Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blog Bling

This post is late and I'm terribly backlogged. I'll really try to do a post a night next week. How's that for optimism?

I got an e-mail a few weeks ago from someone entitled "A Quick Idea to Run Past You." I read it, and the idea was that this person wanted to send me a piece of jewelry from their store, and in return I could blog my thoughts on it. Well that's an idea I like, as I am a fan of both the shiny things and the free things! So I had a look through LuShae, the online jewelry store where I could pick out any single thing I wanted. It took me a few nights to choose, but I finally decided upon what is arguably their most unique item. Check it out on my finger!


Please ignore the wrinkles in need of some hand cream, and focus on the shiny!


This ring is called the "CZ sculpture" and it's a big'un. Look at the height from the side!


I did promise that I would blog my thoughts, and the woman who sent me the initial invitation and this lovely ring said that I could "post [my] honest thoughts (good, bad or ugly) on [my] blog." As well, you're all welcome to comment and tell me how ugly this ring is and how tacky my taste is. I don't care, because the shininess of my fancy new ring will blind me from your cruelty! I really enjoy this ring. It's very unique. I look at it and it gives me pleasure. It makes me happy. I think there is a good possibility that I was a magpie in a previous life, though - so I realize this piece might be a bit over the top for many people.

I'm a fan of silver, and don't own single piece of gold jewelry. I'll admit that I'm also a snob about "real" silver, and this new ring is my only piece of costume jewelry. This ring is fakeity-fake-fake, but I don't care. Here's from the website:
"White Gold Rhodium Bond is achieved using an electroplating process that coats the item with heavy layers of rhodium, a close cousin of platinum that costs three times as much, which gives our jewelry a platinum luster." So lah-dee-dah! I like the fact that I don't have to polish this ring like I do all my others. And it's so shiny. Did I mention that already?

There are a lot of different pieces to choose from, if you're interested in visiting LuShae Jewelry online. I very nearly ordered some pretty, pink, and far more conservative earrings. LuShae has lots of pretty earrings. Free shipping, too - which is always nice.

Perhaps you're thinking, "Man! What a sellout that Jelly is!" but I'm okay with that. Furthermore, if anyone else is interested in sending me things that are shiny and free, please do! If you feel like sending me a present, just let me know and I'll shoot you the address! Shiny free presents are goooooood, m'kay?

As for the bad, I'll just say that there are quite a number of two-toned (gold and silver combinations) items in the online shop, and I've never been a fan. Also in the bad department, I was seriously ready to buy another ring from them, one more conservative yet still shiny and green - but just before I placed the order I decided to google the ring's name and came up with quite a number of other sites that were offering the same ring at a considerable discount. I shall say no more, though. I am a fan of LuShae and still may very well place that order.

Finally, the ugly - which could fall into the good category as well. My ring came packed up nicely and securely in a cute little box within a well sealed envelope. I attacked the package with enthusiasm, excitement and a pair of not very sharp scissors. Even still,....


a blade's a blade, and this cut was surprisingly deep. Notice the nice placement on the bendy part of my thumb which opened and re-opened and re-re-opened my wound. Nice work. Ummm, and so yah - that's the reason for the lack of posts: I had to wait for healing. It wasn't at all that I was too distracted by the pretty shiny ring on my finger every time I sat down to type. Not at all.

Now I'm off to Seoul to visit my good buddy John. I'll write again on Tuesday. Kisses.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hospital Stay

That last entry, while true - was written when I was very tired and really feeling blue. I hate the fact that probably half the posts I write these days seem to warrant "I hope you're feeling better" comments. Life isn't all a drag here, but I tend to just not write much at all. When you're caught up in a bit of a self loathing pity party, you might tend to think everything you produce sucks. Ah well. Suffer along! I think you might know the words!

Let me tell you about my weekend. Some expats really enjoy a good weekend temple stay. I'm sure there is a lot that can be gained from the bowing and meditation one does and I'll bet you can learn quite a bit about Buddhism. But I've never been a good early riser by any means, so I opted for the less popular and more necessary (in my case) hospital stay.

