Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sadie's first trip to a Korean hospital

Settle in, folks, this is a long story.

Sadie was diagnosed with a mild case of hip dysplasia before we left Australia. We were told we could put her in a brace then and have her checked by an orthopedist when we got to Korea, but had we been staying in Australia they would have left her out of the brace and then checked back in 6 weeks to see if it had improved on its own. Well, after about a week of watching my baby be miserable and not sleeping in the brace, I ixnayed the thing until we could follow up with an ortho in Korea. ...I'm a great mom.

To make myself feel better about that executive decision, we made an appointment sooner than 6 weeks to meet with an orthopedist. So with a baby strapped to me, a taxi waiting outside, and the address to our new apartment written in Korean so I could navigate myself back home, Sadie and I set out to the city to the "foreigners' hospital."

Sadie LOVED the taxi ride! She kept looking out both windows as if to say, "Ma! Are you seeing this!?"

I assumed it was called the "foreigners' hospital" by the school nurse who made the appointment because it was staffed by people who spoke foreigner.


This is what greets you when you walk into the main entrance of this general hospital. You can't see it very clearly in this photo, but the lit up signs above the desk say "payment," "registration," and "information for foreigners only." Hey, that's me! The school nurse had said that I had to pay at registration before going to my appointment, so I thought maybe I could get more information at the foreigners only desk.

That was not the case. The foreigners only desk was being used for everyone and the man behind the desk was currently being chewed out by a very angry and very old Korean man. That red number next to him, I came to figure out, was the number of the ticket he was currently helping. Like a deli counter. I got my number and when I was called to the counter the lady (who did not speak English) typed my ID number into the system and wrote "No. 1 room" on a piece of paper and handed it to me as she pointed down that hallway you see in the left of the photo. I go to room number one? What happens when I get there? Where is room number one?

After much aimless wandering and frequent stopping to let people coo at my daughter (Koreans LOVE my baby!), I found a room that had a number 1 next to it and in English it said, "Orthopedic Surgery." (Americans: "surgery" is being used here in the British sense. It is not a room where orthopedic operations took place, but instead a room where orthopedic medicine is practiced)

Tricky thing was, two doors down was ANOTHER room number one. And in front of these rooms was another waiting room with more payment and reception desks. After much observation and use of my google translate app, I think I figured out how it works.

I was supposed to have gone to the orthopedic waiting room, taken a number, paid for my appointment, and then put the receipt into the little pocket on the door of the orthopedic surgery.

This was not the orthopedic surgery, but you see that green pocket next to the door? That's what I'm talking about. All of the exam rooms were like this. 
The receipt, I'm assuming, said my name and what services I was after and served as my place in line for the doctor. Occasionally a hand would appear from Door No. 1, like a medical Once-ler, and pull the receipt from the door and disappear.

A few seconds later a cheery nurse would come out and say what I presumed was, "Next waiting please!" and someone would get up and follow her into the room. Thing is I don't know how anyone knew who was the next waiting because I was watching and the person who I thought was next waiting was not the person who would get up! So then, I thought, maybe she's calling people's names, but it sounded like she was saying the same thing every time...I need to learn Korean.

Anyway, I waited, a nurse came out and said something, when no one reacted she looked up and saw the one white lady in the room and said, "Sadie?" haha! Process of elimination!

We go in to the exam room and a man who does not look a day over 20 points to Sadie and says in broken English, "What's wrong with you?"

I thought, "Well she's not going to tell you..."

Eventually a doctor who spoke English moseys in and translates for us. I hand over the disk that has the ultrasound images from Australia and they all hunched over the computer and declared together that in fact Sadie does not have hip dysplasia.

H'oh boy. I hated to dispute their medical knowledge, but I had the orthopedist in Australia show me very clearly where the dysplasia was on the images so that I could know what to look for when we checked for improvement in Korea. They saw how uncomfortable I was with their declaration and offered to do another ultrasound today to double check.

"You come back at 12..." the young doctor said. At this point it was like 11:30, so I said, "In thirty minutes?"



"Forty two."

I thought, "well that's oddly precise..." while the older gentleman was also trying to make sense of what the younger doctor was saying.

"Two," the young chap persevered as he pointed to the clock on the wall. Now I just have no idea what's going on.

What we eventually figured out he was trying to tell me was that I needed to go to the ultrasound department of the hospital at 2:40 that afternoon, get Sadie's ultrasound, and then come back to the orthopedic department so they could look at the images.

...That's more than 4 hours...what am I supposed to do with an infant for four hours while I wait for our next appointment?

Like any good American, I went to Starbucks. In all honesty it was the first coffee shop I found after wandering out of the hospital. I was hoping to get some wifi to tell Tyler what was going on, but there was no wifi to be had, so I settled in a comfy chair with my mocha and my sleeping baby and people watched.

