Gang-cyst-ers paradise

I had a hernia on my stomach for over 10 years. I came to Korea and had it taken care of for about $600-700USD after everything (hospital stay, meds, checkups, surgery itself, etc). The reason I wanted to get rid of my alien baby was to be able to start doing core-work at the gym. So when I moved up to Seoul end of Dec 2015 I signed up for a gym.
They had a pilates class and since it had been 6 months since surgery, I thought – ‘This is it. Here’s where it all begins’. The next day I felt great in the way that one does after a workout they hadn’t done in ages. But I noticed my wrist was hurting a bit. Typical when you are doing lots of floor work including plank! So a couple days later a student points out my wrist. She said, “Teacher, what?” and pointed to my right wrist. Lo and behold, there was a bump on it. I looked it up and immediately recognized it as a ganglion cyst. I went to an orthopedic doc nearby and he aspirated it. He said if there’s tingling, numbness, or pain that I should be worried — otherwise, no sweat.
There definitely was tingling and pain, especially when I was typing (which is often). I was also on a pasta making kick and that was starting to get difficult. I went back to the doc and he said that I should just wait it out because it will go away, then he aspirated it again. This time I noticed the blood in the aspirated fluid. Doc said no biggie.
The thing never went away. It never got smaller, only bigger, and more frustrating as I continued on my everyday activities.
I consulted with another doctor at Gangnam Several Hospital (Yonsei University) here in Seoul. He mentioned aspiration and I told him how the first two times didn’t do much. He said the next step was surgery. It was March 31st and he was to do surgery on the 10th.
wpid-wp-1428397015929.jpeg this is what my wrist looked like leading up to the surgery.

The hospital said I needed to come in on the 9th for surgery prep. I went in and they had me in a corner of a 6 person room. I thought six people wouldn’t be horrible… it was awful. Granted, it was only 12,000won (~$12USD) per night. But for every patient, there were 1-3 family members with them. Not the kind that go home, the kind that require a cot and a chair and snore louder than anyone I’ve ever heard.

Unlike the hospital in Ulsan, this bed was controlled with a remote so I could sit up and what not. However, unlike the hospital in Ulsan, this ‘bed’ was really just a mat on a cart. The hospital was fancy and all, but I didn’t expect the ‘mattress’ to be so thin. It felt like I was sleeping on a mat on the floor. So I wasted a whole day on Thursday (wasted it because I could have been at work) and then slept in the hospital. When I woke up on Friday (day of surgery) I noticed my back wasn’t feeling great. No thanks to the stupid mat-on-a-cart bed. They wheeled me in for surgery. The first male nurse tried to put the IV in my hand. It was extremely painful. (I’m bad with needles and pain, but this was really uncomfortable). Another female nurse came over and yelled at him for something and they took it out. Then they reinserted it into my wrist near my thumb. It wasn’t as bad but still uncomfortable. They roll me into surgery and start the anesthesia. I remember the ‘light going out’ effect, but I don’t remember my dream this time. I woke up and they brought me back to my little corner hole room. I had a huge brace on my wrist and they had a special tie up shirt for me. My back was still hurting but the wrist was worse.
Then my coteachers came and sat awkwardly in my little corner for an hour or so. They brought me a sandwich and some snacks. After they left, the hospital brought me their food– foul smelling seaweed soup, kimchi, tofu, and rice. And a spoon. And chopsticks. For those of you who are right handed, I dare you to try and eat with your lefthand using chopsticks. Luckily, I’m not an idiot and I brought some forks with me. I barely ate because it all smelled so bad.

I napped, I played games, I watched TV shows. It was hot as fuck in that corner. I asked them to turn on A/C and they said it was on. I’m “blessed with a chest” and for those who don’t know what that’s like… things get sweaty and they get really uncomfortable. I decided to tackle putting on a bra by myself. I succeeded. But what I failed in, was putting my shirt back on. As I tried to put my newly-surgerized hand through the sleeve, *POP* goes my back.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move. The nurses came back in and made me remove my bra again because they needed to xray my back. . . which was a muscular problem but they didn’t listen to me. So, I was back in square one. They brought me a heating pad, which is smart, but when I’m already sweating like a beast it was the last thing I wanted to feel.

