Elwood 5566

Bathhouse Basics (14) The Massage Pool (안마탕)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Basics, Health care by 노강호 on March 20, 2011

one variety of massage pool (안마탕)

The an-ma-tang (안마탕 – massage pool) appears in various guises. In some bathhouses this can be a large pool with a wide variety of hydrotherapy ‘stations.’ In such bathhouses large massage-baths will provide water massage to every part of the body including the soles of your feet. Usually they consist of some form of cubicle in which you stand or lay and after activating a button, are subject to powerful jets of water which will massage a particular area. Smaller pools produce massage jets at a lower intensity and over which you have to maneuver whatever part of your body is in need of treatment.  Sometimes the pool has only one activation button and so the experience is shared while other pools have a number of individual births in which you lay and your own activation button.

power showers, ideal for relieving tense back and neck muscles

These pools are great for treating muscular problems though for spinal related aches and pains, cold pools often have a very powerful shower that once activated you can move under to allow your spine and back to be thoroughly pummeled. There is a great variety in the nature of massage pools ranging from ones that are little other than jacuzzi, to ones that seem to vibrate intensely and rumble you internal organs producing an effect that feels like your are about to produce an enormous fart, to others which are powerful enough to give you an enema should you inadvertently put your backside in the line of fire.

individual massage ‘births’

In Song-So, West Daegu, Migwang  (미광) has a small massage pool but an excellent power shower in the cold pool. Hwang-So (황소) has a small  ‘rumble’ type pool with 4 individual ‘berths.’ Meanwhile, the new jjimjilbang in Dasa (다사), Hyu-Rim-Won (휴림원), which is a short taxi or subway ride from Song-So Industrial Complex, has a very large and complex massage pool.

relaxing

an-ma-tang (안마탕)

and with a window view

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Sucking a Crystal Failed to Realign my Wonky Teeth (Kombucha and Pas 파스)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Ballads, Health care, oriental Medicine, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on February 27, 2011

commercial kombucha

Podcast 73

You can probably buy them back home, I’ve never looked, and you can certainly buy something similar in spray form. Medicines work better when you haven’t a  clue what they do. The addition of a language you can’t read plus the fact the ‘medicine’ is traditional, and we all know the allure of oriental traditions in western culture,  lends a mystique to the product in which we tend to put more faith than in western medicine, and in which some put excessive faith. Of course, there may be some truth in the power of positive thinking which can boost our health and possibly rid our bodies of cancers and impurities so, I don’t want to be too dismissive of products which help to wish yourself well.

a wide choice of ‘pase’ (파스)

So, for the last month I’ve been laid up with painful knees caused by too many trips down the local mountainside. My injuries stem from October, shortly after an eye infection (red-eye) stopped me using the gym and bathhouse. Instead, I took to the mountains and overdid it and because I go down uneven ground, left-leg leading, I’ve had persistent problems with that knee. The bout of red-eye I contracted began on the very evening of the autumn festival (ch’u-sok), so it was only to be expected that the problems with my knees would flare up on the very eve of the Lunar New Year.

as advertised on TV

Then I was recommended these large patches (파스) that you basically stick  wherever you have a pain. You can buy them in any chemist where they are available in different sizes. And though I can’t read what the patches are supposed to do, I am confident that the miraculous powers of crystal crap are at work. Not only do some of the patches chill the area under them, numbing any pain, but they smell like they might work. There are many different brands and while some are impregnated with conventional analgesics, others seem to be based on oriental formulas or possibly an east meets west medicinal fusion a little similar to pizza and jam or don gasse and tinned fruit. On my second night of wearing them, I went to bed looking like something from Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, and on every area of my body where I had an ache or soreness, and I discovered a few, I stuck  a plaster. I was sure they were working, that was until my doctor (of western medicine) told me all theywould do is reduce pain and totally lacked any further potential.

wtf?

