Monday, April 16, 2007

Southern Hospitality

Maybe it just used to be much wetter back home, but in six months it feels like it's only rained about ten times here, and today was only the second wet day from start to finish I recall (KBS News actually showed scenes of heavy snow near Ulsan - not that far away from us). Of course, when it rains here it really means it, so the streets were awash and sheets of water flew through the air in waves doing battle with Koreans trying to shield themselves under their umbrellas.

Korean Mother had a check-up scheduled at the large Dong-A University Hospital so we huddled in the relative safety of a taxi which proceeded to aquaplane and shudder alarmingly from side to side every time it started moving. This did not encourage our driver to opt for a different strategy to the two-speed 'stop-go' system which I've noted taxis here employ with their binary use of the brake and accelerator. After skidding up the hill to the hospital I baled out of the vehicle full sure I was going to confirm my belief that the tires were completely bald, but in fact they looked new. Perhaps it's a design feature.

Any hospital which greets you with the words "We hope you will get well soon" above the entrance can't be all bad and the interior is more reminiscent of an airport waiting lounge than a place where you're supposed to be sick. The impression is only enforced by the existence of a coffee bar, fish tanks and a pianist at a grand-piano whose music echoed around an atrium near the main waiting area.

So amongst its more conventional fare the Rosebud coffee bar serves Sweet Potato Latte, a refreshment breakthrough which hasn't quite made it to the frothy milk section of the Starbucks menu thus far, but which perhaps should as it transpired to be surprisingly nice. Still, like many things in Korea, it requires something of an intellectual leap over the chasm of obviously stupid ideas in order to arrive at a consensus with the locals. Somewhere closer to the precipice though, is getting your patients (or staff?) to design posters extolling the importance of keeping clean hands if they have issues with people poking them in their bloody wounds. Radically, unlike Britain, they actually bother to clean the hospital buildings here as well.

As we left, one of the nearby mountains continued doing its job of parting the steady stream of clouds which raced by it. Even on the murkiest of days, the scenery here can still provide some spectacular sights.

It began to occur to me recently that after I've left Korea pictures and words don't quite convey the sense of being here as much as video, so somewhere possibly in the crevasse of fairly pointless ideas and as much as my camera, its storage space, and my shaking hands allow, I've started taking more videos.

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