Cancer Diary: Update 2018/06/01

Some kind of progress…

Despite the stress of the last six months or so, things finally began to pull together this week as the last of the deposit on the new place was paid (liberating a lot of much-needed cash in the near future), although this really means having to live mainly on credit for the next month. Now, however, I can think seriously about replacing my lost bookcases and getting most of my possessions off the floor… meaning that there will be much more space available, sort of soon-ish.

From now on, things will normalise quite rapidly, and it seems to be working out likewise medically, also, as the reduction of Lopmin dosing loosens my insides and makes for more comfortable (if not entirely predictable, yet) sessions in the bathroom.

This is actually important: higher doses of Lopmin led to longer retention time for my stools, and as the function of the lower intestinal tract is (at least in part) the removal of water from whatever material is contained in the lumen before it is released, this has (up till now) meant having to void some very dry material, and it became clear quite quickly that some modulation of both dosing and the actual quantity of food consumed were necessary – as well as more serious consideration of how the matrices of the various food types being consumed were interacting with the other components of the system (imagine shitting large pieces of dry, fossilised wood). The question of water input (in terms of daily liquid consumption) seems something of a red herring at the moment, its effects possibly being disguised by those of the Lopmin; also, for a long time now, I have been consuming cashew nuts as a form of fibre but these need to be chewed well to avoid large (and sharp-edged) chunks passing through – good from the POV of digestive function, but possibly painful to pass (WTF, I’m alliterating again…).

In my own case, it seems to be a quite powerful drug, meaning that a relatively low dosage (one capsule = 2mg active component) has a relatively strong effect, which can be considered “adverse” in this context of preventing the retention and formation of (ultimately) very dry stools which can be painful to pass (bearing in mind that they have to pass through an area of the body which is still healing from surgery). The reduction of anal soreness as they soften is a welcome sign.

I contacted the Professor by text message to let him know what I was doing, as well as to inform him that we would have a quite extensive (about five weeks) summer break during which there would be plenty of time for me to work on his proposed English-language review of the FDD, which would also require additional input from him in terms of initial information about the structure, materials and original rationale of the FDD, its intended function, how it is operated, its interaction with a patient’s body and the intended timescale of usefulness (which was normally in the three weeks following the operation, during which it would be inserted into position, and then removal under the assumption that healing had progressed sufficiently). Some ready-made illustrations would be nice, too…

At work, as my students were in Jeju for most of this week, there have been no lessons, so I have been reading up on Korean language, linguistics, and also re-read Philip K. Dick’s “The Maze of Death”, thinking whilst so doing that it would be a good idea to read his “VALIS” at a later time, although to be honest, it has been difficult to stay awake during the afternoons… I do miss all of my Michael Moorcock novels back at home in England, but question whether it would be a good idea to have them sent here on the grounds that contracts for foreigners in South Korea are mainly for a year and you never really know what will be happening or where you will be a year after signing; this has never struck me as satisfactory, but on the other hand, since I left Mr. Lee’s hagwon in Changwon back in 2009, there has been little by way of stability in terms of location; my two years in Daegu seem to have been an exception rather than a rule.

Alas, I also had to say goodbye to my Speaking lesson co-worker of the past two months, Hoony, as he is returning to civilian life as a teacher, and his replacement will arrive on Friday, so that afternoon could be quite busy, but does at least have the advantage that all of the classes on Monday are the same (and hence so are also the lesson plans and materials), plus the first lesson is not until 11:30 a.m., so we can take things at a fairly relaxed pace.

Anyway, everything seems positive as we move into the summer.

Shit Happened. Frequently…

The last couple of days have certainly demonstrated to me that strange and unexpected things happen when situations are abnormal. However, some of what you experience is caused by others, and some of it is your own fault…

Being a patient person, as well as being a patient there, once I had given my blood samples back at the YUMC, I made my way home to Jinju (in unhurried fashion, as the Air Force had been kind enough to give us a few days off while our Korean co-workers were out and about around the province, looking for potential new grist for the high school’s mill when the current cohort disappears) and thinking: “Ah, it will take a couple of days for them to process those.”

So I waited.

And waited.