The next day they gave me muscle relaxers and helped me with the bra. My back was in extreme pain and my wrist was in extreme discomfort. My fingers were like sausages. Food again was pretty meh, but that’s Korean hospital food for ya. #bringafork
They wanted me to stay another night or two to observe my back, but I convinced them that I would be better at home since the hospital bed is what screwed with me in the first place. They complied.
I went to gather my belongings and noticed that my ring was missing. Not just any old ring. This was the .25 carat diamond ring that I bought for myself in honor of my 21st birthday. I bought it from Na Hoku in the Mall at Millenia and only took it off during massages and surgeries. When this ring was not on my finger, I didn’t sleep well. I had an actual tan line from this ring. It was a part of me. And it was gone. I searched high and low and the whole hospital ward was helping me look for it. It was not to be found. I don’t think it was stolen. I think it was in my locker and when I tried to get dressed, I knocked it out of the locker and the cleaning lady probably swept it up with the rest of the trash on the floor. “I’m sure we will find it” the nurses assured me. But you know when something special is truly gone, you can feel it. I could feel it in my heart and the pit of my stomach. It has not been recovered and I am waiting for the next step in that.

Back to the surgery. I had the brace on for 2 weeks before they took out the stitches. I have a mini-Frankenstein scar on my wrist and my range of motion is restricted. One month later, I can finally make a fist. I try to do exercises and improve my range of motion. Typing hurts a bit still, so does falling and catching myself hah.

Total cost: ~500$usd after everything (hospital stay, medicine, check ups, etc)

Single Lady: Maldives

I’m a single 28 year old American chick. I’m independent and strong-willed. I have no problem traveling alone, but I’ve noticed there’s a serious lacking of information about women who travel alone in foreign countries. I’m not saying I always have the greatest trips, but I can share my experiences and try to give insight to the ladies in the world who choose to travel independently.

In October 2012, I went to the Maldives by myself. I didn’t know where to stay or what to do, but I had found a ticket from Thailand that was cheap, so I grabbed it. I flew from Bangkok to Colombo (Sri lanka – smelliest and most boring airport I have ever been in). When you fly into any tropical location, get yourself a window seat. IMG_0960  It is GORGEOUS.

You can’t just show up to a country that’s made up of sinking atolls without a place to stay – so, I used the fantastic site, http://www.couchsurfing.org, to crash on a couch for two nights in Male. Luke is a seaplane pilot there from Canada. While I crashed his couch, he helped me to find an atoll to stay on that wasn’t going to break the bank and wasn’t a complete couple resort.

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I took a ferry to get there and enjoyed the sun for a good few hours. The atoll was Ma’afushi. It was a local atoll that still had Muslim customs..so there was no alcohol and I couldn’t walk around in a bikini. There was a particular strip of beach that was “allowing” of women in bathing suits, but the weather wasn’t great for it.

The place I stayed was fantastic: Dhonveli View.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  From the outsideOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  The welcome deskOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  The small loungeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA simple breakfast nook

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I got a large and clean room with a queen size bed (two singles pushed together) and a clean bathroom with hot water.

 

For around $50USD a night, meals were included and were fantastic. They served me dinner on the roof overlooking the ocean and the night sky.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There was so much food that I could barely eat it all. The main source of food there is fish (obviously), so I had quite a variety of tuna and rice during my stay.

The family that owned it were very sweet and accommodating. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I wanted to go diving, they recommended a guide for me to go with and I had an amazing dive buddy, a Dutch lady who was also visiting the island. The weather wasn’t great (as mentioned) so a couple of the dive spots were rough, but the dive master helped me with everything. We saw a shipwreck and did a drift dive after viewing 100+ black and white tipped reef sharks.

