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Archive for February, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment on Monday morning at the hospital not far from my home – the one I’ve gone to for all my health needs so far – for my latest colonoscopy. I think my last one was probably in 2010, so I’m a little overdue for one. And, as I’ve had bad flare-ups every other year since about 2005, I’m pretty much due for another.

I told the doctor that I had to work in the afternoon, so he promised a ten o’clock appointment. It turned out to be eleven o’clock. Perhaps because of this, I wasn’t given a general anaesthetic like every other time I’ve had a colonoscopy in Korea. Wasn’t even given the option, actually.

Another difference to my previous experience was the laxative I was prescribed. The earlier ones were small bottles of vile fluid that I had to drink and follow up with two litres of water. This one was a powder that you dissolve in water and then drink. It had the same horrible, sweet-bleach taste, but was at least a lot milder. I couldn’t manage the whole dose in the evening, but in the morning I figured out that if you just down each 500 ml dose in one go, it wasn’t too bad. I drank an extra litre of water both morning and evening to make up for my under-dose.

The examination, then, wasn’t a huge amount of fun. I could watch the progess of the endoscope on the monitor, see the brown fluid in my gut get gurgled up by the tube, observe the flushes the doctor administered. With my lack of sleep and low blood sugar, I didn’t try too hard to follow it and instead just tried to relax. It was uncomfortable, but not unbearable (unlike the barium enema and bowel X-ray I had once on the NHS), and it was pretty weird to feel the endoscope poking my abdomen from the inside. The nurses moved me about a few times and squeezed my belly, perhaps to improve suction. The doctor took five biopsy samples, but I at least didn’t feel that.

The doctor told me afterwards that my colon was mostly healthy, but that I had – have – a ten-centimetre patch of inflammation in my upper large intestine that bled on touch. I’d already told him that my regular doctor was a specialist at Daehang Hospital in Seoul, so I got a CD with images from my exam and started thinking when I would go up for a consultation.

Later, at work, my boss gave me some fish jjigae to take home for dinner. I duly did, warming it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Later in the evening – while I was trying to go sleep, in fact – I started feeling a bit feverish and nauseous. I vomited up aforesaid dinner and worried about whether I’d merely contracted food poisoning or whether I’d suffered some horrific damage to my bowel and was now developing septicaemia.

The following day, I felt better, but was weak, so I took the day off work and went to Seoul to see my doctor there. He looked at the pictures from my examination and declared that I was fine. He didn’t prescribe any steroids for my inflamed bowel, nor anything for my bout of food poisoning. During the day, I was only able to eat half a small bowl of cereal and a few French fries for lunch. My guts weren’t too happy.

I recovered from all this over the next few days, but had occasional twinges in my colon in exactly the place the Cheonan doctor had told me I had the inflammation. These moments of discomfort have dwindled in frequency to more or less nothing, now, but I couldn’t help thinking the colonoscopy was more harm than help. I went back to the hospital last week for my biopsy results and they revealed no nasty surprises.

So, to keep my colitis under control, I think I just need to make sure I don’t fail to take my daily dose of mesalazine – all 3,400 milligrammes of it. At least the whole thing turned out to be a lot cheaper than I was expecting; really cheap, in fact: less than £20.

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The last few weekends have been a bit of a whirlwind of socialising for me. Which is pretty strange, given that I’m not only shy, but a shy introvert. I guess I’m finally discovering my inner extrovert. He’s been a shy chap most of my life. Someone once described that part of my personality as a monkey in a cave – every now and then he’d come out for a bit then duck back inside and hide.

Since my end of year holiday, I’ve:

been to see Life of Pi with a book group,

attended a Tolkien and the Inklings appreciation group,

attended the Life of Pi meeting with said book club,

been on a hike out near Chuncheon,

held two coffee mornings in Cheonan,

gone on a weekend ski trip to Yongpyeong – venue of next year’s Winter Olympics,

attended a Toastmasters event

and gone to a Father Ted-themed night out (with my black shirt and a homemade dog collar).

Add to that a good sprinkling of gaming and the faintest hint of romance (well – I met someone and we seemed to have a good rapport, but nothing further developed), and January has been a full month (actually, the latter couple of items on the list occurred in February). I’ve also met a bunch of new people. However, with my full weekends and full weekdays, I haven’t had much opportunity to write about all this stuff.

One of my new friends from New Year’s Eve invited me to a Tolkien and the Inklings group. I extended this invitation to my gaming friends; one of them suggested I should scope the group out first and report back on the number of weirdos in attendance; I countered that any of attending wouldn’t necessarily reduce the weirdo ratio. Although the meeting went on a bit long, it was pretty interesting. The organiser had prepared materials and talked about Owen Barfield and some of the philosophical underpinnings of the Inklings’ work. There’ll be another meeting in a couple of weeks.

