24 October 2008

Thank You Kenya!

I have been waiting and waiting for a legit hit from Africa and I finally got one today. Someone from Kenya looked at my blog. I thought about calling Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates Africa but they are Asia. So now I have been read on every continent but Antarctica and that doesn't count. Some of you might wonder why this is important to me and why it should be important to you and why I am writing about who reads my blog and they answer to that is simple. I am vain.

The other answer is that I want certain people to know that a lot of people apparently find what I write interesting enough to check it out. Many, many people read this blog and many of you have taken the time to write and say hi or even to ask me questions. The last post, on teaching, generated some interesting emails from people who were teaching in Korea who had similar or dissimilar experiences and a couple of people who were thinking about coming over and had questions. I wish that I had done that and I am glad to help in any way I can. And if the last post came off negative I am sorry. I love it here and coming to Korea is the best decision I have ever made. It isn't easy and there are bad days but most of the time it is a dream. I wouldn't trade my time here for anything.

It rained here for a few days but today there is a high blue sky and visibility is incredible. From my classroom window I can see ships out on the ocean and that must be at least 10k. I have been going out for guy night every Thursday with Tom for a couple months and last night Brian joined us. Steamed pork and the batting cages. Tom and I have been hitting at least once a week and I am not joking we are getting pretty good. Last night I changed Tom's grip and he was cranking them. The pitching machines throw like Bob Gibson. I didn't hit much in the USA so I don't have a point of reference but these machines are wild. I mean throw at your head wild. A couple are consistently high but the one I usually hit (the fastest: 140kph) throws mostly strikes with the occasional beaner. The lefty machine threw a Rick Ankiel last week (about twenty feet high and outside). That will keep you on your toes.

I am now the only male teacher (out of thirty) since Clayton left and that is kind of weird. I have to go get the rice by myself now. Carrying two stacked pots of rice and water up six flights of stairs every morning is good for me. This morning the cook filled my pockets with tangerines as I left the kitchen.

Yujin had midterms this week and I can tell talking to her on the phone she is utterly exhausted. She is coming to Busan tonight on the train and I am going to give her some TLC and relaxation tonight. I think we are going to fly kites this weekend. I bought some small ones and Brian has a stunt kite and I think we are going to Daedaepo. It is a very wide beach with lots of room to run around. I think the water has gotten to cold to swim but I might try. Hopefully I won't get burnt.

17 October 2008

Teaching English in Korea

I have been waiting a while to write this post. I wanted to see how things shook out and to let time mellow my perspective. Let me say first: I am not an expert on teaching in Korea. There are people who have been here for many years and if I were to seek out advice on the subject I would search out someone with far more experience than me. I will even put you in touch with them if you want. That said, what follows are merely my perspectives on the topic.

If I had it all to do over again I don't think I would teach at a hagwan. Not if I really wanted to teach and I think I do. A hagwan is a business, and as such has a responsibility to its clients to provide them with what they want. There are two ideas at work in this business/education dynamic. I am not an economist, but I am familiar with the principle that it is more important to provide a customer with what they really want, not what they say they want or mistakenly believe they want. This is one thing. The other thing to consider is who the customer is. This is really where the complication begins because at a hagwan there are two sets of customers with conflicting desires. The children are the front line clients, the ones who directly receive the services we provide, and they want one thing: fun. This is fine. They are kids. The parents want their children to learn English. Or this is what they say they want. But Korean parents, and Korean society in general, have a belief that childhood is a time for happiness. They take this seriously, and if a kid says she isn't enjoying her classes they pay attention. Korean children, in the company of their parents, are generally allowed to run amok. I like this approach to childhood. I am actually very good at providing the children with this service: I can have fun and run amok with the best of them. I can also teach English. I am rather good at it and have been doing it for some time.

The problem is doing both: even an unbalanced blend seems impossible at times. Because when you have a classroom full of kids laughing and talking and having fun, discussing the quirks of English articles is not going to work. They won't even hear you. Learning English, at least at the third and fourth year level, is hard. It involves memorization of a massive vocabulary, the comprehension of a syntax completely different (in the case of Korean and Japanese) from their native form, and, in addition, the mastery, or at least comprehension, of the base material (for example, I have two classes that use science textbooks to learn ESL, so those kids have to get the taxonomy of invertebrates [not a simple thing] while trying to learn English).