By the time the doctor asked me Sunday morning if it would be alright if he admitted me I was just about out of my mind with pain. I'd been barfing for more than 24 hours by then and was again dehydrated with a blinding headache and seizing muscles. He wanted my boyfriend's number (who had already taken off to go to work) to be clear about the cost, which was going to run 600,000 won (about 520$ US) per day!! Whaaaaaat?!?! But I quickly found out that this was for a private room, and alas, I don't require such luxury. Until very recently I didn't have any sort of health insurance, but I snapped after breaking a tooth on a stale baguette and complained to the manager who spoke to the boss who finally actually DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT and enrolled me in some private insurance scheme. So now hospital bills and doctors visits and medications are covered to about 90%. Hallelujah. I still have to pay and get reimbursed and it's still unclear if medications for shingles will be covered from when the policy became active. (My boss was initially very confident but I was dubious that any insurance firm would cover a pre-existing condition. Since having gone to the hospital last week to pick up the correct form my boss has become less sure - and has re-contacted the hospital to give him new forms with dates of visits listed only after the policy started. As it is, it's costing me about a hundred dollars a week, which is a drag. I've spent my entire year end "bonus" - a month's salary - on shingles. Bummer.)

Anyhow. I didn't need a single room. I could share. Administrator Man asked me if it would be okay to room with some "halmonies" (grandmothers) and I said sure. If he had asked if I would mind staying in a fish tank filled with barracudas, but they doctors would make me feel better I would have agreed. So I signed a few things and they walked me upstairs to the sixth floor and into a room with four grandmothers and a blaring television.

The first many hours are a blur. I noticed two of the grannies had IVs but they only had one smaller bag of yellow stuff, where I had two hefty bags of clear liquid. ("I win!!") But, I couldn't do much of anything but feel horrible and miserable. Conversations were out of the question and even though two of the grandmothers seemed to have plenty to say to me and about me, I just ignored them. What really got them riled up was how I ignored the lunch tray they'd delivered to the table at the end of my bed. They told me to eat about 47 times and I kept moaning no, my stomach hurt. Later, when a snack came and I ignored that, too, well - apparently that was some sort of crime. There was quite a commotion as the grandmothers complained to one another and then to an orderly that came by, and finally to people passing in the hall. At last a nurse came in and hung a sign from my IV pole that read "No Food" on one side and "Requires Deep Rest" on the other side. I wanted to hug that nurse, but the sign didn't really dissuade my new granny-fans.

One of them, curiously the youngest one who was sixty years old, was the clear Boss of the Room. She was the controller of the TV remote control and no one seemed to question her choice of shows. Most were dramas with a lot of people who cried and screamed and hit themselves and threw themselves upon the floor as they cried and screamed. I didn't even really care. I imagined they were feeling my pain, so I understood their antics. Finally, the nurse who had hung the sign came back with a syringe of something wonderful and shot it into my IV tube. (Then I wanted to make out with her!) Within a just a few short minutes my stomach eased up just enough that I fell asleep. For about forty five minutes. I woke up to find the Room Boss yanking my foot back onto the bed and tucking it under a blanket. She wasn't very delicate, and scolded me for not staying awake enough to make sure my feet didn't get cold. I thought that was funny, since the room temperature was conservatively just a few degrees less that the surface of the sun. It's a wonder I didn't lose some toes to frostbite! Thanks G-Ma! I sort of dozed on and off for a couple more hours until my boyfriend swung by with some things from home, like my pillow - which unlike the ones provided by the hospital, isn't made of lead and filled with rubber tires. The grannies had to pass my bed to go to the bathroom and there was no door on that, just a shower curtain which slid in front of the toilet. Earlier, I had noticed a very old feeble-looking woman in the next room hoisting herself onto a combination chair/toilet thing right beside her bed in a room with four other patients. She just had to get her business done right there in the openm, so I was thankful for the still-mobile grannies in my room and the flimsy shower curtain that provided at least a tiny bit of discretion. Speaking of bathrooms, neither the unisex one in the ER or the one in my room had any soap. There ere signs illustrating how to wash ones hands, but nothing to wash them with. Seriously?

