August 24, 2010

with a needle in your knee...

the Good, the Bad and the Shady

the Good
• I’m finally off crutches. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate finding out how accessible this country is for the temporarily handicapped. I’m just happy that I don’t have to accessorize around those unwieldy objects, HA.
• I’m getting acupuncture. I think that’s pretty kick ass, every week I get 10 needles shoved into the muscles surrounding my knee. I feel pretty bad ass, like hellraiser!
• I get to keep my classes. Usually after 6 months SLP switches up the classes. I do not know why, but they have decided to stray away from that path. I get to keep Maria, currently undergoing a name change to Mario (she likes nintendo), Matt my adorable ‘robot’ phonics kid, and my Treasures kids.
• Rocky Horror Show is coming to Seoul. It is the only english musical in Seoul. I’m down for the audience participation, although I don’t think I’ll find a corset that will fit me in this petite sized world.

the Bad
• I can’t straighten my leg. I’ve tried numerous times, and without help my leg will not go straight. It's going to take a lot of work to restore my leg to its previous skinny glory. At the moment I've got a skinny leg, and an ethiopian leg.
• It’s hot. It’s like 35 degrees with 80-90% humidity. I can’t really say anything worse about that, it’s just sticky and gross. Oh wait, yeah I can, my AC Broke last week. It’s fixed now though, I credit my school’s speedy response to the fact that the unit was burning, you could see flames! and those could burn down the unit.

the Shady
• The umbrella is the ultimate fashion accessory in Korea. Koreans use umbrellas in the rain, this makes sense. Koreans use umbrellas in snow (I’ve mentioned this before). Koreans also use umbrellas in the sun. Literally umbrellas are a year round accessory. I have no idea if there are different umbrellas for each type of weather. I feel I need to do more research. (Literally shady)
• I get to lose the class I hate the most. While I’d seriously like to drown these preteens in a kiddie pool, and I’m happy I won’t have to teach them anymore. It’s shady because I’ve brought it to the attention of the school several times that these students are struggling, Huge, and they should not be moved up into the next (harder) level of SLP. So what does the school do? They replace me (YAY) and move them up (BOO).

August 17, 2010

from ㄹ러스 to 아바타

(title explanation: From Alice to Avatar. Alice, and Avatar written in Hangeul.)

I’ve tried to embrace as much of Korea as I can, although I always find moments where I need to forget where I am. I’ve always used movies to do this. When I was in the Czech Republic last year I caught a midnight showing of Transformers 2, I then got lost on my back to my hostel, BUT that is another story. In Korea you have three basic choices for movies.

In a previous post I discussed how fast the internet was in this country. That is in essence the first, cheapest, and easiest option. The insane download speeds are incredibly helpful when you want to illegally procure entertainment.I've also done more than my fair share in Korea. Although sometimes watching a movie on a tiny 17” screen with tiny speakers isn’t the best option for experiencing a movie.

The Best choice when you want to experience a film is always the movie theatre. Korean’s treat their movie theatres much differently than they do in Canada. Seoul has one of the highest population densities in the world (people per square km). This means there is little in terms of sprawling megaplex cinemas, there is little room to put anything. They overcome this by putting theatres in strange places. For example, there are two movie theatres near my house. One is on the 9th floor of a shopping complex, and the other is underneath the Seoul World Cup Stadium.

The CGV (a company, like Cineplex) in the 2001 shopping outlet can be a pain in the ass to get to. The building has like 8 levels of underground parking, so by the time the elevator gets to the main floor it’s full. Although the view from the theatre is great, I’m not a huge fan of them high up in office buildings because of the long elevator wait times. I could take the stairs, but 9 floors? are you kidding me?

The CGV in World Cup Stadium is buried underneath the stadium. It is the largest theatre that I’ve seen in Seoul. It also houses two of Seoul’s 4-D screens. What is 4-D you might wonder? Well the movie is in 3-D, the chairs move along with it. If there is a breeze or smell, you get to feel and enjoy, if there is water, you will get wet. It is the future of cinema with a futuristic price tag of 18,000 Won. Although they intrigue me I have yet to see a movie in 4-D yet. I’ll let you know when I cross that bridge. For the most part I’m fine with the 9,000Won it costs to see a normal movie.

