dal niente

Month: February, 2009

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell

I’ve been watching Smallville Season 4 for the last little while, it’s taken up the greater part of my free time in the last 2 days because of my sickness.  If you plan to watch Smallvillle and haven’t seen up to Season 4 yet, then I warn you– there may be some spoliers in following part of this post.

Chloe Sullivan is one of my favorite characters in the DC universe. She only exists in Smallville as far as I know, but her character is so memorable that when one of my close Korean friends asked me to give her and English name, after only a little deliberation, that was the name that came up (크뢰).  I’m not sure if she’s as interesting past season 4 since this is far as I’ve seen so far, but really, I think she, along with Lionel and Lex Luthor, are pretty much the ones that carry the series for me.

Side note: The fact that the actress for Lana Lang (Kristen Kreuk?) is playing Chun-Li in the new street fighter movie kinda disturbs me, because from Smallville, even though Lana is the primary love interest of Clark, I just find that she’s a whiny bitch with no character of her own. Except that she’s good at whining and feeling sorry and being victimized. Which isn’t much of a character at all. I’m not sure how different Kreuk is from Lang, but I should hope that at the very least when the Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li does come to Montreal, Chun-Li’s isn’t the same as Lana Lang. That said, I don’t expect all that much because, lets face it, there hasn’t been a single street fighter movie or anime as far as I’m concerned that was any good. HOWEVER, Capcom did produce Resident Evil movies which were, in my opinion, great surprises (cept maybe the 4th one).

Anyway, where was I? Right. Chloe.

What makes Chloe interesting, and indeed, attractive in the series, is the drama and tragedy that is her life. She’s hates the Luthors for the death of her father (and it just so happens that the love of her life, Clark Kent, is best friends with the heir to the Luthor empire).  She has to deal with the fact that Clark doesn’t ‘like her in that way.’  She also has to deal with the fact that she’s supicious of Clark’s secrets and constantly feels hurt that he doesn’t trust her with them, despite all they’ve been through together.  In my opinion, the only thing that keeps her sane is her work as the high school’s top reporter, and the fact that Smallville has enough freaks and murders to fuel that work.  During downtime, I think that she’s actually quite sad– and I don’t mean that she lets on that she’s sad very often.  I mean, if you looked at her situation, you’d just say: man, her life kinda sucks in some ways. 

Basically, Chloe’s in love with Clark Kent. Clark hasn’t revealed his special abilities to any of his friends (‘cept one guy who’s no longer on the series), but Chloe, being the smart type, adds 1 + 1 together and eventually figures out that Clark isn’t your ordinary farmboy.

One of my favorite episodes is one where Clark suddenly loses his memory due to the attack by the special amnesia inducing powers of another Smallville special powered youth. Due to the amnesia, Clark forgets pretty much everything; his name, his family, his friends, and even whatever he knew about his powers. Chloe finds him first and realizes something is totally wrong.

Up until this day, Clark has always been very careful about hiding his powers in public– especially from his friends– but since he doesn’t remember having powers (he doesn’t even remember his own name) he literally doesn’t know his own strengths.  When Chloe takes him home, for example, he accidentally tears his front door off and pitches it into the yard. Chloe isn’t surprised, but needless to say Clark, who thinks he’s a normal highschooler, sure is speechless. The entire day, Chloe basically takes it upon herself to cover for Clark, helping him to keep his powers a secret.  You know, for all those reasons that superheroes need to keep their super abilities secret.

“I don’t get it.  If I have these amazing powers, why don’t I just tell everyone?” Clark had asked, while he had amnesia.

“Let’s not jump ahead of ourselves… Well, it’s probably to protect yourself.”

“I just don’t get why I needed to keep this a secret.  If people don’t accept me, that’s their problem– And besides, you seem to be fine with it.”

Chloe is taken aback.

“I don’t know why,” admits Chloe, stammering, “but you’ve kind of taken it upon yourself to be Smallville’s secret protector.  Maybe that’s why– not for you, but for everyone else.”

At the end of the day, he gets his memory back– however, he doesn’t remember what happened in the last 24 hours. So, he doesn’t remember losing his memory, or anything he did while he had lost it, including that he revealed his powers to Chloe, or had that heart to heart conversation about the whole nature of keeping secrets.  Ironically, despite hating Clark for keeping secrets at the begining of Season 4, by the end of it in this episode, during his amnesia, she was the one explaining to him why it’s important to do so.

Chloe kind of thinks it was perhaps one of the best days of what she sees as a slightly awkward relationship with Clark– because for once, he was totally honest with her. It was the first time that he’d revealed his powers to her directly.  And in my opinion, it take a lot of character for her to not take advantage of Clark when he was so impressionable, especially since she’s still in love with him. All it took was some temporary amnesia for him to forget why he was keeping all those secrets, and just revealing pretty much everything to her. He had to trust her totally for a day because he didn’t know what else to do.

At the end of the day, they’re talking together, after Clark gets his memory back. As far as he knows, Chloe has no idea that he has super powers, although in reality, at this point, she knows more now about Clark than he ever trusted her with prior to the amnesia incident.

“Did I… do anything strange? While I lost my memories?”

“You know what the amazing thing is?” asks Chloe, rhetorically. “You could have started all over, but in the end you decided to do everything exactly the same. You made all the same choices. Except one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“You trusted me,” she smiles with the ironic, bittersweet look that defines her tragedy.  And the episode fades out.

He’d never know how much that day meant to her, probably. And she, being who she is, would keep that secret for him; or maybe for herself?  It’s just … tragic.

And this is what I call the “big red button” idea.  Sorta like a nuclear switch.  Whenever I mention it is a time in life where I wonder, what would it be like, if you could wind back time, and maybe go another route? I call it the “big red button” because I liken it to nuking my world.  If I chose to go back in time, everything from then up until now simply dies.  Can I live with that?  Not just undoing all the terrible things that gave me character, but all the great things as well?  Not just the terrible things that people have done to me or that I’ve done to them, but the great things that they’ve done to me and that I’ve done to them as well?

Maybe I’ve already been given a chance to hit that big red button– maybe right now, I am living in an alternate present, which is happening because a future me decided “this is too much” and when he is given the chance to wind back time: he takes it.

But I’d never know, would I?

Which is the paradox of the “big red button,” that famous question that comes up in so many conversatins: “If you could, would you do it any differently?”

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter if I can’t take my stories with me.

What is it all about, if not our identities as characters, for better or worse?

And yet, even that is a really romantic idea, really.  I’d like to say that struggle and all that bloody, sweaty, teary stuff is good for character, it’s good for story–  Yes, but perhaps in fiction.  Drama and tragedy is great to keep us captivated– but in real life, nobody wishes for that kind of stuff.  At best, we set our goals and accept that hard times will befall us as a result of our decisions– but I don’t think that anyone purposely really puts themselves in tight situations just for the sake of being in the tight situation.  We grow automatically by setting goals, because once you do that,  you will automatically run into obstacles based on where you are relative to where you want to be.  If you simply looked at an obstacle without hoping to gain anything, some sort of higher, longer term goal or some some sort of self-improvement that you could somehow cross-apply to the rest of your life, well… You’d be purposely suicidal.   People don’t go to war because they like getting shot at.  People don’t go from door to door trying to teach you about Jehova because they enjoy getting doors slammed in their faces.  People don’t train in sports so they can hurt themselves.  People don’t become firemen because they like getting burned.  Nontheless, all those inadvertant truths about those professions ultimately lead to the formation of character.  All that drama, all that tragedy and hurt, it makes you stronger.  If you just did something that hurt you for the sake of hurting yourself in itself, if you didn’t believe that it would make you stronger in some way, you’d be suicidal.