I thought the idea of a hospital was to make a patient comfortable while they attempted to recover, and even take some burden off the patient's family as healthcare professionals tend to their care, but Korean hospitals seem to go out of their way to do the opposite. The bed would have been only slightly more uncomfortable if they had an angry crocodile living inside it. It was hard and lumpy with zero cushion or support. It probably doesn't matter to the average Korean, I know, who has spent a lifetime of sleeping on the floor, but man! It sure mattered to me! I just couldn't find any position comfortable enough to let me slumber for more than a few uninterrupted minutes at a time. Also, the nurses would come around and take your blood pressure and temperature pretty often. They change the IV bags. But that's about it. All of the rest of life is left up to the patient or the patient's family. When I finally came around enough to look at a mirror I had to laugh at the crazy hair I had going on, and by the 2nd day my skin was just crawling for a shower. I also know they've got an a vault of nice narcotics in that place, but why they gotta make a sister beg for it? My moans of pain and whimpers of "bey appayo, jinja yo." were attended to, but only in pitiful increments of aid. At first they brought me a hot water bottle, because that's worth five hundred dollars a day innit? Then they double checked to see that my IV drips were drippy enough. I saw that they employed a flicky-finger for this, so that's good. I finally sort of very loudly asked my boyfriend to just take me home already because nothing they were doing was making me feel better - and he went over to talk to the nurses. This was about eight hours after the first syringe of goodness had been produced, so I knew for sure they had something that worked better than a pat on my crazy hair. I sent the boyfriend back home because I'd forgotten to ask for a couple things and while he was gone they finally came over and stuck another needle in my IV and I woke up about forty minutes later with the imaginary gut-fist tightening its grip yet again.

It wasn't until I finally chewed up about 30mgs of oxycontin, the dandy painkiller I have for shingles - and what I sent my boyfriend home to get - that I was finally able to get ahead of the pain. I slept solid for a whole two and a half hours despite the blaring TV and the sweat dripping down my back. My friend came and visited me around 12am. Families are encouraged to care for their sick relatives around the clock, so there is no such thing as visiting hours. My friend scolded me for medicating myself, but I didn't care. I'd finally beaten the pain down enough that it seemed to be slowly going in reverse. I was just relieved to finally be able to have a conversation after a day of a half of non-verbaliciousity. After she left I was even able to focus enough to finish the last few chapters of a book. Three nurses watched the over-sized TV in the common area of the floor and I enjoyed the relative peace of a hospital at night. There was one exception, what I thought was a man but was told was a grandmother in pain - she screamed ALL NIGHT LONG. I wondered why on earth they couldn't make her comfortable. Surely that verbalized anguish couldn't be conducive to healing. It certainly wasn't making me feel any better. I wondered what was wrong with her and how come no one went to check on her as she screamed in some private room at the end of my hallway.

I finally slid into the room which had cooled slightly, making me so thankful, shortly after 3am and I got to sleep for a couple hours before nurses slammed in and snapped on the lights to slap on a blood pressure cuff and stick a thermometer under my armpit. It was just after 5:30 in the morning.

I was finally starting to feel more like myself, and I could drink small amounts of liquids. I sat quite contentedly in the common room with three different bottles of beverages in front of me. I even scored the remote control and turned to some show on Vincent Van Gough. My boss, his wife, and the manager I've grown to hate (a steady growing source of stress) stopped by before noon. We sat and talked quietly and I appreciated the sympathy my boss had. I told him I'd be back to work on Tuesday and he argued the doctor wanted me to stay until Wednesday. I told him not to worry about it. My boyfriend stopped by later with a change of pajamas (since I was already wearing some, they thankfully hadn't insisted I don their P-Jays, flannel white and pink for the ladies, and blue and white for the lads.) I spent the day in the common room pretty much, avoiding the TV and bossy grandmas in my room - both seemed far too overbearing now that I was lucid. Still, every time I stopped in the Room Boss had something to say to me. You shouldn't drink that. You should lie down. Aren't you going to eat? They should take that sign off you, you can eat already. She even shrieked at my manager who failed to take off her whoes when she walked in the room. I liked her for that.

In the common room I got too much attention as well. The nurses would stop by and pick up my book or a paper from in front of me. An elderly couple sat at the next table and wondered what was wrong with me, where I was from, was I American, had I eaten, did I like kimchi, but they didn't ask me directly - just spoke about me like I wasn't there. A woman being fed by the only intern I'd seen in the hospital turned and glared at me between bites. An old ugly man scowled at me all day long when he wasn't scowling at the television.

