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Friday, April 13, 2018

How to die (AND a grand re-opening)

Beloved readers:  I am not really sure how I painted myself into the "blogs are fully researched documentaries" corner, but I no longer wish to write those.  So for now, I shall use this space for brief observations from daily life on a university-owned mountaintop in rural Korea.

Today's Korean newspaper reports that a small fishing boat hit a huge reefer ship in the night. In a strange decision by the writers (and editor), this little detail was reported: 

"One sailor was found around 1:25am.  He was not breathing and did not have a pulse.  He died soon after." 

Huh.  Yup.  Sounds dead to me.


P.S. I had to look up "reefer ship."  And, indeed, it is NOT a big old marijuana transportation device, but a refrigerated cargo ship.  Ah. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bums, Bosoms, and Bellies: Korean Bathhouse


Dedication: To Sonia, who quite nakedly shook me awake for our first day of college orientation and introduced me to the idea of, well, nudity.

In December, an expat friend finally convinced me to get naked at a Korean bathhouse and stroll casually around like, “hey, this is cool. Wanna scrub my back?”

Photo from http://teachingadventuresinkorea.blogspot.kr/2012/04/korean-bathhouse.html

Here is the short version for readers who really don't want any details:  Judy and I were the largest and whitest naked women among 80+ naked Korean women in a public bathhouse in December.  After a near-debilitating attack of the panics, I shocked myself by loving the experience (and taking my teenaged daughter shortly after). 

Here is the much longer version (it's rated PG).

Jjimjilbang (찜 질 방; literally "heated room) Korean bathhouse, which includes showers, hot tubs, saunas, sleeping areas, and a restaurant.  Very popular in Korea; most are open 24/7.

I was raised as a conservative, midwestern Caucasian-American to believe that body privacy was probably more important than life itself.  Proper women, I learned well, do not sweat, burp, poop, fart, or have any other gross bodily functions; and, if one DID accidentally reveal such revolting behavior, it would be better to die than admit to it.  Proper women are also very modest when changing clothes, using the toilet (any potential smelly business should be done in the furthest bathroom), and bathing.   No one should see your bits unless they have a validated marriage license.
On the other hand, many Koreans place a high value on bathing (and scrubbing the top layers of skin off their bodies) for hours with lots of equally naked friends, family, and strangers.  So there’s a little source of tension for me.  Add to that the fact that I’m living among people built like chopsticks, people who believe “round” (like, for example, my traditionally-built, German-English-American, sedentary middle-aged self) is at least a serious moral flaw if not quite a deadly sin.  Thus, the likelihood of me EVER visiting a Korean bathhouse has hovered at or below -40%. 

But…  I made a new expat friend this year (also a middle-aged Caucasian but Canadian) who loves the Korean bath experience despite her own traditionally-built self.  And she’s very, very persuasive. 
On the plus side, this is one of the only Korean activities that requires no equipment beyond one’s birthday suit and some cash.  On the down side, this activity is extremely risky for one’s social-emotional health.  It did not help matters that the Saturday morning parking lot was overflowing.  In the bustling lobby, similar to a nice hotel, I paid 16,000 won (about $15) for BOTH of us. Judy pointed to the stacked rolls of clothing and said “Big!”; the desk woman (she had all her clothes on) laughed kindly, having already perceived our non-Korean builds. She handed us our numbered receipts, cotton sauna shirts and shorts, and two hand towels each.

Deep breath.  We removed our shoes at the edge of the lobby and stored them in the nearby section adorably labeled “Rocker Room.”  We then went up to the women’s bathhouse on the 2nd floor (the men’s area was on the 3rd floor).  Judy chatted about the décor while I faked being calm as we turned the corner and HOLY COW THERE ARE TOTALLY NAKED LADIES EVERYWHERE.  We, of course, were still wearing our winter coats and sock-feet, so WE looked like the weirdos in this context.  Back to the women.  They were sitting on wooden platforms, walking around buying drinks or little packets of shampoo at the front counter, chatting with each other, putting on make-up in front of giant mirrors….  Like you do, apparently, when you’re in a room of naked people.