Ah, but you see: here’s the mysterious part.  Some people do.  Some people take a length of rope, wear it like a necktie, get up on a chair, tie it to a light fixture and then climb up on a chair (maybe even a stool will do, assuming you don’t have long toes).  And then they just shuffle a bit, and that’s that– they have, purposely, put themselves in a tight situation.  And in their opinion, the result of this is better.  The goal in this case isn’t to become stronger– but perhaps to end the inescaple weakness.

Is there a difference between fiction and reality?

Of course there is.

And the thing is, people really do get hurt in the real world.  And they get hurt in ways that there is no strengthening, there is no benefit– there is only hurt.   The events that lead to this kind of hurt, I can only describe them as a departure from humanity.

I love the drama, in fiction, and in reality, because it’s what gives my world flavor– but, the difference is– for the most part, my drama has the safety on.  I was just lucky I grew up where I did when I did.  That had nothing to do with any action on my part, unless you believe in karma, and because of it– my brand of drama, what makes my life worth living despite all the ups and downs,  is a lot more safe than that of some people.  Take for example someone who just is born and dies within days.  That kinda tragedy– you don’t even have time to get anything out of it.

Reading a biography of Lance Armstrong, I can’t help but admire how much of an asshole the guy sounds like.  Sure he beat cancer, he won the Tour De France.  But he’s such a braggart about it all.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though– he knows what he’s accomplished, he decided on what he wanted to do, and because of each of his decisions he was presented with obstacles– and he surmounted them.  If a man is ever allowed to brag, it’s when he goes through some crazy ass drama on all levels of tragedy and hurt and still gets to where he wants to be.  There are people who try to do this everyday with more mundane things– and it is not that Armstrong is more heroic than they.

You could be a janitor, you could work at McDonalds, you could be homeless.  You can still be a hero in some way.

To me, biographies like this are to remind us that things are possible.

As much as a story about an office worker who manages to unjam a printer might be more relevant to me than having one of your friends die in a high speed peloton’s decent of a sharply curving mountain stretch in Italy, I need to set the bar higher when it comes to my entertainment.

I resent the fact that “entertainment” always has such a stigma of childishness attached to it. One of the most dangerous things is boredom.  One of the most dangerous things is also love.  Where does entertainment fit into that spectrum, do you think, despite the way that we like to use those words?  What does it mean to ‘live hard, play harder’?

Drama, tragedy, hurt, that stuff makes us strong– and I feel really blessed that I can say that from my perspective, because it means that my life is pretty easy, relatively speaking.

“If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger” right? An exercise science teacher once wrote “This is not an advisable training maxim” on my term paper. Well, to a certain extent– There are plenty of things that don’t have to kill you– there are things that may make you wonder of dying is actually the best option.

But, since I have the luxury, since I had the luck– I suppose all we have to do is focus on the goals, on the things that are good that we want, and then do whatever growing we can from the obstacles, inadvertant or incidental.  Is this worth it?   As long as I or  you can say “yes” about what we’re going through, then we’re probably on the right track.

I’m not encouraging you to do something stupid–

— but, I think we should all appreciate the baggage we carry and the things yet we might add to our collection, because those little stamps in our passports do count for something.  I’m not saying that it’s impossible that you’re really, truly fucked up– in that your drama really is the kind of reason to wear an electrical chord necktie– but most likely (statistics mostly are on my side) you’ll survive.

It’s mostly a question of whether or not you keep a photo album or a diary of your travels; in the end, all you have is the story that makes up you.  Who else would you expect to be?  Who else would you expect people to accept you as?

Like Riding A Bike

It’s been a long while since I last put on the headset and fired up a game of Gears of War 2, but man, it’s still good.  And I’m surprised how quickly one shakes off the rust from not having practiced in several weeks.

I played mostly Hoarde mode.  It took about 7 different games until I ended up with a great team on Avalanche, and though we made it only to wave 37, it was action packed.  I like a team that knows how to move as a unit that does the “run and gun” battleplan.  It’s not actually as sustainable and I’ve never gotten as far in the game using “run and gun” instead of “Alamo” style foritication, but it’s a lot more fun like this.

“One definition of “human” is as follows: characteristic of people, as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially susceptible to weakness, and therefor showing the qualities of man.  Athletes don’t tend to think of themselves in these terms; they’re too busy cultivating the aura of invincibility to admit to being fearful, weak, defenseless, vulnerable, or fallible, and for that reason neither are they especially kind, considerate, merciful, benign, lenient or forgiving, to themselves or anyone around them.  But as I sat in my house alone that first night, it was humbling to be so scared.  More than that, it was humanizing.”
-Lance Armstrong, from It’s Not About the Bike

I have a three day weekend begining today, but so far, my day has mostly been a total bust.

HP: 80%
MP: 40%
LimitBreak: 0%

I’ve caught a cold or something. I felt it sneaking up on my last night.  I think I get it from my dad– he really hates being sick, and he’s always really impatient to get rid of whatever it is that’s ailing him.  The difference is that he gets really tense and emotional around sick or injured people, wheras I don’t care so much.  I don’t think I could care too much if I was to work where I do.

But being sick really, really bothers me, because invariably I always end up feeling a bit depressed.  I’m not sure exactly what it is but I suppose it has to do with just slowing down and doing less of anything.  I can’t spend the entire day sleeping, but because I’ve got so little energy, I’m not doing much else but lying around because I just feel very very physically tired.  I find that that physical condition tends to also enroach on my mental condition– I just feel mentally lazy as well.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies in the last week.

Okay Movies:
Pride and Glory
The Express.
Movies that Had an Intersting Idea but could have been done better
Lakeview Terrace

Ones I’m Not Sure About:
Christmas in August (Korean)
Byosoku 5 Senshimeetoru (Japanese)

Just to Pass the Time:
My Mighty Princess (Korean)
Baby and I (Korean)

Good Movies:
Rough Cut (Korean)
Goodbye Mr. Cool (Cantonese)

Great Movies:
My Best Friend’s Girl
Sex is Zero 2 (Korean)

Christmas in August gave me that really ‘subtle’ feeling that I got when watching Lost in Translation.  I don’t think I really gained anything from watching this movie because it was just (and I’m going to spoil it) really sad.  I mean, it’s just depressive.  It’s what I just watched before coming online, so perhaps that’s why I’m feeling a bit down right now.

Anyway, I’m popping in Madagascar 2 right now so that should change things up a bit.

잘 – Radio Silence

“Why does he do that?” she asked, her head low.  “I just don’t get it.  I just don’t get it.”

“Because you let him,” said Mint.  “Because you didn’t tell him!  God!  Just tell him it’s over!  He’s the one who said it was over, but you have to end it on your side too!”

“You know what’s sad?” she said, as if she hadn’t heard him.  And maybe she hadn’t.  “I still love him.”

Mint’s steps didn’t falter through that.  Every word that came out her mouth deffending him just added one more knot in a muscle, one more pound of pressure between his grit teeth.

“Listen, Saejin.  It’s your first love.  You’ll get over him.  Everything you’ve told me so far tells me that he’s an asshole, alright?  He practically forced…” he paused.  “He’s a dime a dozen where I come from.”  He wasn’t afraid of raising his voice at this point because the park was completely empty, at least except for King who was hidden in the playground.  Nothing but a few cicadas could be heard, even those chriping out their noises almost seemed to be whispering at the spectacle.

“You don’t get it, do you? You really don’t.  How can you say that?  How can you tell me to give up on… on…  love?”

“There will be others.  There always are.  Meanwhile, he doesn’t care about you that way and the sooner you understand that’s why he dumped you sooner you can get on with your life.  You’re 29 now, you’re older than I am!  Why can’t you–“

…and then there was a loud slapping noise.  Mint’s face was turned to one side, and he slowly turned back to face her.

