Thursday, September 16, 2010

A hospital trip, sing-a-longs, aviator shades, and my big nose : what do all these have in common?

They were all a part of this past week in Ulsan.
Oh, what a week.

A hospital trip.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that 'hospital' is a pretty extreme word used in the States, but in Korea it is more of a comprehensive term used for a trip to the doctor's. Unfortunately I wasn't aware of this when my co-teacher told me that I needed to go to the hospital.

This past week, I've been feeling a bit low on energy and recently have begun to experience dizziness when I woke up. True to my US culture, I waited for a week before deciding to seek medical attention. My co-teacher and I visited the nurse's office first, and as it turns out I was running a low-grade fever. Once I realized something was really wrong, I cannot express how much I wanted to be sitting on the couch at my parent's house! What made this situation even more interesting was that this was my first encounter with Korean medical practices. The nurse gave me some barely-labeled pills (all in Hangul anyway) and sent me off. No better time to start really trusting another culture than when you have to get medical attention!

After school, one of Yaksa's PE teachers, Mr. Woo, took me to the hospital. Mr. Woo refers to himself as my 'Korean father' because he has a daughter my age studying abroad in Japan currently. He is a sweet man who has nothing but jokes and advice for his 'American daughter'. As any 'father' would, Mr. Woo wanted to give me health advice as well... and I'm really glad he did. The first question he asked me as he got into the car:

"Laura, do you sleep with
your air conditioner on?"

Now, being a girl from the Pacific Northwest, I am completely clueless about air conditioning. It's the kind of luxury we enjoy on those oh-so-hot-90-degree-Fahrenheit days when we go to the mall or sit in the movie theatres. having an AC in my own one-room apartment? Unheard of! And on days when the low is 90 degrees, it only makes logical sense to crank that thing full blast until hypothermia sets in.

Which is precisely why the air conditioner is considered dangerous in Korea. According to Mr. Woo, the doctor I saw, and every nurse who made that universal "ah haaaa" sound in the lobby, no one should use the air conditioner all night. It causes sickness. If I was at all skeptical yesterday, I'm a believer now. After just one night of not using my air conditioner, I feel a lot better. And maybe those other random pills from the hospital are helping; I'm not sure.

By the way, my doctor's bill went something like this:

Hospital visit: $5 USD
Medication: $2 USD
Time spent in the hospital: Under 30 minutes.

So all's well that ends well. And although this has completely ruined my appreciation for the air conditioner, I'm happy for the experience.


When I first came to Ulsan, I figured I'd be teaching the Korean children songs in my classes. When you teach 3rd graders, it's almost expected. But when it comes to teaching adults, I wasn't thinking they'd be interested in singing songs.

Well, I was wrong. Very very wrong. But I'm so happy.

These 7 or 8 adults I work with each week were stoked when I brought up "Fireflies" by Owl City and taught them to sing it. We spent a lot of time going over grammar, vocabulary and Western expressions (and they asked me to sing it for them first!), but by the end of the week we were all singing it! The highlight of this lesson was that Mr. Woo said I inspired him to begin singing again, and on Friday he performed for us all by himself. It took him about 30 times to practice, but it really paid off. Once he was on stage, he totally cut loose! It was so, so great.

Aviator shades.

My friends and I have been taking time this week to check out the downtown scene when possible (difficult with our schedules, but we make it happen!), and this weekend was pretty magnificent. There are 2 downtown districts in Ulsan: Old Downtown (Song Nam Dong) and New Downtown (Sam San Dong). If you want tons of people and a larger-than-life ferris wheel, check out San San Dong. If you want cheap aviators and nearly-abandoned bars with the nicest owners you'll ever meet, Old Downtown's your scene. Personally, I prefer Old Downtown for its charm and cheapness... and marvelous Indian cuisine.

But New Downtown has characters like this:

My big nose.

I've always known I have a big nose. My face, in general, has large features... and in Korean culture everything on my face only looks bigger. But I've been wondering what Koreans think of my nose. Normally, I wouldn't have given this much thought. In fact, I had a lady tell me that she "liked my face" the other day (which I found hilarious coming from a non-native English speaker), but the nose thing... well, it's caused some interesting situations:

1. My first day of teaching, there was a student who approached me after class, holding her face and saying, "Your nose, your nose!" and walked away before I could clarify.

2. A week later, I was in the girls' bathroom waiting to wash my hands. My students moved out of the way for me, and as I approached the sink, two girls standing next to me gasped and began to clap, again saying nothing but, "Your nose!" Now I was really confused.

3. This week, one of my students asked me if my nose was broken (it has a small bump in the middle of it) and I told him no. Then he looked at me and told me it was "an amazing nose".

I'm not sure if this means they think it's beautiful or if it's like some weird Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not nose. Either way, the reactions I get are sometimes outright hilarious.
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  1. you are cute!!!!!
    i went to the doc today and they found a mass i my thyroid! lame-o, think good thoughts for me!

  2. lol I love your nose Laura and your new boyfriend is super sexy. Very very impressive. I am so proud of you and living vicariously through your blogs because I sit on my butt all day with my cat watching FRIENDS hahaha I love you!

  3. My husband and I both got, "You have a high nose!" from our students. High = big, apparently. So, you're not the only one. Haha. Also, they are the ones w/ the TINY noses. Just think of it that way. : )

  4. You have a hot nose and your stories make me life...and like JoSepae88 (whoever you are) I am living vicariously through you also dear friend!