And a week later, I was still waiting…

Finally, the annual Buddha’s Birthday public holiday came around, almost two weeks later, and I would keep thinking to myself: “Hmm, wonder if the results were… not quite good?” and resolving to contact the Professor the following morning to find out.

In the post-operative phase, there is really nothing much to do (in the absence of anything requiring treatment) other than quarterly blood sampling and testing; only if there were signs of the thing having metastasised could you reasonably expect additional treatment along the lines of chemotherapy, and far be it from me to suggest that anything like that is even remotely desirable, except to note in passing, perhaps, that if all my hair fell out as a result of treatment, nobody would notice these days… But there’s the thing: in the absence of any further information, doubt constantly nags you. Are you in the clear, or not?

So, in the bus on my way to work, I texted the Prof and asked him about this, but dear Reader, not for that alone, oh no! You see, my single day of holiday, when I had planned to spend most of the day, er, sleeping, was marred by a gross (in every sense) gut malfunction. For several days, I had been avoiding the consumption of more than a little food, with the intention that I would not have to make frequent visits to the bathroom whilst not at work. The Professor had issued me with a three-month supply of Lopmin capsules and dosage instructions, and at this point, I had been following his bidding religiously for almost a fortnight. Then suddenly, my Poo Hole developed a dribble. This was not so unusual, as it had been a frequent happening while the FDD was in place, as indeed immediately thereafter, due to the fact that I had misunderstood the Prof’s previous instructions about what dose to take… but this was ridiculous. I couldn’t even lie down for any appreciable length of time before it was bothering me to take it to the shitter, but very little was coming out.

Then, early this morning, just as I was starting to worry that I would have to wear a double diaper again, it started to come but ohhh, dear, very hard and stiff. You see, dear Reader, while the upper portion of the intestine is geared towards post-stomach digestion of food, the lower portion is concerned primarily with dehydrating the remains, so that the body as a whole does not lose too much water too rapidly through defecation. Previous experience of delaying the departure of unwanted stools had convinced me that so doing was asking for trouble, as the rectum would then continue removing water until the stuff became stiff, hard and painful to pass; and that is precisely what, er, came to pass this morning. I had to go to work with a nasty, hard, stiff turd stuck in what remains of my once-capacious rectum, immobile and (truth to tell) somewhat painful; the jerky movements of the bus to work were hardly helpful. It wasn’t until the break between lessons this morning that I was finally able (with much grunting, groaning and moaning) to force the bastard out. After which a whole load came out more easily (but still not entirely painlessly), but I am sure that there is more waiting. You bet.

The Lopmin capsules I had been prescribed were (according to the Professor) intended to relax the part of the large intestine which had been grafted onto the forlorn remnant of my Poo Hole, thereby allowing it to slowly expand and eventually render a very similar level of storage function to that in the intact, pre-operative gut – this being necessary because the lumen diameter of the large intestine, which was attached to the anus during the operation, was much narrower than that of the segment which was removed; there was a diameter mismatch and hence, relaxation of the gut wall muscles (with Lopmin) plus time (he suggested about three to five years) should eventually cause the gut wall to stretch, hence restoring most of the lost functionality. The only trouble seems to have been that he was somewhat over-zealous in the dosing, with the result that the residence time for the average turd increased to the point where water withdrawal was maximised and so, alas, the necessary softness (for ease of passage, shall we say) was minimised. The result was much straining and pain… I have no doubt that it is in such circumstances that the Urban Legends of “Spiky Turds” emerge, the existence of which, paradoxically perhaps, the medical profession always seemed happy to deny (at least back in the UK).

To cut a long story short, after delivering the good news about the serological work, he suggested that I should reduce the individual doses to between one and three capsules, as required. Oh believe me, I certainly shall… during the first two weeks, I shat irregularly and probably only about two or three times a week, and when it finally emerged from my Nether Region, it tended to be large, stiff and difficult to disgorge. That Lopmin stuff is wayyy too strong... imagine shitting bits of dry, fossilised tree trunk. Like that.

Anyway, to conclude: despite the Prof’s admonition to avoid alcohol (and because of my training in biomedical science, I do know where he is coming from), I feel that some celebration of that type is due now. And at the weekend, come to think of it. Not crazy drinking, but just a little of what I have been mainly missing since last November.