The last option is a ‘DVD bang’, or DVD room. I have only just explored the ‘DVD bang’ option; you could say they have a reputation in Korea. They are in essence movie stores where you watch the movie in the store. You pick your movie,pay (6,000Won per person), and the attendant behind the counter will start it for you. He then takes you to a small room where you watch the movie. The room is a fully functioning home theatre, surround sound, subwoofer, and 80 inch projector screens. I checked out Avatar on Saturday night, I was more than impressed. I loved it, it really felt like being back in my parents basement watching movies, with some differences. The room was smaller, the screen closer, and these rooms are regularly used for Koreans to have sex. That's right i said sex...

The reputation that DVD bangs have earned is a valid one. The small room is equipped with a couch or a bed. They have become quite infamous as sex rooms. Young Koreans, students especially, use the DVD bangs as places to get it on. Most young Koreans still live with their parents, these places are about as private as you can get, and they are cheap. You might think that I’m joking, but there are a ton of these rooms around the universities in Seoul. I know that University kids love to watch movies, but they love to fool around as well.

One thing that I love is that the movie posters in Korea are written in Hangeul. The posters are not the same English posters that you get in North America. It can also make checking out the movie listings hard. You have to learn the Hangeul spelling for the movies. I’ll give you a couple examples, the Korean writing is phonetic english.

아바타 – Avatar (Aa-va-tar)
인셉션 – Inception (In-sep-sion)
아이언 맨 2 – Iron Man 2 (Ii-o
셔터 아일랜드 – Shutter Island
이상한 애 너라의 ㄹ러스 – Alice in Wonderland (although this is actually Korean not phonetic english, translated it means Strange Country’s Alice, This is because the novel was popular well before the movie)

August 13, 2010

It's already half over ... or has it only begun halfway through?

I’ve been here for six months and that thought is CRAZY. I can’t quite put it into words, so instead I’ll relate it to a story (I like stories, if you don’t…umm… then why would you be reading my posts?). STORY!! Yesterday morning I was walking out of Gusan subway station there was a man at the top of the stairs, there is very little special about that fact alone. Except that this man was dressed in full green army combat fatigues complete with green and brown face paint. I was a little thrown back; Seoul has very few trees so green camo isn’t a great choice. Then I realized he was looking at me, and holding a fucking assault rifle.

The first thought to run through my head was “I’m not North Korean, I don’t look like any Korean; I really hope this guy realizes I’m not North Korean.” That led me to realize perhaps this could be a good moment to look back; perhaps to see if there was a North Korean platoon using me as a human shield (they could probably hide behind me, they are tiny tiny people). I also realized I probably didn’t want that question answered, what would I do if they were? really? I’d probably be so scared my knee would dislocate itself. I decided to walk past the soldier, my problem is that it takes me a while to walk up stairs. After infinity and beyond, I passed the soldier. I took a quick look back to reassure myself that the North Koreans weren’t hiding behind me. Turns out there was just an aujima, she was probably having the same thoughts run through her head.

Although it was a dramatic story, I feel that it is representative to where I stand. No not literally looking at a soldier with a gun, or with the North Korean Army behind me. But at a crossroads, do I look back already and celebrate what I’ve done in the past six months, or do I motor on forward and look back at some point in the future.

After a little bit of a debate I think that it would be best to stumble on. Although I’ve done a lot of great things in this country, I’ve got a lot of things I’d still like to accomplish. The biggest one that springs to mind is to learn and master Hangeul, the Korean alphabet and writing system. I feel if I can read Korean then I will at least be able to understand what’s going on around me a little more. I’ll be like a 5 year old again! I used to read store signs to my mother when I first learned to read. I think I annoyed her, but I loved know what was going on, even if it was only ‘Tim Hortons’ every 500 feet.

