Oriental Medicine

Is it even politically correct to say that anymore? Eastern medicine. Korean medicine.. but it’s not just in Korea. Acupuncture is an Asia-thing.

My history: I have back problems, like an old man would have. But.. i’m barely 30. Many moons ago, I was sick from whatever cold or flu was plaguing me. I had just moved back from Hawai’i to Florida and was miserable. Plus always sick. My dad suggested I try acupuncture. He had a hippy-dippy friend who was about to graduate acupuncture school. I thought, “Sure. Why not?” And it hurt. I was miserable. I had one of my biggest fears sticking out of my body in plain sight. There was one point that the pressure built up so bad that I thought my knee would explode. I cried like I was dying. Needless to say (and yet we do anyway), not a good experience.

I have not condoned it and encourage everyone to try their own thing. I had not looked back once. However, since May 2016 (that’s nearly 4 months) I have been experiencing low back pain. It doesn’t radiate anywhere else. But I can’t bend forward, I can’t comfortably bend to the side. Standing, sitting, slouching, and even laying down is uncomfortable. AKA always in pain. Chiropractor isn’t helping. Massage was barely helping. Finally, I gave in and am currently seeing an acupuncturist.

Dr. Yoon (in Kyungridan/Noksapyeong) is really nice. He’s straight to the point. Today was my third session. I have had needles sticking out of me, electro-magnetic waves pulsing through me, and even cups suctioning the life out of me. When your friends say you barely feel it, they lie. It does not feel good. Maybe my trigger points are so bad that the struggle is real. Maybe it’s in my head. I don’t know. I don’t love it. But I’m trying to stick it out. Ha. Needles. Stick. Ouch, it hurts to laugh.

Today the Dr came in and said ‘Today we try venom of bee, okay? Small allergy test… and okay.” My back hurts. I’m exhausted. So far, so meh.
I’ll keep the world posted on my situation.

Mirena, 1+ year in

**Disclosure: FAMILY – THIS CONTAINS INFORMATION YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ>>> CLOSE THIS NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT T.M.I. ON MY PERSONAL LIFE!**

 

Last year, I made the decision to say, “Screw you!” to pills, Nuvaring (although I mostly loved it), and any other birth control method short of spaying myself.

I chose to drop a few $$ and insert Mirena. (You can read about the entry here).
It was a painful process. I spent nearly 40 days with spotting and dull cramps. Then one magical day… it stopped. The bleeding, the cramps, the discomfort, and then my life began.
I have been blessed with some good sex in my life. Apparently, this good sex was dulled by previous birth controls. Sex has never been so good. Like.. holy shit. Guys who were maybe average at best, were doing a pretty damn good job. Before Mirena, I was using mostly Nuvaring, occasionally a pill; and I was dull. Sex was just an act. If I got off, it was less often than Halley’s comet. But my sex drive didn’t exist. I seriously pondered my sexuality. Boyfriends and lovers knew I was lying and some thought I had been cheating on them.
Then Mirena happened.
.. as it turns out, I’m very straight. And I’m so much happier with Mirena. Sex. is. awesome. Like– wet, hot summer awesome.

Oh yea! And I lost a bunch of weight! When I had Mirena inserted, I was weighing in at ~73kg (about 160lbs). While I’m sure other factors were involved (leaving an unhappy job, moving up a hill, running to subways and buses for new jobs, etc), I am now at ~63 kg (138-140lb) today.

Menstrual cycles suck. Period. (hah. a favorite of mine) From 6th grade through recent years, my period has been a giant cluster-fuck. They were unpredictable. As Cher would say from Clueless “I was surfing the crimson wave!”… more like Crimson tidal wave. It was hell. I had special clothes to wear because I needed to change and clean them so often. My cramps had me in bed, crying like a child. Sometimes they would last longer than a week.. then reappear about 2 weeks later. Then other times they wouldn’t show for weeks (pregnancy scares what???). I got onto birth control and it helped a bit. But I still had shit strong periods.
Now a year after Mirena insertion, my periods are mostly non-existent. I might get ‘ghost cramps’ once a month and the occasional spotting every other month or less.

Overall, everything is awesome.
But let’s sum a few things up real quick:

Pros: 
1. 5 years of baby-free sexcapades
2. Little to no periods/minimal cramping
3. Higher sex drive
4. Weight lost (subjective)
5. Overall happier life.

