Mokpo Stories and Tips

May 27 2002

Hey Gang,

I haven't felt up to the big letter for a while but I'm in the mood now so it's time to catch up.

Things are just fine. Most of my little health problems got sorted out a while ago. Apparently everyone gets sick in the first two months with something or other. I was beginning to feel a little like a target though.

Let's see there was the rollerblading accident, then the stomach flu, then a nasty lung infection, then I fell off of a curb when I was drunkenly dancing in the street with one of the irish girls. I got a few scrapes and bruises from that. I've been taking it a little easier and feeling the better for it.

The Korean medical system is pretty bizarre by our standards and took some figuring out. Want to see a ENT specialist? Walk in and make an appointment. How about an internist or orthopedic surgeon or even a cardiologist? same thing. So I went to an internist for the chest cold :). Now here's the really weird thing: they give you a prescription and you take it to the druggists who gives you a whole lot of pills....if you're like me you have to figure out what the stuff is and of course no one speaks english. I finally managed to figure out what the antibiotic was in case I had a reaction. The rest is Korean medicine stuff that I have no clue about but seems to work as I'm fine now. Apparently no one asks these questions but me here.

I finally, FINALLY, joined a fitness club today after a long search. It's one of those places with the blaring dance music and large video screens. Seems more like a pick up place than a gym (possibly cool?) but it's as clean as a whistle, brand new and luxurious compared to the aquatic center. Most Korean men seem pretty out of shape as they seem too busy chasing money or getting smashed to be concerned with this stuff. Women have a healthier attitude although I suspect it has less to do with being healthy than it does with looking attractive. I'm happy I finally managed to find a club, though, as I was really missing my routine.

Work continues to motor along just fine. I work quite a bit but I've found that the door to the roof of the hogwon is open and every chance I get I go up there, take of my shirt and stretch or just sit in the sun. I'm actually becoming tanned for the first time in years and despite the possible health problems I think it makes me look and feel a lot healthier.

Oh yeah, the Korean won has improved against the american dollar by almost five percent since I left. Can you say whoopee?

SO i've been doing a lot of clothes shopping since I'm temporarily so flush. I've had to pick up some summer wear as it is beginning to get hot and it is projected to get really hot. I was chatting with this German girl who has been here a couple of years and, to my dismay, she told me that the summer gets quite barren as well ( as the winter) due to the intense heat and lack of water. Damn, I was just getting used to lush mountains and rice paddies. Rice paddies btw are pretty beautiful if you happen to like swamps ( I do ). There are miles and miles of terraced, green rice paddies. At night the sounds of the frogs create quite an intense and beautiful din. They are also terrible breeding grounds for mosquitoes. So far this hasn't bothered me much as I live in a city on the 13th floor far from rice paddies but I hear they get pretty intense and they can carry Japanese encephalitis. I'm getting innoculated for that as soon as I can find the clinic.

So many things to talk about...I'll try to be short.

I had my first experience with a Korean Sauna this past week. These saunas are all over the place and Koreans go there about weekly. The one I went to had three saunas, three giant hot tubs, one really cold tub, a cool lounge where you basically sit around naked and watch tv or talk politics ( I assume) and various showers and such. All that costs 3300 Won (about 4 $ CAD). For thirty thousand KRW ( about 35 CAD) more you can get the works which includes an all over body scrub and a massage. Of course I got it. The massage isn't much to write about as it's pretty mechanical...but the scrub is fantastic. I won't go into the details about the amount of dead skin that was removed but lets just say it was pretty appalling. The guy who was doing it seemed to think it was excessive but, hey, I've never had anything like that done before, whaddya expect?

I went to Yeosu-si (si = city, I think) last weekend for a party with the expats there. Yeosu is the prettiest city I've seen since I've been here. Many beaches and many mountains right in the middle of the city as well as around it. It's a nightmare for finding your way around obviously. It's as far south as you can go on the mainland and has a cool volcanic sand beach. The sand is black and gets intensely hot. The Koreans bury themselves up to the neck in this sand and bake themselves in it. It's still too early in the season to try it as the water is still a little chilly...I'm not sure if I would anyway. Yeosu also has a marina and I'm planning a sailboat rental to cruise the islands in the area in August when it's really damn hot.

Anyway the party was way cool. Craig rents the place for a nominal some and it's a stone's throw from the beach. He could have free accomadations at the university where he works but he's been here some years and has settled in pretty well with this place. So it was the fire on the beach and BBQ type of a party followed by the inevitable Karaoke (Nori Bang in korea) at his outdoor patio. The nieghbors were probably unimpressed (finally turned the karaoke machine off at 4 am and festivities continued until daybreak) although apparently they thought we sing pretty well.

As for the Nori Bang I'm actually getting pretty good at that. I had to do a solo of ziggy stardust last weekend. I didn't expect it to be a solo but I'm an old fart here and I don't think many people knew the song well so I went with the tide. Jeepers! I had forgotten how challenging that song is (but it was OK)!

I also was on an hour long cruise of Mokpo harbour. This was rather anticlimactic for me. I had high expectations, I think. The best part was sitting on the bow of the boat/ship thing and watching giant schools of large, shiny fish parting and jumping about in front of the boat while drinking a mug of beer and listening to the Breeders at volume. Yes George, the fishing has to be good here...there's just so many of the damn things.

I also managed to get to the cultural center which, I'm ashamed to say is walking distance from my apartment. It's pretty cool and I will be going back again now that I know it's cool. It has a restaurant where you can get a steak too. It's right next to the maritime museum which is another thing I have to get into....

Oh and I actually got into a canoe this weekend for about fifteen minutes. I'm so nervy here I guess because the Koreans are so accomadating. We were sitting having a coffee by the beach waiting for the next boat trip and along comes these guys in a canoe. So I just think to myself " I'm getting in that canoe" and I go down and meet them at the water's edge. You can tell they weren't really comfortable with the idea especially since I had to leave one of them on the shore so I could take my little joyride. I just wasn't taking no for an answer in the politest way possible. It was fine and they were quite amazed that I knew how to, you know, steer the thing. :)

OK so I hope everything is going peachy for all of you. Take Care and enjoy!! Eric

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