Friday, July 27, 2007

off to thailand...

So it's been awhile since my last real update. I have just been lazy, I'll admit it. It's officially summer in Seoul. The humidity is hitting and even when it's not sunny out, the heat can be unbearable. This realization of summer also means summer vacation at my school. Therefore, I'm off! Tomorrow afternoon, I take a flight to Bangkok. I'll meet up with co-worker Sharlene and now ex-coworker Patrick. I'll only be in Bangkok for a day before we take a 12-hour overnight train ride down south and then a ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui. I'm stoked. I cannot wait for a real beach. I also look forward to seeing a little bit of what Southeast Asia has to offer. I plan on traveling once I finish my year contract and I'm looking to travel all over Asia. Plus, Tuesday will be a full moon and we will have to be partaking in some full moon festivities.

Anyways, I'll update later on how my trip goes!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

surrounded by korean heartthrobs

The past month or so, there has been filming going on down the block from where I live. Apparently it's for an MBC drama called Coffee Prince (Ko-Pi Puh-rin-suh). They closed the old cafe that I always thought looked cool from the outside and built this make-believe cafe a la The Max of Saved By the Bell fame.

All this really means to me is that my walk to and from work is now delayed due partially to camera crews and "quiet on the set"s but mainly to teeny bopping high school girls ditching class for the day to catch a glimpse of their favorite heartthrob. Check them out here.

It has been raining a lot lately, which pretty much sucks for my walk home in general. Worse is having to avoid the swarms of girls holding umbrellas and not allowing anyone to walk to down the sidewalk. The other day I was outside the local Family Mart and a few school girls were loitering outside with pieces of paper in their hand. Then, some dude walks out and they swarm him for an autograph. I guess I am in the presence of celebrities. It makes me wonder how they feel when they walk right past me and I do nothing to acknowledge them. Maybe I'll have to subscribe to cable TV, ditch work and join the masses of onlookers with camera phone in hand.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Korean Saunas = Relaxing and Amusing

Since I had so much back pain from my recent injuries, I decided to take a trip to the local Jjimjilbang or sauna (sah-oo-nah) to get in a hot bath with other random naked people. I had been to one in Korea Town in LA before, so I was a little familiar already with what to expect. This mainly meant that I knew I had to get naked with a lot of strangers. It was well worth it though. My back had taken such a beating that I needed to soak in some hot water for awhile.

As I was sitting in the hottest of the baths, minding my own business, a tall skinny Western girl walks in to take a shower. Everyone else in the sauna was Korean, and while being western isn't such a big deal, it is when that westerner is COVERED in body paint. Yeah, I'm not really sure what this girl was up to before coming to the old sauna to take a shower. Anyways, as you could imagine, the other women could not stop staring. Well me neither, but I was mainly observing everyone else's reactions.

The girl was hard at work at scrubbing when I decided to move into the sauna and take a seat. An ajumma (older Korean woman) joined me in the sauna and proceeded to talk to me about the girl in Korean. I couldn't really understand her, but she was laughing and pointing so I decided to glance through the glass doors to see what the fuss was about. Another ajumma was helping the girl scrub off some of the paint. How nice, I thought. She then did the honor of scrubbing the girls hard to reach places, namely her buttocks. The original ajumma continued to talk to me in Korean, who knows about what, until the second ajumma left the girl to scrub on her own and joined us in the sauna. Apparently the two were friends. I guess that's what you can expect if you show up to a public bath with mystery body paint all over you. I'm guessing this will be what the saunas will look like after Mudfest 2007.

Korea is slippery... and I'm a klutz.

So, I managed to injure myself once again. Just one week ago, I woke up with a funny feeling in my lower back. I didn't think too much of it because I tend to have some back pain if I sleep in a weird position. I headed to soccer practice thinking a good run around would help make it feel better. Wrong. I headed to practice as usual at Yongsan base. We scrimmaged right away for about 30 minutes because we weren't sure how long we had the field reserved for. Since it was about 85 degrees and about 99% humidity, a water break was well needed after running for a half hour. I decided to take a rest and sit during the break. Once our break was up, I stood up, only to feel nothing but PAIN. Sharp pains in my lower back. Argh. It felt as if my body was stuck in that sitting position. I ran out to the field to continue the scrimmage but it was only when I took my second goal kick that I decided it was time to sit out. Each time I took a kick, a sharp pain seemed to run up my leg and into my lower back region.

I thought (hoped) that after a day of rest, I would feel better. Nope. I went to work as usual on Monday, simply taking ibuprofen for my pain. It hardly worked and I spent my day in pain. I feel really bad for my students in my last couple of classes. I was an irritated teacher that day.

I woke up a little early on Tuesday and went to the doctor to get it all checked out. I was sent to an orthopedic doctor, had an x-ray taken, and he, through broken Konglish, told me he thought I had a herniated disc in my lower spine. Great. He also sent me to the "physical therapy" area of the clinic. I was put into some crazy contraptions! I wish I had my camera for one machine. I had to lay on a bed, get strapped in (rather tightly) by a nurse, and was squeezed and released over and over. I also was put on a heating pad and given some electric stimulation too. It did make me feel pretty funky and nice though.

On Thursday, I woke up to a rainy morning. I decided to go get a CT scan on my back (doctor's orders). The office was on the other side of the huge roundabout in Sinchon, so I had to go underground where the subway is, to get to my destination. The stairs were wet, I was wearing sandals, next thing you know, I've fallen down half a flight of stairs directly on my back. My umbrella went flying and a couple strangers helped me gather my things. I ended up landing mainly on my upper back, leaving myself in a great amount of pain for the rest of the day. I was put through a huge, MRI-like machine to get my CT scan. It confirmed that two discs in my back are herniated, affecting my sciatic nerve, hence the pain in my legs too. Looks like a lot of electro-shock therapy and acupuncture is in my future. At least my pain killers work pretty well.