It was that old man who helped me leave early. As staff stated to set out trays of food for dinner a nurse had set a container of kimchi across the table from me. The old man barked at her and she moved the container to the table behind me, smiling apologetically. I didn't care. Suddenly, though - an arm appeared before me and the ugly old man swept the contents in front of me, a book, my phone, a pen and some paper - violently to the floor. Then he started to yell at me and puff up like an angry fish. "Eassssssssy cowboy!" I said, as nurses rushed in to pull him away. Apparently I was sitting in "his" chair where he liked to dine. There were lots of patients there, as well as many of the nurses, and I was pretty embarrassed. I gathered up my stuff and brought them to my room and then went back out to the desk where I saw my doctor and convinced him to let me go. I was feeling well enough and assured him I would rest better at home. My presence was causing too much commotion for the patients there, and their curiosity was getting on my nerves. I went back to my room to fetch my wallet and heard the doctor yelling at the old guy. "This is not your hospital and that is not your chair. People are here to get better just like you are and you should treat everyone here with kindness." The old man grunted.

I wasn't even angry at the old guy anyhow. I get his need to stake some ground. When just about everything seems out of your control I understand the desire to cling to these little things that make a day seem somewhat routine - that make a person feel somewhat normal. So he liked to eat in the same chair everyday, fair enough. I don't think even if he could have he would have asked politely, but that's his problem. Even if he'd asked me rudely, I would have moved. He was really scary looking.

220,000 won later and after a nurse pulled the IV out of the top of my hand I was free to leave. I saw the skies overhead, just like my head, were starting to clear though a thick fog still blanketed the close-by neighbouring town and surrounding mountains. The air was damp and cool but smelled like spring and not like sterility and sweat. It was just what I needed.

So my advice for you is to stay healthy. If you're going to get sick, try to not to have to stay in the hospital here. But if you do have to, then bring your own soap or something. But really, just stay healthy m'kay?

**A little note - because of the comments I've gotten (thank you for them and the wishes for better health) I really think that I cast the whole hospital experience in an unfairly negative tone, which wasn't really my intention. The experience was negative - but only really because I was in a lot of pain. The staff was very courteous and helpful and the other patients, except for Billy Goat Gruff, were very kind to me. When I was finally well enough to interact with them we smiled at each other a lot and I understood it was strange to have a stranger among them and as usual regarded their interest in me with a laugh. It's been my experience that one does have to generally "beg" for mercy with doctors - especially the "countryside" ones**, who expect you to just endure a certain amount of pain. (I prefer the "medicate me until I'm realllly fiiiine" approach, heh.) Commenter Todd is right, I sometimes mis-use "yo" and use it for emphasis like it might be used in Japanese (honto yo, ne?) but I guess it's better than using "YA!" Honest, the staff wasn't put off by me, they were lovely and even the Room Boss was a sweetie. The woman who scowled at me - I think her face was stuck like that unfortunately. By far and away, the pain was what coloured my perception - and if you have to go to the hospital don't be scared; it's the best place to be if you're really ill as I assurred my worried mom Sunday night.

**As a matter of fact, after I was admitted, the doctor in charge of my are was the same one I had problems with when he treated me for shingles. He told me "I think you express your pain much." which I understood to mean either I'm expressive or more likely I over-exaggerate. I marvelled at his ability to be able to mentally climb inside his patients brains and be able to determine how much pain they're feeling. He has no idea. I hope in the future us humans will develop the power to temporarily mind-meld with others and just for a moment allow another person to feel exactly the same as us. Wouldn't that be trippy? Then you'd truly be able to empathize. I really don't think I'm a wuss, so if I'm complaining about pain it's for realz. (Have you ever had a sort of pain where that's simply all there is? I mean - like there is nothing else going on in the world that matters except for that pain. All you can do is focus on breathing and pain. I think I can understand childbirth now.) I need to call my mom and say thanks.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Here's a Little Post I Wrote

Stress is a trendy little buzzword isn't it? Who isn't stressed out these days? Not enough time. Not enough money. Work. Need sleep. Everything moving so quickly, it feels sometimes like I can't breathe. I can't think. I can't figure out how to fix this crap that makes me unhappy. I don't know what to do, and it feels like no one is listening to me, and you know what? They're not.