I also feel that going forward is the most optimistic thing to do. Why should I gaze back at this point, what would I do if I ever saw the North Koreans hiding back there? I’d like to think of the rest of the trip with a glass half full state of mind, even though the glass is only exactly half full today.

August 10, 2010

the rest ... (Jeju pt VI)

(This is the Final part in the multi part Jeju Island saga, aren't you glad!.)

The last morning on Jeju was kind of somber; it was a dreary looking day. You never want to leave on days with blue skies and sun. So I suppose I was happy the weather co-operated in that regards. Although I was sad to leave, I still had one more thing to be excited about. The ‘boy’ in me would be allowed to explore the World Cup Stadium on Jeju. It wasn't very far from our hostel, and on our way out of town, YAY. I get giddy with these things. I’ve started to become a bit of a football stadium fan. Europe influenced me I've visited several stadiums in the past 14 months.


Germany:     Berlin – 1936 Olympic Stadium
Italy:            Milan – San Siro (tour)
France:        Paris – Stade De France (U2 360 concert)
Korea:         Seoul – 2002 World Cup Stadium (FC Game)
                   Soegwipo – 2002 World Cup Stadium (visit)

I really haven't visited that many stadiums, but i love them. They are massive in scale, and facsinating. Jeju’s World Cup stadium was the most interesting I've seen, it looked like a sail. I’m taking a total stab in the dark, but Seoul World Cup Stadium is based on a traditional Korean kite, so I’m guessing this was designed in a similar fashion. I think that I visit the stadiums more for their architecture than for the sport element. They are unique, not like the lego block designs of NHL buildings. Okay I take that back, a lego block NHL building would be stellar. Let’s say duplo block design, much more blocky, way less cool. Perhaps that is just clever camouflage for my ‘boyish’ love of sports.

The last official stop on my short vacation on Jeju was Yongduam rock (This roughly translates to Dragon Head rock). Yongduam rock was formed by a lava flow thousands of years ago, and has been eroded to its current form by the Yellow Sea. This rock is supposed to look like a dragon head pointing out to see. The head of the dragon is out of the water, and apparently its body is 30m long and mostly underwater. I wasn’t that impressed with the rock. To be honest I didn’t even see it at first, Corwin had to point it out to me. All I saw was lava rock, although really cool! I thought people were making a lot out of nothing.

 I was more entertained by a unicycle troop that was also visiting the rock. About thirty kids were walking along the coastline bouncing their unicycles along the coarse lava rock. These kids were climbing all over the rocks dragging their unicycles with them. We saw a couple kids riding around after like it is the easiest thing in the world. You know, no biggie, i'm just chillin, on one wheel!

We had to take two 40 minute flights home instead of a direct flight. I really didn’t mind, I wasn’t in a big rush to return home and I kind of liked they split up flight. I like take offs and landings, I find them very entertaining. A couple of the girls on the trip don’t share my enthusiasm. So while they tightly shut their eyes, mine widened with glee.

Well, the saga is over, and hopefully it was better than twilight. I really wish that I was able to spend more time on the island. I realize everyone says about vacations, but I left the entire west coast unexplored. Another two days and I could have completed the island. Oh well, I have another break coming up in September (not that i'll go back to Jeju, but just saying i've got another break). I will be off for 6 days for  Chusok, basically the Korean equivalent of thanksgiving. I will be headed somewhere in Korea for another mini adventure. Until then, you’ll have to deal with more Seoul . . .

the surf ... (Jeju pt. V)

(This is the fifth part in the multi part Jeju Island saga.)

Our luck with weather changed on the final full day we would spend on Jeju. Good thing as well, it was beach day! Our hostel owner told us to catch the bus down to the Hyatt hotel on jungmun beach. According to Kevin this was the best beach on the southern coast of Jeju, because all the 5 star hotels were on it. His logic seemed pretty sound, I didn’t argue. We decided to take advantage of these hotels; one of them had laid out umbrellas and beach chairs. We gladly relaxed in style and pretended to be hotel guests. The chairs and prime beach location was more than probably only for registered guests of the hotel. We took advantage of the fact that a Korean employee would probably never confront us to ask us. I noticed some wary looks from a couple of the staff, but they were distracted as they had to run after guests attempting to tackle the water.