Cons:
**denotes possible Pro rather than Con
1. 350,000won (KRW = USD ~275) ((((in the states they said it’d be ~600$USD without insurance)))**
2. PAINFUL AS FUCK DURING INSERTION!!!!! FFFUUUUCCCCCCCK.
3. Bodies may react differently
4. Gotta stock up on condoms for all that sex!**
5. I got nothin.. I can’t think of anything else.

Living the Dream

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We all want to be this or that when we grow up. In 5th grade I said I wanted to be a doctor that made people beautiful. … nope. Didn’t happen. Forgot about that dream within a month I bet.

I wanted to be Ariel or Belle. Obviously I cannot trade my legs for fins, or suddenly become tall, French, and into hairy men. But I knew that I wanted to be them. Almost every character from the cartoons I watched, I would impersonate. I taught myself to sing by listening to cartoon musicals and Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. I would make my voice like theirs.
It took a while for me to realize that this was called ‘voice acting.’ I loved to know that Jodi Benson was Ariel and I watched videos of her being coached through ‘Part of Your World.’ It astounded me when I realized that she was also ‘Thumbelina’. Then I started realizing other voices: Wendy is Alice. Ms. Swan is Trisha Takanawa is Lois Griffin.

I wanted that. I still want that. My new goal is to be a Disney princess for Seth McFarlane. I have been introduced to other animated shows recently, only to discover that a character voice I have done since forever is almost identical to the character I’m watching now. I couldn’t decide if I was disappointed or elated.

Anyway, I’m in South Korea now. I have auditioned online for voice over gigs for almost 2 years. I have gotten a few of them, but not that many. Then one day on Craigslist Seoul, I saw an ad for auditions for voice actors. I booked myself into the audition. The day before, I got a cold. I sounded awful. But I wasn’t going to miss the audition. I went and they put me into a booth. My very first time in a booth. They adjusted the speaker into my face, I had a screen in front of me to see the other actors, and a script about 15 pages long. Nervous much? Totally. I subtly gargled some water to clear my throat only to be told, “Did you gargle warm water? Is everything okay?” DAMNIT. The mic was on.

I read like a champ. The first actor and I read, then he left, and they had me stay. I read with the second actor, he left, and they had me stay. I read with a third actor and then on my own. They told me they would let me know how it went.

I have been working SO much since then. I go all over Seoul into studios to read whatever the heck they give me. Educational scripts, presentation videos, a video game (!!!!), and finally a commercial.

I am forever thankful for this opportunity to work here and build my skills and experience in Seoul.

Seth, it’s on.

Weight a minute…

I came to Korea 2 years ago. I weighed about 140-145lbs (66-68kg). Prior to that I lived in Thailand and weighed about 135-140lbs (61-63kg)..

In Thailand I had Asian markets and cheap food in small portions. I cooked my own food or ate out but I definitely did my share of eating.. But I was also riding my bicycle around town in the sticky humid heat of Surat Thani. I had a dress and skirt custom made during my last week in that country.

I went back to the U.S. in mid April 2013. During my summer months at home I didn’t do much.. I had Publix around the corner and a large kitchen with ample counter space. I was no longer eating small portions, special spices, or riding my bike everywhere. I hadn’t realized I had gained weight until my friend’s wedding in August when I tried to put on my custom made dress and it was.. Snug to say the least.

I figured I was going back to Asia and would lose weight. My friend Ben tried to warn me that many people gained weight in Korea. I laughed and ignored him.

I moved to Korea in August 2013 weighing about 145lbs / 66 kg.. Ish?

I was gaining weight. I knew this because my pants were getting tighter and tighter.

About a year after living in Ulsan (July 2014) I went to a surgeon about my hernia and he said I’d need to lose weight after the surgery. I weighed in at 72kg..which I quickly converted – and to my shock and dismay – to 158lbs. I had gained more than 10lbs in that year alone.

(Quick backstory: I graduated high school at 120-125lbs. Over the course of 8 years I had barely gained 10lbs) so you can imagine the horror I felt.

I had been working out. I hadn’t been eating a lot of rice. Where did this come from??

I stopped taking pictures of myself and untagging them from Facebook because they were gross. I was gross.

A friend told me to get off birth control and see what happened. I happened to be running out of my prescription anyway so I decided to try it.

In December of 2014, I moved to Seoul. I joined a gym immediately and did my best to go a few times a week at least. I teetered between 71kg-73kg (156-160lbs). I lived in a super tiny apartment with a 2 min walk to work. This only made matters worse. I hate winter and stayed inside my tiny apartment too much..which meant I was eating a lot. I was stressed and unhappy…which meant I was eating a lot.