The classes in the morning, 7-year-old first and second year ESL students, are easy to entertain and it is possible to use stealth education techniques. The 9- and 10-year-old third and fourth year students in the late afternoon aren't bad either. They are trained as learners by now and wouldn't be here if they didn't want to be.

It is the four classes at the beginning of the afternoon that are a bitch. These are older (8-9) kids who are just coming to English for the first time. Some of them are second year and didn't get anything the first year and are sinking. Some of them are really bright 9-year-olds and reading about Herbert Hippo and Tess Tiger going on a picnic is not ever going to stimulate them to learn or behave. So I end up with half of the class really struggling and needing what amounts to individual attention as challenged learners and the other half needing individual attention as disciplinary problems arise because they are bored out of their minds. And if that isn't bad enough (and it is), there are the parents who want to know why their genius child is bored or standing in the corner or can't speak one sentence of English after two years of expensive lessons or has homework every night or comes home and says he hates English class and never, ever wants to go back because it isn't "fun."

So this job is really frustrating sometimes. Sometimes I wish I would have taken the advice of my recruiter and taught at the university level, four classes a week and two months vacation. I imagine: no unrealistic parents, no unmotivated learners, no ddongchim in my hemorrhoid, no smart-asses. There are also times when I am having a bad day and I feel a little hand slip into mine and a little black pair of Asian eyes looks up into mine and they say "Why are you sad?" And the funny thing is, at that point I have to say I don't know.

15 October 2008

Gyeongju Part II

Gyeongju was the capitol of Shilla, a kingdom that ruled the southern Korean peninsula for nearly a thousand years. The dynasty was formed there in 57 BC and remained in power until 930 AD. This city at one time topped one million inhabitants, then making it one of the largest cities in the world. In 668 the two other kingdoms on the peninsula (Goguryeo in the area now controlled by North Korea and the Baekje centered around the Seoul area) were subdued and Korea was first united under one ruler. The kingdom was weakened by factionalism within and pressure from another kingdom in the north until in 930 a Goguryeo military leader, Wang Geon, defeated Shilla and once again united the continent under his dynasty, Goryeo (from which the name Korea is derived). This dynasty lasted until its overthrow in 1392. The succeeding dynasty, founded by Yi Seong-gye, lasted till 1910, when the country was occupied by Japan. (This historical information from the Lonely Planet and travel pamphlets.)

Over the last thirty years the Korean government has made monumental efforts in the recovery, preservation, and restoration of the thousands of structures and artifacts located in the Gyeongju area. History is incredibly popular in Korea, and they rightfully feel proud of the relative stability of their kingdom throughout history. Whenever I have the opportunity to flip channels on Korean TV I invariably find a few channels devoted to historical documentaries and dramas based on the ancient era. Koreans also love to travel, and Gyeongju is a choice destination for many people. When we were there the place was packed, but there are so many sites to see and they are so open that it didn't seem too overused. Only at Seokguram, where there is one way in and one way out and only room for maybe twenty people to look at a time, was it a real problem.

And the curators of the place have done a good job to balance the reverence and respect necessary for things like tombs and temples with the entertainment value and crowd control necessary for high volume tourism. The city itself has made an attempt to maintain the feel of an ancient city. The two most obvious ways are in the restriction of multi-story buildings around the historic sites and the insistence on traditional roofing in those areas. Many people, wanting the traditional experience to extend to their palette will dine at one of the many restaurants near the historic sites offering "traditional Korean food." I couldn't tell the difference between "traditional" and "modern" Korean food and that is telling. Korean food is excellent across the board, and if the adage holds then "if it ain't broke don't fix it."

