from the Korean Army to being published

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

Random #69: The Sun outside Yonsei Bon

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An hour before lunch, I hobbled down on my crutches to the coffee shop on the first floor with my trusty Daiso* thermos for my morning coffee. The couple who run the coffee shop are real nice—it seems like I’m their only customer—and they dress too nicely for this neighborhood. Sitting outside with my coffee and occasionally puffing on a cigarette, I spent a good while soaking up some sun. No looking at my phone or talking to anyone or looking at anything in particular. Just enjoying the weather. Cats and dogs know the secret of life. There’s not much better than lying in the sun with not a thought or care in the world.

I’m still in hospital clothes, blue pinstripes which hide the kimchi and coffee stains a little better than the patterned white at CAU. The new “hospital” is a dump. I passed by the building practically every day before the accident and I always thought the building was abandoned and waiting to be torn down. There is very little regard for sanitary conditions, and when I get my daily morning shot in the ass, the hand that slaps my ass to distract me from the pain has freshly slapped the ass of the 70-year-old in the bed across from mine without a good slathering of hand sanitizer.

Food’s slightly better here, though, and the nurses’ disregard for our welfare allows me almost free rein to come and go as I please. My apartment building is even closer than I believed it to be, practically next door, and I slip out twice a day to use the bathroom and wash up. The bathroom in the “hospital” smells like stale urine and causes me to gag if I try to brush my teeth here. The other day, I went home and took my first shower in almost four months, sitting on a plastic stool with my cast resting on the toilet.

The back door of this place is open 24 hours for smoking and all I have to do is brave three flights of stairs on my crutches to slip out and drink at the bar I was helping with construction the night of the accident. I’d sneak out and sleep at home but I’d never be able to wake up early enough to make it back to this room in time for breakfast.

The patients here are very different from the ones at the university hospital. “Nylon,” people refer to them, meaning perfectly unhurt people scamming for insurance money.** It feels like a dorm for taxi drivers—probably 90 percent of the “patients” here—and every night the 70-year-old tries to get me to drink soju with the rest of them. Right now, they’re on the one unoccupied bed, talking shop and drinking soju and snacking on blood sausage, oden, and cow intestine.


The 70-year-old sleeping off a hangover

I still haven’t been able to write. I was finally starting to settle into a groove at CAU when they told me to leave. I should skip out on afternoon physical therapy—for my back, which is fine aside from the acute scoliosis I’ve had since I was a kid—and set up camp at the coffee shop downstairs. Even if it takes time to find a groove, at least I’ll be able to enjoy the sun.

* Forgive me for flaunting my status; I’ve been in Korea too long. For those of you who haven’t spent time in Korea or Japan, Daiso is the Japanese dollar store that seems to be more prevalent in Korea than in Japan from what I’ve seen. Maybe when I collect the insurance money in a year or two, I’ll be take a step up the social ladder. Probably not.
[correction 4/2/14]: According to one of the worst Wikipedia pages I’ve read (in terms of conflicting facts), there are far more Daiso in Japan. Apparently, there are also Daiso all over the world, including the US (all/mostly West Coast). This is what I get for trying to be a snob. The first American location is Korean-heavy Lynnwood, Washington, just north of Seattle. I have been in Korea too long. It opened in 2005.

** I asked a couple of people why they call them “nylon.” Nobody knew. Naver says that it comes from before the 1970s when nylon came to Korea and people thought it was great because it was a new fabric but then they realized it was artificial and weak. Over time, it got bastardized to the point it became an adjective meaning fake. It’s thrown around very often in places like this. Nairong.


2 Responses

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  1. re: that picture

    Hand down his pants. Nice. Gotta keep those cojones warm, I guess.

    re: dump

    Sorry to read about the dumpy conditions. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you don’t acquire some funky infection. It’s great, however, that you can sneak out on secret patrol and even visit your own place. Such freedom at least allows you to feel a bit more human.

    Keep on healin’! Still no specific date for when you’re leaving the dump?


    April 2, 2014 at 12:15 am

    • The freedom is really the one redeeming factor of this place but a factor that is really important to me. I have no idea when I’ll be able to leave but the cast should come off in a week or so.


      April 2, 2014 at 7:07 am

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