Ok.  I had to take more deep breaths that were tinged with shades of panic.  Judy, meanwhile, pointed out the various single-use packets of soaps and other shower/bath supplies for sale at the counter, where a friendly woman WHO WAS THE ONLY ONE BESIDES US WITH CLOTHES ON IN THE ROOM answered Judy’s questions. I did not CARE about particular scents or flavors or costs or whatever so I just handed over some money, nearly dropping my change into the fuzzy slipper display.

We went to find our assigned lockers, which by a miracle were in different rows, so a tiny shred of privacy remained before our friendship faced, well, you know. Lots of new information about each other.

I found my locker and stripped.  Taking the tiny towels (Korean bath towels are about the size of a business card) and new-bought packets of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, I met Judy back in the main area.  I wore only my ponytail elastic; she wore only her eyeglasses.   Well then.  Our friendship had reached a new level. 



As expected, we were the only white people and were certainly the largest.  But no one seemed to care.  Only the American (that would be me) even seemed to NOTICE all the different body bits walking about.  Bigger and smaller; flatter and rounder; firmer and saggier; darker and lighter; older and younger; scarred and smooth.  The oldest among us was perhaps 70 years old; the youngest was around two.  And did I mention this already?  No. One. Cared That I Have a Misfit Body.  Suddenly, my heart was calm.  I could do this. 

Renewed in spirit, I strode through the glass doors into the bathing area.  Dozens more naked women were showering in mirrored rows; Judy and I washed our hair and rinsed off our bodies in preparation for the next step.  We then walked down the long aisle, every bit of us open to potential scrutiny, to find adjacent scrubbing areas.  We sat on low, plastic stools by a flexible nozzle where one commences to scrubbing oneself from this near-squatting position.  This is not a rushed, whap-some-soap-around-and-dash-to-work kind of bathing.  Nope.  This is a luxuriously long self-scrub (with a cloth comparable to those green kitchen scrubbies), taking all day if one so wanted to use various emollients.  Judy offered to scrub my back, but I drew a firm line right there. Back-scrubbing is a sign of closeness in Korea, and we saw it happening among friends or mothers and daughters of all ages, but shaving one’s pits and legs while chatting with one’s naked friend just inches away in an echoing, steamy room of naked ladies is quite far enough for one day, thank you.)

Scrubbing done, we rinsed off and went into the hot baths (which here means “shockingly hot 3’ deep cement pools into which one gingerly lowers one’s naked private regions to set by steaming strangers”).  I adjusted quickly to the 40 degree Celsius water (104 F) and sat on the bottom, my head just above the surface.  From there I was a crocodile, peering around the central concrete sculpture (baby Buddha riding a concrete fish-- why??) to covertly observe ladies sharing gossip and scrubs, their thin gold chains or earrings catching the light.  I enjoyed watching a little girl of about 3 years; her mom set out a small blue plastic tub, filled it with water, and tossed in Barbie, her incongruous blond hair floating in a wide circle. I skipped the various milk and tea and “event” (?) baths and next opted for the enclosed “open air” with steamy windows open to the pine hillsides.  Some women quietly chatted while perched on the side, with just their feet in the water; another woman helped her elderly mother (mother-in-law?) out of the steep bath.  (Wow.  I cannot imagine doing a naked mother-daughter outing.)

Imagine 5-10 naked people in each tub.  And another dozen wandering around, towel-less. Yup.
Photo from www.10mag.com/6-things-youll-love-at-a-jjimjilbang-during-winter/

At this point, I was a tiny bit drowsy.  The cold bath woke me right up though; the sign above it said “No mask or flippers/fins” (as if one carries those in one's birthday suit pocket.)  From there we observed several women, laying fully uncovered on tables, getting vigorous full-body scrubs (some call it massage and some call it exfoliation) and periodic hosing from ajummas wearing uniforms.  If you want to call black panties and bralets a uniform.  Our next stop was a steamy sauna, where my very eyeballs seemed to fog; on the plus side, I couldn't even see the woman sitting next to me.

