Monday, December 20, 2010

Skating at city Hall

On Sunday after my race I went skating at City Hall. Lots of people, lots of crappy rental skates, lots of children and uncoordinated adults falling all over the place, and lots of fun!

It was a warm afternoon, and there were Christmas lights everywhere and k-pop music blasting from the speakers.

We did a few laps, did a bit of people watching, and took lots of pictures. I'm getting more in the Christmas spirit! We finished the day off with some deliciousss Indian food.

Side note: I am writing this on Monday. After that race and skate my legs are killing me. This is good material for a New Years resolution!

I really did it! (10km in under 1 hour): Hangang Marathon

We were supposed to be dressed as santa. Oops
I finally pushed my lazy butt over the finish line in under an hour. This is no major feat, I know. The friends I race with always finish sub 55mins, while I sputter in as the crowd thins towards the end of the run, race after race...after race.....after race.

I haven't really been training, nor eating better these last few weeks. So I would officially like to attribute this momentous occasion to Christmas Cheer!

I have 5 short days left before I go home for the holidays to see family, friends, and loved ones, and had been given a boost of motivation bbm-ing back to Canada on the subway ride over to the run. So much to look forward to! Must. Run. Fast!

The weather was lovely and I had a running buddy pushing me to keep going towards the end. The final time? 59:57. Ha!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finally got Sick: First Experiences with the Korean Medical System

I got my first bad cold in Korea. It started with a super bad swollen gland on the left side of my neck.. not a sore throat. To be honest it really felt like strep throat. With less than 2 weeks before I fly home for the holidays I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, and trudged down to the International Clinic (aka English doctor's office) in Itaewon.

I called in and was given an appointment immediately. Already impressed.

In the doctor's office, I arrived a bit early and was admitted immediately. They took my insurance card and information. Doctor gave me a strep test.

Even a dummy like me can't screw this up!
While I was sitting in his office I noticed a brochure for "live-blood analysis" for W130,000($114CDN) . It is something that family members have done in Toronto through a naturopath, with helpful follow up analysis and impressive results. Korea has the cheapest medical care I have ever seen, so I threw that into the mix. They said no problem, and took my blood.

After the nurse did all the testing, they told me to wait outside, read a magazine or relax for about 10 minutes while they ran the test. The had a testing lab IN the doctor's office.

Strep- negatory. Just me being whiny over a bacterial infection. The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics in cool individually-sealed doses and I was on my way.

Unfortunately while I was paying on the way out the receptionist informed me that my insurance had been cancelled ( I paid too late, my bad... This is since been resolved). I pictured some nightmarish medical expense that would be impossible to pay. The actual amount? For the doctor's fee, lab testing, and live-blood analysis, my total came to W170,000. Considering W130,000 of it was from live-blood analysis, I was impressed!

So that is my take on the Korean medical system. Impressive. There is a reason they have a special designated "medical tourism" industry. It's quick, cheap, and safe. Hooray!

The most dangerous discovery: Jeggings

So after a quick google search I realize that these are super popular already, but still. The other day I discovered jeggings. Aka mix between jeans and leggings. Aka jeans with elastic waistband, or leggings that look more like pants. It's the best of both worlds, and only cost ₩7,000 at Forever21. That is less than 7$. These could easily replace my obsession with wearing sweatpants, while still gaining mild acceptance with peers. YESSSSSS


So meg and I went to the ultra famous Korean theater show NANTA. It appeals to foreigners because there is no speaking. Just yelling, singing, and drumming, and melodramatic movements. Sort of like a blue-man group equivalent. The story is set in a Korean kitchen, for a group of chef's who must prepare the food for a wedding. And the use real food! Lettuce flying, knives chopping carrots, and juggling cucumbers.

The show came to around $45 for the balcony seats. It was funny, though the humor was pretty slapstick. I give it 5.5 Lstan thumbs up (can you tell I'm into rating things now).

Friday, December 10, 2010

A busy couple of weeks!

Tea in Insadong
This past week has been loaded with FUN. Meg left on Monday, after exploring all over Seoul. We visited palaces, restaurants, the flea-market-like-malls of Dongdaemun, and the traditional shopping streets of Insadong. We went to tea shops, and the world-famous musical Nanta.