   (This sign is a perfect example of Konglish)

There were people surfing about 70 feet offshore, the waves were breaking nicely. Along the shore the waves would break and send water splashing 7-8 feet into the air, they were the most violent waves I’ve ever seen. I stood wishing more than ever that my knee was healthy. I would have had a blast in that water, I would have come out with bruises over my entire body, but it would have been worth it. Instead I sat down in the surf, and I was still able to appreciate the power of the waves. The riptide was incredibly strong; it would spin and slide me down the beach, in only 6 inches of water! When I stood up I had a couple pounds of sand in my board shorts, which was easy for me to dump out. The girls in their bikinis however, looked like they crapped themselves as the sand weighed down their bottoms.

The beach was cordoned off in sections; the swimming section of the beach had the most active lifeguards I’ve ever seen. It seemed every half hour or so they were pulling people out of the waves. It was surreal how many people couldn’t handle the tides. I think the lifeguards got tired of rescuing people and forced people to swim in a very tight area. This section of water looked like a moving yellow fungus, there were inner tubes everywhere, people were almost literally swimming on top of each other. Thankfully we were sitting out of earshot of this calamity; our adopted hotel was a couple hundred feet down the beach. It was almost like it was our own little slice of heaven, it was peaceful. You could sit and only hear the sounds of the waves crashing into the shore.

I pushed my knee way too hard after the beach. I walked along a path that winded its way up and down along the coastline without my crutches. I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could... ... I really couldn’t (I'm not a fictictous train). My knee was killing me, for the first time on the Jeju I felt I had overdone it. The rest of the night wasn’t the most pleasant as I was tired, hot, and hurting.

August 09, 2010

the best ... (Jeju pt. IV)

(This is the fourth part in the multi part saga that was Jeju Island.)

On the third day we gingerly hopped onto a F1bus taking us to sunrise peak (or sunset peak depending on the time. Haha, no really it’s called sunrise peak). This peak looked like a volcano crater; it was off the north east coast of Jeju. Since we missed sunrise by about 6 hours we decided to head to an island off the coast of sunrise peak.

This island is called Udo, it is somewhat famous because of women divers who grace the coastline. These aren’t Korean bikini clad stripper divers; these are women who dive for seafood. They became famous in the early 1900’s because they weren’t taxed on the seafood they brought up, while their male counterparts were. Originally there were tens of thousands of them, now there is about 4,500. Udo is their hotspot, now well into their 60’s and 70s these women can dive to about 45 feet, and stay under for about 2 minutes. They are pretty remarkable apparently, I wouldn’t know because we didn’t see any while I was there. How anticlimactic was that! I psyched you up with facts, and then… nothing… I wish I could say more, but I can’t, so let’s move on.

Shortly after we arrived on the Udo, well about 100 feet onto the island we found a stall renting scooters. The girls had talked about renting a scooter on Jeju, and since they had no desires to race professionally, competing against the F1buses put that idea on the shelf. The aforementioned shelved idea was recalled when we saw this stall. This island seemed perfect for scooters; there was very little car traffic, and there was a road that winded its way around the coastline. I have to admit my heart dropped, I was instantly jealous. I knew that if I rented a scooter I would somehow forget about my knee, realize too late that its way too weak, and bam whack whatever, I’d be on my ass with another blown knee.

Imagine my joy though when I saw the ATV’s sitting next to the scooters. There was NO way that I could plant my leg if I needed to bail. Well I mean there was a way, but if I had to bail off an ATV I would be doing something seriously stupid. The ATV was double the price of the scooters (\40,000 compared to \20,000 for two hours), but ATV’s required no balance to ride. I didn’t care about the increased price and I threw down my money with a smile on my face. The island itself was gorgeous, and was easily the highlight of the trip. The two hour rental was more than enough time to scoot around the island

At this point of the trip I was quite proud of myself, I’d been able to partake in every activity. The journey up to sunrise peak was too much for me though. I stood at the base of the peak knowing it would be pushing me WAY too hard. I had to let the girls go up alone. I was very jealous of the girls I wanted to go to the top of the peak badly. Instead I hid on the beach below the peak.

