03 February, 2006

A little bit of everything from this last week

It’s been (quite) a week since I’ve put anything real on here, so I’d better get to it before I forget to say all the important things I’ve wanted to say that seem to grow less and less important as each day passes. Thanks to all who wished me well (and prayed for me) during that awful sickness over the weekend. Needless to say, I didn’t expire.

The beginning of last week was difficult. I think I reached the ‘sink or swim’ point in this whole thing, and by Tuesday (it was only Tuesday!) night, I wanted to tie a rock around my waist to help speed the sinking right along. It must have been obvious because Julian asked me on Wednesday morning if I slept well. ‘Why, no, in fact, I didn’t, thanks for noticing…’ I passed most of it off on the fact that I have back issues (but didn’t complain about my rock hard bed, not wanting to appear ungrateful), and even went as far as hand-writing out a note explaining about chiropractors and such (we’ve found that in matters of importance, when being understood actually matters, we should always write a note). Later in the day she told me ‘Good news (everything is always ‘good news’)! Jason’s father is a specialist, and his mother will take you to the office tomorrow.’ I probed a little in order to assign some more defining terminology to the broad practice of ‘specialist’ but got none and left it at that.

By Thursday, things were going better with the kids, and that afternoon Jason’s mom came to whisk me off to her husband, the ‘specialist’. When we got in the car, she said, ‘Yes, my husband is a neurosurgeon, and he specializes in your kind of back problems.’ Say what? You lost me at the part where you said neurosurgeon. Maybe my note wasn’t very clear after all…but the car was already moving. The office was downtown, a neat little modern office on the second floor of a large building housing a variety of businesses. I had my blood pressure taken in the waiting room and within five minutes was taken in to speak with the supreme specialist. He asked me some cursory questions, poked and pushed on my spine while I laid on a table, and announced that I probably needed surgery. Hmm, is there a polite way of telling an intelligent, learned, foreign doctor that you think he’s full of it? I decided there wasn’t, so, to humor him, I agreed to let him x-ray me. As if I haven’t done this before. When he looked at the films, he let me know that I didn’t need surgery. Hmm, is there a polite way of telling an intelligent, learned, foreign doctor ‘I told you so’? And then came his next recommendation—analgesics and muscle relaxers. *sigh* If mere pain was my problem, I could play my own neurosurgeon and prescribe a couple of Tylenol for myself. Let's get to the problem! Dr. Neurosurgeon didn’t understand why I didn’t want medication but had another suggestion ready—IMS: intra-muscular-stimulation. ‘It’s from America,’ he said, but I think he really meant, ‘If you can’t even agree to THIS, then get out of my office, you know-it-all American!’ It was the best suggestion yet, so I said okay even though I wasn’t quite sure what I was agreeing to. I was taken to the next room over and told to lie face down on the table in one of the curtained-off sections. Dr. came in a few minutes later, felt around on my back, and proceeded to stick needles in the tightest muscles. The nurse then hooked electricity to each needle, cranked it up, and aimed a heat lamp over me. It was five minutes of electrically-induced muscle-cramping. I was then taken across the hall to a lab-type room where I laid on an almost unbearably hot heat pad. And that was it. I’m not sure how I felt. Different. Not better, not worse—just different.

That night, Joseph and I went out to dinner as I still want to explore more facets of Korean cuisine. We had (spelled phonetically) dwae-jee-gal-bee—a big pile of meat and vegetables cooked in front of us in our table and eaten with a lettuce leaf and raw garlic and onion. It was delicious. Side note: I’ve picked up on the fact that Liz and Joseph don’t like each other very much which makes it awkward if I want to hang out with either one of them. Liz simply thinks Joseph is crazy, and Joseph thinks Liz is humorless and stoic. They are mostly just indifferent to each other, but one day they nearly came to blows in the staff room over a point of teaching phonics. I sincerely hope the new guy likes Liz, and likewise, or this is going to be a long year.

