Elwood 5566

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.


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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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.


'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.

Creative Commons License© Nick Elwood 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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.

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