I was walking along a decrepit part of the beach (it was right below the peak, no tourist pictures could really see this, my camera is also broken so i couldn't take any pictures of it, haha), it looked grimy and had garbage randomly littered around, kind of like a back alley. Down this back alley beach I found some tunnels. In front of one of these tunnels there stood a nice shiny plaque, it seemed very out of place. I was wondering if this was the spot of some famous murder or something. I mean isn’t that what happens in back alleys?

I was partially right, according to the plaque these tunnels were built by the Japanese during WWII. The Japanese would store suicide boats in them, and during high tide would have the ability to launch them should the allies every corner them on this island (they were almost the site of a murder, or act of war, whatever you want to call it). The Japanese also built a labyrinth of caves underneath sunrise peak. I assume this is where the Japanese played cool war games like… um… lasertag! I wanted to explore the tunnels, but one was being occupied by a squatter, dead serious! A hobo lived on back alley beach, underneath sunrise peak. He had a bed made up of cardboard, a random assortment of recyclables, some empty food wrappers, and a little fire pit. I’m curious if snorkeling here would be similar to dumpster diving?

August 07, 2010

the mess ... (Jeju pt III)

(This is the third part in the multi part saga that was Jeju Island.)

There is a small problem with traveling in Korea in July. July is the month with the highest average rainfall in the year. Basically it's rainy season. My second morning I was reminded of this. While rain makes a calming noise to sleep to, when you want to get out and about, it’s not the best thing to hear. Thankfully we were planning on being underground for the morning. Jeju is home to one of the world’s longest lava tubes. I wasn’t originally going to attempt these tubes with crutches, yet we met some tourists the night before who the caves should be manageable with crutches, YAY. The caves were on the other side of the island, and the F1 bus driver still took an hour and a half to get to the tube, I really wished it was a smaller island.

At the tubes there was an awesome sign, ‘no high heels’. Korean women wear heels everywhere, in every condition known to man. You might find it shocking there had to be a sign, but I bet you that Korean women have attempted to walk on lava flows in 6 inch heels. Thankfully there wasn’t a sign stating no crutches, although I was secretly hoping for an elevator to take me down. The stairs were kind of steep, although not unmanageable. The stairs did offer something unique, every step you went deeper into the cave the cooler it became. I've never felt such drastic temperature changes like that before. It went from high twenties to low teens within twenty feet.

The cave was remarkable, words can’t fully describe it. Walking down this 1km stretch was unbelievable, the walls and floor were caked in lava. There were lava lines on the walls like tree rings showing how the lava levels changed as the volcano started to run out of liquid rock. The ceiling was melted in some places, it looked like plaster dripping down towards the ground. I had little issues navigating the cave with crutches, anytime I encountered uneven ground I shot across them like a spider monkey. I spent most of my time in the cave staring at the floor, trying to find adequate places to put my crutches. I felt like my mother when she tries to take pictures, except i was actually staring at the floor and not accidentally taking pictures of the ground.  This leads me to my biggest problem with the cave, it was very poorly lit. I realize that they want to keep an certain atmosphere in the cave, but it was fucking dark, and next to near impossible to take a great picture. It was one of those things that you have to ‘remember’ instead of photograph. I hate doing things the old fashioned way.

After we finished with the cave we headed 500m down the road to a maze. I would have loved have attempted the maze. While we were walking to it the sky opened up. It was pouring and I didn’t have an umbrella. I always get into a strange mood when it rains. I love getting rained on, it’s fun, it’s exciting, but if I’m cold because I’ve been rained on I get all moody. I know exactly where this feeling comes from, and it comes from my parent yelling at me, 'to get out of the rain before i caught a cold’. I then link it to this fear of catching pneumonia. Pneumonia and I don’t play nice together, the whole i don't have a spleen thing. SO I have these little freak outs, no matter how much I try to convince myself I’ll be fine. I still have these nagging thoughts. I think this was parenting done too efficiently, you want your children to remember what you tell them, not freak out when it happens, haha oh well.