Here are the things we saw while in Gyeongju, in no particular order:

  • Cheomseongdae: This is "the Far East's oldest astronomical observatory. We went to this site twice, once on foot and a second time on a tour bus that duplicated couple of the previous day's path. I mention this because the tour guide had to explain to us why we were parking so far away. The observatory, because of nearby traffic among other causes, had begun to tip slightly a la Piza. This is particularly problematic for an astronomical observatory obviously. Various stones and their arrangement indicate the various components of the astronomical system as they were understood when the structure was built in the seventh century. I was interviewed by a college student when we visited the first time and he asked me what I thought the significance of this place was. I told him that while his culture was practicing actual science my ancestors were burning people at the stake for even postulating that the earth might not be flat or at the center of the universe. (If you want more technical information about this and other sites in the list I have linked to Wikipedia above.)
  • Anapji Pond: When this site was reconstructed in 1975 researchers were delighted to find out that many of the original artifacts and archetectural components had ended up in the pond. As it was dredged and rebuilt they foudn ceramics, fixtures, wooden beams, and foundation stones from the palace. It was originally built to be a "pleasure garden to commemorate the unification of the Korean peninsula under Shilla" (LonePlan 200).
  • Bulguksa: With construction beginning in 528, this sprawling temple complex in the mountains south of Gyeongju has been called the "crowning glory of Shilla temple archetecture." It is situated in the midst of beautiful gardens and landscaped grounds. A pond with a beautiful bridge and grotto lay between the main gate and the temple complex. Huge courtyards surrounded by an arcades hold the two main temples. Others are accessible only by climbing incredibly steep stairways. Monks were painting in the courtyard of the temple highest up the mountain. It was a beautiful place. If I am able to do a temple stay at some point I would like to do it here. Buddhists from all over Asia have been making pilgrimage to this place for centuries. The Wiki for this site is particularly well done.
  • Seokguram: Like Bulguksa, Seokguram has a place on the Unesco World Heritage List. This is the only historic site that I had previous knowledge of before coming to Korea. The huge stone Buddha at this site was one of two or three depicted in the Asian section of the Humanities 101 textbook I taught with at Lincoln Land. It was truly amazing to see this in person. The Buddha sits in a stone rotunda that is partially carved into the side of a mountain. The Bhudda itself sits 3.5 meters tall and overlooks the sea from its mountain perch at 750 meters above sea level. Since times of old he has been regarded as a protector of the nation.
  • Cheonmachong: One of the many tomb mounds, or tumuli, in Gyeongju, this one has been escavated and is open to the public. Half of the tomb's core has been removed, allowing visitors to see how the tombs are constructed. Wooden beams box the burial chamber, which in this case was about 3x5m. There were many gold artifacts unearthed from the tomb and replicas were on display, including golden crowns, diadems, and breastplates, painted horse tackle, and bronze table service.
There were other things, including a group of traditional dancers, which were talented and beautiful to behold. All of these things are viewable in the picture album posted here. Thanks for reading.

14 October 2008

Haedong Yonggungsa and Songjeong Beach

This Sunday past Yujin and I went for a short trip to Haedong Yonggungsa. The temple is located in a place that (I think at least) is geographically significant. I think of the point it sits on as being the southeastern corner of the squarish bottom of Korea. Why this is important to me is because when I first can here I had a very difficult time getting my cardinal points straight in my head. Part of this is due to the Korean idea of space and its measure and marking (the streets here don't have names and they have a habit of printing maps without regard to the compass so north isn't always on top). It is also due to the fact that I somehow got it into my head that Busan stood on the easter shore of the peninsula. It doesn't. It faces the sea in an almost due southerly orientation. I have slowly reoriented my head, but once you screw something like that up you never really get it right again.

The beach was nice. I would like to go there again. There were a few hotels on the strip and some restaurants but the whole scene was a lot less built up than Haeundae or Gwangan. There was even a little surf shop that rented kayaks. Next time I am taking a kite.

The temple was crowded but beautiful nontheless. It seemed like more of a wishing well than a temple I fact, the temple was reached by a large granite bridge spanning an ocean gorge and there was a pool at the head of the gorge with a Buddha in the middle holding a bowl and people were chucking money off of the bridge at a hectic pace, trying to hit that bowl. I emptied my pockets. There were also little places to pray and light candles and incense all over. Several of the statues are accorded special powers. The Buddha whose belly I am touching is supposed to grant male heirs. I don't want any heirs of either sex but we will see what happens.