As I have barely met anyone in Cheonan yet, I followed the example of my friend Peter, a resident of Daegu, and started a coffee morning group for Cheonan people. On the first such event, one person turned up, a woman I’d met at a small dinner event a couple of weeks earlier. We had a perfectly nice time chatting about work and life and stuff. I held the second one on Wednesday – more about that later.

The Mug

I went on a hike near Chuncheon in Gangwondo, which involved my taking the subway from Ssangyong in Cheonan to Sanbong in Seoul (about two and a half hours) then meeting the hiking group and heading east for another hour or more, still on the subway system. I hadn’t got much sleep and didn’t get much on the train, so I was pretty miserable by the time we started hiking, but a few conversations got my social brain in gear and I met some nice people.

Hikers

One of whom I went on a ski trip to Yongpyeong with (along her friends and a bus load of other foreigners). The skiing was good fun and, by the end of the evening session, I was fairly zipping down an intermediate slope time after time (while my fingers were getting terribly cold inside my gloves – when I went inside to warm up, they really hurt for a couple of minutes). I met more nice people.

Yongpyeong

One of whom invited me to Tedfest the following weekend – which was quite a modest affair in a bar out in Incheon, but the organisers put on various Father Ted-themed events, such as a Lovely Girls competition. I met further nice people, including – uniquely, in my experience in Korea – a Scouser. We got drunk.

I just had a great attendance at my second coffee morning event – seven people besides me. The conversation went pretty well, by an large; there were some slightly awkward lulls in the conversation, but they were fleeting and few. I didn’t really make a great effort to lead the conversation and it mostly took care of itself. At one point, one person suggested everyone say what their hobbies and interests were – which was a good idea, and one I may adopt and adapt for future meetings.

So now I’m going on a return trip to Chuncheon to pick strawberries on Saturday and I’m ‘hosting’ a ‘watching Die Hard 5’ event on Monday – which is a holiday here in Korea (Seollal – lunar new year – is actually a three day holiday, but because the other two days (actually, only the middle day is Seollal) fall on a Saturday and Sunday, they don’t count).

Life seems decidedly not too shabby at the moment. It’s actually become a bit of a mission for me to do all this stuff and develop as a human being. Maybe, one day, I’ll become the confident, charismatic leader of men I’ve always dreamed of being. Until then, I’m just me.

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Hatchepsut, The Female PharaohHatshepsut (or Hatchepsut – Wikipedia favours the former, Tyldesley the latter) lived about 3,500 years ago and was, apparently, one of the most successful rulers of 18th Dynasty Egypt. She was the daughter of Thutmose I (AKA Tuthmosis I) and the sister and wife of Thutmose II, and, when her husband died after a fairly short and unimpressive reign, she took over the reins of power. However, she was always, officially a co-regent with her nephew, Thutmose III; but, as he was only two at the start of his reign, she was able to become the dominant co-king.

Tyldesley points out that, as there is no ancient Egyptian term for ‘queen’ (just titles like ‘pharaoh’s wife’ or ‘god’s wife’), it is appropriate to regard her as a female king – pharaoh was a male position and was only taken up by women in extraordinary circumstances. At the beginning of her reign, she was portrayed as quite feminine and girlish, but later, as she became the de facto sole ruler, the images she had made of herself became more and more masculine. One photograph shows a relief of the two co-pharaohs and they are pretty much identical.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose III

Hatshepsut reigned for 22 years and, once she came into her own as the senior pharaoh, ruled very effectively, bringing peace and prosperity, initiating successful military campaigns and trading missions. After her death, however, Thutmose III – another highly successful pharaoh – seems to have waged a campaign to excise his aunt from history: her name and image were hacked from her public monuments.

This backlash and the pre-eminence of Senenmut, Hatshepsut’s senior advisor, has apparently led generations of egyptologists to make assumptions and concoct stories of palace intrigue. Thutmose III nursed his resentment for years and may even have done away with his co-ruler then blasted her name from the record in personal hatred and reactionary zeal. Senenmut gained his position from being his mistress’s lover – and may, too, have been murdered when he rose above his station.

Joyce Tyldesley paints a rather more measured picture, saying simply that there is no evidence to support such lurid conjecture. The reali story was probably a lot less fraught and dominated by convenience and real politik.

Joyce Tildesley

There are some interesting parallels made between Hatshepsut and other prominent female leaders from history – Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher all also led successful military campaigns and took on some masculine qualities to better appeal to conservative populations. (Cleopatra, on the other hand is rather dismissed as a Hatshepsut analogue, being a scion of a Greek dynasty rather than a native Egyptian.)

The book is written in lucid and mildy dry style. It’s not too long – mainly perhaps because of the dearth of historical information about Hatshepsut – and covers the background history of the 18th Dynasty, the main periods and themes of the female pharaoh’s life, as well as the aftermath of her reign. I think there could have been a bit more about the sweep of Epygtian history and Hatshepsut’s place therein; and I was often confused about the (admittedly decidely bewildering) family relationships surrounding the woman king. Well worth reading, though.

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