He’d caught her open hand in his own, but the fact that it had happened so out of nowhere scared him totally.  She yanked her hand down angrily, her bangs covered her eyes.  Frustrated, syncopated Korean came out between trembling lips, the same sorts of words that came out of Mint’s students’ when they were on the verge of crying.

“Listen, you!” Mint said irritibly.  “Don’t take his phone calls anymore.  Don’t.  It’s killing you, don’t you see?”

“You’re so unhappy!  What would you know about letting go of someone you love!”

If Mint’s eyes could go white, they would have at that point.  Even in the distance, where King sat hidden in the top of the children’s slide, he could see it as the blood in Mint’s body seemed to pause and just resume suddenly.  Mint put his hands across his chest and shook his head, bitting his lower lip the way he did when he was trying to stop himself from saying something.  Then suddenly, he clapped his hands together, then brushed his hair back.

That’s the signal, thought King.  And with that, he whipped out his phone.  Flipping through menus, he set the caller ID block on and then dialed the number that Mint had given him.  Good luck to that poor bastard.

Saejin paused suddenly.  At first she didn’t move.  Her phone was vibrating in her purse, but for a moment, next to Mint, she hesitated.  Mint pretended not to notice.

“He’s calling, right?  Why don’t you pick it up?” asked Mint.

She took the phone out of her pocket and without looking at it, proceeded to bring it to her ear.

At which point Mint snatched it out of her hands, and with one fluid motion, took a double skipping step before flinging it into the air.  He nearly tore his shoulder out, he whipped it out there with such prejudice.  It sailed in a high arc before, with a single plunk, it dissapeared beneath the black surface of the pond.

King’s jaw dropped.  That crazy motherfucker.

“Hate me if you want, I just don’t want to hear about it one way or another anymore,” said Mint.  And then he stalked off towards the playground.  As he passed under the slide, he stopped.

“Is she still standing there?” asked Mint.

“Yeah man.  She is.”

“Can you do me one last favor?”

“Depends.  Does it involve swimming in a pond?  Cause I’ve pissed in there at least once that I can remember.”

“Can you just make sure she doesn’t get mugged or something?  She’ll head home soon, it’s cold.”

“What, do I look like a fucking ninja? Hiding in a fucking jungle gym is one thing but that’s…” King was a whirlwind of outrage.  The pursed lips and the teeth accented every expliative, which he seldom used otherwise.  He would have gone on, until he looked down and saw Mint’s backside, his head low.

“King, I…”

“… well,” sighed King, suddenly feeling awkward.  “Walk in the park as they say.  I guess this is where they came up with that idea.  Fine.  Don’t get hit by a fucking car on the way home.”

“Heh, me?” Mint strained a smile. “No way.”

“Yeah, you just go ride into your fucking sunset.  I can’t beleive the shit you put me through.”

“I’ll see you back at your place, okay?”

“Think about what you’ve done here.  Your methods are questionable.”

“It wasn’t really planned like this. I didn’t think I’d do it.”

“Your consolation is that it wasn’t planned like this because you didn’t think you’d stick to your plan? Get the fuck out of here before I find you some concrete fucking galoshes. God just fucking stop your face and get the fuck out of here, you’re fucking up my ninja!”

Mint began to walk off, then hesitated. “Komawa, King-ssi.

Pabosekia.” King waved his hand overhead dismissively and sighed in resignation.  He just sat there, feeling a great deal of pity.

It’s a Pleasure To Meetcha

Sly (The Cat Empire)

If frisy hair was a metaphor
for festival time
then this woman is a goddess
of that festival shrine, met her
– at a jam
in that garden of sorts
I must confess god bless
some impure thoughts
“show us the money”
was the call of the night
but no money could have bought
even a piece of her pride, there might
have been a sea of people
I don’t know, because
all I could see
was how this woman she glowed so

-Aeh it’s a pleasure to meet you
ya look like one incredible creature
wanna treat you fine
lets dance and grind
get so funk-inflicted it’s a crime
you’re divine you’re sublime
and well you blow my mind

She caterpillar so good
that all the greeks go “killa”
break and enter take ya like a glass of milk
then “spill ya”
saw her coming what a scene
what I mean is
she got that sex coffee beam
but she tastes like vanilla
well alright she ignite
when we hit the floor
like the vroom on a V8 super commodore
now if it makes a good story
well it’s just worthwhile
with her’s like dealing stories
in that sprinkla style and so

-Aeh it’s a pleasure to meet you
ya look like one incredible creature
wanna treat you fine
lets dance and grind
get so funk-inflicted it’s a crime
you’re divine you’re sublime
and well you blow my mind

Why yes Mr. Adams,

I agree. We should totally control music the way we control narcotics.

I know that I totally abuse music in the mornings.  I have a lot of trouble waking up, so I just load my uppers on my MP3 player, crank the volume up, and drown out the tiredness.  Or if I want to just wallow for a bit, I load up the depressing stuff and just numb my brain.  I have the uppers and the downers, and the stuff in between.

I had a day off today.  It was the best day off I had in a while because I did absolutely nothing.

And it was nice.


Wohoo! My day off.

It’s 6:12AM.  I went to bed at like 1:30AM and for some reason, I can’t sleep.  Why am I already awake?

To answer someone’s question, don’t I have days off? Yes.  Today’s my first day off in 4 days of work.  For the last 50 out of 100 hours of my life, I’ve been at the hospital, so I’ve got today off.  I was thinking of sleeping in but for some reason I’m awake and I have no clue why, I’m not even rested yet, so after a fair amount of tossing and turning, here  I am.

That old saying “the flesh is weak” couldn’t be more true.  Aside from working during the Intensives seasons in South Korea, I’ve never worked this hard in my life.  And it’s interesting because my willpower hasn’t burned out but I feel my body giving out underneath me in very subtle ways.

First, yesterday, when I woke up, my legs didn’t feel rested, probably because of the amount of nonstop walking/running involved in my job.  My legs felt roughly the way they do after a previous day of badminton even though I didn’t actually do any sports.

Secondly, I was also getting these crazy food cravings.  My diet nowadays is pretty good and clean, but the irregularity of my meals is triggering my starvation reflex I think.  I say clean in that I’m not taking in much fat– I’m either eating at the workplace cafeteria (which actually does a really good job of providing health meals, go figure for a hospital) or at a local Korean place (which doesn’t serve much fatty food to begin with) so the feul I’m putting in my body is really clean.  I haven’t had time to play badminton, training, or anything like that since last over a week ago, so I’ve basically been hitting the calisthenics and isometric exercises to keep my system in shape.  And, walking like a madman at work.

And you know what? Somehow when I thought that I had settled at a natural weight of 155, I actually now weigh in at 160lbs.  And I’m not even training!   I don’t get it.

Although, it could have something to do with the starvation reflex.   See, in the morning, I usually wake up at about 10:30.  I have time for a very small breakfast– I might a bowl of cereal, or a couple of pancakes, or maybe some beans and eggs with toast.  Then I head out to work.  Usually, assuming there’s no free food at work (we often get craploads of free sandwiches or muffins) my next meal will be at about 5pm.

Surprisingly, I don’t get that hungry throughout the day because I’m always moving, so I feel like I’m always in ‘exercise’ mode or something.  Intellectually, statistically though, I know that given the amount of calories I’m burning, even if I don’t feel it, I must be hungry.  At 5, I usually eat enough to have my fill.  Then more work, until I make myself dinner at around midnight or a bit later when I get home.

At least, this has been my routine for the last 4 days.