There are quite a few pictures and they are posted here. I tried to take a variety of shots, landscapes and close-ups. I have been watching photography lessons on You Tube. I hope my photography is improving but it is not my strong suit. Yujin has a real knack for finding artistic subjects so if you see a very good one it is probable that she took it.

There Was a Farmer Had a Dog

We just got back from the best field trip we have been on. The director (owner) of the school (daycare) owns a farm (house and garden) near Gijang and we went there for the children to get a taste of the country life. They shelled beans (the red soy variety that goes into the red bean sauce), dug potatoes, dug peanuts, picked about a peck of peppers, and generally had a great time. I loved it. After we were finished in the garden they took me into the courtyard of the house where they were in the middle of a variety of industries: drying peppers and beans, salting vegetables for kimchi, and picking the seeds out of huge cucumber-ey looking things (they use the dried membrane around the seed to scrub dishes). I told Jenny teacher to ask if I could stay and the lady who lived there said something that made everyone laugh and Jenny translated it as "you can live here with me," but I think it was maybe something more suggestive. They told me I can go there anytime I want and I think I will. There is a bus (181) that goes right to the gate. About ninety percent of the gardens were given over to the cultivation of three crops: cabbage, peppers, and sweet potatoes. There were also peanuts, onion, eggplant, and a few things I didn't recognize. The mountains closely surrounded the farm but it was on the southern face of the hillside so it was light and warm. The mountains across the valley were cool and dark. In the valley below workers were in the fields haresting cabbage. It is the time of year now when everyone puts up their stock of kimchi for the year. The kimchi made now, properly salted and buried in the ground in huge crocks, will last until next year this time. I am not a fan of the "ripe" kimchi that is everywhere now, as it has been fermenting for almost a year. I like the fresh stuff. Hopefully that will be more common soon. We tried some pickles at the farm that the farm lady had made and they were delicious. Along one side of the garden was a vine covered place to sit, and I think I might go there and sit under it soon. Next time I will take my camera.

09 October 2008

Gyeongju Part I

Although Busan and Daegu and Gyeonju roughly form a triangle I thought it would be nicer to travel together so I took the train to Daegu after work Thursday night. Friday was National Foundation Day (3 October 2333 BC Tan-gun left his heavenly home and bear-mother and formed the Choson dynasty and, as a result, Korea). Yujin had a class till 9:30 but she ditched the end of it and we went out for some dinner: makjang, table grilled pig intestines sliced into little rings which I actually like quite a bit if they are cooked at least medium-well. I stayed at the same hotel by the station and the same old lady asked me if I wanted a sex-partner and I again said no and it felt like home.

They had been giving me a room on the fifth floor with a view of the dirty back of the hotel behind and I, habitually convinced I am being screwed, had determined to get one of the nicer rooms I had seen on the street side down on the second floor (the first floor is a couple of restaurants). Well I found out that night that they had actually been doing me a favor because the second floor is a very busy place. I heard things I am still trying to forget and I think I actually started dreaming even worse things and as a result I am not sure what was what. And there was some confusion anyway when I told them I wanted to be on the second floor they showed me the clipboard and I thought the ones with the checkmarks were open and I pointed to one of them and they looked at me real funny and took me up there anyway and got out the house key (bad sign) and unlocked the door and there was a pile of shoes inside the door (worse sign) and strange noises were clearly audible. I said "AnnEEEEEEE!" ("NOOOOOO!!!") and we slammed the door and took off down the hall and ducked into the first open door and that became my room. Never again.

There were no seats on the train so we got a couple of tickets on the bus for the following morning (3300W! [$3.30]). It was a nice trip and quick. On the way there we got out the old LonePlan and called around to some hostels and motels and I wanted to stay in the Hanjin Hostel which is supposed to be super cool but they didn't really have couples-type accomodations so we got a room down the street from there at the Taeyang-jang Yeogwan (30000W) and when we got there we found the fella to be very nice and the room even nicer. It was decorated with genuine imitation Victorian furniture and had a huge bed and a nice big brand new bathroom with a nine headed shower, not counting the hand-held. Lovely.

