Sunday, August 31, 2008


Me: Would you want Peter Pan for a friend?  Why or why not?

Kid: No.

Me: Why not?

Kid: It would have lots of travel

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"More detailed updates..."

My favorite Limey in Chilgok has politely requested more info on the current work situation and I'm happy to oblige.  I've only officially been doing the job (floating) for ten days, but so far, it seems to be a lot of fun and a definite improvement on my former situation.  I feel like I will get a bird's eye view of all the different branches (there are over twenty) and can experience teaching at both the "Regular" and "Special" schools.  

Today was my first day teaching at a "Special" branch and there was a marked difference in atmosphere.  The halls were quieter and from the beginning I noticed fewer discipline problems in the classrooms.  The curriculum is simpler and allows more room for discussion, while the students seem more motivated and eager to participate.     

This job comes with the definite drawback of not having a set routine and class every day, but the advantage of being able to teach in and learn from all different work locations and situations.   I imagine it feels similar to being a consultant and I'm hoping to learn how to better adjust to life on the move.  


Jeju Review

(a bit late, but better than never...) 
The Jeju trip started out (as most good trips do) with McDonalds breakfast at the bracing hour of 5:30am on Saturday morning.  I met Louise, Amanda, and Amanda's friend Christie at Daegu Airport , where I was singled out for an upgrade to Prestige class.  It was definitely the swankiest 55 minute flight of my life so far.  
The tour bus (Ye-HA Tours) picked us up at the airport and showed us the sights, some of which included:

O'Sulloc Tea Museum- a green tea plantation and museum.  
(and me, being a teapot)

Cheonjiyeon Pokpo (waterfall).  Said to have healing properties.

Jeongbang Pokpo- "the only waterfall in the Orient that falls directly into the ocean." so our tour sheet informed us. 

(I'm just happy to be off the bus)

At the conclusion of the tour, we were picked up by the Ellen, the proprietress of our guest house .  It was a lovely little cottage with vaulted ceilings and a porch, though a bit far away from the action of downtown (about a seven minute cab ride, which Ellen graciously called for us several times during the weekend.) 

Dinner was at El Paso, a quality Mexican restaurant across from city hall, followed by an early night for the four of us.    

On Sunday morning, Amanda and Christie opted for another bus tour of the east end of the island, while Louise and I decided to explore the sights downtown.  We found some excellent duty free shopping at "The Shilla" duty free shopping center.  Jeju's status as a self-governing province affords it certain benefits in regard to commerce and this isn't mentioned in any guidebook and probably for the best.  Louise walked into a random bookstore and used her mobile phone's dictionary to show an employee the korean word for "Duty Free".  He understood and generously ushered us into a cab and gave the driver directions.  Props to Louise and her moxie.  

Dinner was a home-cooked affair and followed by an excursion to Loveland, a sexual theme park (oh, yeah).  Began in 2002 by 20 artist students from Hongik University, it was originally conceived as an outdoor sculpture garden designed for "sexual education" and "health" instruction.  The park's website describes it as "a place where sexually-oriented art and eroticism meet" and it's definitely worth the 7,000 won admission fee.    

On Monday morning, Louise and I boarded a 9am flight back to Daegu, not before discovering some more quality duty free opportunities at the Jeju airport.  All told, a very satisfying mini-break.  

The rainbow that capped off our trip: 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Adventures in Dentistry

So the visit to the dentist was motivated on by the, er, "discomfort" I began experiencing whenever I would chew on my right side.  I have an uncapped root canal tooth over there and I suspected that this might be causing the problem.  I was a bit freaked out at the thought of visiting a dentist in a foreign country, but read a few posts on Dave's that put me more at ease. 

For the record, I visited the MIR dental hospital in Daegu, which is the Kyungbook National University Hospital subway stop, exit 1, walk one block (toward Banwoldang junction), turn right and it's the large building about twenty feet on your right.  A helpful pharmacy technician pointed me in the right direction. The offices are beautiful and modern, with fountains, marble, and those little personal television sets at every station.  English ability of the staff is adequate, but I as usual, I'm surprised at how much information is conveyed through inference and standard operating procedure.  

Apparently the "discomfort" is caused by food impacting along the gum line as all seems to be well with the tooth.  I'm getting a crown put on the root canal tooth. (Cost= 455,000 won, or roughly $455, which is steep by Korean medical standards, but still about half what I'd pay in the states, even with insurance so I'm not complaining.)   