Now, what I mean by the ‘starvation’ reflex is what happens to everyone when they go without food for a long stretch.  Automatically, the body notices that it’s not getting refueled even though it’s sending out hunger signals.  It’s reaction is twofold: firstly, it tries to slow down the metabolism and reduce your brain’s clock speed so that it can conserve energy; secondly, the next time you have a meal, once you start eating, you never feel full.  The second part is because your body, in light of thinking that it’s going through tough times, is thinking “we need to load up because we don’t know when the next filling station is going to come by.”

Last night when I got home, I was hit by hunger hardcore when I started warming up my food.  I mean, I had beef tournedos, mushrooms, rice, a stack of grapes, almost a litre of juice– the sheer weight of it all would scare you.  And you know what?  I even put three slices of sliced cheese over the whole pile of food because I just felt it needed something extra.

I put sliced cheese because I narrowly avoided eating half a brick of cream cheese which I suddenly felt a craving for while looking in the fridge.  And, it wasn’t willpower that saved me– it was lack of crackers or bread to make the cream cheese sandwhich that my body demanded.  You know that something’s wrong with your routine when your body sends you signals that manifest themselves as an almost irrestible urge for a cream cheese sandwich.

At work I also noticed that my brain was dulling.  Probably because of the metabolic slowdown.  In part that’s why I wanted to keep moving all the time, because it keeps my body flowing with exercise chemicals like endorphins and adrenaline which keep me alert.

But I felt myself kinda going bonk yesterday in the middle of work because in order to keep that up, you need a lot of fuel which I wasn’t consistently delivering.  I think also that sleep lately hasn’t been all that restful just because I need the time off.  Even if I don’t have time to do any training, I need the time to either sit down at the piano, pick up a guitar, do some reading for myself or just shoot some aliens.  There needs to be a mental change of focus because if I dive too deep into work, no matter how much I enjoy it intellectually, emotionally or philosophically, it is still work in the sense that I have no choice but to do it.

I found myself holding back pure irritation at times.  I never let it show and I think that that was doubly exhausting, because not only was I ‘fighting’ the outside world by keeping external forces in check (situations or people) I was also fighting an internal battle to not just flip out and go postal.  I mean, really, sometimes my coworkers are idiots, douchebags and weasels, all at once.

There’s this doctor, let’s call him Doctor Dough, I hate his guts.  This man rubs me all the wrong way and he’s got a reputation of doing so because he just treats everyone like his personal assistant.  He’s handing me ER sheets and telling me to follow up on lab results or demanding that I load up rooms whenever he sees me even though that’s not my job since I’m the fastrack coordinator.  Sure, okay, I’ll help out the main section by doing it, because I can– but it annoys me for several reasons.  Firstly, it’s technically not my jurisdiction– not just to divide tasks, but because if I start doing the main section’s work, there will be confusion because I might do something that might not coincide with their battle plan for the evening.  Secondly, wtf is the main section doing anyhow that they can’t keep Dr. Dough in check in the first place?  They should be checking his labs, they should be loading his rooms.  Why the fuck am I getting this douchebag breathing down my neck when it’s not even my department?

Sure, think of the children I tell myself.  Actually, I don’t think about the best of the children anymore in any emotional way when I’m tired… it’s mostly professional duty that gets me through, and a paycheque.  I just tell myself think of the children as a way of mentally motiviating myself, it’s like an empty mantra that like all rules you get to fall back on because somewhere along the line it was invented in good conscience and with good intent, and I trust myself on rules like that especially when I’m exhausted.  So I help.  I don’t give excuses.  But, I make it very transparent to the other clerks and to Dr. Dough that I am doing them a favor.

Dr. Dough is the kinda guy who thinks that he’s doing everyone a favor by existing, so it’s hard to get anything through to him because his qi barrier is so tough.  Times like that, when he says, not asks: “My rooms are empty.  I have no patients to see.  I need more patients.”  I only hear: “I’m an idiot.  I cannot see that all the rooms are full.  I cannot see that you want to jump off this counter and roundhouse kick me in the ear.  I only saw that I wanted something and you happened to be the first person in sight.”

Because of some code red training seminars going on upstairs yesterday too, we were a bit short staffed on the clerical end because we’d keep sending up our people.   I had to spend a couple hours extra covering for my old trainer (the bitchy one) and that was hellish because the department was in a total mess.  When I went in, she gave me her sitrep and she was already behind by about an hour worth of work.  By the time I was done replacing her, we were behind by about two hours worth of work– and she has the nerve to repeat to me constantly that I need to help her if she’s to finish everything before her shift is over.  I mean, sure– as the fasttracker for the afternoon, I’ll probably have less work to do than she will on this kind of day.  But I’m not obligated to help you, and you could be nicer about it.  Telling me that “you had better not lose the micros because I’ll kill you”? Oh hells no lady, no fucking way.  I was being the better man because I realize that you are stressed out and the volume of work that day was insane (it always is super busy at the hospital the day after bad weather) but fuck you, even if it ain’t personal don’t use words that make it personal.  I basically cleaned up my share of the 1 hour behindness, I did a little bit more, but then that’s where I just walked away and basically left her to die at her desk.

Here’s the kind of person I am: I live off of good intentions and positive energy.  Some of the most dirty (but powerful) fuel I can use is negative energy, but I only tap that barrel every so often– I keep it in reserve for certain situations only.  In the workplace, as far as I’m concerned, it should be about good intentions and positive energy. So, if you ask me in a genuinely nice way (not to be confused with the passive agressive polite-but-demanding way) that is positive in nature, then I will go to the ends of the earth to help you.  On one level it’s because I think that your positivity should be rewarded, so that you learn that positivity gets you results.  On another hand, I just like people who know how to operate as a team.

When you’re negative about things though, there’s a few directions it can go.  One of them is to basically tell you to fuck off and cry me a river.  I try not to resort to that method because while it does set boundaries, and while it does establish parameters for how a system should work, a hostile borg workplace environment isn’t very mentally healthy.

Positive approaches have a lot to do with lying to ourselves about how we’re giong to finish this day on schedule.  Ironically, negativity has to do with being realistic and honest with ourselves.  One can be honest to a fault though.

Thankfully, for the last 6 hours of my shift, I was working primarily with other doctors, who I’ll call Dr. Tree and Dr. Js.  Working with them is always a pleasure beacuse they’re positive people who, like Han Solo, never want to know the odds.  When I look out in the hallway and see patients and their families lined up from the pre-triage window right to the parking lot entrance, I’m thinking fuck me, but working with Dr. Tree and Dr. Js makes it okay because it’s the first time that I can sit down and interact with someone other than by backgrounding working their lives easier.  Working with Dr. Tree and Dr. Js is about the human connection and that’s what makes my job so much easier.

Dr. Tree is a Montreal West resident, and he’s an avid cyclist– he bikes to work even in this snow so we have stuff to talk about.  Dr. JS used to be a Montrealer, I think, but now she lives in Windsor, the armpit of Canada.  “Oh yeah, it’s a shithole,” she says to me with a laugh.  “But it’s got good music.”  Sometimes I work with Dr. S who is just as fun– she was introduced to me by other clerks as a real bitch, but I got on her good side because, whatdya know– I did my fucking job– and Dr. S was so impressed that she wrote a letter of recommendation to my boss, which totally surprised her because Dr. S is usually really hostile to her support team.

When I’m paired with any of these three doctors, we will be responsible to triage, examine and discharge between 75 and 95% of the patients in the hospital.  That’s why these doctors (and a few others) are called fasttrackers.

