Things are starting to get a little busy as I wrap up for the big move. But the apartment has been noticeably quieter since John departed for Canada. I find myself filling the solitude by watching more Korean TV and blogging more often.
Once you get used to living with someone for a while, it's kinda weird when they're gone all of a sudden. But then you get used to living alone and then the reverse becomes true. Life is all about getting used to stuff.
Recently at headquarters, Ms Jeong asked me to put together a science project for the April English Intensives program. It had to be based around one of Newton's three laws of motion and be able to fit into a 45 minute class. My first idea was for the students to build and explain a Newton's Cradle, using cheap equipment. So we went to the nearby fishing store and bought fishing line and weights. I hooked it up to a cardboard box.
Unfortunately though, the fishing weights weren't heavy enough to induce an elastic collision. When the end one was dropped, it just hit the ones in the middle and sat there. Hmmm.
So we tried with some larger christmas decorations we had. Not quite as good either. The problem lies in the fact that the collisions are absorbed unevenly if the weights are of low quality.
I therefore concluded that to make a decent Newton's Cradle with household materials, one first needs to obtain weights of sufficient mass and density.
We're ordering some.
Anthony's uncle, Thach Nguyen, arrived in Busan last weekend for the annual conference on Cardial Vascularisation at the Lotte Hotel. Dr Nguyen is a leading cardiologist and an editor of two cardiology journals. He's also an honorary professor of medicine from the Capital University of Beijing and Director of Cardiology at St Mary's hospital in Indiana.
He invited us to the conference, although we knew almost nothing about cardiology. On the way to the venue, I was trying to remember the difference between an aorta and a ventricle.
But the main reason we went was for Anthony to see his uncle and also to enjoy a nice free dinner. The talks were on open-heart surgery and some of it was fairly interesting. These days they have infrared fibre optic cameras that they use to search for lesions in your arteries. What will they think of next?
I sat next to a surgeon from Daegu who was pretty interesting. He described heart surgery as being 'very stressful'.
One thing I couldn't help noticing was the affinity that the attendees had for butter. Don't they know that the stuff clogs your arteries?
I guess even cardiologists have to live it up, once in a while.
We were even invited back the following day. Here's Anthony on the cellphone talking to the new Busanjin teachers, Jenny and Brian, while enjoying the view from level 42 of the Lotte Hotel. We were waiting for Anthony's uncle to arrive, but later found out that we were in the wrong room.
For lunch we had a Bento box, which are actually called dosirak in Korea. It was quite nice. I feel like making a quip about the saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch."
But I shall refrain.
Dr Nguyen also gave me a copy of his book: the Practical Handbook of Advanced Interventional Cardiology. It has some interesting chapter titles like Exotic Complex Interventions for the Urban Weekend Warrior.
Luckily I still remember how to do CPR from my Boy Scout days, because there's no mention of it in here.
There's Anthony's uncle, sitting on the panel while listening to the various speeches. There were doctors from Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Japan and the US. The most interesting case study won a US$1000 cheque. From time to time, Anthony's uncle would ask the speakers a question that they couldn't answer, and then tell them the answer. When you're able to do that to leading medical surgeons, you know you're good.
Then we were invited to dinner. Fortunately, English being the language of international communication, we were able to understand all of the small talk.
We ate at Madang House and had Korean beef of particularly good quality. If you aren't paying, you can get an estimate of price in Korean restaurants by the amount of 'service' (the Konglish word for freebies) that the restaurant adds to your table, with no extra charge. Our service came as waves of premium Korean wine, roasted fish and soup.
Here we are at the table. That's Anthony's uncle sitting up, right behind him. The collective experience at the table of thousands of hours of surgical experience was rather humbling.
They were also pretty good at cutting up the barbecue meat.
These are two Busan based surgeons, making soju-bombs for everyone.
Everything in moderation, including moderation.
I've always been a fan of geek humour and in-jokes. Listening intently at the table, we heard a couple of interesting stories. Here's one:
During open heart surgery, the patient will often be awake and able to talk with the doctor. One particular Korean doctor was talking to a Chinese patient in Japanese, which was their only common language. They got along quite well and talked throughout the operation. At the end of the successful surgery, the doctor went out to celebrate while the patient recovered in hospital. However the doctor got so drunk that he was eventually picked up in an ambulance and admitted to the emergency room of the hospital where he worked at. In the morning when he woke up, the first thing he heard in fluent Japanese was "Hey doctor, what are you doing back here?"
The man standing up is Professor Kim, an experienced hospital director who gave us an interesting speech.
Now that I think about it, if I could choose a completely new career path, cardiology would be in the top 10.
The first is still a jet pilot.
The following day, Anthony's uncle went back to Indiana, and I went hiking with Heather and her father. It's been pretty chilly in Korea these days and while waiting at the bus stop I bought these $1 gloves from an ajumma. The writing on it says "Fighting, Korea."
A fairly ingrained Konglish mnemonic here is that the word 'fighting' in English means 'you can do it' or 'come on.' So at sports events and things, you'll hear the crowd yelling "Fighting!", which is supposed to be a supportive cheer, just like 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!' is in Australia. However, there is no letter 'F' in the Korean language, so instead of saying 'fighting' these gloves say 'hwighting', which is supposedly the next best thing.
How did I take this photo with both of my hands in it?
We went to hike up Mandeok Mountain, which is behind Heather's house.
I think it has another name, but I'll just call it that.
It was a good 2 hour hike, but toward the top it was getting quite steep. Hikers have installed ropes to aid passage around the large rocks, but it's still pretty scary considering the amount of older people who use them.
Here's what some of the edges look like. I don't think anyone's ever fallen down, but Korean hikers do like to have alcoholic picnics at the tops of mountains here.
It was an interesting climb. I hadn't done this sort of activity since the commando course back at Woodhouse. Hopefully when I go to Seoul, I'll be able to get back into shape again.
6am morning runs around the Seoul campus? We'll see.
A favourite pastime of older Koreans is to hike up a mountain with a friend on the weekend, find a nice little spot and have lunch.
Seems pleasant enough.
Flying overhead every once in a while was this helicopter, warning people about mountain fires via a megaphone. It also played some music.
Here are some picnicking Koreans on various perches at the summit of Mandeok Mountain.
Is 'picnicking' even a word?
Heather's father wisely packed some fruit and hot water. He was also carrying an AM radio with a speaker, so we were able to listen to some classic Korean songs as we hiked.
I enjoyed a hot coffee while enjoying the view. I'm more of a night person, but it was nice to get out in the daytime for a change.
We spent some time enjoying the scenery and then headed home, which was conveniently located at the bottom of the other side of the mountain. Those vertical rocks were once horizontal layers of bedrock. It's funny what a few million years can do.
Have a good Christmas everyone!
See you next time.