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.

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