There are 15 beds allocated to the  main area, that includes medical and surgical.  Fasttrack’s dedicated rooms are between 3-4 in number only.  Yesterday because of a crazy influx of category 3 patients, the main area had to borrow rooms from us so I was operating the fasttrack department with only one examining room. That was crazy, but we got it done.

Which is in part why I say that sometimes I can’t stand some of my coworkers– if I’ve got 3 rooms to work with and you have 15, who do you suppose has a lot more space to play tetris with?  Not me.  So stay on the fucking ball!

What I really can’t stand is when this particular clerk works– she’s got a really chirpy attitude but she’s really kinda a bitch in my opinion.  Patients are categorized into 5 groups– so when I say you’re a cat 5 patient, it means that you’re really not an urgent case.  You probably have a nosebleed. You probably shouldn’t even be in the hospital. If you’re a cat 1, it means you need resussitation.

So the 4s are piling up (it’s the most common type of patient) and she sticks some on our clipboard on the fasttrack side, even though they’re not fast track patients.   Sometimes it’s okay that the ft department takes 4s and 5s that have already been triaged, although technically we shouldn’t just bceause FT’s specialty is to skip triage and do it ourselves– that means a little overlap and double work.  Anyway, so I load those couple of 4s into 2 out of 3 of our rooms.  The Dr. Js sees the sheets at some point and is like, “uh…. these aren’t FT patients.  I’d like to stick to FTs.”

The clerk who did this though comes in and gives us her puppy dog face and says “pleeeeeeeeeeeese.” But the doctor basically says no, no way!  We can’t clean up the main area’s mess, it throws the whole FT system behind.  The clerk replies that well, but if you don’t do them, you can’t have those rooms back yet because we can’t kick those non-FT patients out. 

So, we don’t cover them… but we’ve suddenly lost two rooms to the main area.  For the next 2 hours, those two rooms are locked up because the main area isn’t really pulling it’s weight and Dr. Js and I are operating FT out of just one examining room, which is retarded. 

I point this out later and the clerk is like “Well, if Dr. Js would just see those two patients, you’d get those rooms back!”

And to that, what the fuck.  I suppose this is pretty specific to our job so it’s hard to explain why, but let me summarize– only a nurse or a doctor can decide how important a patient is, and the priority in which they are seen.  A clerk is not legally or professionally capable of doing so.  This clerk was basically deciding to put these patients ahead of the queue, and I see why– because these patients’ families are the sorts who complain a lot.  She must’ve given in and just gotten them rooms on our side because she was fed up of dealing with them.

First of all, when parents start bitching, you don’t give into their demands by doing them any favors.  That’s fucking weaksauce.  It’s against policy, and it just fucks up the system of fairness.   It certainly doesn’t make the deparment run any smoother, because even if a patient is put in a room early, they might not be seen until later because we still serve by category first, and by time of arrival second.  So, those patients were put in my FT rooms and they weren’t even seen for another hour– wheras if they were being used for FT patients, I’d have someone new in there every ten minutes.  What, is this a fucking parking lot?  And meanthile those offloaded parents are popping their heads out every ten minutes getting on my case about “when’s the doctor coming” and all that crap.

Ugh.  It’s now 7:40AM.  I think I’m tired again so I’ll try to go back to bed.

Some general pointers:
Whenever you go to a hospital, be nice to the staff. Please.

Jinryu says:
in a strange way i just assume all asian women go to clubs regardless of anything i think of them
Chili – guitar heroing says:

So, some things in the world make sense, and some things just don’t.

I was at work today and this big kid comes up to me, he’s bigger than me and probably weighs as much as I do at least.  His face is all red and it’s the 3rd time he comes up to me to ask when is it his turn to be seen by the surgical doctor.  He’s been waiting two hours and he thinks he’s broken his arm.  His eyes are all red and everything.  He lifts up his arm to me and insists it must be broken and that he must see a doctor.

Any sympathy from me?

In my head I’m thinking– the hell, kid.  You’re bigger looking than I am.  Suck it up!! Haven’t you ever broken a bone before?

And to be honest, if you’re holding your arm up like that to show it to me and you’re not screaming, it’s not a clean break, it might be a bruised bone or microfractures at the worst, and if that’s the case– come on.  Suck it up, jeezus!  We have some kids a tenth your size who have broken bones and they’re not nearly as whiny as you are.

What do they make kids out of nowadays anyhow?

I mean, give me a few fractures here and there, sure, I can deal with that.

Ask me to go clubbing? Hmm.  Then we have some issues.

Saturday, I was working about 12 hours.  Sunday, I was working almost 14.  Tonight, I worked about 11 and a half.  Tomorrow, my shift will be at least 10 hours.

It’s nice to rake in the overtime cash, but I think that I need to start planning on how I’m going to maintain any sort of a social life like this.  With the irregularity of my schedule, it’s hard for me to schedule any hobbies for myself.

The kinds of hobbies that I used to meet people with included martial arts, badminton, music and food.  In Korea, it was mostly about the food, the alcohol, the taekwondo and the church.  All these things are getting foiled by my variable schedule.  In Korea, it was also really convenient that a strong base of friends came from work, where everyone had the same schedule.  At the hospital, many of my coworkers are the sorts that I could become friends with– many of them have good personalities.  However, because of the timing of our unqiue positions, our schedules always overlap and we never quite match onto eachothers sleeping schedules.

So, I need to come up with a battle plan– otherwise, I’ll just be either at work, or getting rest before going to work. I can’t just rely on the few close friends I have for all my outings… I really need to figure out some way to just meet new people.

While the outings that I do go on are fun, I feel that I just need a wider base.

It’s ironic that somehow, in everywhere except my hometown, it was really easy for me to make new friends.  Is it the job, frying my brain and my sociability?  Is it just the comfort of having everything handed to me in MTL 2.0, such as friends and family that have always been here?

Is it just that I live in the suburbs and I don’t drive anymore?

Or is it just the expectations, the public image, the fear that comes with being in familiar places that prevents me from really going out there and doing something different?

To be fair, I’m still always on the “try something new” program.

I try new things at work everyday in the sense that there are craploads of things I am simultaneously trying to make myself more proficient at.

I think it’s too much of a mental strain though, so maybe I need to figure out some way to cut back?  Because I’m using all my daily “try something new” points at work, so I seldom have much left to allocate outside.  “Try something new” takes energy– it’s a stress.  It’s not ‘fear for your life’ fear but anything new is by definition something unknown, and even if you look forward to a change it is always a stress.

I think lately then, despite all enjoyance, I need to give my mental health more time to relax.  There’s good stress and bad stress, but even though I think that everything I go through lately is mostly good stress, there’s still only so much I can do in a day or even a week.

Imagining myself punching the boy in the arm probably is a sign that it’s all getting to me.

Help, I need Somebody

Text messages:

Jinryu ( at work ): Are you FUCKing kidding me why isn’t there any toilet paper here!
Terminator: Time for the penguin walk stall shuffle

I send a bit over 2000 sms per month.  They’re all keypad written, I don’t have a blackberry or a mini-qwerty or anything like that.  To be honest, I think adaptive text with a T9 on a keypad is much better than a qwerty pad, you just need to get used to it.

Tell Me

I should point out that I’d be surprised that anything written following this makes sense, because I’m falling asleep while writing this.

Things I missed today:

  • I could have played an LBA league game with Vittek’s team tonight.  I really love LBA games despite me not being part of their team officially anymore except in my capacity as a substitute player.  It’s my old team, and to be honest, my cousin is a self-sufficient sort of guy who seldom asks me for much help, so whenever he does, I really want to be able to help him.
  • I could have gone to a going-away dinner for a girl I’d met a couple of weeks ago.  She’s going on a three month vacation to Asia.  We’ve only been out on two separate occasions alone but I like her company.  I don’t know about dating her, and I don’t know what she thinks about me in that regard, but I enjoy her company, really.

