from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #37: Sick and Tired

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This week in Seoul: seasonal downpours and dry, hacking coughs.

I’ve been feeling under the weather since Monday, assaulted by an assortment of symptoms and ailments. Monday to Wednesday afternoon was a splitting headache, a high fever, and severe body aches. Wednesday night to the present was a dull headache, a continuously runny nose, and uncontrollable fits of coughing. I’ve had the customary shot in the ass at the hospital, a smorgasbord of pills and powders, numerous shots of Target-brand Nyquil-substitute, and copious amounts of bed rest. I don’t like taking my medicine unless it’s alcohol-based but this time I couldn’t manage without it.

My friend and jazz bar manager Tae conjectured that it was because of the spill I took last week down the front steps of my apartment. Korean architecture mirrors the culture in that it prizes appearance over functionality. The steps are made of some marble-like stone, extremely slippery when wet. I slipped down all four steps, my back taking a thrashing on the way down. Three bloody spots mark my lower vertebrae and a large red blotch the size of a CD case beside it subsided into crimson lines, one atop the other. It hurt like hell but I know that it wasn’t the cause, just some unfortunate coincidence.

When I was growing up, my mother was not the coddling type. Perhaps it’s because she thought she had to play the fatherly role after my father left or perhaps it was just her personality, but whenever I’d tell her I was sick she’d respond by giving me a “Don’t be a pussy” look and saying, “It’s all in your head. Just think that you’re not sick and you’ll be okay.” My body would argue otherwise but voicing those arguments would only lead to a lecture I didn’t have the energy to sit through. The one remedy she would offer in the case of runny noses or sore throats was snorting or gargling salt water and so I soon learned to avoid her whenever I was sick.

While my body is highly susceptible to changes in temperature and the cold and Koreans love to blast the A/C, I think this time it really is in my head. This bout with illness coincided with the start of our summer intensive program. Normally my stress levels drop after the first couple days but I’ve never had such serious students before and there are so many of them. The problem isn’t the conversation classes; more students mean less work for me because I can just make them talk amongst themselves. The problem is that there are too many writing students, which means a lot of unpaid, at-home work for me, and there are a lot of belligerent students in my debate class. I’m constantly having to tell my students to calm the fuck down.

As far as possible, I try to lead a stress-free life. It’s why I don’t teach privates or work at a higher-paying institute. But the reason isn’t because I’m a naturally laid-back person. It’s because I’m also very susceptible to stress. I handle stressful situations very poorly. Even inconsequential shit like taking the subway or little kids at the coffee shop talking loudly bugs the hell out of me. I’m an old man trapped in a thirty-something’s body. I can’t bring myself to watch serious movies and stick only to pure action or comedy movies. I’ve given up on The Daily Show because it was too depressing. It’s a reason for my lack of ambition. It’s also why I don’t go out very often and probably another reason why I drink so often. Speaking of drinking, it’s time for this old man to take his medicine.


Written by Young

July 9, 2011 at 11:17 pm

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