Those were the outcomes of the first quarterly tests since my discharge from the hospital. The next tests will be due in August, and hopefully will return the same results.

First Check-up: 9th May 2018

So it happened… unexpected time off work (semi-official) coincided with the due date for my first post-discharge medical checks, which actually held a surprise which explained a few things… as usual in the medical context, there was not any actual “good news”, as samples were taken and as of this writing, results are pending, but there was some “sort-of bad news”…

Despite not knowing whether we would be having both Monday off (as Children’s Day unfortunately fell on a Saturday this year) plus the following three days (while Korean co-workers are around the country canvassing possible new students for the near future), I had arranged with the Professor to bring the due date for the first scheduled check-up forward by about a week to coincide with it. However, the appointment was at 9:30 a.m. and as it would have been difficult to get to Daegu from Jinju on the same day, I took my usual step of travelling to my destination the previous night and staying in a motel until the morning.

Previously, the Professor had told me to lose weight, get more exercise and avoid alcohol (I was in fact to learn the missing pieces of this and other information which he had not given me in this latest meeting). However, readers will probably understand that between having the tumour and its removal, losing my previous job and moving into the new one, which involved a lot of travel, great expense and (almost) the expiry of my visa, staying away from the pop was anything but easy, although I tried my best; it was easiest at the beginning but became progressively more difficult due to the stress level and the need to relax. More on this in a moment.

As it happened, I had previously received a letter (in Korean, of course) which suggested that I should turn up at the Jinju Tax Office. It was impossible to understand why I needed to do this, as I had never been to any Tax Office in Korea during my whole fifteen years here (since, like so many others here, I always left that side of things to my employer), and as I was about to discover, the location information they had placed online was now in error because they had since moved to new offices; I had gone to the old location easily by bus, but on arriving there found only a large Lotte building opposite the Galleria store. Enquiring at the Nonghyup Bank there, I was redirected to the correct location and took a taxi for convenience. One there, I presented myself and there was the usual confusion, including a call to my old boss in Daegu, Jun at Study Factory, which also turned out to be in error… eventually we were able to get onto the computer system with the paperwork, with the upshot that there were some ₩177,000 owing from 2016 and 2017, so I paid the larger one on the spot with my credit card , then made my way home by bus and paid the smaller bill at the local Nonghyup Bank. Then I went home and packed for the journey.

This time I was fortunate, because the train was actually waiting at the platform when I arrived, and I only had to pay for the ticket and walk through. This was an SRT train, and there were not many passengers, but there was Wifi. However, as the train rolled along the track to Daegu, I spent my time mainly looking out of the window and watching the countryside passing by… perhaps the most heartening thing about Korea is that despite its modernity and (in places) conspicuous overdevelopment, there remain still plenty of pockets of relatively undisturbed rural areas which you can see when you travel this way, and it has to be said that as a solo foreign traveller with nobody to talk with en route, it does make the journey much more enjoyable.

Arriving at DongDaegu Station, I took the subway to the Kyungbuk National University Hospital and walked to the immediate vicinity of my first apartment in Daegu, back in 2014, because – as it happens – when I first went there to meet Mr. Park, the owner of LSE (the adult hagwon where I was working, and which became defunct within a month) to sign the contract, I stayed overnight at the Mellow Yellow Motel, and this time, what a surprise! The nightly fee there had gone down by ₩10,000! After a brief change of clothing, I made my way over to Burger & Pasta in Jung-gu and ordered first their No-Bun Burger, and then – amazingly for me, still feeling hungry – I ordered the Chilli Cheese Potato Wedges and washed the lot down with four Absoluut Vodka and Tonics, and may I say, most refreshing they were, too.

