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.

Quick! Move!

Yesterday evening I was briefly reminded how last minute life can sometimes be as a native English teacher (NET) in South Korea.  My neighbor, who also is a NET, told me that he was contacted by our real-estate agent; we were in for some stressful news.

It turns out that somewhere along the line our school and the building manager had some disagreement on how to pay for the apartment (On our contracts the schools pay for our housing).  The result was that the school would not be renewing our housing contracts with this building manager.  Thats fine and easy for them do say, but the people that have to carry the burden of this situation is not them, nor is it the building manager; it is we, the employees.

The new building that I have to move into is only one block over, but that doesn’t really matter.  The most difficult part about this situation is that I was given less than one week notice; my neighbor was given less. My new apartment is not the same size either.  There are many differences between these apartments, and I have built my home around the architecture of this one.

It may sound like a simple move across the street, but when you don’t know about it until three days before you have to move (I am planning on moving this weekend so that I can have time to arrange things), the stress and discomfort begin to swell.

I am really not happy with this situation, but seeing as I have little say in how it unfolds, I will be trying to see the best in it. That is easier said than done.

Tense Relations

It is a troubled time here in Korea with the North’s rhetoric including threats to put an end to the 60 year armistice.  I don’t think anyone is in doubt of who would win such a conflict, but what often goes overlooked is the damage potential.  Many people might think that a pre-emptive strike on North Korea would be a good solution to the problem, but even that proposed solution would likely have innocent North Korean bystanders.  Non-aggressive resolutions are certainly the best way to save human life, but at the same time it is very important to recognize the ongoing loss of life and liberty that is occurring in the north due to lack of and mismanagement of national resources.

In my relatively short time here in Korea I have grown to love this country and its people very much.  It’s culture and history, though very sad and unfortunate at times, is also something to be remembered and valued.

From what I have read, most people are not sure what to think of the DPRK’s most recent statements.  Are they true threats, or idle words?  I hope for the latter but still can’t see a healthy outcome in the current state of affairs.

I work with children here in Korea.  One generation has already been battered by the Korean war; many generations have spent their lives rebuilding the country to what it is today.  It would be a terrible loss for future generations to be robbed of peaceful lives. Even now, Koreans live with the threat of war in the back of their minds.

Monday, March 11th is supposed to be the day that DPRK will withdraw from the armistice and remove it’s  military leaders from the truce village of Panmunjom on the DMZ.  There is much speculation as to what may happen, most people think that these are just words from North Korea and nothing more.  I don’t like fear-mongering, but this is a situation that can’t be taken lightly.

I love Korea, and I wish this conflict could be resolved quickly and peacefully.

Christmas sickness

This Christmas I celebrated by sleeping all day. This is not as good as it sounds though, as I was feeling very ill. I had some sort of stomach virus that was, to say the least, very unpleasant.
Now I seem to be better, and tonight I had my first meal since Sunday. My meal was one of my favorites, cheese pizza from Costco. It’s a very simple meal of course, but Costco has a very tasty cheese pizza.


Sad story for a stray cat

Tonight was a very cold night, And as I was walking home I had a very unfortunate experience. I was about to take my normal way home when I heard a noise that sounded like a thump. As I turned around I saw something in the street; I hoped it was not what I thought it was. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I walked towards this lump in the street. Next to it was a orange tabby who was looking somewhat bewildered. When I walked closer, the tabby ran off leaving the lump by its lonesome. As I approached it, my guess was confirmed. It was a cat.
I am very fond of all animals, cats are no exception. I see strays every single day in Korea, but most of them are pretty good about living in the city. This was only the second roadkill that I had seen since I’ve been in Korea.
This one was right in front of my school, so I really didn’t want it to be hit by more cars. I went to the nearest trash pile and I emptied a small sack to put the cat in. It was very late at night, so there were not very many cars driving by as I put the limp body into the small plastic bag. As a photographer, my first thought in almost any situation is to take a picture. This situation was not one of those. I carried the bag back to the trash pile where it will probably be picked up and disposed of tomorrow.
This is not the best way to end the day.

Spilled coffee and Pepero day

Today started out to be a very bad day.  This was partly my fault for not getting enough sleep last night, but it got a bit worse than being tired. I usually brew coffee at home and take it to work in a thermos since the only coffee at school comes in little pouches of instant coffee with creamer and sugar.  As I made my way to my first class with a cup of delicious coffee, a pair of rambunctious students ran into me.  My coffee flew all over the hallway and up the sleeve of my jacket. now I was wet with coffee that was threatening to stain my jacket, tired, and my morning coffee was waiting to be mopped off of the floor.  Not a good start to a day.


The day was not all bad though.  In fact, it turned around within the hour! Today was the celebration of Pepero day! Pepero day is an entirely commercial holiday.  Pepero are long thin biscuit sticks that are usually coated in chocolate and nuts. I think most Americans know the Pocky brand.  20121109-132100.jpg

Pepero day is actually on November 11th every year because the date 11-11 looks like 4 pieces of Pepero standing upright. 20121109-132109.jpg

Pepero comes in different types and sizes. most are about 6 inches long, but some are much bigger! All of the convenience stores are packed with a wide variety of Pepero these days before the holiday.

20121109-132604.jpgSo there were two reasons that made my day much better.  The first is that my second class gave me a bunch of Pepero! The second reason is that my co-worker gave me some coffee to get me through the day.

Locked out

After coming back from a meeting, we found that the lock was broken on the door to the English office. The biggest problem with this was the fact that the door was locked to begin with, and now we couldn’t open it. All of our things remained inside as the day came to a close. 4:30 came and went, and we were still locked out of the office. Hopefully we will be able to get in soon, as the maintenance man is working on the situation.