Since then I have been shopping for Christmas presents in Myeongdong, started up bootcamp classes at Studio-X Fitness in Haebangchon (still limping from it 3 days later!), got roped into a speed dating fundraiser for the Seoul Women's Rugby team, and finally made it out on a Friday night to see friends.

Today I am going shopping for cheap glasses, then to SantaCon to gather with hundreds of others dressed as Santa Claus, and then to a tacky Christmas sweater party tonight!

I would stay to write more about everything I have been doing; though you'll have to wait until the end of the weekend. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Santa costume to buy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hello Kitty Cafe

A few days ago Meg and I were walking around Hongdae, a buzzing clubbing and shopping district surrounded by Universities, and therefore, cool hip Koreans. Then we stumbled upon this: The Hello Kitty cafe. A glowing mecca for all things pink, cute, and girly (aka not me)

First step in: Lots of pink, lots of Hello Kitty. Cakes look delicious to we decide to get some. 

Hello Kitty: Cheese cake, hot chocolate, chocolate cake edition!

Scoped out some great seats sitting in Hello Kitty shaped chairs

In the bathroom. The toilet was also Hello Kitty, but I thought it would be weird to take a picture

Meg enjoying her Hello Kitty hot chocolate

Traditional Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture and Cupping

Today Meg and I went to a clinic to get some acupuncture and cupping done.  

Going into it, I didn't really know what to expect.

When we arrived at the office, there was little English spoken. I had made the appointment the previous day with the help of a Korean coworker who was able to translate. The doctor asked various questions about where I was injured or in pain, how long I had felt it, and other general questions about my health. 

I'm not actually injured, but I said I have had some skin problems since I arrived in Korea, my back was sometimes tense, and my hip flexors hurt (after running 10km races without training before hand-- totally my fault, I know). She seemed interested in treating the hip flexors, so I went with it.
Lots of needles!

For Meg, I reported that she had back pain stemming from a childhood injury of flying off a swing and landing back-first. This story is true.

Upon arrival, we walked into the herbal smelling office and were taken into a room with two small beds behind curtains. Meg lay on her stomach and I lay on my back. In came a tray full of needles.

The doctor put 12 needles in my legs; two running down my hip flexor, and 2 on each side of my knee. Every time she flicked the needle in, I could definitely feel something twitch in my leg that was extending beyond where the site of the needle was. It is hard to explain, but the sensation was like a dull electricity shooting through (what I assume) was the tendon running down my leg, followed by relaxation.. but only in that tendon. They left those in for about 10 minutes with a heat lamp over my body, and then came in and removed them. One must have struck a nerve or something, because my leg seized up as soon as she took it out of my hip. A strange sensation to say the least.

Next was the sucking machine. Four little rubber cups were put on my legs and a machine would increase the suction and decrease every few seconds. It sounded like it was breathing, and felt like an animal was sucking on my legs. It kind of tickled. Kept those on for about 10 minutes.

Next was the cupping. The doctor came in and heated each cup and stuck them onto my legs. Probably close to 15~20 in all. This was probably the most painful, as those little glass cups made a strong suction onto my legs! Those stayed on for about 10 minutes. 

She finished by giving quick injections into my leg of a "herbal muscle relaxant"... too quickly for me to inquire what a "herbal muscle relaxant" was. Ahh well.

A coworker forewarned me about all of these things before the appointment, and explained that if the skin turns black after cupping, it means you are injured/unhealthy/sick. I am proud to say that after cupping, my legs were no different looking than before. Meg, on the other hand, had quite the opposite. She was left with big purple circles where each of the cups had been; some worse than others. Her back looks like it is covered in polka dots, actually. Quite funny, and for the past few days you can still see three dots on her shoulders through any shirt she is wearing. 

Overall I give the experience 6 Lstan thumbs up.

It was relaxing under the heat lamps, smelled nice in there, and felt...interesting. I didn't feel any better or worse after the appointment, though my muscles felt pretty weak for the rest of the morning. It set me back  $14 for the hour.

Maybe next time I get an actual injury I will consider getting acupuncture again. Until then, I'll just stick with massage.