After a final rinsing shower, we returned to the locker room to blot our hair and faces with the tiny towels then stand in front of fans to dry the rest of our selves.  As we walked past a weight scale, Judy firmly exclaimed “HA! No!”  as though she was training a bad dog.

So that was the bathing part of the bathhouse (often called the "mogyoktang").  Next we prepared for the dry sauna/sleeping/eating area by donning underpants and the provided short/shirts. We descended to the basement, which is not gender-segregated.  Thin vinyl sleeping pads were dotted about the floor with men, women, children, and couples snacking, snoozing, watching the big-screen TV, or playing on their phones (people can stay here overnight – that $15 goes a long, long ways).  A quick tour of the shellacked-crystal hallways led us past dark sleeping rooms; a salt-block sauna (a woman checked her phone while her husband dozed next to her, his head support by a brick-sized cushion); and a red clay sauna.  We visited the 85C sauna (185F), entering a tiny hobbit-door into a small clay hut that's basically a pizza oven.  Several sweaty, giggling women with giant jugs of iced coffee welcomed us in and gestured for us to sit with them on the bamboo mat.  We could barely communicate, but our shared sweat and giggles (and interacting while semi-dressed) was delightful.  After just a few moments, we escaped back through the hobbit hole to find some food.

At the little restaurant, we ordered sweet and sour pork, seating ourselves on the floor in traditional style while wearing the pajamas.  After eating our fill (and more), we returned to the bath area to get dressed, toss our towels and cotton clothes in the laundry bin, and return to the cold winter air.

I felt completely clean and relaxed by this strange (to me) experience.  The entire place was meticulously clean – not a speck of dust or dirt anywhere – and I felt very safe despite the utter lack of privacy.  I will long remember the sounds of water splashing, people talking, the hollow clank of plastic stools and bowls being moved; the smell of something rich and old underneath the shampoos and body/facial scrubs.  I was excited enough to convince Elisabeth to go with me again in January; perhaps a mother-daughter ajumma scrub is next, or even spending the night soaking up the healing powers of salt and clay.  

Sweating with Elisabeth in the clay sauna pizza oven (85C).

Elisabeth and I sweating (and snoozing) in the salt sauna room.

Waiting for lunch in the traditional Korean restaurant.  Do you love our matching cotton sauna outfits?  :)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Red Light District: First Impressions

Isaiah met Katherine and I at the downtown McDonald's on Friday evening to lay the ground rules.  He has done this for years and would do all the talking.  If asked, we should just say we’re from Handong University; we should certain not talk to any men in suits; never open a window/door (just knock and wait); if we’re waved on, then don’t be pushy; don’t interfere with the business; we’re there to offer love (not judgment).

Photo from www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/sex-lives-north-koreans-exposed-9423027

Ok. After a short prayer we walked to the red light district, just one block from the most popular shopping area in the city.  Dark, narrow, crooked alleys were lit only by the bright pink lights spilling from spotless sliding glass doors.  Isaiah led the way, noting the presence of CCTV cameras.  I wondered who was watching: probably not the police, whose station flanked one end of this illegal district.  Through each window was a tidy sitting room; nearly all had space heaters and a cheap plastic chair by the window, facing the grimy alley; one had a tiny kitchen, with clean dishes in the rack, bananas on the countertop, and cute décor on the walls. Another had a washing machine, resting between loads. 