Where the cold light of science doesn’t shine to dismiss the incredible, we find sanctuary and it’s amazing the things we will subject ourselves to once we’ve taken solace in the concept – which is really no different from religion. A few years ago I spent 18 months brewing a living jelly mold in a warm, dark corner of my house. Every few days I would tap off  the liquid on which it floated. Kombucha is a drink believed to have numerous health benefits if drunk on a regular basis but it is difficult to prompt a thirst for it when it’s basically moldy water. However, in fairness, it was palatable and a cross between a mild vinegar and apple juice. It is also mildly alcoholic (0.5%). I have since tried commercial kombucha and it was very refreshing, if not expensive. Kombucha tea is easy to grow and you can birth yourself a batch with a cup of cold, sweetened tea and within a month or so, you too can have a ‘mother’ sized jelly pancake from which you can make other batches at an accelerated rate. I have also heard of people eating the mold, also known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), by frying it. I found it too gelatinous and phlegmy to enjoy. Interestingly, kombucha has a long history throughout various parts of the world, including Russia, Japan and Korea. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the name ‘kombu’  may have derived from Korea and mold in Korean is kom-bang-i (곰팡이).

a kombucha ‘scoby’ which provides the culture for future offspring

a ‘scoby’ looking somewhat scabby

My faith in both the kombucha and passe patches (파스) of the non-analgesic variety is borne out of my faith in the mystical powers of eastern medicine and it is the same faith which spurs crystal crap in general as well as the wider interest in Feng Shui (known in Korea as 풍수). The one problem with alternative medicine is that credible practices are lumped together with totally loony ones. I am skeptical, but selectively so and for example; with muscle aches, strains and sprains, or joint problems, I go to an oriental doctor before a western one. Crystal crap however, just seems to lack credibility. I have had several friends give me small crystals with instructions on where to place them and then been told they would ‘heal me’ or help promote ‘good health.’ What I find rather amusing is that in the west such crystals are always pretty and do make lovely ornaments, if that’s your thing, but no one ever suggests you to put a lump of charcoal by your bed, and charcoal is used in Korean bathhouses, and no one ever tells you to use something ugly like coal or a chink of flint.  And neither would I mind being recommended some crystal therapy with an ounce of jade except for the fact I’ve bathed and saunaed in, and slept on a couple of tons of it. Every time I go to the bathhouse I end up bathing in one pool or another, or one sauna room where the walls are made from something, jade being the most common, which is supposed to benefit the body,  yet  I seem no more benefited by such elusive powers than someone who has never set foot in a bathhouse. Perhaps I lack the faith to will myself well when it comes to crystals but, until sucking a crystal can rectify a badly rotted set of teeth, I will retain my scepticism.

homemade kombucha, actually, quite palatable

Yes, the patches reduced pain and the the kombucha was fun to make and tasted okay!

Chinese names for kombucha include:

红茶菌 – red fungus tea

红茶菇 – red mold tea

茶霉菌 – tea mold.

In Japanese it is known as ‘red tea mushroom‘ – 紅茶キノコ

Interested in kombucha – click this link.

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Bone Dry -The Problems of Ondol

Posted in Health care, seasons by 노강호 on December 6, 2010

prevention is better than cure

Acclimatising  is a long process and often foreigners who come to live on the peninsula are plagued with a series of illness as viruses and bacteria take advantage of human immune systems not optimized to operate in Korea. And in the process, especially if it is winter, your skin is ruined. In my first year in Korea I seemed to lurch from one illness to another and certainly for the first few months felt run-down. Of course, people suffer to differing degrees and a few escape it all together.

one of many brands of callous remover

Winter wreaks havoc with the skin. Ondol heating is great but it causes many problems one of the most prolific is drying the skin on the feet which means those with lots of hard skin need to be particularly careful. Pharmacists stock a number of foot creams specifically aimed at dry skin and there is also a small mains operated callous remover that can be purchased in places like Home Plus. Preempting a cracked heel is essential and a good soaking, for example in a bathhouse on a regular basis, followed by chastising  the skin with a pumice stone (available in E-Mart) is prudent. I avoid using the large stones in bathhouses for this purpose as the force you exert with your leg can actually force open a weak spot. on your heel or sole.  It’s amazing how quickly rough skin will ruin a sock. I also use very sandpaper and a small wooden block simply because you can use this more vigorously than one of those small plastic handled things you buy and which break the moment you apply any force.