After returning to the hospital I found the ultrasound department and a really friendly nurse poked her head out of an exam room and said, "Come here." It made me laugh how she demanded my presence with such a friendly smile on her face. She then said, "You talk Korean?" to which I gave my most apologetic expression and said, "No, I'm sorry!"

She disappeared back into the exam room and, I assume, asked the sonographer if he spoke English. I assume he said yes because the rest of the exam was conducted by him in flawless English. He took one look at Sadie and said, "She's a baby!"

...yep. "I've never done an ultrasound on someone so young before."

I thought to myself, "Well I've never done an ultrasound on anyone before, so you win!"

He explained that there is one sonographer who was trained to do an ultrasound on an infant but she was on maternity leave until the end of September. I think he wanted me to say, "Oh well. I'll come back in a few weeks then, bye!" but when I just smiled and said, "Oh, that's interesting," he took the hint and gave it a try.

...a half hearted try, but a try nonetheless. He declared his efforts a failure and said, "We'll call you to make an appointment after my colleague comes back."

I can try to call me, but I don't have a SIM card yet and I don't speak Korean...

So after all of that, I still don't have an answer as to whether my daughter's hip dysplasia has improved, but I learned a LOT about how to hospital in Korean! I gave the doctor the phone number for the school nurse and they arranged another appointment for Sadie this week.

Of course, lots more happened that day and I learned a LOT about Korean culture in my four hours of people watching at Starbucks, but you'll just have to wait for those stories.

Vicariously yours,

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sadie Sleeps through DinoSaurLand Park

Y'all. It is hard to tell you how hilariously bad and simultaneously awesome DinoSaurLand Park is! First of all, you see the park all the way from the highway because a lifesize (according to the plaque) Brachiosaurus's neck is sticking up from the tree tops, beckoning you to take the next exit and travel back in time.

The entrance is flanked by two roaring t-rexes and it only gets better from there. The entry fee was only like $5 for all of us, and it was well worth the cost!

notice that Sadie is already asleep before we have even gotten to the ticket booth. She'd been out of the car for approximately 3 minutes at this point. She's a party animal. 

The trail takes you up a hill along paths that are lined with some low-budget dinosaur models and a few outbuildings with various fossil displays. 

All the dinosaurs had creepy blue eyes. Not sure why blue, but they were haunting. 

At one point there is a petting zoo, but really it is a feeding-sad-animals-carrots-through-the-openings-in-their-enclosure zoo, so we didn't spend much time there. The highlights included a 3-D theater with a 15 minute CGI movie about an androgynous child and a robot that get sucked back in time and chased by a ridiculous number of dinosaurs. It was all in Korean so I wasn't totally clear on the plot. 

Tyler was concerned that the movie would be too loud for Sadie, so they chilled outside. 
 There was the Animation Hall ("animated" was putting it generously) which was filled with papier mache dinosaurs with hydraulic pumps in them that made various parts "move." I use the quotation marks because if it weren't for us hearing the hydraulics, we wouldn't know anything was moving!

The lower jaw on this guy moved about 3 centimeters as you walked past and heard the recording of a roar. It was unclear which dinosaur in the hall was supposed to be making the roar. 

Things were a little tired inside the Animation Hall...

Gah! These guys were eating a felled plant eater. 

Then there was these guys:

They made it hard to miss where the toilets were located.

There was still so much more to be seen, but the day was warm and Sadie's patience for our shinanigans was waning, so we ended our circuit of the dinosaur trail relatively quickly, leaving the rest to be seen another day.

Vicariously yours,

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sadie sleeps through the Alive museum

There is a LOT of exploring to do on this island! It is a big vacation place for Korean and Chinese tourists, and as such there are a lot of tourist traps. You won't hear me complaining! These attractions are usually tacky, dated, or just hilarious opportunities for some great people watching, so I LOVE it! Thankfully my sister-in-law is on the same wavelength as me and was more than happy to oblige to some exploration when she visited with my mother-in-law after Sadie and I landed.

And so, dear readers, I give you the first in a very exciting blog series: Sadie Sleeps. I have to admit it's probably only exciting to me because it gives me an excuse to do more exploration with Sadie once we get a car.

The first installation in this little series: Sadie Sleeps Through the Alive Museum.

The car ride hypnotized Sadie and put her right to sleep. 
The Alive Museum was Sadie's first museum and ironically she was dead to the world the entire time.

We didn't know what exactly the Alive Museum would be, but we knew we were in for a treat as soon as we pulled in to the parking lot. We got out of the car and in addition to a GO KART track in the back, there was a classical Greek statue with a cheeky Chanel shopping bag added for...a dramatic touch? A weird combination of ancient and modern? Who knows, but I was instantly pumped to get inside and see what treasures we were going to find.