I am skipping over a couple of things that we saw because I want to put all of the sightseeing in the next post together. The rest of this post I want to devote to Friday's lunch and the afternoon's entertainment.

At lunch we went to Kuro Ssambap. The parking lot and the entryway were surrounded by cages filled with exotic birds and the foyer had a strange set of figurines set up in a display of folkways. There were also stuffed birds (former members of the menagerie outside?) and a large collection of interestingly shaped rocks. This is a hobby of Chinese origin (called suseok I think in Korean) practiced of old by the aristocracy: the collection and artful display of rocks that vaguely, and I mean very vaguely, resemble something else. I have seen these before (in Mokpo), and it always seems to me that there must have been a rock somewhere which more resembled a horse or whatever it is supposed to be, but that part of the deal was that you really had to squint to see it. If it was too close, it ruined it. That is the way it seems to me anyway. For all of this (I didn't even mention the souvenir stand), the real show is the food. The goal of ssambap is to fill the table. It is considered crappy ssambap if you can fit any more dishes on the table when they are finished carrying it all out. And that was the first thing that amazed me. The speed at which the staff got the food out. The first lady brought out three or four of the larger items and the second lady brought all the rest on one big shiny aluminum tray. It all fit together like a puzzle. These trays, I could see in the kitchen, were stacked to the ceiling along the walls and they got one down and put the hot items on there and muscled it out. And these gals were not big either. They bussed the tables just as quick. All the dishes nestled together and everything fit just so and back it went. I don't like to think about that because we ate about one fourth of the food they brought and the economic reality of the situation is that it all went back and got recycled. But anyway...

The food. I took the time, with Yujin's help, to write it all down. This is a good primer into the basic principle and selection of Korean restaurant service. All Korean meals include up to a dozen refillable side dishes, called banchan. These vary from restaurant to restaurant and most places change at least some of the dishes regularly based on season or the whim of the proprietor. Some of them are very strange, and some of them are not very tasty to my palette at least, but I like to try new ones anyway and I have found that some things I was almost positive I wouldn't like were absolutely delicious. So, in the picture above, starting in the top right corner, here is the line-up (apologizing in advance for inaccuracies and misspellings. Yujin even had to guess on a couple of identifications and my notes have corrections made after tastings. I also apologize for the photograph, which is slightly out of focus and will not justify much magnification, although you can try by clicking on it):