humidifiers (사습기), I find them quite therapeutic

The dry air also irritates the nose and lips so lip balm is a necessity as is Vaseline. I even put a little Vaseline in my nose when I feel the air the uncomfortably dry. Everyone’s body is different and affected by a range of factors such as age and even ethnicity. For example, the dry cold wind always makes my forehead dry so I keep a bottle of skin lotion on hand for whenever required. Investing in a humidifier (가습기) for your accommodation is a benefit and in a store like E-Mart or Home Plus, the range is extensive with prices from 40.000 Won (£20) to those in excess of 140000 Won (£70). Placing a container of water on the floor, if you use the ondol extensively, can also help put moisture into the air. Another useful accessory are the small canisters of skin spray, probably predominantly water based, which you can buy in a pharmacist. I haven’t used these as yet and only borrowed a squirt from colleagues at work.

the designs are extensive

Personally, I try to minimise the use of the ondol as I often find it uncomfortable and so putting it on when I am either in bed, or setting it to turn on and then off in the period I am out, reduces the amount of contact between that warm floor and my feet.  It may sound as if I have psychological condition in respect to this effective means of heating,  I have learnt it is much better to avoid such minor problems than wait for them to occur.

and the prices vary

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Monday Market -Oriental Quince (모과) Chaenomeles sinensis

Posted in Nature, oriental Medicine, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on November 16, 2010

oriental quince bonsai

Another portent that winter is approaching is the appearance of the oriental quince, mo-ghwa (모과). Unlike the quince found in parts of Europe and North Africa where its uses, depending on climate and hence proportions, span from making jams and jelly to a substitute potato, the oriental quince is mostly used in oriental medicine and as tea. However, the mo-ghwa’s predominant use is as an ornamental air freshener. Don’t expect wonders! It won’t clear the smell of fried mackerel or unpleasant toilet odours and neither is one potent enough to scent an entire room but for scenting corners or enclosed spaces, a car being ideal, they are successful. I have one sitting on my desk and  it subtly scents that corner of my room.

moghwa (모과)

by the bowl

Moghwa have a very waxy skin in which the scent is contained and they sort of look quite attractive. The scent is similar to that of a fruity apple. The cost varys from about a 1000 won upwards and ideally you should buy one unblemished as these will last well into spring. Supermarkets often sell them in a small basket.

oriental quince tree and fruit

At this time of year one can see many trees bearing fruits, dae-ch’u, unhaeng (ginkgo), persimmon and Asian pears, for example. However, it is illegal to pick fruits from any tree on sidewalks or parks as the trees are not public property.

When buying one, especially from street vendors where they are much cheaper, avoid ones with blemishes or other forms of damage. A good moghwa will last the entire winter and into spring but a badly chosen one can be brown and rotted within a few weeks!


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Quality of Life

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Health care, services and facilities, video clips by 노강호 on November 7, 2010

고운 Skin Clinic, and to the right (hidden by tree) an animal hospital. Both less than 1 minutes walk from my one-room

One reason I find Korea a more enjoyable place to live is that they have not yet learnt to be as efficient money grabbers as some western countries. Yes, Korea is capitalist but it is certainly not as aggressively exploitative as the UK or indeed much of the western world.  Of course, bad things happen in Korea, like anywhere else, and without doubt political and corporate corruption exist here as much as  in Britain where a ‘forgiving’  population has effectively pardoned the  recent greedy excesses of politicians. The things I like in Korea are possibly destined to disappear in the greed which seems to epitomize aggressive capitalism but until then, here some of the benefits I enjoy.