We passed a few well-lit rooms with no one in the chair or answering Isaiah’s knock.  A silhouetted, stub-tailed cat waited patiently outside one door; plant pots, filled with dirt, sat next to others.  Isaiah carried a box of instant coffee as a prop;  he also had a bag of heart-shaped notes, written with kind Korean greetings by his wife and children, taped to packets of instant coffee. 

Photo from www.flickr.com/photos/the_wrath_of_khan/2830718332
We stayed in the B alley, where the older, less attractive women work.  Isaiah was reluctant to take us to the A district, with young women for sale, because it’s busier and more closely guarded by pimps and the gangsters who run the business.  Besides, he didn't have enough notes just for the B women. 

We continued down the wandering pink-lit alleys; I wondered if I could touch the windows on both sides if I stretched out my arms.  At one place, a little dog barked ferociously at us from the floor next to the empty chair. A heavy-set thirty-something woman came to the door, just out of the shower with an elasticized pink towel wrapped around her dewy body.  She did not open the door to Isaiah’s “hello” or “we’re not selling anything,” but did once he showed her the paper hearts and coffee.  Another  woman happily greeted Isaiah, calling him “Baby Daddy” from previous visits he had made with his young family.  Some women, clearly bored, re-applied their makeup as they gazed into their smartphones, waving us on.  Some were cautious but reluctantly accepted the gifts. Isaiah played up his American accent, making Katherine giggle at his terrible-sounding Korean.  I wondered if this helped down-play his power advantage as a male, or helped ensure a short visit limited to comments on the cold weather and the small gift.  

One woman pointed to me and asked if I was a missionary (I don't actually know what Isaiah told her).  In one window, a middle-aged woman, with a single, central tooth, welcomed Isaiah warmly while pushing the seated overweight girl behind her.  This woman had apparently “aged out” of the sex worker trade and was now a manager, in charge of several girls.   I couldn’t help but wonder whether her teeth were lost to abuse or just years of neglect.

Nothing was as I had imagined it would be.  We saw only one man, a shambling, heavyset man in workman's clothes who did not make eye contact with us.  None of the women were dressed as I’d imagined, perhaps because they were the “B-level” ladies.  One seated lady wore an old bra with gaudy silver spangles glued around the top edge, but any provocative effect was muted by the pink fleece “Hello Kitty” blanket that covered her shoulders, lap, and legs.  Some wore gaudy high-heeled shoes that had seen years of service.  The women looked bored, suspicious, or blank-faced -- none used the dead snake-eye or “come hither” looks I’m used to seeing in Western movies and ads. 
Photo from www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/world/asia/suit-has-south-korea-looking-anew-at-its-hard-line-on-prostitution.html

After 30 minutes, we had run out of heart-notes, and we slipped back out to the main street.  Walking back toward our cars, we passed a tiny, brightly-lit store with rows of cages in the window, showing little dogs sleeping, sitting, barking, or just looking out into the night with a faint look of despair in their eyes. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Unintentional Travelers (or: Goosenecks & Trash)



When we moved to Korea (a.k.a. "when I became obsessed with the beach"), we discovered a lot of strange marine creatures (e.g., herehere, and here) and a panoply of trash.  Both categories initially fascinated me, but gradually they became part of the ignorable background.

But last month at Youngilman port's tiny "surfer beach," instead of perceiving "creatures" and "trash" as separate categories, I noticed how they interacted: (a) one of God's creepier creatures enjoyed attaching itself to (b) human flotsam and jetsam.  Let's look a little closer.

Today's creepy creature is the gooseneck (or goose) barnacle, pictured above.  They have some good features: they filter the water to catch tiny food bits, they have nice white shells, and they seem to have rich social lives as I've never seen one alone.  They also have some weird features: as youths, they cement themselves to stuff with a rubbery red-brown neck/leg/stalk and wave their heads about to do the hokey-pokey  eat or possible cheer their friends.  And as they wave about, the shell opens, and a dark, 12-fingered hand/filter thing emerges.  This scenario might not be horrifying in some universe. But when you are peering rather closely at 10 or 50 or 1000 of them doing this together, dying slowly on a poorly-chosen home that's washed ashore, one's revulsion is disproportionate to their small size. (Side note: People eat these. Spanish people.  Maybe other people.  I can't bear to think about it. Eww.)