In April 2015 I went to another surgeon about a ganglion cyst in my wrist. I weighed in at 75kg. I didn’t believe the scale. I was afraid to convert it. I couldn’t even admit the number out loud. I literally would choke. So here goes: 165lbs.

In my highest weight, I was at my lowest point. What. The. Fuck. Was. Happening????

I went to an OBgyn about birth control because obviously that shit wasn’t working and my worst nightmare is becoming pregnant. I wanted an IUD.

(I was supposed to get para guard back in 2011 but chickened out when I saw the tools).

In May 2015 I received Mirena. I was also losing my job and therefore that tiny apartment.

In June 2015 I was having stomach issues. I thought the intense pain was caused by gallbladder problems. Turns out I was extremely backed up. So backed up that the doctor wondered how I was still functioning. Oh.. And I had a mild form of colitis. I took the medications prescribed.

I moved into my new larger apartment on June 22nd 2015. It was on a hill (well, still is).

I had a new schedule that required me to take a subway to work and walk to and from subways. (I’m switching to present tense because it applies to now). I work all over Seoul. I live in HBC, work in Mokdong, and tutor in Gangnam. It’s all over the place.

Somehow though the weight started to dissipate. I went to a gym and was 69kg, which I quickly converted to 152lbs. What???????

Then my student had a scale and we weighed ourselves. I was 67.6kg.. Which I quickly converted to 149lbs. I was below 150!!!!! Holy shit.

I bought my own scale and today I weighed in at 65kg. It was my 1st goal weight. I grabbed clothes that I haven’t been able to fit into since I moved to Korea. And here is the before and after…

February 2015

September 2015

The next goal is 61.5kg (135kg). Let’s see what happens by 2016 😉

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)

Laser Hair Removal – Seoul

I had talked about how great it would be to get laser hair removal with a friend over a year ago. We thought “Might as well do it while in Korea” – – but then we got lazy and never did it. She left, and I re-signed for another year. I moved to Seoul and joined Expat Women in Korea (FB group for women only) and a group of us started talking about getting it done again.

Dr. In Joon Lee at Nova Skin and Hair Clinic is who/what was recommended. They gave us a 10% discount as a group (aka  – no tax).
They are located just outside of Gangnam station (line 2, exit 12). Literally. You walk up the stairs and turn left directly into the building. They’re on the 2nd floor.
2fl, A-Tower, 822-1 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, SK (135-933) Phone: 02-563-7977 Dr. Lee’s email: Ijune@novaskin.co.kr

(website: http://www.novaskin.co.kr/english/)

It was recommended that we either shave or trim about a week before (whatever is being done). I opted for the armpit and bikini (not Brazilian, just bikini). Each treatment cost 100,000won per area. So I paid 200,000won (~$200) each session.
The first session was on Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing quite as romantic as getting lathered with lotion then zapped by a laser.

It started with a quick consultation with Dr. Lee. He speaks great English. He gives you the run down. Then I changed into some typical Korean medical clothes (aka, awkward scrubs) and was escorted to the back room. They put some kind of lotion on my bikini area and topped it with seran wrap. Yes. It was awkward. After about 15-30 min (i dont remember how long, I was watching How to Get Away With Murder on my ipad), they brought me to the laser area. They laid me down on a table and gave me eye covers, not unlike the ones you use for a tanning bed. They lifted my arms and proceeded with the removal. IT HURT. YES. IT HURTS. Do NOT think it doesn’t. It was like they took a metal chopstick and heated it up and zapped my armpits. (Sidenote: I don’t do pain well. I cry every time a needle comes near me. – – I did not cry during this.) When they finished, they put two ice packs under my armpits and let me rest for a few minutes. 

Then they had me turn around on the table (head to feet kind of turn).

Dr. Lee left the room, and the female nurse proceeded to work on my bikini area. It didn’t hurt as much as the armpits. Maybe I’ve been programmed to not feel it as much though because I have been getting bikini waxes for the last 10+ years. There were parts that were UBER sensitive, but overall it wasn’t too horrible. Just like any good hair removal specialist, she asked if what she had done looked okay. I had her do a few other areas and it was done. Dr. Lee came to see that my skin was reacting well and then I was on my way.

It was a little sore for a few hours after. It probably didn’t help that I was shopping and trying on clothes. But it stopped. You can take a little pain reliever if you want to.