  1. songpyeon: traditional Korean rice cakes. Like eating Playdough. Yujin loves them ("I'm Korean") and ate all four of these.
  2. Sesame leaf, blanched.
  3. Sesame leaf, pickled with kochujang (see below).
  4. Yujin's rice pot.
  5. Yujin's soup.
  6. Cucumber kimchi.
  7. Yujin's rice water. Don't ask.
  8. Fresh greens (for wrapping and flavouring). Lettuce, kale, dandelion, cilantro.
  9. (row two, beginning on the right) Oysters in kochujang. I am guessing on the seafood. When you order hoe, the Korean raw fish banquet, the sides often include a selection of gutted sea squirts, sea cucumbers, and sea snails. It could have been one of those but I thought I recognized something about them and am calling it oyster. Complex and delicate taste and texture.
  10. Small dried anchovies with tiny hot green peppers in rice vinegar and sesame oil. These little boogies were hot, now. I made Yujin a wrap and snuck some of this in and asked her if it was hot: "I'm Korean."
  11. Spinach cooked in soy sauce with sesame oil and sugar.
  12. Small dried anchovies in kochujang. These little fish add a nice salty flavour to a wrap. The kids at school often have a fistful for their morning snack.
  13. Beef boiled with soy sauce. Dry but delicious.
  14. Larger whole anchovies in a pepper sauce.
  15. Lemongrass pickle, we thought.
  16. (row three, right) Paek kimchi. This is the white cabbage kimchi. Less spicy, more sour notes.
  17. This plate holds two kinds of kimchi. The one on the right is similar to the gat kimchi sold in Hyangiram. It is made of what I think are mustard greens and has a slightly mustardy marination. The other is the traditional red cabbage variety, called baechu kimchi.
  18. Whole fish, lightly battered and fried. This definitely fell into the "better than it looks" category. It was light and fresh and surprisingly meaty. This, and the next five dishes (excepting the sauces and egg pot), comprised the main courses of the meal.
  19. Pork bulgogi. Absolutely wonderful. Just a little fat and cooked down in a sweet, spicy marinade.
  20. This and the next, adjacent the bulgogi, are the ketchup and mustard of Korean cuisine. First, on the right, is red bean sauce, made from soybeans and red pepper. Mildly spicy, it is a key component in many soups and stews and goes well with anything in wraps.
  21. The other sauce, kochujang, is red pepper paste. I have both of these sauces in the fridge at home. I have come to really love this one, however. It is a reduction of red pepper powder and glutinous rice flour. Very hot, very sweet. Some varieties add in some garlic and I like those the best. I eat it in everything. Tonight for supper I had kochujang tuna salad over tomatoes (I found some!).
  22. Beaten egg soup in a hot pot. Some of these are more soup, less egg. This one was all egg. They heat the pot up till it turns red and pour in the liquid (usually salty chicken or fish broth) and then drop in the egg. It is still boiling away when they bring it out.
  23. Same with this. It is doenjang jjigae, which means soybean paste (think miso, but stronger) stew. It had seaweed and bean sprouts and was really good. This might have been Yujin's single favorite dish. Guess which one was mine?
  24. Not this one: rice porridge. I don't remember if this one had much in it. I have had very good rice porridge, but for me the texture has to be just right and I like mine with seafood and vegies. To gritty and I think grits, too smooth and it feels unfoody. I think now that if it wasn't in the picture I just would have clean forgotten it.
  25. Pajeon. Green onion pancake. If I could have got the nerve up to ask for a refill of anything (which is not only allowed but usually appreciated), it would have been this. I get this whenever I can. The batter is more crepe than pancake, crispy on the edges and gooey in the middle. Many times served with chopped octopus: fantastic. (After writing all of this my mouth just now started watering.)
  26. (row four, right) Cucumber pickles.
  27. Mushrooms. These and a dish on the next row were served in a white marination of a kind I have not encountered. It tastes good, but something about it seems, well, alive. (I am sure corrections will be forthcoming so hold on.)
  28. Pickled fish. Tiny raw filets in a spicy brine, almost a sweet ceviche. But not quite. It was another good wrap ingredient. I think we ate all of it.
  29. Clear noodles with tofu. Classic, simple and delicious.
  30. Bean sprouts.
  31. Bracken. She looked up the Korean word in her cell phone translator and that is what it said.
  32. (bottom row, right) Silverware. This is how it comes.
  33. My rice water.
  34. My soup.
  35. My rice pot.
  36. Long beans in the mysterious white marinade.
  37. Bell flower. Translator again.
  38. Blanched greens (for wrapping). White cabbage, kelp, and turnip greens (my favorite, excepting sesame leaf).
Well there you have it. I meant to get to the entertainment tonight but that ain't happenin'. There are pictures up now and you can view them here.

08 October 2008

Name That Fruit

I thought it would be nice, given the title of the last post, to contradict myself and literally eat some raw fruit just to show the world (and I guess myself too) that I am not a chickenshit and can still eat raw fruits and vegetables in Korea. I just don't know what I am eating. I meant to buy some tomatoes to go with my canned tuna. I got off the bus one stop early and went to the street vendor there and bought these beauties. I got them home and started cutting them up and noticed immediately that they don't have seeds. I thought: "Hey, I like seedless tomatoes! Wait. Seedless tomatoes?" Then I tasted one. It ain't tomato. I have no idea what it is. They are actually quite good. A bit of mellow sweetness and a very light flavor. The closest I can come to the taste is cantaloupe, but that isn't right either. If you know what they are let me know, and if you need a better look, click the pic.

