

I wandered over to the Central City underground mall to kill time, then went back to the hospital and up to the third floor, where I was late because the signs were in Korean and the helpful lady in International Medicine sent me to the northwest corner (obstetrics)-- where I got an odd look from the receptionist when I came in for my appointment-- rather that the southeast corner.

Finally I got it straightened away, by stopping in another department, pointing to my ear, and looking pitiful. I may or may not have said "ow". Anyway, after navigating the linguistic maze in otology, I eventually got in to see Dr. Park. (As an aside, Korea is extremely backward when it comes to women's rights and role in society, but both Dr. Choi and Dr. Park are women. I try to do my part.)

She shoved a camera-probe in my ear and showed me the problem: my ear canal looks like what Tim Robbing crawled through to escape Shawshank Prison. She cleaned it out-- there is no truth to the rumor that she shone her light in one ear and it came out the other side of my head-- and told me it was just fluid in the ear, with some inflammation. I told her Dr. Choi had suggested tinnitus, but she wouldn't hear of it. (Har har!) The tinnitus is brought on by the primary problem.

So she gave me another prescription, for nasal spray and steroid pills, of which I must take 11 a day for the next week, and an appointment for a follow-up. She also told me to hold my nose tight, puff out my cheeks, and blow as hard as I can, ten times a day. She may or may not have been funnin' me, but I'm gonna do it.

I  ran the linguistic gauntlet again and went back to the yakguk, got my drugs, and finally, finally, tired and grumpy, headed down into the subway--where the turnstile refused to take my T-Money card. So I went to the info booth, which was empty. So I waited. Then I went back up to the street, walked a half-mile to another entrance (the Express Bus Terminal Station is laid out with its three subway platforms forming a huge "U") and went to that info booth, which was empty. Finally I found the station office, and a guy helped me out.

So I rode back, walked the half-mile home from the stop, and collapsed onto my bed for a nap again. When I woke up, it was dark out. I don't know if it's the ear thing or what, but I'm just tired all the time lately. I guess I'm not 55 anymore.

Tomorrow will be an exhausting day. I never miss my Yongsan Kimchi hash (71 times in 14 months, baby!) I almost never go down to Songtan, an hour south of Seoul, as I'm always sore and exhausted when I get back, 11 hours after I left. But tomorrow is the on-out (final hash) of one of our core people and I can't miss it. Also, they've kidnapped Dick, YK's mascot, and are corrupting his morals, and we have to get him back.

The fiends posted this on Facebook, with the caption "Dick payin strippers".
Tug had better not be on the bed the moment I walk back in the door, or he's gonna get collapsed on.

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