from the Korean Army to being published

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

Entry #38: Life Imitating Writing

with 2 comments

Today is the third week of vacation and it’s been a productive one so far. Last weekend, I finished the first out of four major sections in the book. The problem is that it’s 170 pages long. If each section is roughly the same length, the book is going to end up being 680 pages. As my total should be less than half of that, I have a lot of cutting to do when I revise.

This productivity occurred despite being bedridden for most of last week. I had the flu. I don’t remember the last time I had the flu. Not because I’m normally healthy; I lead a very unhealthy life. My guesses are that either I’m hungover so often that my body has built up its immunity or that the hangovers have masked any short-term colds/flus I’ve had.

One reason I think I came down with the flu is because of the writing. The first section is about basic training and I had a severe flu three or four weeks out of the five weeks of boot camp. I had my temperature taken on two separate occasions and the temperature was the same both times—forty degrees Celsius. 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, Army medicine is less than reliable, but I was at some level of incoherence throughout the majority of basic, including most of the more rigorous training: individual combat training (gakgaejeontu), PRI, comprehensive training, 40 km full-pack marches, the gas chamber.

I shat blood last week and again it corresponded with the sections about my three-week bout with constipation and unsuccessfully trying to shit at night and instead shitting blood. I looked on the internet and it said that it’s almost impossible to go three weeks without shitting. You’d start throwing up shit or die, according to one website run by a nurse. I asked Tae about it and he said that it’s possible because they give you an injection at the beginning of basic which shuts down basic bodily impulses, the libido and urge to shit.

Now that I’ve finished with the first section, all that’s left is a sporadic cough. The body aches and fever are gone and I just had a very satisfying bowel movement. I guess it’s a good sign, that I’m allowing myself to be immersed in those painful experiences as I write. Here’s to hoping that the psychosomatic results of writing about the Army cannot replicate Athlete’s Foot, one of my afflictions in the next section. If you’ve ever experienced full-blown Athlete’s Foot, you’ll know that it’s more than just itchy feet. You get blister-like formations between your toes and the skin of your feet comes off nicely like the skin of a ripe plum.


Written by Young

February 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Congratulations on having made so much progress! That’s fantastic. I know I’ve referenced him before, but SF/fantasy author Stephen R. Donaldson has written that his manuscripts all start out bloated, then get trimmed down. In his case, the trimming cuts away about 30% of the material: from roughly 1100 pages to about 750 pages for each of his books. As with prepping lessons, it’s better to have too much material than too little. Again, congrats.

    Three weeks without shitting is positively dangerous. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I’m pretty sure you can find a particular “dieting” tea that will force you to shit. There’s a Chinese version that’s marketed as “Slim-Mate” in the States. I doubt that it actually helps one lose weight, but it definitely does a number on your colon.

    As for athlete’s foot… I don’t think I’ve ever had it. Even when I was out hiking my 600 miles in 2008, I routinely swabbed my toes with alcohol, removed my boots and socks whenever I took long rest breaks, and washed my feet whenever I was near a water source. Perhaps the Korean Army didn’t give you that luxury; exposure to “jungle rot” is one of the hazards of being a soldier, after all, so they probably had to prep you for that. (Not to defend the stupid shit that army training puts one through.)

    Kevin Kim

    February 21, 2012 at 3:40 am

    • Hey, Kevin,

      Thanks. It’s definitely a better feeling having too much material than not enough but It’s going to be painful when I start trying to trim the fat off of this obese manuscript and realize how many days and weeks of work I’m cutting.

      Boot camp was the only time I’ve ever had constipation for such an extended period of time. It’s the stress, the new enivornment, the shitty food, the lack of free time to take a shit, and maybe that injection my friend mentioned. These days, I find that a night of heavy drinking and chain smoking will loosen my bowels sufficiently.

      There was never any prep for “jungle rot” or athlete’s foot in the Army. It’s a pretty unhygienic place. In my company, there were only two 10’x10′ shower rooms for two hundred people and no shower slippers allowed. When I first came down with athlete’s foot, I thought that I had mosquito bites all over my feet (which actually did happen to me later during pre-deployment training). This lack of preparation and concern goes along with the idea that conscripts are tools and not human beings.


      February 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm

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