I’m not supposed to do a lot of real heavy duty academic stuff with my kinder class to begin with, but on Fridays we really relax and have fun. Last Friday, we played quite a few rounds of ‘ring around the rosy,’ each escalating in fervor, the last of which ended in James being unearthed, crying, from a heap of screaming miscreants. In my post-kinder class, I was feeling especially lax and let what started as innocent drawing and coloring turn into an all-out marker frenzy. I don’t know what possessed me to let Marcus and Joshua do it, but one marker became two became four then ten, and I got caught up in the fun. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good photo-op. After school Julian ordered ‘Chinese’ food, and we had a meeting to plan for festival and graduation at the end of the month. My class is not participating as it’s a new class, but I’m helping and have been, of course, roped into playing the piano for several acts. It’s a big deal every year, and I’m looking forward to it.

Artists at work: the early stage

'Two handfuls of markers with no lids...what in the world am I going to do?'

Marcus, working so furiously my camera can't keep up.

The Masterpiece

Saturday Liz and I had haircut appointments down the street at Oh Ji Yeuhn Hair. Liz went first, and I grew sleepy as the proprietor cut and cut and thinned and whacked away at Liz’s amazingly thick mane of hair. Then they washed it and attacked it with two blow dryers. My turn was similar. Spritz with water bottle, cut, wash, blow dry. All in all a very serviceable haircut. And for less than eight dollars, too. Next time I might go into Seoul for an experience more like my friend Rebekah’s in Italy (see Jake and Rebekah link), but it’ll do just fine for an emergency cut. After our cuts, we walked up to the store to pick up a few things for the weekend. On our way home, I commented on having a bit of a thick throat. Within the hour, I was on my floor shivering through four layers of long underwear and sweaters topped with a coat. I tried to distract myself with logic puzzles and a movie, but as the fever got worse, so did my focus. At 9:30pm I tried calling Julian who didn’t answer. Lacking medicine and both Liz’s and Joseph’s phone numbers, I decided, in a partial state of delirium, to bundle myself up and walk to Liz’s (we all live within a block of each other). I must have been quite a sight in my flannel pajama pants and my snowboarding coat and gloves. When I got into the street and saw that Liz’s lights weren’t on, I thought I’d try Joseph even though I’d never been to his apartment, and at that point I wasn’t even sure which building was his. I knew it was one of two, so I picked the most likely and knocked lightly on a likely door. I didn’t get an answer and didn’t try anymore doors. My leg muscles completely cramped on the stairs, so I sat there for little while and moaned until I figured out that I could go down sideways and not hurt as much. I limped home and sat on the floor and moaned some more and longed for the 24-hour Walgreens of my recent past. So overcome with fever, and (somewhat melodramatically) afraid that my throat would swell shut if I went to sleep, I went BACK out, this time disregarding Liz’s extinguished lights. She wasn’t looking so hot herself but was able to give me two blessed Tylenol for the fever. I finally fell into a fitful sleep, and sometime in the early morning hours I grew warm enough to shed a few of my layers.

(Sidenote: this weekend was the lunar or Chinese New Year, a very big holiday in asian cultures)

I woke Sunday morning to Julian calling to ask why I had called her the night before. Ugh. An hour later I woke again, this time to my doorbell, and it was my landlord looking very dapper in a shirt and tie and sweater vest. He mimed eating and pointed upstairs, and I deduced that he was inviting me to eat with his family for the holiday. All but dead, not to mention still wearing an odd assortment of clothing, I apologetically mimed back having a fever and a swollen throat, but thank you. I was sorry I didn't feel better--I would have enjoyed the experience. About ten minutes later, he came back with a tray bearing a small platter of cut fruit, some extra un-cut apples, and some puffed rice treats. I was more than grateful, and somehow the fact that he brought me food made me feel less guilty about not going uptairs. Later that night my landlady brought down a plate of special bread. These people rank right up there with Sherie, mom.

I had Monday off for the holiday--fortunately--and spent the day sleeping and reading and ridding myself of the last clinging wisps of sickness.

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