Monday, June 16, 2014

Toe Woes, Toe Wars

16 June 2014

We've been laughing about my toe, because the oversized bandage makes it look like my toe is flipping off the world!  Not sure if the gesture translates to Korean, and we're hoping it doesn't create an international incident, but we find it very funny!

So it turned out the fungal infection got under the toenail, warped the nail, and it turned into an ingrown toenail, except all along one side rather than the normal top corner thing.  I ended up having minor (very minor) surgery - the worst part was getting a shot of anesthesia in my toe.  Toes don't have a lot of flesh for an injection, so this was the most painful part of the ordeal.

Plus the funny bandage.

We've spent the weekend hanging around our neighbourhood, since there are places to explore and we don't want my sensitive toe getting trampled in the subways.  (I have princess toes, remember.)  

 One of the odd things we've noticed is that many cafés have smoking rooms - no smoking in the main part, and then a separate room within the café for smokers.  Or the outside area has tables for smokers.  Kind of nice, to not be amongst smoke.  But, while this accommodation is made for smokers, on TV shows anyone shown smoking has the cigarette blurred out by the censors.  Weird, huh?

Another thing that seems bizarre - there are these various "toasts" that turn out to be about 2 or 3 slices high, but unsliced - served toasted, and topped with usually sweet
items.  I had the apple toast, because I can't have dairy while on this antibiotic.  But there's one toast that has a mound of whipped cream, higher than the toast, and drizzled with caramel syrup.  
(We saw a little boy who was so excited to see this in a case, he was literally jumping up and down!)  The toast is served warm, and cut into 9 squares (like a nine patch quilt square).  Bizarre, though rather tasty.  But not too easy to eat - I took two forks to cut the squares into smaller bits, versus eating each square like a popsicle.

I've been thinking about Seoul, and why it seems so, well, not unique like the SE Asian cities we've seen.  I think the difference is partly that Seoul is a very modern and new city - there are old part, which we haven't explored - but for the most part, the city was built up within the last half century or so.  So it's just sort of a modern, generic, international kind of city.

I'm not sure how much of the city was here before the Korean War, nor how much was decimated during the fighting.  I would suspect that at least part of the city was destroyed and then rebuilt, adding to the modernity.

Plus this is a northern city, latitude about that of San Francisco (or comparable to Sydney in the Southern Hemisphere) - and I think cold and wettish climates lend themselves to plainer exteriors of buildings and fancier interiors.

Also, South Korea is VERY isolated!  South Korea is the end of a peninsula, with sworn enemies to the north and west (China); tense friends to the east (Japan, which is quite a distance away).  Families were divided by the partitioning of the nation, and there are periodic "reunions" sanctioned by the north to allow families to see each other briefly - not all families, not every year - some families haven't seen each other in 50+ years.

So South Korea is, in general, a very homogeneous population.  People are taller and lighter than the people we met in SE Asia, and we suspect this isolation explains the minimal use of English.  Few people seem to speak English (although we are also staying off the tourist track, as we prefer, and this adds to the lack of English).  Fortunately, menus often have some English, and we're managing to get around, eat decently, and in general have fun.

You can see that we're enjoying the Korean barbeque - part of the fun is cooking the meat to our preference.  (Have you ever tried describing medium rare to someone who not only doesn't speak English but doesn't have the same pronunciation of the "R" sound?  It isn't easy!)  Part of it is that we get all these interesting side dishes - the weird things that look like a slice of cornice moulding are really slices of king oyster mushroom, I believe.  And the white cylinders are rice cakes, which are roasted on the grill until toasty and tasty.

There are always issues one doesn't forsee when travelling for long periods of time - our new issue is that we're running out of pages in our passports.  I know, weird problem but hey, it happens.  Our passports are good for another 4 to 5 years, so we're heading to the US Embassy with their forms completed and printed, our passports in hand, and we'll get 48 pages added - at a cost, of course, and a fee for expedited service as this process requires mailing to the USA and returning to the embassy.  Ah well, this is easier than getting a new passport, or arriving in a country without enough space for them to stamp the entry visa or whatever you call the stamp.  So, we're accomplishing this tomorrow, then will go off exploring again.

That's about it for the excitement - a toe flipping off the world, good food, and an embassy visit.  Plus lots of walking to burn off that good food!

And when we go to photogenic places, well, you know there will be tons of photos!


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