The experience was comparable to a visit to a western dentist (you know the drill <-- weak pun), except whenever anyone came to examine my mouth, they covered my face with a lavender scented towel with a hole cut out for the mouth.  I'm sure that is supposed to put me, the patient, at ease, but seriously now--  I'm the kind of girl that likes to know what's going on at all times.  I tried to adjust the towel so that I could peer out through the top of the mouth cut out, but they kept moving it back to give the dentist a better view (is their view really more important than mine?).  In the end, I just decided to try to relax and let them do their job.  Yeah, right.  

I have another appointment in two weeks.  

Friday, August 22, 2008

Korea for real

Continuing in my tour of the Korean medical system, I will be visiting the dentist tomorrow.  Woo.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


On one of the days I was out sick (see Anaphylaxis Adventures) I got a note from the sub that two of my kids wrote nonsense for homework.  I decided to take them to task for this in our next class.

Me: Tell me about your homework last week?
Student: My homework was terrible!

Good old fashioned honesty.  That's what I like to hear.      

Yesterday, we were discussing emergencies in class yesterday and I asked if anyone had ever called 119 (a topic on which I feel myself to be an expert) A few students sheepishly raised their hands.

Me: Why did you call 119?
Student: Because it is funny.
Me: Ah.  What is that called? (looking for "a prank call") 
Student: Terrible!

You gotta give 'em credit for spunk.  

Sunday, August 17, 2008

City Girl

Thomas Hardy may have thought that the devil had gone with the world to town, but I feel as though God has set up house in the city.  On Wednesday I moved into a new flat right in the heart of town (Beomeo neighborhood) and so far, I'm loving my new location.  I can look out my window and see trees, grass, cars, and bustling civilization.  I've always loved the rhythm of the city and I believe it's because it makes me feel more connected to the world at large and reminds me that life is so much bigger than my problems.  

The move was motivated by a change in my job situation; I'm still working for the same company, only now I'm a "floater" teacher who travels to different branches to cover for other teachers who are sick, on holiday, or out of the office for any reason.  Again so far, the job seems pretty wonderful.  I miss not having the same set stable of kids, but I like the vantage point my mobile position affords.  I've only been doing it for three days, but so far, so good...  

Movin' on up!

Got my passport and Alien Card back just in time.
Jeju was beautiful.  
....aaand, your girl has moved.  Literally.  

Updates to come! 
The censors have been fired and the governor has been evicted.  

Welcome to the real deal.    

Friday, August 8, 2008

No New News...

The skin prick test revealed no new allergies. 
I'm still only allergic to: peanuts, to a lesser extent crab, shrimp, and housedust (woo).  They didn't test for drug allergies, but I do suspect that I have an allergy to certain classes of broncho-dialators (which were in the first packs of pills that the hospital gave me.)  As soon as I suspected this, I told the doc and asked him not to prescribe them, although he kept telling me that A: they were very safe (given that I take Albuterol w. no problem) and B: I was on steroids to prevent any kind of reaction.  I insisted nonetheless.  

In happier news, I'm off to Jeju Island for a mini-break this weekend.  The only snag in those pantyhose is that my work has commandeered my passport and alien registration card for some job-related changes and I'm scheduled to take a plane tomorrow morning.  Just sent a frantic e-mail to my superior and I'm hoping I can get back my docs in time...


Monday, August 4, 2008

Anaphylaxis Adventure: Part 4

Friday (8/1)

I decided to tempt fate and attempt a somewhat normal breakfast of coffee, a banana, almonds, and a packet of instant apple cinnamon oatmeal.  Bit of a mistake.  Within 20 minutes, my lips and tongue were tingling again and I had that sheeting feeling of pins and needles in my chest.  By 1:30pm, I was walking myself into the hospital on the corner (closer than the Catholic University ER) and begging for a shot of Epi.  They took my pulse (90) and bp (149/99 ) and didn't want to give me the Epi (as it's not indicated unless the hr and bp are low).  This time, I was able to call one of the foreign support staff from my school, which sent one of the Korean speaking reinforcement team to accompany me to the larger hospital downtown.  There was much running around, as I wasn't sure whether to go to the emergency room first or try to get in to see the allergy doctor.  Finally we decided to go for the allergist, who saw me and prescribed a shot of Epi and another shot of Dexamethasone.  They took a blood sample before giving me the shots and I’m scheduled for a skin prick test on Monday sometime between 1pm and 3pm. 