The Goose Barnacle.

What struck me is that in the right context, these creatures are well-adapted to serving the marine ecosystem. But when they choose the wrong things to attach to, when they choose what seems like a solid idea but is just trash destined to eventually wash ashore, these creatures are doomed to slow deaths, waving their last goodbyes to passersby like me.  And here is our Metaphor for Life: to what do I attach myself?  Where do I pin my hopes and dreams and illusions of security?  (Ooh - theology/philosophy and marine biology in one blog!). Let's look at the strange homes of some goosenecks.


Milk Peanut.  Some sort of Chinese drink?
(ooh - see those horror hand/filters sticking out?
Now just imagine a classic Wilhelm Scream dubbed over that)

I think this flask is from China.  Not that the goosenecks care to read.   

Korean spray paint, I believe.





It's not a Korean beach unless you find a shoe or seven.
This one has bonus barnacles.




Big styrofoam fishing float; very commonly beached after storms.

All done waving.  Pretty shell variations, though.

I have to wonder what happened to the person
who was supposed to be wearing the no-longer-attached Chinese life jacket.

Barnacles on a string. 
Doesn't quite have the same rhythmic appeal of "soap on a rope."

A fluorescent light bulb (weirdly common on the beach) 

Even tiny barnacles on a lighter.

But wait!  Goosenecks apparently won't attach to just ANY kind of trash.  They have standards!

WHOA!  What's this?
No goosenecks seemed to find Barbie's torso attractive.  
And, so, our moral: Be careful what you attach to (lest you float ashore to die where an alien takes intrusive pictures of you dying with indignity).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Library Love: 10 steps, 8 days, $0

Box bits from boxed book collections
I love reading.  And organizing.  And learning.  Put those together and I have enjoyed many an hour volunteering/tidying at the school library.  After over a year of doing so, I can quickly tidy the library, alphabetize and shelve books (even in Korean!) and direct kids to good books.  Mmmm...  :)  (Don't make me manage the kids, though.  I don't get paid NEARLY enough for that thankless job.)

Now, as a social psychologist, I can't analyze your unconscious urges but I can sure analyze social environments. And our library is...kind of...low on visual joy for those folks who don't swoon at the mere sight of tidy shelves of books.  The elementary side got a great upgrade earlier this year (beanbags! colorful floor mats!) but the rest of the place looked a little tired.  And its dusty corners were filling with books needing processing/repair or a trip to the Big Book Beyond.

I longed to add a little happy to the place, but I had no budget.  But I did have (a) a near-idolatrous addiction to transformational reality TV shows; (b) decades of experience as a scavenger (see here, for example), and (c) after-hours door code access.  So, while our beloved Library Guy was away earlier this month, I initiated Operation Library Love. Here was the plan:

(1) Sort and move stacks of books-to-be-processed to a more discrete location.

(2) Move giant book display shelf/stand away from wall. 

And that's as far as the actual plan went.  But more ideas came to mind gradually, so here's what happened.

(3) Select pages from a sad old broken English dictionary; affix pages to wall (pages: free; white glue I already had + water = free "modge podge").   Recoat a few times for durability (thank you, Ashley!).



(4) Cut up the (free) boxes that come with many book collections (see top of page).  Arrange.  Rearrange.  Fuss with some more.  Frown. Take pictures.  Frown more.  Go home to sleep on it.

(5) Wake up with revelation - we needed a focal point!  Ponder.  Idea! Google how to make giant 3D cardboard letters.  Go to the dumpster to get cardboard.  Darn: Box Man had already come, so no cardboard.  Heart deflates. Voice in head whispers, "look in the dumpster again."  Voila!  Sheets of 1" styrofoam!  Heart re-inflates.