Waking up the next morning was amazing, who would have thought sleeping on the floor could be so awesome. I really felt rested, I’d walked a lot the previous day and my knee barely hurt. I mean it likes to constantly nag me to remind me it’s there, but it’s no different from a relative or cut on the inside of your mouth.

August 06, 2010

the tug ... (Jeju pt II)

(This is the second part in the multi part saga that was Jeju Island.)

Security at the airport was shockingly easy to get through. I was able to walk through with my shiny weapons of above average Korean size (cruthches), without issue. Security never even checked my bag; I had a giant thawing gel icepack buried between clothes. Not to mention the full bottle of water strapped to the side. I love Korea! The airport also sold beer by the can, tall can, 1 litre bottle, and 1.5 litre mini pitcher. ALL at the same prices found anywhere in the city. Hmm, I’ll miss Korea when I’m gone.

The flight was short; the landing was speedy and bouncy. The first destination on Jeju was the historic theme park built by two university students, LOVELAND. Loveland is a sex theme park, there are statues of people fucking, there are giant penis’ everywhere, and even the door handles to the bathrooms were glorified boobs and cocks. The signs were kinky, the fountain was… well cuming… The park was essentially a photo op, and every adult in the park had a childish grin. Much like actual children when they see a statue of Mickey Mouse, and no, before the question is asked, there was not a statue of Mickey giving it to Minnie.

My knee wasn’t holding up that great after the plane and frolic through Loveland. It was aching and swollen. I knew then that my knee wasn’t on vacation as well, it brought all of it’s muscle torn drama with it.

Transportation on the island was about as good as it gets. The island was a lot larger than any of us had anticipated. Yet it was still relatively easy to get around. The whole island was tied together through a simple network of buses. The buses ran, sped, and slammed the brakes rather frequently. The bus drivers were all attempting to audition for the Korean Gran Prix. F1 cars aren’t required to pick up passengers, and buses are. This is something a couple of the daydreaming drivers forgot when they slammed on the brakes 15 feet past a bus stop.

We stayed in a cheap hostel in a city called Seogwipo. The hostel was nice, the AC in my room didn’t work, thus making the fan even more of a lifesaver. Speaking of saving lives, or safety features, the fan was equipped with a 2 hour timer. The hostel was doing its part to save people from the fan chopping up the oxygen molecules in the middle of the night (if that confuses you, read my fan death post).

the rub ... (Jeju pt. I)

(This is the first part in the multi part saga that was Jeju Island. I have NO idea why my posts have become these long drawn out affairs. Yet there is so much to tell and I don’t want to scare you with a giant post, so multipart saga it must be. Hey if gay sparkling vampires can do it, I feel I can copy)
“Make sure you take it easy” my chiropractor warned me, I just smiled and nodded as I left his office. I had just told him that I was going to Jeju Island for a week. I am blessed with having two weeks of vacation while working here in Korea. They are split up into two week long segments, one in July, and the other in December.

It was decided that we (we is: Corwin, Callie, Susan, Sparta and I) would be going to Jeju after a couple failed attempts at planning a bike excursion through the countryside of Korea. For those of you who are unaware what or where Jeju is, just click. If you don’t want to read too much, here’s an abridged version. Jeju is an island off the southern tip of Korean peninsula. I’ve been told it’s like Hawaii, but I’ve never been to Hawaii SO! The most interesting thing about Jeju Island is that it is an autonomous province. That is interesting because that is exactly what Quebec wants to become in Canada. Autonomous regions benefit from having the same military, same currency, (same equalization payments, if you are Quebec), just different legislative powers. I wondered if I’d be getting off the plane to whiney people in berets (horrible stereotype, sorry French Canadians).