Hopefully, the skin prick and blood test will shed some light on the situation.  Until then, I’m existing on rice, veggies, bananas, and cheese.  Not entirely unhealthy, but I feel like the fear and uncertainty is driving me batty. Here’s hoping for good news.  

Anaphylaxis Adventure: Part 3

Tuesday (7/29)

This time, I only waited until 1:50am before dialing 119.  I debated just taking a cab back to Chilgok Catholic University Hospital, but decided to call the ambulance just to be safe, figuring that at the very least, they would have oxygen.

At the ER, I explained the situation with the pill pack, and that I hadn’t eaten any food (so I knew it wasn’t a food allergy).  They gave me another shot of Dex, Pen, and put me on a drip.  As soon as it started going in, I felt itchy and asthmatic.  It seemed an odd reaction, but I figured I was probably just anxious and needed to relax, so I sat there and let the drip finish.  I asked the doc (same one as the night before) for the name of the drip and if there was any possible way I could react to it.  "Melpros." he said.  "It's a NSAID (Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drug)" He said.  "Very Safe."

They discharged me around 8am.  All the cashier windows on the discharge floor were closed, but I rang the bell on the pharmacist’s hutch and a woman answered and handed me an envelope of drugs.  I asked her how much and she shook her head.  I figured that maybe I had won a free pass, but as I was walking home again, I got a call from the hospital with the only English words I heard were "money".  "Great" I figured "There's no way I'm walking all the way back there now." 

I got home and still wasn't feeling at all back to normal.  Just out of curiosity, I checked to see if there was any possibility of an allergic reaction to an NSAIDs... AS IT TURNS OUT... In individuals with asthma, approximately 10% may have their asthma symptoms worsened by NSAIDs and that NSAIDs are also a trigger for some patients with anaphylaxis... Lovely.  I turned around, got in a cab and went right on back, for my third hospital visit in two days.  They gave me another shot of Dexamethasone, Peniramin, Epi, and put me on a drip of Solondo (Prednisolone).  This time they also sent me up to consult with an internist for my "allergy problems".   

Total cost (including 2nd ambulance ride and 3rd ER stay) = $44.670

Cost for drugs (including an Advair wheel, albuterol inhaler, 2 days of prednisone and Allegra) = $17.90

Got home around 3:30pm.  Did not go into work. 

I spent Wednesday and Thursday in a petrified daze, because I still have no idea what set off the initial attack.  The burrito came from a virtually peanut-free western restaurant downtown AND I had eaten it before.  Very cautiously, I ate bananas, almonds, dried plums, a packet of plain oatmeal, broccoli, carrots, swiss chard, and some cheese.  I had yet to feel completely "back to normal" as I kept having these mini-attacks where my lips and tongue would start tingling, my throat would feel like it was swelling and my chest, constricting.  I was still taking the little packs of pills (which I had repeatedly confirmed were only Prednisone and Peniramin) and hope that I can chalk those attacks down to either anxiety or remnants of the NSAID in my system.      

Anaphylaxis Adventure: Part 2

Sunday (7/27)

I was eating a burrito left over from a restaurant dinner the night before.   I boiled some carrots to eat with it (gotta be healthy) and was looking forward to a nutritious meal.  I ate about a tablespoon full of the burrito, some of the carrots... then stopped.  and felt like something was wrong. This was at 9pm.  My lips and mouth felt tingly and my throat felt like it was beginning to swell.  I tried to shake it off and convince myself that I was probably just anxious, but the symptoms got worse and it began to feel like I was running into sheets of pins and needles in my chest and all down my arms and legs.    I took a packet of pills left over from a reaction I had had earlier in the week and tried to calm down.   

I called a friend at 1:20am.  "I'm wondering if I'm just freaking myself out here or if there's really something wrong." I asked her.  "Go for a walk," she advised.  "Clear your head.  If it gets to the point where you feel like you've been running on a treadmill and you can't catch your breath, then I'd be concerned." 