This is my fault. I've surrounded myself with people who are unable to understand me because they lack the ability. I'm fueling the fire as well, because I've just stopped talking, pretty much - and thrown my hands up in the air in surrender because I can't sort out my feelings and simplify them enough to even get them half understood. It's difficult to get your needs taken care of when you're not sure what it is that you need, and you lack the energy to even try. I sometimes want to punch myself in the face because of how natural it is that I'd slice up every bit of me and serve it on little plates, giving everything away until there's nothing left at all. I'm so distracted lately and I feel so,...I can't even get the right word, but it's somewhere between unhappy, lost, disingenuous, fake, unsatisfied, owned, isolated and crowded. I feel like I can't write, and I hate that.

Stress. I feel it, and can admit how overwhelmed I feel, but I have never given stress the credit it deserves. We've been playing Hide and Seek it seems - but when it's my turn to hide I choose somewhere stupid. Like under a leaf. Or by closing my eyes and pretending that makes me invisible. Then it's my turn to seek and while I close my eyes and count stress just splatters itself all over everything so when I open them it's impossible for me not to find it. I feel ripped off because this isn't a game of Hide and Seek after all. It's a game of Find and Re-find.

I think maybe Stress gets angry when you treat it like a game anyhow. Maybe by capitalizing it I can appease for a bit?

I woke up Saturday feeling kind of weird. I thought it was just some leftover haze from the work party the night before, but I really hadn't drank that much. I was home and asleep just after midnight which is totally unusual for me. But I started doing things that needed to get done, tidying up and putting a load of laundry in. Sitting down in front of the computer it occurred to me that something felt strange. Was I going to be si,...and I barely had time to turn my head before I threw up all over the floor. I cleaned that up, rinsed out the towels and added them to the laundry I'd paused before it had even filled up half way. Then I walked back into the apartment and threw up all over the floor again. WTF?!?

I spent the rest of the day puking and by the time boyfriend came home from work in the late evening I was writhing, with my muscles all seizing and pausing only to retch into a puke filled bucket beside the bed. Welcome home, honey! It took an hour for me to get down into a taxi and in the ER the doctor said I had severe gastro-intestinal distress and my stomach was in spasms. I was really dehydrated. They shot me up full of whatever and hooked me up to IVs and sent me home three hours later. I fell into bed but slept fitfully and worsened again until dawn when I went back to the ER and they admitted me.

It's the first time I ever had to stay in a hospital, so I've been lucky. But I wouldn't recommend having to stay in a Korean hospital. The experience sucked, and I'll elaborate in a post later tonight, I promise. I've got to get ready for work, and I shouldn't be going. I campaigned for an early release yesterday evening, but the doctor wanted to keep me for another two days. If I don't go to work, though, I think my boss is going to really pressure me into not going to Japan on Friday, a trip I booked the day after I last returned from Japan at the beginning of January. But I really really really want to get the hell out of here for awhile, even though five days is far too short. I'll take what I can get.

While my boss, his wife, and the new manager were visiting me in the hospital yesterday morning they asked if I'd had stomach troubles like that before, and I answered yes. Just over eight years ago at Christmastime when I remember feeling similarly wholly dissatisfied and unhappy with my life I spent a day and a half retching and writhing and sweating and swearing and that culminated into a nice shot of demerol that finally smoothed me out. Just a few days after I applied for a job in Korea. I needed a dramatic change, and so I went for it. I had taken that illness as a sign that Stress isn't something to be toyed with, but I guess some lessons need re-learning.

So, okay. I get it.
Now all I have to do is figure out what's next and how to hang on until I can get free and get moving.

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from my brother who's waiting to hear I'm okay. He also wrote that my grandfather had a stroke on Saturday and is in the hospital. There's no word yet on how he's doing. I want to write and tell my brother I'm okay, but I'd be lying. I'm just trying to hang on until Friday in the hopes a little distance will give me a little clarity. (As if I'm not distant enough already, man.) But now I'm going to get in the shower in the hopes that a little soap will give me little clean.