I didn’t do either of these things though because I had previously made plans to go out with a  college friend that I haven’t had the chance to see since November, and before that, I hadn’t seen since before I left for Korea.  But well– that plan fell through and she couldn’t make it.  I got the message a bit before we were supposed to meet up downtown and join up with some other friends, one of whom similarly hadn’t seen her in a while.

I basically had to decline the LBA game because I made a plan to go out with this college friend, SiB,  and NitroNilla beforehand, and I treat my engagements on a first-come-first served basis. 

I also  basically declined going out with the girl who I’d just spent 7 hours with today in restaurants and coffe shops all across montreal, because I usually hold true the rule “bros before hos” and in this case, “sisters before hos” in the sense that I’d know the friend since college, and I wasn’t going to let a little date with someone who I knew less get in the way of a reunion.  Not that the person who I had coffee with today was a ho (far from it).  I’m just saying.

But you know, I guess that’s that.

I’m honestly tired of trying to arrange things with her (ther person who flaked on me).

I had a good night with StrangerInBlack (SiB) and NitroNilla nontheless though– we had dinner with one of SiB’s coworkers, who was really cool.  She had a good sense of humor and helped along with the conversation, she even gave NitroNilla and I a lift a few blocks through this inhuman Montreal winter weather.  At some point we were joined by Ross (from the old MAC, who later became it’s president after my generation graduated) and Alex (a friend of Ross who wants to go to Korea).

To be honest, you can’t ask me about Korea casually in such a way that I won’t enjoy myself– I have mostly good memories of the palce and even the worst of them were very educational, so I’m always very glad to speak about my experiences there.  The evening was not a waste at all.  It was loads of fun, and I introduced the group to a few drinking games.

Regardless, I made to keep my friday night free.  I planned it in advance and I stuck to my guns.  To be flaked on hurts on a personal level beacuse it tells  me that my time isn’t valued.  And while all this is just an interpretation of a single mishap, should point out what I think abotu sorrys: I don’t care about sorries in face of the idea that a problem will not be a problem next time.

I don’t care about sorry.  I don’t demand apologies from people or anything because I don’t care about them– apologies don’t make me feel any better, they just tend to make the apologizing person feel more like they’ve done what they can to assess the situation and and come up with a fitting punishment– ‘being sorry’ is almost like a way to just feel less gilty about oneself.

And I don’t care about feelings like guilt I just don’t want it to happen again.  And I’m sick of it.  It’s not the first time and so that’s it– I’m just not going to put any more efforts into it. I just won’t try with this person anymore.

People grow and they come up with divergant dreams– that’s normal. Not all friends are not forever, and we’ll use this process to find out who the cloest of our friends are and who are the furthest.

But what I can’t stand are words that feel like they’re just politically done, because … well.  I don’t take pleasure in the suffering or guilt of my friends, which is why “sorry” really doesn’t do it for me.  It feels like something the othery party does more to put themselves in a feeling of thorogh guilt  so that in a strange way, they’ll feel a bit better.  I never ask for my friends to say sorry  because it doesn’t change anything, and I don’t take any pleasure in making my friends feel guilty.

I don’t arrange things with people to ‘test’ peoples’ dedication or anything.  I just want to have fun.  And so no amount of words is relevant to this end.

I’m exhausted, so I’m going to bed.  I haven’t slept nearly enough Friday.

To the person who flaked on me…. I don’t care about sorrys, or reasons.  That has nothign to do with me, and that doesn’t change my situation.  At a certain point, taking responsibility has nothing to do with intentions or words, it simply has to do with results.

Walk On

Status Ailments: Headache (-1 to all stats)

Yesterday was only an 11 hour shift, but I went out to Chinatown with Ly and Quynh to shoot the shit for a bit before getting hom at about 1:30 in the morning, and being woken up by work asking me if I wanted to cover a sick call.  I said no, but that made it impossible for me to sleep again, and that was just 7am.  Soooo I might as well write before I go out on what might be a date (I’m not sure).

One of the things that changed about me in the past year and a half is the way I deal with relationships.  Previous to 참치씨, any relationships that I considered relationships lasted between about a year and three years.  Think it’s in large part because those relationships were always with girls who I knew well as friends previous to ‘jumping the ladder,’ so yeah, for all those of you who are complaining that you’re stuck on the ladder, stop your bitching, it can be done– I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s not because you’re a “nice guy” that she doesn’t notice you, it’s something else.

I was talking to NitroNilla about a month back because we were talking about his boyfriend, and the subject of jumping from that ‘friendship’ to ‘relationship’ ladder came up– he described this idea that he’d heard somewhere that for people who do go this route, it’s usually because they lack a certain amount of confidence to go in with a cold approach.  It’s a lack of self-esteem or nerve, at least as far as relationships go.  And it makes sense.  I don’t deal well with just walking up to a stranger based on how they look or any random reason that they might’ve caught my attention, and then just striking up a random conversation, and then asking for a date.  (I don’t know how StrangerInBlack does it, but kudos to him.)

참치씨 was perhaps the first girl I dated that things picked up quickly from the getgo.  It also ended relatively quickly, and we were only going out for about 5-6 months.  But it was educational because it set a lot of guidelines down as to how I would go about relationships from then on.  One of the big things was that in the past, I had this “Knight in Shining Armor” syndrome.  I liked girls who had ‘baggage’ because it felt that my ability to help them with that was an important part of the relationship. 

The thing is, I’m not that kind of person 24/7.  The helping sort, I mean.  I will help people but I don’t necessarily like doing it beyond a certain extent– I’ve realized now that there’s no shame in deciding that this is my limit.  This is how much I want to put into a relationship.  And beyond this, there is this greyish area up to here, which is the amount of compromise and unpredictable extra play I can give to the rope.   I think that with BM and with Zaitseva, why things went the way they did was because I had this obession to always fix things, and that included in their lives, as if I had some sort of obessive compulsive disorder.  If nothing else, I thought I was doing my end of the relationship by doing legwork and fixing everything.

And at the time that was my way of showing love.  And yeah, I’ll openly admit that– everyone who I’ve ever been in a relationship with, I’ve loved them for this or that reason.  The fact that we’ve since broken up doesn’t change that at least for those moments in history, it was like that.

I’ve come to the opinion now though that the Knight Syndrome approach isn’t working for me… it’s because I expected everything to be fixable.  And while I don’t  believe that anything is impossible, I do believe that some situations are a lot more work than they’re worth, and given that I’m mortal, I need to learn to cut my losses and really find things in a relationship that I enjoy and focus on that.  I’ve also come to the conclusion that not only aren’t I a tank, but I don’t need to be one for someone to like me.

Maybe it’s because of how I was raised or something– I look at the relationships in my family between my parents, my uncles and aunts, my grandparents– and to be honest, the relationship them has always been about “family” and “hard work” more than what would would contemporarily call “love.”  And I think that affected the way I went into a lot of relationships.  And while I’m impressed (not to mention, glad) that nobody in my family ever went through divorces, my family does get into a lot of fights with eachother that sometimes cross, in my mind, the line.  To me, this meant that I was in relationships longer than I should have, and I put up with more shit than I should have at times when I probably should have been moving on.

The breakup with 참치 was the first where I just sorta decided that “this is how far I will bend.”

I think the reason why things could go like that is in large part because of where I was in life at that time– by that time, I had finally finished university and I was working full time at a job I more or less enjoyed.   There was a lot going on with adjusting to Korea and all that and I felt like we were on a honeymoon together.  This was probably for different reasons, since she had lived on year in SK previous to me and so for me, things were very different.  It was all very fresh, very new.