By the way. I scrubbed them with soap.

I had intended to get a post on my trip out tonight, since it will be Sunday before I can work on it again. But when I plugged my card into the computer I realized I had 535 pictures. I want to publish the photos with the posts and it will take a little time to get through them. Some of them are rather good I think and I want to work on them a bit. So bear with me. There will be a Gyeongju post shortly.

06 October 2008

Don't Eat Raw Fruit or Vegebles In Korea. Ever.

I woke up Sunday morning in Gyeongju feeling bad. Really bad. I got out of bed and immediately threw up the entire contents of my stomach. And then some. At first I cursed the soju which I had drank the night before but it soon became apparent that this was not alcohol poisoning. I had only drank maybe five beers and a couple of sojus the previous evening and that would not ever make me throw up. This was something worse. Far worse.

I had read in the Lonely Planet and on the CDC website the warnings about eating raw fruits and vegetables in Korea and I had scoffed. This was a horrible mistake. The night before we had visited a bar and as part of the "service" one is always provided they gave us some cucumbers and grapes. I had eaten of the poisoned fruit.

The immediate problem, aside from my impending death, was that we had tickets for the train that morning. I was so sick I could barely walk. I begged Yujin to go without me, to leave me to die. She refused and packed everything and dressed me and helped me out to the curb. We flagged a taxi and I limped from the cab stand to the platform and got a can and a half of Pocari Sweat down me. I threw this up soon after the train left and spent most of the next hour and a half in the tiny train toilet alternately standing up and sitting down and sometimes both. I was really hurting bad: horrible abdominal cramping, dripping with sweat, aching all over, green. And the train stopped like ten times and I wasn't sure where we were so every time it slowed down for a station I got myself together a bit and went to wake up Yujin (gods bless her) and ask her if we were there yet.

We weren't. The air conditioner in our car was broken so the conductor kept fiddling with the electric console (right outside of the bathroom is why I know) and he finally rigged up the fans or something but we were the first car behind the engine and the fans sucked in the diesel fumes. This really helped. As did the fifty screaming children on their way to the beach. By the time we got there the car was empty but for a few seats, including the one behind me, and I will tell you how sick I was: this Person had a bag of chips or something and the sound of the bag crinkling was sending waves of nausea through me. I muttered curses about it and I think Yujin must have said something to him because the sound stopped but I am not sure because the sickness had gotten worse and worse and I was delirious.

We then faced the walk to the terminal (the car closest the the engine of course being the furthest from the 150 steps up to the station. There was a down escalator.) We got a cab and I somehow made it home before I threw up again outside my apartment in front of three of my neighbors and the Chinese delivery guy. Yujin had seen enough by this point and shooed me up to my apartment and went to get the "medicine" I had to this point been refusing. She came back from the pharmacy with two pills, a small brown bottle, and a tiny brown vial with a rubber cork in it. She told me to drink half of the brown bottle with the pills and then she uncorked the vial and poured that in the bottle and shook it up and I drank that. It tasted like the distilled contents of a compost heap. I felt better immediately.

I asked her about it later. She said she described my symptomology to the "pharmacist" (these pharmacies don't sell prescription medicine) and he went back behind the counter and started mixing. There has been previous mention in this blog of secret serums (see the sea-sickness episode) and I am now a believer.

I spent the next twenty-four hours in bed. I am a complete baby when I am sick, but Yujin seemed to think this was heaven: her very own patient! After the nausea and diarrhea went away I developed a pretty high fever. She put cold rags on my head and put another one in a Ziplock in the freezer and put that one under my neck and made me soup and made me eat a little of it. She stayed Sunday night instead of going back to Daegu and I woke up periodically to the feel of her little hand on my forehead. She is an angel. I don't know what would have happened if I had not had her here. I think I really could have died. I drank almost four liters of water last night and today and I still feel dehydrated.

This was the end of a wonderful weekend at Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla kingdom, a dynasty that ruled the peninsula for a thousand years. I have many wonderful pictures and stories to relate and they will be coming forthwith. Peace.