Almost one month later, I have no shaved my armpits once. The hair on my bikini line just falls out. It’s incredible. And that was only one treatment. I go back for my second round on either Saturday or Monday. I’ll let you know how it goes!

The Art of Couchsurfing.org

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I’m getting pretty excited. I’ve lived a few places that are not easily accessed by friends from home…if I’m lucky I get 1-2 visitors each year. This year, I’m pleased to announce that my friend, Art, is coming for a visit!! Next Thursday we are going to Japan for a few days. Then, of course I have to work and he will get to have all this fun, and then on the weekend, we can go explore somewhere else!!

Have I mentioned how I met Art? I met him through a wonderful networking website called Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing allows travelers to visit places and crash on someone’s couch! Sometimes you get a bed, sometimes you get the floor, more than likely you get some form a sofa or couch. Like-minded travelers open up their homes to you for a few nights so you can explore their city. Free of charge. Typically you do something in return, like buy them drinks or dinner. I normally give a massage or clean their house a bit. I also still buy dinner. I have been surfing couches since 2010…technically 2008 but the first person I was to stay with in Germany told my friend and I the day before that there’d be a 60$ charge for each of us per night… that’s not how it works. #asshole

Anyway, I have surfed couches in Austin, Maldives, Hong Kong, Chicago, and Colorado. If you’re not comfortable staying with someone, or they aren’t comfortable staying with you, you can still meet up and have a dandy time.
That’s how I met my friend Brett. I met another couchsurfer and we were headed to Barton Springs in Austin. As we sat on the grass enjoying the sun and sights, I heard this melodic voice accompanying a guitar. I looked back and saw this dark guy with long hair playing the guitar…”Hippies” i thought. But he sang so beautifully. I looked around for this Brett guy who I was supposed to meet up with. I checked my messages and didn’t see any responses. Suddenly the music stopped and the guy started walking over to us. He sat down next to us … it was him. Brett was that angelic sounding hippie. The other CSer left eventually, but Brett and I chatted for hours. We walked through a park along Barton Springs. We made up poems and songs together. It was incredible. This was back in 2010. I’m happy to say we’re still friends and I follow his music career online. Look up Brett Randell.. he’s amazing.
I also surfed the couch of a guy named Matt in Hong Kong. He was from Texas and also had an artistic ability. He was fashionable and appreciated art like no other. He had his own shoe line too. He showed me some great places in Hong Kong. Places I wouldn’t know to go to. I also got to crash a PR event on the roof of the Ritz overlooking the city. We went on a junkboat for a day and saw the skyline light up as the sun fell ((which is my favorite part of cities)). It was so great, that I went back and surfed again for New Years Eve 2013. He has been on a crazy travel adventure and I have followed his journeys via online.
This past summer was a friend’s wedding.. she was like my big sister. There was a chance i wouldn’t make it to her wedding… so I wasn’t going to miss her Bachelorette party for the world. Of course it was in Chicago. I had a great weekend there but wanted to stay an extra day. I had contacted Art via Couchsurfing and was guaranteed a place to crash. I spent the day at the Taste of Chicago, met with two childhood friends for a couple of beers, and Art appeared. He stayed for a beer also and drove me back to his apartment. We chatted and instantly bonded over travel stories. His love for Tokyo was like my love for Hong Kong. I told him there was a possibility I would be in Korea for the next year and he asked if he could come visit if he had the chance. “Of course!” He took me to an unknown breakfast place called Stax and we had the most incredible bacon-chocolate chip pancakes. Yes.. they exist..and yes..they are the greatest pancakes ever. Then he took me to see a view of the chicago skyline from a private residence that he had access to (sneaky!). We drove around Chicago and I got to see famous sites that would have taken me days to find otherwise. We went to a sweet neighborhood where there were strange thrift stores and boutiques. We walked around and joked all day with all the items we found in stores. He was by-far one of the most generous people I have met in my travels.
He messaged me a few months ago and said he had a few weeks off and wanted to come visit. Originally we were going to Taiwan but the tickets ended up costing way more than we expected, so we agreed to visit Japan. He loves Tokyo enough that he could go again without being phased. So, he will be here next week for about 2 weeks. We will go to Tokyo, maybe Seoul, and he will hopefully get to see a bunch of Korea that I couldn’t. I’m really excited to host him. … speaking of which.. I need to clean my apartment.
Have a great weekend, world!

 

PS – if you’re traveling on a budget, or just want to meet cool people, sign up with couchsurfing.org

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