The thing about Korea was that it was a different country with a completey different set of values.  Not just Korea… Asia.  That includes the time that I spent in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

It changes you.  Or, more accurately, it gives you a second chance.

What I mean by that is that as much as I believed in the independance of my own thought and ways, it wasn’t until I broke up with 참치 that I really understood what independence really meant.  It wasn’t anything great at all– it wasn’t something I had to work at.  It was just a default state– it just meant, in some sense, that I was alone.

And it was suffocating.  As 참치 had predicted, I’d been crutching on her knowhow of the way things worked in Korea to get me around a lot.  And some of the first friends that I’d made on the job were finishing their contracts and heading back to North America, so I had to start fresh.

Ironically, I think what ruined the relationship for me wasn’t that I was acting as a Knight– it was that she wanted a Knight.  By this point in my life I’d been acting more within my comfortable range of giving.  That, and I’d realized with my job that there was only a certain amount of “saving the world” I could do in a day, a week, or even a month– because of the students.  Take any random log of my time teaching and I’ll see that teaching, especially in the first half of my contract, was all about the relationships I had with children with whom I was kicking and screaming with daily.  I could do my best to do everything for them… but I quickly realized that there was only a certain amount that I could do.

In the begining, my teaching style was purely deffensive and reactive– I was a bad teacher because I didn’t set ground rules and I was really a pushover, in that I wanted my kids to be happy no matter what.

I didn’t have the energy to do it with my own personal life as well.  What she wanted a Knight, with all the tassles, and I couldn’t be that.  By the end of our holiday vacation in Taiwan together, I had serious doubts about the direction of our relationship after we got into arguments about little things.

And that was a turning point because it’s somewhere around there that I really put theory into practice– I mean, I’d always preached “doing your own thing” while I was in Montreal 1.0, but there was no place to really put this on the field until I was teaching.  At some point, I stopped trying to bribe my students for their cooperation with food and play time.  During the first round of Intensives in January 2008, when I met some students who changed my life–  that’s when I started realizing from being at work 12 hours a day that I needed to have a system that was mine and not just reactionary to what people wanted out of me.

We could work on compromises but before that, I needed to decide what I stood for.

That is actually misleading.  I think part of the epiphany was that I couldn’t decide what I stood for– I just had to discover it.

When I broke off with her, I remember one thing very particular– she was absolutely terrified of being alone in South Korea.  And that’s just perspective– she had friends mind you– but at the time of the breakup, that’s what was on her mind.  She described it that I almost imagined it as if Korea itself were Stephen King’s It, stalking her, making it impossible to sleep and making her jump at corners because in face of It, she was still a child who would be devoured.

And It is really sorta anything that you fear– for her it was lonliness.  And I wonder how much longer our relationship lasted just because I was just that– some sort of consolation for lonliness?  I mean, in a way that didn’t matter whether it was me or anyone else.

I remember when we broke up, she asked me– “Will you be my boyfriend for one more night?  You can leave in the morning but I can’t be alone tonight after this.  I can’t.”

참치 is a really great girl.  If I was to describe her in one word, it would be an optimist.

And at some point, when I asked myself, “is this the best I can do?” I came upon a second question: “Am I the best that she can do?”

And then a lot of things about relationships come into perspective with that thought.  I am being totally boastful when I say that I have a pretty good opinion of myself in certain lights, but I also can be very critical– I know what my weaknesses are and sometimes I throw down with people just because I’m wondering if they’re withholding information to this regard.  But strengths or weaknesses, these are complimentary components of any person– I am who I am, and that’s the bottom line.

And sometimes, relationships are sorta like this big shakedown– you both get thrown into the same bottle, you shake it up, and you let it sit with time– and you see eventually if it’s heterogenous or homogenous.  And that’s all there is to it.

From life to death, we really go through huge progressions.  I think that’s one of the totally oversimplifying characteristics of pieces of literature– the way that through an entire story, you might see that there are particular themes throughout the courses of events.  And while you can find many, you will find some particular ones usually that stand out more than others.

Real life isn’t like that.  Nothing happens automatically– even if you are to continue in your ways and reinforce a theme, that takes effort– you could just decide to never get out of bed again and never do anything the same, you could, in all reality, start a completely new book, nevermind a chapter and though it would be difficult, it is possible.

Part of it happens not because you get to decide who you are– but because, very often, we are choosing who we want to be instead of becoming who we are. So perhaps the greatest change of our lives comes when we stop trying to take control of who we are and shaping it to this or that and simply accept, and go from there, not pulling our feet forward but simply putting the left and front of the right.  Rinse, repeat.

Yesterday at work has been an interesting mix. And you know, now that I think about it, one of the things I miss most about South Korea (or Asia in general, for that matter) are the 짐질방들 jimjilbangs (public bathhouses).  Sometimes, after a day of teaching, I’d truck on down from Anyang-shi to Suwon-shi to meet up with Zanshin, and around midnight we’d just head out to one of those places.  It was nice to do so, it really was.  There was a nice one near his place, I can’t remember the exact name, but it was something like Crystal Sauna or something like that and it was a really relaxing place to be in.  It had more than 4 hot tubs of different temperatures along with some of the hottest saunas and steam rooms I’d ever experienced in my life– some of them, you’d go in and your teeth and eyeballs would actually hurt.

Yeah, it’d be nice to do that yesterday after (yet another) 12 hour shift, my third in 4 days.

You know what though? Yesterday was a good day to be working. I saw a lot of action, and in a literally more hands on sort of way.

I mean, I don’t know if I mentioned some fucked up cases– the girl with the crochet hook that had gone through the top of her mouth and came within centimeters of touching her brain, or the kid who swallowed a shard of glass, or the 12 year old girl who suffered partial paralysis because of a schoolyard dogpile, or the boy who suffered a stroke after a tobogganing accident just meters from his home sent an anneurism up to his brain.

That was all… short contact.  A minute, tops, to do their paperwork, and then my job is done. I receive from the ambulance techs and while on the move, get my goods, and then report back to the nurses or doctors with dossiers, registration numbers, or whatever, so that once they’re in the system they can start getting work done on the record.

But strange was a strange day in that now that I’m the FastTrack Coordinator, I end up bouncing around even more than the dedicated Emergency Coordinator.

Aside from just helping around in all the departments in general, I got to hold this baby while her mom went to the bathroom because she felt sick.  I was hanging onto this baby for like five minutes– it must’ve been a year old at most.  It was really tiny, and it seemed to be terribly fascinated by the texture of my stubble, because he kept on poking me in the face.  He was the most well behaved baby I’d ever seen, and that includes my new twin cousins.  What set apart this baby from all the other babies was that he had the most attentive eyes I’d ever seen in a child.  They say that the eyes are a window the soul– this was one of those rare cases where I could sense a genuine spirit of either fearlessness or curiosity.  He wasn’t one of those giddy happy babies, just quiet, with sharp, interested eyes.  He felt like the strongest baby in the world, and he wasn’t doing anything to demonstrate it except that he was staring me straight in the eyes, unflinching.

His spirit really made an impression on me.

One of the things that I’ve found is that I don’t baby babies, and I don’t baby children.  This has always been the case.  I’ll speak in a normal voice– I don’t do any cootchi coo voices or things like that, and I don’t use a ‘teacher voice’ for things like “Isn’t this great!” ever, not even with my youngest students who were about 8 years old.  In fact, the only time I use a babying voice is when I’m being sarcastic and am trying to mock someone.  For a few minutes, I had a very stimulating conversation with that baby.  He, to his credit, was very attentive of my short rant on modern pediatrics.

The interesting part of the day had to do with an unexpected hour and a half that occured around 7pm, closer to the end of my day than it’s begining.

