Monday, December 1, 2014


Fate and fortune are strange creatures.  I had a teaching position in Jinan, which is the capital city of Shandong Province in China.  During the first week of October there was a week long national holiday in the Middle Kingdom.  I made plans to return to South Korea during the holiday so that I could pick up my winter clothes that were to have been shipped to me previously, but were not.

To make the story more palatable, and to not share the bloody and gory details, it became necessary for me to have surgery in South Korea.  Fortunately, two doctors whom I have known for many years, Dr. Seo and Dr. Shim, were involved in this process.  I'll always be grateful for their dedication and skill.

The surgery took place at Dr. Shim's Dream Surgery hospital located near the Ecograd Hotel in Suncheon.  In the photograph below, the nurse and I are in front of Dr. Shim's biography sign in the hospital.  The nurse...and the meds...did much to ease the pain and discomfort.

I don't remember who took this photo, because I was more than slightly out of the real world at the time. 

The recovery process is taking longer than I want, but I suppose anyone who has experienced this would feel the same.  Wisdom would dictate to greatly curtail, or even cease, all social activities.  Alas, I am not wise, especially while under the influence of my prescription medicine.  

A few days ago I wrote about the Thanksgiving dinner that was held at the house where I am convalescing.  I had some concerns the day before the dinner about whether I could endure a full day of cooking and activities, and I expressed my concerns to the matron of the house.  I even suggested that we cancel the dinner, but I was assured that everything would be alright.  Besides, the turkey had been purchased and was awaiting the oven.  It turned out that my concerns were premonitions unheeded.  

During the course of the dinner, I merrily went about my tasks.  Everyone was smiling and laughing and having a good time, or so my observations told me.  I hadn't taken my usual nap to recharge my batteries, and I began to run out of energy.  I didn't learn this until a week after the dinner, but I had infuriated every Korean at the dinner.  I was told that when I was washing the dishes I was making everyone angry.  Well, I explained, we could have then eaten our desserts on the table sans the eating utensils, plus I was the one doing the work while everyone else continued to enjoy the company.  The dishes were similarly washed in the very same sink during last year's dinner without peril, hence my great confusion.
After dessert, I went to another room to sit alone so that I could gain some strength.  I was running on empty, the motor was operating on fumes.  I was completely unaware of the roiled atmosphere that permeated the house.  As mentioned above, I didn't learn any of this until a week after the dinner.

I pressed the matron of the house for specifics as to why the anger at the man recovering from surgery who was doing his best to see that everyone at the party was being tended to.  "It is your character.  Your American character is unusual.  You are unusual," was the response.

I asked the matron of the house if she recalled a significant event that recently occurred in my life.  No?!  The surgery?!  The friends who attended the dinner all visited me in the hospital, and all are aware that I'm still leaking, stinking, and taking prescription medicine.  With their university diplomas hanging on their walls, no one could put two and two together?  No one thought to sidle up to me, and to say, "I have this covered.  Go sit down."  No one thought to ask, "Big Guy, are you ok?  What's going on?  How are you feeling, man?"  All present are said to be Christian who attend services weekly.  So much for helping those in need.  So much for the diplomas.
I do kick myself for not listening to my concerns and for not heeding the premonitions.

Self Portrait:  The Unusual Man
© Mark Eaton

I am scheduled to go to Gwangju this weekend to attend a farewell party for a dear friend who is leaving the peninsular country known as South Korea.  I think I'll be up for it, but I'll decide that at the time.  Except for performing my commissioned work, this unusual man will then recuse himself from social interaction lest the sensibilities of the society is angered or inconvenienced.  Back into the shadow goes the photographer.  And then home again.

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