It was still early when I paid the bill and started walking back to the motel. A 9:30 a.m. meeting with the Professor meant an early start, so I made sure that my alarm was set (6:00 a.m.) on the cell phone before booting up the motel room’s (XP Pro!) computer to watch some YouTube, as the cable TV had no UFC etc. to see. I didn’t sleep too well as I felt the urge to go to the bathroom a couple of times, something which I now know I could have avoided…

When the alarm sounded, I got up, put the news on the TV, had a shave etc. and then packed my bag to make the journey to the hospital, which was not difficult from there, being only four stops away southwards on Line 1. I got out at the Hospital station and made my way first up the usual four flights of steps, and then around the blocks and up the hill to the hospital itself. As might be expected, the place was thronging with patients and their family (and other) attendants, as well as various medical and clerical staff; the place is never still during opening hours. I had arrived there at about 8:30, so I had about an hour still to wait and watched the two waiting room screens, the left-hand screen with the order of consultations and the right-hand screen with the rolling news on cable. Eventually, after a line of tottering oldsters had seen the Prof., it was my turn and after further waiting outside his room for about fifteen minutes, I was ushered in.

Today, he had an obvious understudy sitting in the corner listening as best he could to the conversation, which was all in English. We discussed mainly my new experiences in Jinju but I got around to the current range of symptoms, mentioning that the starchiness of the food regime at work was mainly unsuitable – despite its obvious very good quality – and that I often try to have intermittent fasting days to try to lose more weight. He asked me how many times a day I would normally have to drop a load, and it was at this point that a penny dropped, because the Lopmin capsules he had prescribed me previously were (he now informed me) to relax the gut wall and allow it to expand, as the part grafted onto my, er, original anus had a narrower lumen and it normally takes about three years or so for it to expand and restore the function lost temporarily as a result of the surgery.

The trouble here was that his instructions when he issued me with the original prescription were somewhat vague; what should have happened was that I would be taking several of these each day, allowing me to more comfortably retain stools and dump them more conveniently, but his description had missed out some essential clarity. So he gave me a repeat prescription for the capsules, and then dropped the really bad news on me – avoid alcohol for the rest of the year!!! According to him (but I should know this already, of course), alcohol is often a causative agent in the ontology of an oncology, so I really couldn’t disagree. We then shook hands and I reminded him that I was still waiting for him to send me information and materials so that I could produce an English-language review of the FDD for him; he, in turn, apologised on account of his own being rather busy, but promised to send it to me as soon as possible. I left the office and then waited for my receipt, then went to the Appointments desk to pay for the later blood tests and the appointment and repeat prescription.

Alas, in the months since I was last there, I had started forgetting where everything was, and had to ask for directions for the out-patient phlebotomy team who, in fact, were literally just around the corner! Duhhh….. I went there and had a needle stuck in my arm, again, and rendered four small samples of blood for testing. Then I put my jacket back on, put on my shades and backpack, and made my way out and downhill to my old office, where manageress Jamie and my sort-of replacement, Chris the Canuck, were conducting things as usual. I chatted with them (Chris had to return to his lessons) and updated them as to what had been happening since they last saw me. We then hit the local KFC (I had a Twister, not a burger) and we chatted some more. Then we went to the office for a while before I wanted to get on my way, and Jamie came with me to the pharmacist across the road while I got my prescription. Then we said goodbye and I walked back to the subway.

The ride back to the DongDaegu Station was uneventful, but there was a lengthy queue for tickets (lengthened by one clueless old lady who seemed to be having trouble paying for her ticket). Then, of course, the unwelcome news that the next train would be some two hours waiting (unlike the previous evening, when the train was already waiting at Jinju Station and was off some five minutes later), so I walked down to see what was happening in the cafes. Holly’s was full, so I went back to the Caffe Pascucci and had a latte there, at the same time digging out the tablet to use the free wifi to check up on things and update the apps. This turned into a piece of pure frustration, initially caused by having changed my Google password recently, but eventually it was possible to get it all done. The battery was going down all the time while this was happening despite being plugged into a wall socket, but finally everything settled down with about thirty-five minutes to go before departure, so I packed everything back in my bag and then walked to the platforms; the information I needed was already up on the display so I just took the escalator down and sat on a bench, waiting.

Again, the ride home was uneventful, but having had a fraught couple of days, first with the tax office, then travelling to Daegu, and then the rest, I found it very difficult to stay awake; thankfully the KTX terminates at Jinju so there was no danger of missing my stop. I took a taxi home from there (because I still haven’t figured out which bus I can catch to travel between the two), and after picking up some food and bottled water from the local Top Mart, walked home and put the washing on.