At 3:55am, when my lungs started to itch and breathing was clearly becoming a problem, I felt like I would have to do the inevitable.  I prepared myself and the plan was to shoot the Epi and then call 119 (the Korean 911) immediately after.  I found the numbers of two major university hospitals, as well as a translation service and the Daegu emergency line (#1339) I backed myself into a corner, uncapped the Epi pen, counted to three, and then "swung and jabbed" into my thigh.  I heard a click, felt a pinch in my leg, and then counted to ten (and then to ten again) to make good and sure that all the medicine had been deployed.  I finally pulled my hand away from my leg and felt a trickle of fluid run down my thigh.  "OH great," I thought.  "The epi wasn't finished going in."  Not so, as the metallic tang filled the air and a dark line of blood appeared beneath the hem of my pants and pooled into my shoe.  The epi pen needle is about an inch long and I later discovered that I had scratched myself as I pulled it out of my leg. 

Next up, I dialed 119 and got someone one the phone.  Had no idea what he was saying, and it took a few call backs, (with me repeating "EMERGENCY!" and "ENGLISH!" they were finally able to put an English speaker on the phone who was able to understand my apartment address.  According to the Seoul national government website, 119 is equipped with global positioning satellite tracking technology, but I'm not sure how reliable that technology is with cell phones.  To anyone who may have to dial 119, don't stop calling until someone repeats your address back to you. 

Once they confirmed my location, the ambulance was flashing down my side street within 10 minutes.  In the meantime, I called a co-worker who has similar allergies and asked her to come meet me with her epi pen, just in case I required another dose.  I had no idea if this ambulance carried on-board adrenaline or if the hospital would be equipped to handle me.  These stouthearted co-workers set off to meet me at my apartment, but the ambulance beat them to it.  "We just saw your ambulance go the other direction," she said.  "I'm not sure where they're taking me," I answered.  "It sounded like Chilgok Catholic something..." which it was, but I had no idea how to get there.  So the stouthearted co-workers were awakened for nothing, but I am forever grateful for their offer of aid. 

The ambulance dropped me off at the Chilgok Catholic University ER and the attending Doc spoke English well enough to ask me about my symptoms.  I first asked him in a panic if they had Epinephrine.  "Yes," he said.  "We have Epinephrine.  Do you want Epinephrine?"  "I'm not sure."  I told him I was having an episode of anaphylaxis and he prescribed a shot of Dexamethasone (an anti-histamine), Prednisolone (a steroid), and put me on a Prednisone drip.  It still felt as though someone had tied a rubber band around my neck and I had to ask again for another shot of Epi.  My chest felt better, but my throat was still tight and it took a good five hours for that feeling to ease even a little.   

Total bill (including the ambulance and drugs) $32.14

Walked home, slept for two hours, then woke up and went to work.

That evening, exhausted, I came home and took one of the pill packs the ER doc had prescribed (containing the oral bronchodilator, Formoterol).  Not twenty minutes later I started to feel that same tingling around my mouth and lips.  "What the heck?!?" I thought, in fury.  "I haven't eaten anything today!"  The tingling got worse and my tongue started to swell. Again.    

Anaphylaxis Adventure: Part 1

Your girl's been in a bit of distress lately.  
Here's the story: rough cut.  
For background, I have an extremely severe Anaphylactic allergy to nuts: peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and pecans… (all nuts except almonds, which are OK) The allergy was first discovered when, at three years old, I ate a bagel with peanut butter on it and my head swelled up to basketball size.  The allergy was diagnosed and my family learned how to manage it.  My food life involves scrutinizing ingredient lists and questioning restaurants to see if they use peanut oil or use nuts of any kind. I have to be very suspicious of baked goods (much to my chagrin—I am a carb-o-holic). 
As soon as I got to Korea, I learned the words for “peanut” (ddang kkong) and walnut (ho-du) and wheeled a Korean friend to write me out a note that I could show to a restaurant waiter informing them of my allergy.  I buy a lot of western food and try things slowly, relying heavily on fruits, veggies, and Costco.  I avoid bakeries all together (with the exception of bagels from the aforementioned Costco) and any fried food (Chinese, Thai, and that famous Korean fried chicken are all out of the question).  At the request of several friends, had my mother send me an Epi Pen, an easy to use pre-loaded syringe full of Epinephrine, which will save your life if you are in the midst of an anaphylaxis attack.  I had never had to use one before…  Until last Sunday.