Remarkable things have happened since moving back to Korea. Just as remarkable things happened to me the first time I moved here. That’s not to say remarkable things didn’t happen when I moved back to America. Incredibly remarkable things happened when I returned to America. Only those things were remarkable in their vast degree of negativity and all-round calamity. Negative enough I don’t care to discuss my time back in America other than to say that that country, its society, its people and its customs brought me down to the lowest I’d been since first leaving the states in 1997. My self-esteem was nil not 3 months ago. I knew there was just one way to regain it. Move back to Korea.
It’s been less than 2 months since I’ve been back. Not only am I again employed, well paid and highly respected. Even more important the back pain that left me an invalid for 4 years is now gone. In 2008 I fell hard; did enough damage to my back that I couldn’t even swim without spasms. I couldn’t sleep except in a reclining chair, couldn’t get dressed without help and was denied what is considered by most to be the best ESL job in world – because of the anti-inflammatory medication I needed for the injury.
As soon as I got back to Korea my mother-in-law’s neighbor began chipping away at my back pain with her handy little kit full of suction cups. She poked holes in my back with a tiny razor pin and drained the water off my back the way athletes might drain torn ankles and knees. It strikes me as ironic that had I had this type of medical attention available back in America at the time of my job offer with that Middle Eastern oil company, I might now be in Saudi Arabia making huge amounts for a teacher, taking vacations to any country, with my whole family, for free, several times a year, for long intervals. But what can I do? Honesty is overrates. Lay down and let the neighbor keep on cupping. That’s about all I can do.
She does it for free. If I were to go and get it done by the doctor it’d be 30 bucks a suck minimum, and I wouldn’t get all the extra attention. Whenever my neighbor does work on my back she also employs the help of my mother-in-law, Rita, Caleb and Josh. They get to sit around my back fascinated by all the different colors and textures of liquid coming out. The first week or so all of the blood was really dark, what western doctors call sludge, half-coagulated dead blood cells from an old injury. It had lumps of stuff that looked like processed cheese. This, my neighbor said, is cholesterol. I should not eat anymore bacon.
Maybe the cheesy stuff actually is cholesterol. But I think the dark thick stuff is definitely coagulated dead blood cells left over from injuries possibly decades old, since she never really went to work on my back this hard when I was living here last. She used to just poke holes in my flesh and dab at me with a tissue. The suction cups are the latest element in my therapy. After a week or so the dark blood disappeared and I started getting what Rita says looks like foam. My take on it is that it’s probably more water on the back, so to speak. But my neighbor says that this is cholesterol, and I should quit eating bacon. The pricks in my back sting like hell, but the resultant regaining of youthful mobility and sound sleep prevents me from debating the topic of what exactly this foam might be.
The pain doesn’t disappear right away, not the way you might imagine, not like it would with a strong dose of those American fix-alls, codeine and all of it‘s addictive derivatives. At first there is just less pain and more mobility. Then there are new types of pain that replace the old. Sometimes it’s more severe but less debilitating. The second week I felt so good I decided to go for one of my old walks across the city. I walked 3 ½ hours before finally sitting down in a McDonald’s to use the toilet. I was contemplating how much younger I felt, how much more I planned to walk, when I got up and felt a sudden jerk of pain in my back, dead center, below the shoulder blades. It felt like the muscles were crumpling, like a crushed pop can, and it seized me for a minute so that I stood hunched about mid-way erect. But once I was straight it wasn’t so bad. My range of motion was good and I felt none of the guitar-string tightness I’ve had for countless years. Only, if I moved a certain way it hurt like hell.
I came crawling back to my neighbor and she started at me right away, prodding around like a diviner looking for a wellspring of swelling in my back. She always finds one. Lately she’s getting perfectly clear liquid coming out of my back. This, she says, is cholesterol. I should stop eating so much bacon. I promised her I would. Then she invited me over for dinner. What’s she having? I asked. Bacon, she said..