Lots of things are called "theme parks" here. I do not think that phrase means what they think it means. 
The admission price was only like $10, and it was worth every penny. It wasn't so much a museum as a building dedicated to the selfie/instagram craze. It was a collection of murals that played on some optical illusions and made for some fun photographic opportunities.

Place your hand at the crook of the curtain and become one with the painting... 

There were little plaques at each of the paintings that showed you how to photograph yourself with the art to make it into a funny photo. Then it would give a half-hearted attempt at being museum-y with some fast art fact or information about the painter...

The rooms of the museum kind of had themes. The first one was ocean/sea life surrealism.

The instructions on the plaque said to mime as if I were stuck in the box...surrounded by an octopus...I'm not sure where this box was supposed to be located, but it was a very popular stop on the photo tour of the museum.

There was a classical art section...

The scary lion/human thing crawling out of the hole in the wall was a nice touch, I thought. 

There was a dinosaur area...

Then things got eclectic...

Every corner we turned, my sister-in-law and I just laughed! Near the end of the displays was a section called the "Black Wonderland." I'm not sure why it was called that; very little of it was painted black or incorporated black lights, but it was like a funhouse meets Alice in Wonderland meets instagram heaven.

The first room looked like something out of Elmo's World...

Although I don't know that Elmo would have, interestingly enough, what appears to be a hardbound Playboy on his shelf...

There was a carousel surrounded by mirrors...

A mirrored room with LED roses...
And this:

But by far the highlight of the museum was the One Hundred Year Old Organ. It was tucked away in a corner of the museum in its own room with lots of build up on the way to the entrance! At first we were a little concerned we were about to walk in to a room full of human entrails...but in fact this was a musical organ that had entertained people for decades...allegedly. We sat down for the music show to start and were nearly blown off our seats when the pipes started to sing.

It was so loud!! And it played the most random selection of music! It was surreal and hilarious and we loved every minute!

By the end of the visit Sadie had woken up, just in time for the requisite exit through the gift shop.

Keep an eye out for the next installation of Sadie Sleeps when we take a family visit back to the Land Before Time...

Vicariously yours,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fun new aspect of our life

So, I don't know if this is a whole-Korea thing, or just unique to the part of the country where we are living, but they are very particular about the trash situation here. I'm hoping that some or all of it is going into a recycling facility, but I don't know. I just know that when I arrived, there was a mountain of trash in our apartment, and the explanation was, "I keep missing the trash days!" And now that I'm living with the system, I can understand (a little bit) how the mountain was formed. It's complicated, y'all! Like there was a whole session during the new recruit orientation dedicated just to explaining how the trash works.

This is the trash guide that everyone was given to help keep track of all the trash days. You have to separate your trash into categories and each category has a day that you're allowed to throw it out. You can take the trash for that day out between 3pm and 4am the next day. There are specific dumpsters out on the street for each day's category, and woe to the household that gets it wrong and puts the wrong category in the wrong dumpster or throws out the wrong recyclables on the wrong day!

I guess I can't blame the garbage guys for being grumpy about the foreigners screwing up their system. It's not like in the States where an automated garbage truck picks up the cans and shakes them out. The garbage men here physically pick up the dumpsters and dump them over by hand, crawling into the back of the garbage truck to stamp it down when the bed gets too full! I'd be annoyed, too, if I had to pick through someone else's trash when they didn't get the system right. The other tricky part is that the dumpsters for our little apartment complex are on the road, and people pull over all the time to throw away trash from their car, or maybe it's the trash from their house. We've watched as those motorists just throw the trash in whatever dumpster is closest to them or open so they can toss it from the window without getting out of the car. As a result, the trash guys complain to the school about our dumpsters being a mess, but a lot of it isn't our fault!

So in an effort to not be Those Foreigners, we've adopted a system to make sure we separate our trash correctly and don't forget to take it out on the right day.

We have taped little signs to the wall of our laundry room with the category, the bag it is supposed to be thrown out in, and the days on which it is collected. Under each sign is a command hook on which to hang the bags. I was hoping to find actual trash bags, but those don't seem to exist in this country. Now that we've used this system for a few weeks, I can sort of understand. By the time you'd be able to fill up a big trash bag full of the trash in each category, your house would stink or you'd feel like you belong on an episode of AE's Hoarders.

So far the system has worked relatively well. I think we are sending out the correct trash on the correct day. We no longer have a mountain of trash driving me crazy, and I love that we have this new little routine to remind of us the fun quirks we enjoy living overseas.

Vicariously yours,