'Best' ophthalmic clinic and 'Beauty' Dentist - 2 minutes walk from my one-room

a tinnitus clinic  less than 30 seconds from my one-room

specialist hospital some 4 minutes walk from my one-room

I love the idea of ‘service’ (서비스) that shops and restaurants offer to loyal customers. A few weeks ago I recorded and wrote about the ‘concessions’ I earned (see: Freebies)  in a seven-day period, and which amounted to 20.000 Won (£10). I had free onion rings, quite a number of free beers, garlic bread, small bottles of vitamin drink and was given 1000 Won (50 pence) discount for medicine, by my pharmacist. Being given a ‘service’ immediately puts you, the customer, in a ‘ special relationship’ with the business and though you can reject it and immediately ‘shop’ elsewhere, it is rewarding and re-energizes my belief that humans are not all money grabbers. There is much more a sense in Korea that a customer is important primarily because smaller businesses vastly outnumber the large ones where in terms of customer numbers, your individual allegiance is unimportant. In Home-Plus or Tesco’s UK, my own opinions and importance are marginal and quite often the response to my complaints summarized as: ‘your expectations and tastes are obviously higher than the average customer.’ With a multitude of small businesses in the form of shops, restaurants, markets and street vendors,  your importance as an individual customer in Korea, is of more significance. The practice of being able to negotiate a discount for large purchases is an added bonus.

I’m crap at wrapping gifts but in Korea this is a complimentary service and I’m sure the wrappers have had special training. In the UK gifts are usually only wrapped at Christmas and in the season of goodwill, the biggest hypocrisy of all given it’s the greediest period of the whole year, you can expect to be charged for the service. When I hand over £3-4 (6000-8000 Won)  for the wrapping of a gift which I have just paid £40 (80000 Won) I really feel ripped-off. You can shop your entire life at small businesses in the UK and in all but the rarest of  occasions can you  ever expect reward for your loyalty.

six assistants in one opticians store

On my last visit to the UK, almost a year ago, both my local supermarket, Tesco’s, which in Korea masquerades as ‘Home-Plus, and one of  the large,  do-it-your-self  stores, B and Q, were introducing automated checkouts. As I stood in a queue in B and Q, a number of assistants were on hand to help familiarise customers with the new machinery that would no doubt put some of them out of work. Shopping in either of these stores is unpleasant as the are both gargantuan warehouses where cameras outnumber staff 10-1 and seeking help requires several  laps of the premises only to find the teenage assistant has no idea where anything is.  The automated checkout  had been programmed to welcome customers and provide basic instructions and I was pleased to hear a number of people in the queue voice displeasure at yet another facet of  customer services being relegated to a brainless machine. Despite the fact the moaning will achieve nothing and  that by this time next year  the automated checkout will be fully accepted,  I too voiced my dissent. Of course, what separates me from other customers  is that not only are my ‘expectations higher than the average customer,’ but the lengths I am willing to go  in revolt verge on the lunatic. My Luddite tendencies would not think twice about squirting superglue  in the slot designed for a credit card and I can wage a solitary regime indefinitely. Gramsci once suggested that even shopping is a political activity and I can take mine to the extreme.

3 minutes walk from my one-room, directly opposite my academy - 'Joseph' neurosurgery

When I went shopping yesterday, in my local E-Mart, I counted 4 pairs of staff on duty at each point of entry onto a level of the supermarket. As customers entered a level they were greeted with synchronised bows and verbally welcomed. Apart from the checkout assistants in stores not yet fully automated in the UK, eight members of staff is probably about the number employed on the entire shop floor of a British supermarket. In Korea, customer support isn’t  a luxury but an expectation and there are always a couple of staff employed for every section of shelves and assistance is never more than a few meters away.  Parking your car, a subject a broached in Ear Piece Mania, can entail as many as 10 parking assistants all of whom are trained in the intricacies of the bizarre hand signals used within Korean car parks. In the UK and many other places, customer support and adequate staff to assist shoppers, are either relocated in somewhere like India or have been viciously culled in the drive to maximize profits.

The first of an army of car parking attendants encountered in parking your car in the supermarket car park

 Several years ago a faulty USB port on my computer damaged my camera and electronic dictionary but this was no worry. Most companies, especially ones such as Samsung, Iriver, and mobile phone manufacturers, have service centers in every major town. For eighteen months, one of the Daegu service centers for Samsung was next to my academy, until it moved a five-minute walk down the road. Regardless, there will be a number of other Samsung centers in the city. Iriver, the manufacturer of both my MP3 and my palm reader are twenty minutes down the metro-line and the service center for my Nurian electronic dictionary, is five minutes away by bus. So, whenever I have had some problem, customer support is on hand, easily accessed and the product repaired and back in my possession within days and possibly quicker. On two occasions, mobile phone problems were repaired while I waited. When I recently had my camera repaired in the new Samsung service center, it took three days and when I went to collect it, it was wheeled out from the an adjacent room on what I can only describe as a cake trolley. Much the same support is available for computer problems and a computer service shop is located less than two minutes from my one-room. Meanwhile, in order to keep frustrated customers at bay and continue operating a  second-rate service, a token service at best, UK service centers are located in the furthest corners of the country and require your  faulty  goods to be  ferried away by courier service. And to ensure they can operate a slow service that is cheap to run, all public interface is removed and the call center relocated to Bombay or Bangladesh.