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The next day I asked to go to a resort island so that I may have a few drinks and enjoy the beach and water in a bikini on my holiday. I wish I could remember the name of the resort, so I could warn you. (For those who aren’t aware, a resort will typically be on it’s own atoll so that it can regulate the drinking laws and cater to the guests. Like many resorts, if you want to visit it for a day, there will be an entry fee.) This resort was beautiful. It had sand paths and so many trees.
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The sand was clean and the beaches had chairs and towels provided. I asked to go snorkeling and the concierge pointed me in the direction of the scuba/snorkel shack. The man in charge of the scuba/snorkel shack was the BIGGEST ASSHOLE! I was paying to use the masks and he would not allow me to rent one. He said it was because I was not a resort guest. I went back and asked the concierge about it, and they called him up and sent me back to him. He still did not permit to rent a snorkel mask, depriving me of one of the main reasons I had come to the island. Literally, he ruined the majority of my resort visit. So I went to the bar and luckily it started raining (this made it better because i didn’t feel as bad about missing the beach). I had the most expensive gin + tonic ever. Then I went and got a 90 minute massage…because why not? The massage wasn’t bad, but the spa was gorgeous. It was so what I expected when I walked in – beautiful flowers and wood and art. It was peaceful just to walk in. After the massage I went back to the beach and sun bathed until just before sunset. I met the boat that took me back to Maafushi. I don’t know why I was so upset, but I was really not in a good mood. I walked into my room and there was a beautiful bouquet of my favorite flowers: Plumeria. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The staff had left me this gorgeous gift in my nicely tidied room. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They gave me a great dinner OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and I sat in the main area with the girls who work there and we all chatted for a few hours. They were really sweet. I highly recommend it as a place to stay.

I took a ferry back to Male and went to a resort near the airport to wait for my flight back to Thailand. Of course, it was super sunny out. I met a great group of people who told me about how they had done a dive excursion. They stayed on a boat for a week and did 3 dives a day (and some at night). Those lucky bastards saw whale sharks – – – the only thing on my diving bucket list.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There is no joke about the water being crystal clear. 50 shades of blue to be seen here. The ground is hard but the sand is soft and fine, like sugar.

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At the end of the beach that allows bathing suits is a gorgeous house that I believe was a school at one point. I can’t remember exactly but it had some kind of damage done (obviously) and it is now abandoned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Colorful sand bags for when a storm comes and the waves get a bit rough.

 

In the end, I would recommend a trip to the Maldives at some point in your life. However, maybe go with friends or a significant other – and get yourselves a water bungalow!

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The Low Down (like.. really low)

IF there is one actually a thousand thing that people overlook when traveling to Thailand, it’s the toilet situation. In most tourist places (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, etc) you’ll find the good old fashioned sit-your-ass-down toilet seat. But there is a little squirt gun (similar to what you find to do the dishes with) next to it. It’s there to spray your ass after you $hiT. And with all the curry and spicy food your body isn’t used to, it comes in handy. You’ll also find hopefully a trash bin next to the seat and you are expected to throw your toilet paper into it. Thai sewers aren’t quite as updated as our western ones are. Just respect the country and toss it in the bin.

BUTT – there is something else to warn you about. If you are like me and don’t go camping every weekend, or hike, or do the nature thing in general, If you are the type who will hold it until you get home (or at least somewhere you’re comfortable going to the bathroom at), some of the smaller towns and bus stations will come as a shock. You will politely excuse yourself from the table and find this stall that may or may not have a door attached. In the middle of the ground is a what looks like a metal toilet seat with ridges on the top. “Why is this toilet seat so low?” you’ll ask yourself.
.. it’s a squat toilet. You have to squat. Don’t work out? Too bad.

If you are a woman, you stand on the ridges facing the wall and squat down like a baby would to pick up a bug they found on the ground. Then you do your #1 and hope you remembered to bring the tissues. Should your bowels be a moanin’ and a groanin’ you will face away from the wall and squat (see previous description) and let it all out. And then hope you brought EVEN MORE toilet paper. And sanitary wipes. And a Glade scented candle.
When you have finished doing your dooody, you will (hopefully) see a trash bin with water filled in it. You will take the bowl that is floating in that water and proceed to ‘flush’ your by-product down the hole. A few good bowl fulls should do it. If not, you’re shit out of luck (ha!!).

It’s disgusting. Some people don’t mind. Some people say it’s better for your posture and blah blah blah. I will NOT miss this. I went 5+ months without having to use one of those bastards. Then I had a reallllly bad stomach one day during class and had no choice but to do the squat. And it was HORRIBLE. You may dribble on your shoes, you may miss, you may spatter, you may want to throw up. And no, you don’t get used to it. At least I didn’t.

My favorite quote concerning squatters: “F- that.”

Advice:

  • ALWAYS carry wipes or toilet paper
  • Have toilet shoes/sandals
  • carry hand sanitizer
  • avoid if at all possible
  • learn to hold it
  • wipe tiger balm under your nose before going in – it wreaks.

That’s the toilet story. I had to warn you, my cyber friends. Good luck.

