Licorice Root Tea

As I mentioned last year, I had surgery to fix my vocal cords.  The problem began most likely due to the amount of talking I did and the amount of caffeine I was drinking.  It wasn’t really so much that I was drinking lots of caffeine, but rather that I was not drinking regular water to keep hydrated.  One very helpful discovery I have made is Kamchocha, or licorice root tea.  This tea is very sweet and it tastes nothing like licorice. In Korea it is fairly easy to find in the open markets, just look for a place that is selling other herbs.  Kamcho tea can be made simply by boiling the root in water for about 30 minutes or so.  I’ve also made it using the slow cook option on my rice cooker; I would set this up before bed and it would cook over night.  The latest method I have been using to make this tea is the easiest of all.  I take about 5 pieces of the root and put it into a 500ml thermos.  I then put boiling water in and put the cap back on.  After an hour this tea is ready and the thermos can be filled up one or two more times.

I am not sure of any medical benefits of this tea; some websites say that it acts as a demulcent to protect your throat.  In my experience I find it to be helpful to drink before a class, and soothing to drink after.

Take Care of Your Voice

About one year after arriving in Korea I began to have some sharp pains in my throat when speaking in class.  These pains would cut my words in half when they came, and it became very frustrating.  Last spring the condition quickly became worse, and I decided to visit a series of doctors.  In the end I went to a university hospital in Daejeon. Here the doctor told me that I had a small bump on one of my vocal cords.

Finally I had found the source of my pain, but how was I to fix it?  I went on thrice daily medication for about two months, and as much voice rest as a teacher can manage for a further four months.  All the while I was not allowed to drink either caffeine or alcohol.  This led to a drastic change in my lifestyle since I was used to beginning my days with coffee. For the first couple months I felt like I was constantly just rolling out of bed all day long.  Now I feel fairly normal without caffeine, but I still prefer to drink it than not.

Yesterday I went back to the doctor after three months of rest and he told me that my condition had not improved.  He said through an English speaking nurse that surgery was the next option.  Actually surgery was what I had expected from the beginning back in March, but medicine was the suggested route.  So now, in about one month, I will be going in to have surgery on my vocal cords.

The procedure is not lengthy, but it does require some prep work.  I will go in to the hospital a few weeks a head to have some pre-operation tests done.  About two weeks before the operation I will need to have a mouthpiece made so that the instruments do not chip my teeth.  The day before the surgery I will be admitted and I will spend that night and the night of the operation day in the hospital.  After that I will have about two weeks where I will not be able to speak.  This means about nine days of paid vacation from school.

The price is not exactly cheap.  By US standards it may seem affordable, but it is still a decent dent and may cost me a long anticipated vacation.  The surgery itself will cost about 700,000 won.  The pre-operation tests will cost about 55,000, and the room is incredibly cheap at about 32,000 for two nights.  On top of that I need to make a mouthpiece at a separate dental office which may cost about 100,000 won.  When it is all added up it will cost nearly 900,000 won.

I never thought that I was abusing my voice, but during my first year teaching there were no microphones in class. Luckily there are microphones in almost every classroom now; I shouldn’t have problems once this has healed.  I always drink plenty of water throughout the day, and I try not to drink very cold or very hot water. I think soon I will be investing in a small humidifier to use while I sleep.

So, for any teachers who are not thinking about voice care, do.  It will save you pain, money, and inconvenience.

Pet Beetles

Kids love to play with bugs, and Korea is no different. In Korea it is popular for kids (usually the boys) to have pet beetles! These are not small half inch beetles that you find under a rock. The popular beetles to have are around 3 inches long! I decided to have a pet beetle for a while when I found one crawling across a street one day; most students buy theirs from the super market’s pet section. You can feed the beetles fruit, but the best option is a special beetle jelly that does not attract fruit flies.

Shell fish in Korea


One of my favorite meals in Korea is grilled shellfish!  It is not cheap, but it is very delicious if you enjoy shellfish.20131029-212512.jpg


First, these are grilled, not boiled.  You can order a boiled dish, but I like them grilled.20131029-212455.jpgAs you can see, there is a wide variety of shellfish! The big ones and the half shells are my favorite.

20131029-212523.jpgHere is the first round of shellfish.

20131029-212535.jpgAs the shells cook over the grill, the clams start to open. Once they do, the meat can be eaten or added to a sauce that also cooks on the grill.  The juice from the shell fish can also be added to the sauce.

20131029-212545.jpgIt is also tasty to add chili pepper paste to the sauce! 

It is a fairly easy dish to cook, once you are done with the shells, you just toss them into the trash can.  Be careful though, if some of the shells get to hot, they tent to crack and throw some of their shell fragments.