directly behind my academy, 'Future' urology clinic above which is my doctor

Korean medical care is efficient and there are more doctors and medical facilities within a six-minute walking radius of my one room than there  are be in my entire home town. Indeed, 4 hospitals are within a five-minute walk, and in less time than it takes me to walk to work, three minutes, I can reach two ophthalmologists, 6 opticians, urology, cardiology, neurology and ENT clinics, and a women’s’  health center. In addition, there are probably 5 dentists, a number of skin clinics, and a dietitians and two veterinary clinics. Remember, Korea is much more up than out and one high-rise block can contain more facilities than an entire British street where commercial businesses traditionally  and almost exclusively, occupy the ground floor. A few weekends ago, the husband of one of my colleagues needed an MRI scan after though I’m told there are a limited number of such facilities in the city, he was able to get a scan on the day he needed one and at a cost of 111.000 Won (£56) after deducting the amount provided by insurance. My colleague actually moaned that this was too expensive. Visiting the doctor involves a wait of no more than an hour and I don’t need to make an appointment. Even without Korean medical insurance the cost of a visit is no more than 7000 Won (£3.50) while the cost with insurance, is an ‘extortionate’ £1.50. And the greatest advantage for anyone living in or near a Korean city or big town, is that most medical needs  do not interrupt your daily life. When I have needed anything other than minor medical assistance in the UK, I have usually had to travel a substantial distance and then sit in various queues for several hours. All clinics in Korea have tasteful waiting areas with televisions, complimentary tea and coffee etc, and very often a couple of computers with free internet access. Admittedly, I hear and have seen examples of doctors and nurses not following universal procedures, but back home despite our rigorous rituals hospitals  are still plagued with skin eating viruses and for every account of bad practice I experience or read about on the Korean peninsula, I can match them with corresponding ones from the UK. At least when I spot something unsavory  in the Korean system, I do so in comfortable surroundings, with a complimentary coffee while watching the television and all without sitting in long queues which have necessitated taking the day off work.

a sneaky shot of my local ophthalmic clinic

a wide variety of side dishes usually replenished at no cost

With eating is my main pleasure, the ample amounts side dishes that accompany a Korean  meal and which can usually be re-ordered at no extra cost, is enjoyable. The recent cabbage shortage (Ersatz Kimchi in a State of Emergency) saw prices rise to 10000 Won (£5) for a large cabbage and caused subsequent problems with kimchi production but rather than just hike the cost up, and  subsequently leave it high  even after production costs have fallen, as happened a few years ago with petrol prices  in the UK, most restaurants in my area decreased kimchi and salad amounts and to compensate increased the portions of meat. My local bo-sam restaurant (보쌈) doubled the slices of pork from 7 to 14 and has only recently reduced the number as the price  of vegetables, and most especially cabbage, has decreased. In restaurants, chilled water in summer, and warm water in winter are complimentary and a can of coke is usually the same price whether chilled or not. In recent years, especially in hot weather, it has become a trend in the UK to charge up to as much as 1000 Won (50p) extra for the privilege of a cold drink, especially in extremely hot weather.

A Samsung service center

In Britain, unless shoes are leather it is difficult getting them repaired and for items like trainers you don’t repair them at all. Over the years we have been encouraged to sling things out and replace them as soon as they are worn.  In Korea you can easily have the  worn collars of shirts reversed and repairing shoes with rubber soles, including trainers, is easy. I had my rubber shoes soled and heeled almost a year ago whereas in the UK I would have been compelled to throw them in the bin.