Spa-aaaaaaaah

I have been a massage therapist for 7+ years and have never had a proper spa day. yes, i have gone out and gotten my hair and nails done. yes, i have gone out and received a massage. or a facial, or sat in a sauna. but never all at once.

I have just finished nearly a year of teaching English to students in Surat Thani, Thailand and all I wanted was to spoil myself. But first, I needed to complete some massage courses in Chiang Mai. I discovered a pamphlet (well- many pamphlets). It offered a special promotion:

1 hour aromatherapy massage
1 hour facial (mask, cleanse, scrub, etc)
30 min body scrub
15 min jacuzzi
15 min sauna
_____________=1600 baht (USD $50ish)

I booked that for right after a cooking class (a different entry for later).

There were some technical issues concerning people not showing up on time, but otherwise, the owner picked me up from my hotel and drove me to the spa. It was in a quiet neighborhood-type of area. It was an old huge house converted into a spa. I was immediately given iced tea and slippers. I confirmed my preference and was given a sarong to change into. I was led to a small wooden box: the sauna. I didn’t make it through the entire 15 minutes (although it felt like 20) due to boredom. Then after some bananas and warm tea, I was shown outside to an enclosed patio with a HUGE jacuzzi. It was a perfect temperature and had plumerias floating in and around the water. I enjoyed this for the full 15 minutes with an ice cold glass of water at my disposal. Mind you, it had been over a year since the last time I sat in a bath. When my 15 minutes was up, I dried off and changed into a robe and went into the massage room.
The body scrub came next. I have given plenty of body scrubs before and have rubbed my own legs and feet with it, but have never gotten a full body scrub. DAMN. That shiz is rough! I realize now why the scrub is BEFORE the massage: a person gets tense when being scrubbed with mango scented salt for 30 minutes. She started with the legs and feet, continued my back and arms. She then turned me over and did my legs and arms again. Then without hesitation or warning, my upper body was exposed and she scrubbed my stomach and tatas! WHOA! I didn’t have time to react. In the US, draping is required and we normally put a towel over a lady’s chest before exposing the stomach. Magawd it was not pleasant. WORD OF ADVICE: when receiving oil massage or body scrub outside of the US – let them know in advance that you do NOT want your tatas rubbed (unless you do). 

After that awkward body scrub, I was taken to a shower and brought back to the room. She started the massage. Her pressure was way too deep Thai-style so i asked her to ease up a smidgeon. It was nice after that. But I caught her before she took the top of my blanket off this time – I said ‘no chest or stomach please ka’ and she didn’t.

I know that the next part was the facial. But I don’t remember it. I was passed the fuck out. I dreamed heavily as always. I dreamed the massage was over and I realized I had fallen asleep so I woke up in my dream and then in real life. I took off my eye covers to realize that I had the mask on and my session was NOT over. So I laid down and passed out again. Dreamed of school peers from middle school. ((Matt Heafy, lead singer of Trivium, and other school mates were gathered to ask me if I was attending their concert the next day. No offense, Matt, you have talent, but metal is not for me!)) Anywayhoo – I didn’t realize she was back in the room until a cool compress was washing away the mask. She continually tried to clean the mask from my nose and nostrils and I thought she was trying to suffocate me. . . until I drowned in a frozen lake felt the ice cold compress covering my entire face. You wanna wake a girl up???? Put an ice cold compress on her face!! Asshole. Way to tense me right back up. Goddamn. Anyway, facial was finished, I was utterly exhausted. My face felt soft without me even having the touch it. My body was floating down the stairs and into the changing area. I tipped the lady, and the owner drove me back to the hotel.

If you ever visit Chiang Mai, I recommend you treat yourself to Sinativa Spa.

Secrets of Surat Thani – a short movie by RTapps

Video

A Refresher in a Friend

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it. I have spent the last few months quite unhappy in my situation – ready to quit at the drop of a hat. I wasn’t homesick – but I was finding myself lonely in a room full of people. My comments were ignored, my jokes missed and disregarded, my laugh was forced (if I laughed at all). It was a form of depression that I wasn’t accustomed to.

Today I feel great. The conditions are a little different I think though. It’s the last month of school and all the tests are done. The light at the end of the tunnel has finally appeared. But the real booster was a visit from a friend.

It was not his intention to come to Thailand to see me – he was just going because he could and something told him it was a good idea. And it happened that I am here. I found out 2 weeks before he came out (about 2 weeks before he knew he was coming out for sure). I was stoked. I have known my friend since high school. We were never particularly close but our mutual friends kept us in minor contact.