So you’ve got the where, you’ve got the when, and I really shouldn’t have to explain why my chiropractor warned me to take it easy. The biggest attractions on the island all entail a lot of walking, and some hiking capabilities. No surprise my knee puts me on the short bus. I can’t actually walk up stairs properly, I walk up only using my right leg, I drag my left leg up behind me.

I was worried about the trip, I’d had some tough days in the weeks before; I’d had a semi breakdown caused by frustration a week prior to my departure. I’d been looking forward to going to Mudfest (people covered in mud, mud wrestling, and mud slides) and I had to cancel out. It was the week after I epically failed at volleyball, and I’d pushed my leg too hard my first week back at work. I thought and acted like I was 14 again and my knee disagreed with that sentiment whole heartedly, I was left sitting around my apartment as my friends were coated in mud.

I knew most of the island trip was earmarked for hiking and heavy foot traffic. This is what worried me, I was in on the planning, I wanted to do it, and knew it was a bad idea. I was aware that the island had beaches, and I’d most likely spend my time there as my friends hiked. It was a really tough position I’d be in, my mind wanted to hike but my body wouldn’t let me. I’m sure most people reading are like ‘shut up, I’d love to be on a beach’. Yet I’m different in that regards I guess. I wanted it all, and my doctors warning was a clear reminder that my knee can only take so much.

August 03, 2010

injured albino elephant...

I’m not the most graceful person when I’m healthy, I’m rather lanky and I have no idea where to put my arms (They sometimes move floatingly as I meander around). Now that I’m injured I’ve become something completely different, and unfortunately my injury has not made my movements elegant. I’ve been reduced to being on crutches since my accident, and my movements have been likened to a giant bird sputtering as it tries to unfold its wings.

I’ve been on crutches once before in my life. In the weeks following my first dislocated knee I navigated the halls of Meadowbrook Middle School with a wooden pair. I don’t really remember this experience, it was probably as traumatizing as it sounds. My parents reminded me about the experience and all that comes back to mind are random memories of falling.

The crutches I’ve been retrofitted with in Korea are a little larger. They’re the height of the average Korean! As if the Korean’s weren’t scared of me before, now I’ve got large stainless steel rods descending past my arms. These large extensions have garnered me some new looks. I am used to the ‘OMG weiguk-zilla’ look (it’s similar to the deer in the headlights look coupled with fascination and fear). This new look is one of sympathy, I still achieve wide eyes, but there is something else, perhaps the gleam of a tear. I feel like an injured albino elephant, instead of just a regular elephant.

This look seems to be most prevalent in ajuma’s (older married Korean women). These women are almost going out of their way to help me, they hold doors for me, they step aside as I board trains. My existence has rarely, if ever, been acknowledged by them in the 5 months I’ve been here; that is unless they are trying to sell me tangerines. I’ve even had ajumas shield my leg from a drunk ajashi (older married Korean man) stumbling around on the trains, a couple even yelled at the guy in Korean!

I’ve been quite amazed at the reception I’ve received with my injured leg. It’s an entirely new adventure, although not one I intended. The simple act of walking is a pain in the ass, simple distances take longer, and it’s like 30 degrees at the moment. I may as well wear a bathing suit I'm always soaked halfway to any destination. Stairs leading down to the subway have become chapters instead of mere paragraphs that make up my day. Okay less ranting…

My kids have also taken notice. When I walk into one of my classes two girls welcome me with ‘teachah’ and teary eyes, like my injury has somehow caused them physical pain. My older kids offer their assistance, and instead of graciously giving me a headache they move tables so I can sit down. The kids are fascinated at the wheelchair I’ve rented; they poke and prod it whenever they get the chance.

I’ve become pretty decent on crutches, and I have only really used them for two weeks. I have been able to scale my way through lava tubes on Jeju Island (Holiday post coming soon). I’ve been able to experience life in Korea as a not fully abled person. Although I hope it’s only for a short while, I’m tired of having to lug crutches around. I’m sick of looking at the muscles on my emaciated leg. I’m ready to start building back the muscle and walking like the lanky weiguk-zilla I am.