Need a pair of glasses? It would probably work out cheaper to fly to Korea and buy a few pairs than pay the excessive charges levied in the UK. There is no charge for the eye examination and the price of frames begin at about 15.000 Won (£7). I have three pairs of glasses and all have frames costing less than 20000 Won (£10). Koreans love colourful frames and the range available, extensive. Cleaning cloths and cases for glasses are all free and the cleaning clothes cute and decorated. A pair of varifocal glasses, with the glass graduated so they look like ordinary glasses, costs around 200.000 Won (£100) and outside one of the opticians within a minutes walk of my one-room stands a special electrical device which you can use to clean your glasses. It’s free to use! Since optical care was privatized in the UK, the British have been abused by high street companies ripping them of. You can easily pay in excess of £300 (600.000 Won) for a pair of varifocals but the monopoly held by such greedy companies is being seriously threatened with the emergence of online opticians.

There are many flaws in the Korean system and I probably turn a blind eye to many of them,  but with all the advantages I have outlined, plus a national tax of around 3.3%, (my monthly bills, including tax, all amount to a grand total less than that I would pay for  the lowest of my monthly utility bills in the UK), I do not feel I am being fleeced or financially raped. Unlike many western countries, quality of life doesn’t cost and arm and leg.

Further Links

The Great Spectacles Rip-Off

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Mountain Obsessions

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, Health care by 노강호 on September 28, 2010

I keep saying fat has arrived in Korea but of course truly fat Koreans are still rare and nothing compared with the fatties of the USA or UK. Generally, Korean fatness is chubby rather than humongous but no doubt this will gradually change. In a recent OECD report, Korea was placed 30th  in terms of obesity in the world’s top 33 most economically developed countries.

Sunday, 5.51 am and the restaurant has customers

On Sunday morning I decided to walk up the mountain and watch the sunrise. I wasn’t quite early enough and actually reached the point where the mountain trail begins, as dawn was breaking, at about 6 am. But on leaving my house I was greeted by total darkness. Of course, it’s never quite quiet in Korea and near my house a 24 hour restaurant had customers who were either finishing off last night’s party or having an early breakfast. Even the small park by my house had a few visitors.

Sunday morning, 6.04 am and it's light

7.40 am Tuesday morning

The point at which Warayong mountain trail begins is directly opposite the municipal sports center and swimming pool with adjacent football pitches and tennis courts. As dawn broke there was already a football match underway and around the pitches I counted twenty two people briskly walking. As is usual in Korea, they were mostly middle-aged and older.

7.40 am Tuesday. Jogging and walking

6.53 am the the first peak (Dragon's Head, 용두)

Even early in the morning there are people on the trail. Koreans are quite obsessed with mountain walking and even the big climbs, up larger mountains, are perceived as a walk rather than gruesome exercise.  Most Koreans have the paraphernalia necessary for a trek in any season and in any weather: walking boots, breathable clothing, hats, water bottles, walking sticks and hankies or towels to mop up the sweat.  Once in the mountains, especially in the morning, it’s not unusual to hear people doing a Korean type of yodel and I have even heard someone practicing a trumpet.

After reaching the Dragon’s Head (용두), the crown of the Warayong Mountain, I walked a little further to where the refreshment stall is and there find twenty people, again mostly middle aged and over, working out on the exercise machines as well as a number of people waiting for the vendor to start serving.

This was taken on the Saturday

a mountain vendor

the long shadows of autumn

Children or young people are not as prolific on the mountain trails, they are usually too busy studying but in fairness, many will do one of the various martial arts or other sports. Walking up the mountain taxes me enormously and I frequently have to stop and catch my breath. However, I have yet to see a Korean pensioner as knackered by the mountain climb as I am. Indeed, for most Koreans, the Dragon’s Head is the point at which you begin stationary exercises, or climb the next peak, in either case,  it is a warm-up. For me however, it signifies the climax of my exercise routine and  once I have had a little sit down and a cup of coffee, it’s downhill all the way home.