Anyway, the sun started to shine a bit more since he decided to come to Thailand. I had something to look forward to that wasn’t the end of school. The schedule got blistered a bit and it took another 2 weeks for him to get to my part of the country. But he got here and my soul’s thirst was quenched. I felt like a little kid – wanting to show him all my classes and what my students can do. (He missed the best class – but they’ll be famous in their own rights one day). I wanted him to try this and that and everything.

But the best part was finally when I relaxed, my words were heard and my jokes were laughed at. I ventured into humor that is borderline incredibly offensive. But the timing was good and it was influenced by my friend. I observed his style and realized it was similar to mine – and none of my coworkers really got what either of our styles. I wasn’t alone for once in this room full of people. I was here and with someone who I could be myself around. My ridiculous attempts at different accents was met with even more ridiculous attempts at accents. I was encouraged to speak my mind rather than hold it in. I realized how great of a person this guy is (not that I didn’t know before – but hey .. haven’t seen him in years!).

I’m only a minor part in his experience here but it’s something to relate to later and a story to share with our friends. I realize how much more fun I could be having here if I had someone like him around: someone to bring out the best in me because I can actually be me. I laughed more this past weekend with him around than I have in ages (sober or not).

 

So, my friend, I dedicate this entry to you.

I hope we can share more adventures in the future wherever we may be.

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Holiday Show Happiness

"Mai" a student dressed in MJ garb

“Mai” a student dressed in MJ garb

In August, our manager informed us of a ‘holiday’ party in December that we were expected to perform at. Cue: Collective groan. Then she told us we needed to prepare our students for a performance as well.

I played a few songs for my P3 class (7-8 y/o) including the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, and India Arie. Apparently this was NOT cool. They wanted Lady Gaga. I scoffed because we had just gone over ‘Like/Dislike’ and in my ‘Dislike’ category I had written Lady Gaga. Then it hit me: Michael Jackson.  The students were familiar with the name and enjoyed rockin’ out to his music during dance time.

So we played lots of MJ songs until I  we collectively decided on singing “man in the mirror”. We started rehearsals immediately. I taught the students the words and we sang a few times a week at the beginning of class. They loved it. I loved it.

After they learned the lyrics I choreographed a fairly complicated easy dance for them. They caught on quickly. I caught on to the few that were not coordinated and put them in the back – as any good drama geek turned teacher would do.
We rehearsed with the other half of the class that another teacher taught. Without sounding too cocky – my class was WAAYYY better than hers.  they were all very good.

December came along and we gave them the outline for their outfits:
Black button down/zipped shirt with long sleeves
white t-shirt
black pants
white socks
black shoes
fedora

Students were bringing in amazing outfits to put together. I realized that there were 2 key element being forgotten about 2 weeks before the performance: the sparkly glove. No MJ performance would be complete without it!! So they brought gloves and we decorated it with the devil glitter. Also, they needed to know how to moonwalk! So they practiced moonwalking down the hallways for about 30 minutes. Not an easy task. But HILARIOUS to watch.

Our director loves me and came to watch the students perform a couple times. She loved it. I loved it. We all loved it.

Holiday-show-day was upon us. I walked into the GIANT convention hall and saw the itsy bitsy stage the students were to perform on. All i could think: “SHhhhiiiiiit. Someone’s going to fall off stage.” But then I saw their adorable little faces in the brilliant collection of MJ style costumes and no longer cared. For a few hours, I filled the room with Thai MJ impersonators.  No MJ fan could have been happier.
The performance itself was good. Not great.
Reason 1: No microphones. They took away the microphones because there was no room for it. So you couldn’t hear a damned word they said
Reason 2: The kids were so afraid of ruining their precious glittered gloves that they didn’t actually clap. They fake clapped! ((Insert: SMH))

———————–
On a side note: the girls of my P3 class decided to sing “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. Of course when I say “decided” I actually mean our Thai director told me they were going to perform it. They dressed like divas and threw roses into the audience after the performance. They did a fantastic job.

I’m uploading the videos to youtube so you can see the performances at the show and the ones from their classroom (which are WAY better!!)

The P3 girls and the solo sax player

The P3 girls and the solo sax player

The singers after the performance

The singers after the performance

Little MJs

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