[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]


NOTE:  For those of you have been out of the loop for a while (which is
most of you, since I have been terrible about looping for quite a
while...something which I will hopefully ammend starting with this
message):  I am still at the university in Korea, still having a ball
both in my job and in Asia in general.  This is the text of my most
recent post to my blog (http://robertajenkins.blogspot.com) ... though
you obviously don't need to go there to read this one, there are a few
new pictures up and will be more shortly.  I hope you are all doing
fabulously well, and hope to talk to you more individually soon (hint,
hint)!  Take care and much love to you!  Roberta


From December until February Korea enjoyed the warmest winter ever on
record. February in particular was exceptionally warm - an average of 4
degrees Celsius higher than normal. The average daily temperature topped
5 degrees Celsius (above freezing) 20 full days ahead of schedule. My
koi pond hasn't seen ice since mid-January. Until today.

All sorts of trees flower here in very early spring. Plums are
especially beautiful this time of year, white petals so profuse on the
rounded crowns of branches that from a distance they look like snow
drifts atop the hills. The Chinese say that plum trees are like women -
though impossibly delicate in appearance they choose to bloom only when
conditions are most averse to it. Magnolias, on the other hand, look
hardy but are very, very sensitive to cold. For the second year in a row
all of the magnolias in town are frozen.

Even my house had prematurely settled into spring. When the ground
around my shallow foundation reaches a certain temperature, it triggers
the gauge in my boiler to switch 'seasons'. For springtime, this means
that the ground temperature is expected to be colder than the air
temperature, so my boiler runs less often to compensate for the
difference. When I returned from a weekend visit to the countryside this
morning, the house was so cold that my feet ached stepping onto the
floor and all of my normally active gold-fish had sunk to the bottom of
their tank.

With the boiler cranked to high (the only way I could get it to respond
to the urgency of my temperature woes), I decided to indulge in a pot of
sam-gye-tang at a neighbourhood restaurant. My hope was that the hot
ginseng-and-rice-stuffed chicken soup would restore feeling in my toes
and steel me for my return to the icebox I call home. But alas I had
forgotten that at the moment my back doesn't like sitting on the floor
(or anywhere else), so although feeling was indeed restored to my toes,
I almost wish it hadn't been. Yeow!

I suspect that when most people eat sam-gye-tang, they are not so
thorough as I am. It's not that the dish is outrageously expensive, just
that I eat it so rarely that I feel as if I couldn't possibly waste a
single morsel. Besides, not many people go to my favorite local spot, so
no one is there to watch me dig into the steaming pot with both hands
and strip the tiny bones of every scrap of meat. The denuded carcass
gets deposited in one bowl, while the rest gets stirred together with
the broth into a thick stew studded deliciously with brownish crystals
of rock salt. Sublime!

Because the chicken is boiled for so long to cook the rice and other
goodies inside it, in this process of delectable disembowelment I get to
see parts of the bird that I normally can't examine in such fine detail.
Like a minuscule, perfect vertebra, and the matching pillow of
cartilaginous disc that accompanies it. It seems just, under the
circumstances, that it's the same structure in me that is the root of my
own discomfort.

At physio this morning, muscles being pummeled into submission by a
combination of machinery and manpower, my 40-year old therapist pauses
long enough to point out a white hair on my 30-year old head. Having
just celebrated my birthday 3 days ago, I am still adjusting to the new
digit in my age and although this wasn't my first white hair it seems
like a portentous one. 'Not married?' he asks through the blows, then
adds in Korean 'better hurry.' At home afterwards, looking at the hair
in the mirror, I see that at least it's thick and strong and healthy. I
hope that my vertebrae are paying attention and taking the hint that in
my body, things had better all get better with age.

The problem in my back is unspecified. The doctor thinks it's a chronic
sprain, while the physio is sure it's a disc problem. When it first
started it was wholly incapacitating, white fire across the entire of my
low back. Now it's more localized, lower down and only on the left side.
It mostly just hurts when I'm sitting - I can walk for hours without a
hint of discomfort. I figure that if this is my body's method of aging,
then bring it on - far better to be crippled into perpetual motion than
into statuesque dismay. We could all be so lucky!