I was pulled off my regular duties at some point and asked to serve as a translator.  This is the fourth time I’ve had to translate between English and French and vice versa, normally for our foreign medical staff who only speak English

Today was something that struck a nerve though… it was a suicidal patient.

I don’t try to take ‘revenge’ on fate or anything like this, but I guess it’s just because of the last psyche patient who I dealt with who passed away last week that warning lights were going off in my head.  I agreed to help out nontheless because there was soemthing I wanted to try and understand and experience.

I still don’t know what to make of that experience.

We spent the first hour or so with just the boy, while his parents waited outside the room.  The room from the inside really feels like a prison.  WIth a high ceiling and two buble mirrors that have cameras hidden behind them, the large bulletproof window that looks right into the nursing station, and the flashing light on the RFID sensor to unlock the magnetically sealed doors… and the whole time, I’m aware of the weight of my keycard in my breast pocket, attaged with a pager-like device that is actually a remote panic button that goes off automatically if it’s pulled off my shirt.

While I was listening to his story, I couldn’t help but think about how ‘normal’ he seemed except for this one idea.  It’d be like trying to talk to someone who was colorblind if you didn’t believe that colorblindness existed.  You could hold this idea in front of him and he’d just be like “I don’t get it.  I know something’s wrong, I want to fix it.  But I can’t.  I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say.”

I heard all about his story, how his dad was a great dad to the family but didn’t show emotions.  How as a result of the boy’s weakness, the dad tended to get along better with the girls.  How the dad had an affair and that caused a sever strain on the marriage… how the mom was the fighter in the family, sacrificing everything to keep things going.

And I met this mother later for the second part– she broke down crying at some point.

I remember thinking two things… first of all, I was upset that the psychologist, who was actually a student doctor, didn’t speak French.  And I understand that you’re here in this country to learn about medicine– but to be honest, this work isn’t about you it’s about patients.  If you want to speak only English, there are certainly other hospitals, provinces, or countries where you can work exclusively in English.

To be honest, I did an excellent job of translating.  In previous times that I’d translated for foreign medical students, things were kind of a joke because I’d have to ask embarassing questions like “so, does it burn when you piss? have you been doing anything…. out of the ordinary lately that you think would be related to this new problem?” and part of me using my superbly overexaggerated Quebecois accent with the locals is that it’s a real icebreaker and gets laughs going.

But really– the psychologist I was with, I didn’t like her work at all.  I was doing the translations both ways and this time, I was using my straight french because this was a serious situation where nuances were very important.  But there were times where I thought that the psychologist’s questions were just retarded, or that her tone, in English, was simply condescending.  I’m not the psychologist mind you, so I’m not there to add or subtract anything from the information going through me… but I did start to get the impression that the boy was starting to look more at me to speak to me more than the psychologist, because he probably felt, as I did, that he was being treated as a lab rat.

I’m not normally very nationalist, but I’ve always made my efforts to speak French as much as I can at the workplace even though my English is much better and all my coworkers will understand English just fine.  It just really, really annoyed me because here was a kid– he’d written out a page suicide letter and had marked the time and method specifically– and that strikes me as a pretty fucking serious problem.

And we’re asigning a doctor to this patient who doesn’t even speak French??  How can we honestly say that we’re taking this seriously?  Get me a damned doctor who speaks French!  I love doing the translation work beacuse it puts me in a completely different line of work, but frankly, the work isn’t about me.

My other issue is that though the psychologist was confident, she was really talking down to the kid.  Maybe it’s after a year of teaching that I recognize techniques of control, but I didn’t like her method and to be honest, I know from personal experience that her techniques weren’t working.  I will begrudgingly allow that all doctors have to start somewhere, and she’ll work on this I’m sure… but…

If the boy does do something to himself, to be honest, I might not lose sleep over it.  I won’t say I’m used to these kinds of things happening, but I will say that because I didn’t know him deeply, personally, and because I know that people with problems are a dime a dozen, I will probably be caught up with the next case beacuse dwelling on it too long will hurt me.

But  still.  I just felt… uncomfortable.  I felt uncomfortable with how the boy wanted to talk about this or that and the psychologist was doing like what I’d seen on TV… asking about voices, if someone was following him, if he felt that someone wanted to hurt him.  And while I’ll grudgingly admit that a lot of television has gotten more realistic, if an actual hospital begins to start being like a television show I am severely let down.

I think one of the most dismissive things that I’ve heard (in retrospect after today) is that people who want to commit suicide are making a ‘cry for help.’  They want the attention, that kind of thing.

But this wasn’t just some emo kid who felt that nothing was going right.  In fact, he wasn’t emo at all– he really felt like a normal kid.  But it was just that ‘colorblindness’ that I’m talking about, and that’s my own metaphor– there was just something that people around him couldn’t communicate to him, or that he couldn’t understand, or that he didn’t want to continue with.  He knows he’s loved– I genuinely got that impression from him as we were talking about friends and family, and the way he very honestly described how nobody was perfect but that even when his dad raised his voice or his friends got into fights it was all just part of being human.  He was very insightful for someone who was just 16.

And perhaps you are when you think about suicide?

What struck me as a fundamental difference between he and I was the way he viewed death.  I don’t want to end.  Ever.

He on the other hand held it as a backup plan for over a year– it actually gave him confidence to live better, he explained, because if he ever got in a situation that was too tough, he could always use his exit strategy.  It allowed him to live that he was suicidal, because he wasn’t running from death– he could run to it and it would make the hurts stop if they were accumulating too much.

Liberty or death.

When I got to hear the mother, she broke down beacuse she felt like a terrible parent, though from the conversation she’s a much better parent than I’d seen in a long, long time.  She would sacrifice anything for her children– but yet, she was thinking that one day, she might not be around… and what would happen then if her boy couldn’t finish school?  She could pamper him and give him all the attention that he needed to be well and comfortable– but what after? 

“He beleives in magic or something like that,” she explained.  “He says he doesn’t like school and that school is a large reason why his stress is so high to this point… but what if he doesn’t finish?  What future can he have without even finishing highschool?”

She has done a great job of parenting, from what I can tell just as someone who pays attention to people.  Not as a psychologist or a sociologist.

She’s different from other parents in that while others will look for us to the magic bullet because they want to shirk their responsibilities, this woman was here with nothing but love for her son because she’s gone the whole 100 yards and more for her family and at this point, she’s got nothing else but to believe in magic.

I hate to bring up God when I’m complaining about something, but this is one reason why I can’t stand people who are all anti-Christian– beacuse in many ways, I think I’ve seen more than the ‘average’ person in terms of things that would make you question even questioning.

People see war on the news and without ever even having broken a bone in their life, will take up the stance that “if God cared….”

I like to think that God and I are both doing our jobs, but in large part this means that I acknowledge that I don’t always understand how things will work out.  On one hand seeing a kid who doesn’t know any way out and who is just getting a raw deal on his life, as is his mother– and I can say something like “Where is God?  This “test” bullshit isn’t worth it.”

On the other hand, when I have no way of fixing the problem, maybe it is just in the hands of God?

Because what more can I do?

“Next case please”?

My training philosophy is that you might not have a goal but you must do everything you can to just become better at everything.  Not for anyone but yourself.  And one day when opportunity meets preparation, you may find that you’re in a position to do exactly what is needed.

I got a letter from one of my closest Korean coworkers today, in reply to the random emails I send my old SK crew about life.  It made my day, which is pretty good, since I’ve only been up for an hour so far.  It made my day because in it, he said something very simple: you were the friend I needed that that point in my life.

Without being disengenuous, I think that life’s successes can be measured in part by how often you say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.”