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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tomato in a Tree

This June morning, I went up to putz around the community garden before the day's promised assault of heat.  First, though, I sat in the pergola and ate a choco muffin, looking around at the 10 plots filled with veggies and flowers.  As I did, my eye caught a red spot in a pine tree, about 10 feet above my garden.  Curious.  I inspected.  It looked like a plum tomato, but why would it be in a tree?  Only one garden is even growing a dwarf plum tomato plant this year, but those folks are in South Africa for the summer.  Maybe a roving child had illicitly picked a ripe fruit and then tossed it just so into the pines??  I looked again: no way it would have just landed there, balanced neatly on a branch. 

I set about tidying the garden, still pondering the red orb glowing in the early sunlight. Maybe a squirrel had put it there?  Probably not: I've only seen one squirrel this year, and I just don't think they do a lot of storing tomatoes on a tree branch.  Ok, maybe a bird?  Well, the few birds we have around here are either way too small to carry a tomato or they would have just pecked it in situ.  Maybe...?

An hour later, I had given up finding a sensible answer to the mystery.  As a delightful distraction, however, a Eurasian jay landed on the fence; I held very still, pleased to see this skittish bird so close up.  Her more brightly-colored mate joined her a minute later, confirming that I was still undetected behind the gaillardias and daylilies.  After looking around the garden for a moment, the female swooped down with practiced ease to the plum tomato plant, and... yup.  She neatly plucked a ripe tomato and flew away with it into the pine forest, conclusively solving my mystery but perhaps beginning a new one for another curious human.

Image result for eurasian jay korea
photo from

Friday, June 8, 2018

Gynecologist visit: Google Gone Wrong

I went to the doctor with E today.  We had all the usual Korean hospital drama because (a) we can't understand the signs and (b) the looks of dread exchanged by the receptionists' faces when they saw us were pretty obvious.  But today's visit was EXTRA special: it had the added drama potential of being a gynecologist clinic.  Yay!

For a country that prides itself on English education, this is ridiculous. 

Before seeing a Korean doctor, even one who speaks fluent English, one is interviewed by his/her nurse-type person who never, ever speaks English.

Whoever designed today's interview closet apparently believes that nurse-patient eye contact is dangerous. E was seated to my immediate left and with some awkward stretching could peek at the nurse's face.
Today's nurse believed that using a smartphone to translate sensitive questions for foreign patients is a good strategy.  Let me tell you something very clearly, dear reader: If you are at death's door in a foreign land and need phone translation to survive, just choose death and keep your dignity intact.

The nurse asked some basic questions by pointing to a laminated English cue card: name, age, etc. But as E's symptoms became more specific, the card options ran out and the nurse picked up her phone.  To call for a translator?  No: her hand snaked out from behind the computer to show us a question typed in Korean, followed by what she thought was an appropriate English translation.  Sensitive readers: you might not want to read further.  This gets awkward in a hurry.

Phone Screen English Reveal #1: "Do you have a lot of fancy during menstruation?"
Our gasps caused a quick retraction of the phone and then a revised (but not improved) translation: "Do you have a lot of fur during menstruation?"  Um. Not better.

E maturely decided to secretly read the questions in their original Korean while I craned my neck to read the English version and madly took notes.

PSER #2: "Do you have a lot of fingering and cramps?"  I again gasped; E explained that the Korean meant "heavy bleeding."  Not the same, Google.  Not even close.

PSER #3: "I'll see if there's something wrong with my uterus."  Wait: are we ALL checking our uteruses today?  Perhaps a "the more, the merrier" approach?

PSER #4: "Ultrasound without sexual experience is anal sonogram?"
E blanched at this, as the English translation was correct but she didn't quite understand what it meant.  I used my sternest voice to say AH-NEE-YO (that's "no" in Korean) and "AHB-DOM-IN-AL" (which is English for keep your scary probes away).

PSER #5: "Male doctor?"  Seriously?  After asking about anal probing?  NOT A CHANCE.  A firm AH-NEE-YO to that one. 

We were ushered out of the interview closet to a room where E got weighed next to a display of the parts of one's baby that could be bronzed.   Not bronzed baby SHOES, mind you:  baby parts.

The photo quality is terrible, but it's still proof:
someone out there has a job making casts/molds of babies' hands, feet, and...  boy parts. 

As we waited for the doctor to who we'd been assigned (not actually the one with whom we'd made the appointment), we exchanged laughs at the way E's name was displayed on the monitor (no privacy in Korea, folks:  TINGAELRIS.  Yup.  Our family name first (part of it, anyway) and an awkward "Konglish" version of part of E's given name.

We also shared horror-laughs at the giant posters/ads on the waiting room walls.
E made the mistake of translating these.
I did not want to know about plastic surgery options for a body part I hope to never see.
Perhaps the ads were for the benefit of the men waiting for the wives?

After 15 minutes, the nurse approached us with a final PSER: "I have a few waiters in section 2 so you can go to section 2."  I was confused about the reference to restaurant staff until E interpreted: there are fewer people waiting for the doctor in room 2, so we had been re-assigned.  And, as it happens, it was the fluent-English doctor with whom we'd made the appointment.   The doctor was great - just your normal gyno visit.  :)

On the way out, we stopped in the Photo Zone to commemorate our gyno visit.