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'Red-Eye' – Conjuctivitis

Posted in Daegu, Health care by 노강호 on September 26, 2010

I can remember outbreaks of this infection in previous summers and it is often associated with bathhouses where water is unchlorinated.  However, it is also a problem in schools and universities. and is especially problematic in Daegu. If you get an itchy eye which subsequently turns pink or red, you may have one of the numerous forms of ‘red-eye.’ The link provides a list of symptoms for the various types ‘red-eye‘ and suggestions to help  prevent further contamination. For many students, a severe case of ‘red eye‘ is welcomed as it often results in an impromptu vacation – a real vacation where both school and hakkwon attendance is suspended. Currently, one of my students has been absent from school for two weeks.

I continued teaching as the 9 days of the worst part of my infection were around chu-sok (추석) and only involved two days teaching but I avoided any contact with students and their hands were sprayed with anti-bacterial spray on arriving and leaving the school and leaving my classroom.

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Chu-Sok Cheesecake

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, Health care by 노강호 on September 26, 2010

The second most important holiday – ch’u-soek (추석)

The Lurpax was back on the shelves in E-Mart and after spending exactly 9 days with a bad case of ‘red eye,’ otherwise known as conjunctivitis, I was in need of something comforting. My right eye flared up on Friday the 17th ruining my weekend and subsequently ruining the ch’u-soek holiday (추석, September 21st-23rd) as well as the following weekend. So, on the Saturday morning I had to go to my doctor who subsequently sent me to the ophthalmic hospital. Back home in Scumland UK, I’d probably have waited 4 days to see a doctor and procedures would have thrown my plans into the liquidizer. But in Daegu, there’s an eye hospital every few blocks and doctors and opticians in every block and I can easily accommodate visits to the clinic without any disruption to my plans.  The eye hospital is approximately 200 paces from my front door! Just as well as I’ve had to re-visit the clinic every third day. The infection seems to be dwindling but this morning, sat in the doctor’s chair with my head in some contraption, I felt like Alex DeLarge and though there was an absence of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, it is a strange coincidence that whilst in the waiting room, this is the music that has entertained me on my MP3 player (in fact the Liszt piano transcription). Once my head is in the constraining device, a lengthy telescope-cum-bazooka is aligned with my eye. All week he’s simply looked and prescribed medicine but today he starts poking my eye with what felt like a dental probe. Then, through eyes streaming with tears and blood, he shows me a cotton bud laced in this red gunk which is the infection membrane.  Then I had to have a shot in the backside.

Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) in Clockwork Orange

It was only to be expected that my infection, which suspends using the gym or bathhouse, would concur with a major holiday, chu-sok (추석), the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, and I would imagine that by Monday, when normal work resumes, I will be mostly cured. There seems to be a ‘red-eye’ epidemic in Daegu and I have often seen it mentioned on the news. It seems especially prevalent in summer. At the clinic there were two families all of whom were infected and numerous other individuals with either one or two red eyes. I didn’t go out for several days but have since bought some dark glasses.

the ophthalmic clinic from my roof top (제일 안과)

So, after having my eyes attacked with a cotton bud, I went to the supermarket. The Lurpax talked to me, trying to convince me how delicious it would be on some toast and I would have bought it if  a cheesecake on   the nearby cake and bread stand hadn’t talked louder. I’ve eaten cheese cake only once in Korea and it was just like the traditional British cheese cake – the type with currents and full of mascarpone cheese. The cake is in a box and by Jupiter’s cock it  looked  very tasty!

real cheesecake, simple and unadulterated

It was pricey, 8000 Won (£4) but after a shit week and that cotton bud, plus I’d actually walked up the mountain before going to the eye-clinic, I felt I deserved it. I get home and make some fresh coffee and sit down to enjoy my belayed ch’u-soek treat and all the time the cheesecake is telling me how sexy it’s going to taste and how superbly creamy it’s going to be. And then comes the shock… where’s the fucking cheese? I cut the cake in half looking for it but the cheesecake seems to have lost half its namesake and comprises solely cake, extremely white, light cake! Nothing about it is cheesy and while it was probably a very delicious cake, it’s not a cheesecake and so, with a curse,  I chuck it straight in the bin.