(6) Design and cut out styrofoam letters.  Spend much time cleaning static clingy beads from table, chairs, floor, wall, and clothing.  Google how to glue stuff to styrofoam.  Learn useful tips like "superglue dissolves styrofoam."  Ooh.  Good to know.

(7) Note on calendar that Library Guy returning to work in just 3 days. Assign each family member a letter and a primary color; force them to cut out appropriate pictures from dead books and arrange on styrofoam letters. 

(8) Use white glue + water to affix pictures to styrofoam.  Admirably restrain excessive cursing at glue failures, static-clingy styro bits, etc.  Recoat letters for durability.


The Scarlet A (hee hee - English Lit insider joke!)

The Green D (does that have an English Lit meaning?  anyone?)

(9) Trim and lightly sand edges of dictionary wall pages (thank you, Judith!).  Fetch glue gun from home.  Fetch husband to help stick letters to wall.  Stick book box pictures to wall. 
Making much progress the night before
Library Guy returns to work...
(10) Final touches: Move a mat and beanbags to make a cozy reading spot.  Take pictures and await Library Guy's return.  Hope he likes it.  :)

TA DA!!!


Friday, August 25, 2017

South Korean Civil Defense Drill

Dear Trevor (and others curious re. how South Koreans see the current political/military situation):

So much to say.  I shall limit myself, however, to a story about South Korea's annual Civil Defense Air Raid Drill (now in its 45th year; in Seoul they do this drill about 8 times per year).  My hope is that you will pick on some nuances that convey a great deal about current attitudes.

Now, this drill has been held since 1972. And citizens are encouraged to attend. I, as the mere wife of a foreigner, have not been educated about the time/date of such drills (not clear whether that's a university communication glitch or a marital one).  That said,  our kids' school does the drill faithfully.  Last year, however, the drill was aborted when the door to the underground air-raid shelter was locked .  And, maybe that's just as well!  Because access to said door was obstructed by a pile of old/broken university furniture.  Let us pause a moment here or reflection.  Last year, our campus shelter for 4000+ people was inaccessible for the announced, annual drill LET ALONE READY FOR ACTUAL BOMBS.

This year, I decided to take part with the kids' school.  I didn't know what to expect, so I asked google. The most information I could find for foreigners basically said, "when the sirens sound, follow Koreans."  (Ok, that's not quite fair; the best information was given in an adorable video made by a couple of tween Korean girls concerned about ignorant foreigners; they recommended a complicated shelter-seeking website that (a) is entirely in Korean and (b) has completely changed its layout since their filming so ... good luck, foreigners). Yup.

Ok.  So where's the shelter on campus?  No clue.  There are no signs.  Asking around led to information that the shelter was under my very office/classroom building!  Just a few minute walk from home.  Happily, a week ago I saw a laminated paper sign get taped up with arrow pointing downstairs.  The rest of the sign, like most things around here, was completely in Korean.  For all I knew, it was indicating the way to a faculty bar.

At 2pm on the designated Day to Practice Avoidance of Falling Bombs, a siren sounded (glad I was outside by the school already, as there were no other audible sirens on campus) and rapid Korean instructions issued from loudspeakers.

Teachers quickly got their grade 1-12 students into lines.
And, yes, those are twins.

Students followed their teacher in line across campus to the shelter.  And, hooray!
The door was open!

Here is the cement shelter/tunnel.  It is lined with pipes and cables.
I did not see any food, water, toilets, or first aid kits.
Several spiders, though.  And some puddles.

We walked and walked through this narrow space, passing many danger signs
(why? were the cables a threat?).
Do the children look worried? No. They do not.