Creative Commons License© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

High on Mugwort (쑥) Artemisia Asiatica

Posted in herbs and 'woods', oriental Medicine by 노강호 on May 16, 2010

After using mugwort in various soups, I decided to use it for the purpose of eliciting deep and prophetic dreams, which in the little research I did on this herb, is one of its claimed properties. You can find an interesting link for ‘dream pillows’ in my original article (mugwort). I bought two large bags of fresh mugwort, each the size of a carrier bag which I subsequently dried on my apartment floor after spreading them fairly thinly on newspaper. The drying process took about 5 days, each day, turning the ‘leaves’ to minimise the chance of decomposition. They entire two loads dried quickly with no decomposition at all. What started out as a large amount of mugwort quickly shriveled to around a quarter of the original proportion.

This was originally one entire carrier bag load of mugwort. it significantly reduces when dried.

I bought a small pillow, cost 4000W (£2) and taking out the inner pouch opened it and removed the filling. This I then replaced with the dried mugwort.

bagging the mugwort

In then replaced the inner pouch, now stuffed with dried mugwort, back into the original pillow. This in then inserted inside the larger pillow on my bed.

The 'dream pillow' - ready to go!

Now, strangely, as the mugwort was drying in my room, and it was quite a smell, like decomposing grass cuttings. I awoke one morning and instantly recalled a vivid dream about a boy who had left our school  a few months earlier. Why I dreamt about him, I don’t know but I subsequently forgot the dream and started my day. However, in the evening, as I was about to leave school, my boss told me that this boy is due to return to our school later in the week. Suddenly, I remembered my dream. Yes, strange!

I subsequently slept using the ‘dream pillow’ for around a week before removing it. I have a theory that the smell of mugwort, which is reminiscent of lying on a pile of grass cuttings, actually interferes with your deep sleep, causing you to hover over the kind of sleep during which dreams are more easily recalled. So, I don’t want to dismiss mugwort as a dream enhancers as total ‘crystal crap,’ because of the one odd, and vivid dream I did have. So,  next I want to try sleeping with the bag after the smell no longer wakes me up.

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Quintisentially Korean – Mugwort (artemisia asiatica) 쑥

Posted in Food and Drink, herbs and 'woods', Monday Market (Theme), oriental Medicine, seasons by 노강호 on April 20, 2010

Mugwort (artemesia asiatica) 쑥

In the  ebente-tang (이벤트 탕) last Thursday, the essence of the day was mugwort (쑥) which is a coincidence.  This plant has a long and extensive history in both the east and west and being Spring, it is currently readily available in street markets and from the elderly women who sit on pavements with a small selection of vegetables.

I bought a very large bagful for 2000Won (£1 sterling) which I washed, drained and put straight in the freezer. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how it is used but a quick search revealed one use is in soups. Immediately, I added some to my bean paste soup (된장 찌개)  which I was making for breakfast. Don’t be fooled into think I’m a health freak, I had a BHC fried chicken last night, with a complimentary bottle of cola! My initial reactions to the mugwort were good but I’ll need to try it again.

Mugwort is also known as Felon Herb, Chrysanthemum Weed, Wild Wormwood, Old uncle Henry, Sailor’s Tobacco, Naughty Man, Old Man or St. John’s Plant. Korean uses it to colour some types of rice cake green and it is known as a blood cleanser. It is also used in the production of the small cigar shaped burners used in the oriental medical practice of moxibustion.  The genus, artemisia, is extensive and one type, artemisia absinthiumm, is used in the production of absinthe, the oil of the plant giving this powerful drink, among other things,  its rich green colour.

Absinthe

Mugwort pillows, also known as dream pillows,  basically a pillow slip filled with mugwort, can apparently induce vivid and even prophetic dreams. I’m skeptical when it comes to ‘crystal crap’ so in my trawling for information on various aspects of mugwort, I fell upon a youtube video by ‘New Age Goddess, Djuna Wojton,’ which was too good to ignore. Djuana is a typical Earth Mother eccentric who is both entertaining and somewhat charismatic, so you can try the link and learn how to make yourself a mugwort pillow – which I intend to do when the market is next in town.

Interesting links for Mugwort:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_vulgaris

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mugwor61.html

http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_mugwort.htm

Absinthehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absinthe