And on and on, until we descended some rickety and slippery/wet steps...
...where we met up with Military Guy and Scary Plasticized Gas Mask Guy.
The latter of whom I thought was a robot.
Because they have those as flagman along highways; and in stores to promote smart phones.
Oops: He was not a robot.
(note: the wet floor was smelly - not the Guys)

Finally!  Going up the stairs to exit the tunnel/shelter,
were greeted by Scary Plasticized Gas Mask Guy #2.

And Plasticized Guy who said "good-bye" in Korean to every. single. person.
Do these children look frightened?
Sweaty and bored, maybe.  Certainly not scared of bombs.

 Students headed back to school just 15 minutes after the siren sounded. 

I asked around campus - long-timers mostly didn't bother doing the drill.  And people who were in the city at the tie said that no one was seeking shelter during the air raid drill.

So: do you get any sense that South Korea is freaking out about threats of war. Nope.  Neither do I.



Saturday, August 19, 2017

Korean hospital: Some surprises


This summer, Elisabeth had severe abdominal pain and became an in-patient at a local Korean hospital. I, on the other hand, as her intrepid mother (who might have lost rock/paper/scissors with a certain husband), got a chance to glimpse the workings of said local Korean hospital. 

Now, you should know right away that I splurged on a private room.  Judge me if you want, but wait just a moment until you know more.

(1) Korean hospitals speak Korean.  Which is totally their right to do so.  I, however, can really only speak English, Medical, and enough Spanish to get to the beach.  My Korean skills are reserved for entertaining two-year-olds.  Thus, communication with any other patients in a room, let alone their presumably nosy visitors, would be nigh unto exhausting.

(2) Sleeping and healing among a multitude of sick strangers really didn't appeal to Elisabeth.  Further, we did not know whether the non-private rooms (with 2, 4, or 8 beds) were gender-segregated, and sleeping with a bunch of men was right out. 

(3) In Korea, overnight stays by family members are standard and thus each hospital bed has a pull-out cot underneath.  So, doing hospital math, a 4-bed room actually sleeps 8 people.  This compounded problem #1 and made problem #2 now apply to me.  Ah, no.  I didn't need men in the room OR scary ajummas.

(4) And, as I suspected, compared to US prices getting a private room was quite reasonable.  We paid the total bill when we checked out (I do love that feature): the private suite, CT scan,  x-rays, consultations with a doctor, blood draws, IV, and pain meds came to a total of.... About $400.  Judge me if you will. 

We didn't get a diagnosis for Elisabeth's abdominal pain (it wasn't appendicitis but could have been diverticulusis/-itis).  Even so, you might be interested in some highlights via pictures. 

My beloved TA helps Elisabeth get checked into the hospital.

My TA is called into the CT room to teach Elisabeth key Korean
words like, "breathe."

Ooh!  When the radiology tech guy stepped away
I got to peek at Elisabeth's innards.  So cool.

Elisabeth gets admitted and up we go to her private room.
Western readers might notice that the bed is super low,
which certainly makes it easier for the patient to board and deplane (disembark?).
The squatting nurse, using the bed as a desk, is a bit harder to explain.

Elisabeth rebels against wearing the hospital pants (yea for soft yoga pants from Oma and Opa!).
We move to the sitting room where my TA translates instructions for me (far left).
And I can't help but notice that Elisabeth is getting her blood drawn by Squatting Nurse.

Hmm.  No gloves for Squatting Nurse.  Ok. 

Hmmm.  Popping off the needle cap with one's teeth.
Squatting Nurse is just full of surprises.
Once the pain meds take effect, Elisabeth works on her microeconomics
and has a skype call with her teacher.  
Note the cool TV monitor attached to her bed;
the tabletop is part of the footboard that swings up.  Cool stuff.

Elisabeth settles into her cozy bed behind her giant No Food sign.
Thus, we didn't get to sample hospital food.
I might have gotten Nick to bring McDonald's food for my dinner. :)

 Any questions you have?  Other adventures or places you'd like to see featured?  Happy to accommodate.  :)