So, a new set of samples was taken for testing, and I shall expect some news about the outcome shortly from the Professor; but having to mainly avoid alcohol from now on (as one hundred per cent. abstinence may be difficult) is a killer socially. I remind myself that I have a job to do and will often be busy; and probably, once the bookcases and other furniture are in place, I should be thinking about more reading when at home… and with that, thoughts of sleep are rattling through my head, so I shall take my leave of you, dear Reader.

The Field of Beans and the Limits of Perception

Aaarrgghhh… who forgot to turn off the cell phone alarm for weekdays? On holiday this week, and no need to get out of bed at 6:00 a.m. on Korean Children’s Day… when will I learn???

Slouching into the big room in my new apartment – the one with the computer and the books and other shit all over the floor because I need to buy some new furniture (to replace all the mouldy stuff I left behind in Daegu) – as I checked the mails and messages from the previous night, up popped a link at the “Lunar Barbecue” group page (thank you to Pedro Ribeiro for that) to the following YT vid about Terence McKenna called “Aliens and Archetypes” (from the “Thinking Allowed” TV series, dated 1990)… but what follows is really only tangential to his topic and a brief statement of a thought or two, being the result merely of my reaction to one of his remarks therein.

It has to be admitted that Mr. McKenna always had something very interesting to say about so many things, and whilst I was watching this I caught his brief remarks about communication within and with nature, which made me think: how is it that we ceased being able to do so? Could it be that what we have laughingly called “education” for so long is actually the inculcation of prejudices which make such communication (or even the sensibility thereof) impossible, simply by denying the possibility of such things, and therefore dulling our possible perception of them?

There have been, over the last few years, and especially recently, a flurry of items about how plants communicate via both the air and the soil coming through from various sources; this seems to be an active area of research. It makes me wonder what people will end up eating in the future, as it slowly dawns on everyone that plants are demonstrably sentient, like animals. Some say that eating meat is murder (although some of us just call it “food”), so what does that make eating fruits (often the reproductive organs of plants) and vegetables (their flowers or other storage organs)?

Of course, we would then go on to put on our biologist’s hat (well, I would, at any rate) and ask: “Well, if raising meat in broiler houses and the like is considered bad because it turns animals into products in an unnatural environment and is inhumane, then what are we to make of (say) a broad field of wheat, or a rice padi?” – if battery farms are unethical, then what can we say about a field of beans?

For a long time, I have been thinking that each grain of wheat or rice, each bean in the pod, is a life which has the potential to grow; its nutritional value lies precisely in the fact that it is one of the plant’s reproductive structures, in which energy and nutrients have been invested for the future survival of the species, just the same as (for example) a hen’s egg. The difference, however, is that parthenogenesis in a hen’s egg is a relatively rare event (although it does happen sometimes) and hence is rarely encountered in an egg cup or frying pan because, of course, there is no requirement to fertilise the egg before it becomes useful; its nutrient value for the human consumer would be wasted if the egg started to develop into a chick before delivery [1]. In the case of plant seeds, these would not exist without fertilisation, so we have a situation in which – unlike tubers, roots or even hens’ eggs – it is actually necessary to engender new life in order to reap the nutritional benefits of the plants’ labours, a fact to which we turn an eternally and conveniently blind eye.

Perhaps the tragedy of human existence – in the correct and original meaning and intention of the Greek term tragoidea (“goat song”, of a great person brought low by fate) is that humanity has become thoroughly enmeshed in a lifestyle where it exists purely as a result of squandering both itself and the world which supports it; yet being conscious of the full truth of its existence would cause impossible levels of angst at the thought of eating anything, and so its senses have to be dulled in order to make that existence bearable. Thus, it slowly destroys everything, including itself. It is doubly tragic that this exists alongside a patently untruthful inculcation about the past of humanity, which is used to keep us in a psychotic state and which allows us to be controlled more easily.

However, there are times when we need to be reminded of these things, even if only in passing, as here with the much-missed Mr. McKenna, as well as, perhaps, a nod to Aristotle in being able to express our psychological maturity by considering topics which we might otherwise find unpalatable [2], and perhaps, also, to reflect upon what level of difficulty we might have in actually communicating with aliens when our minds have already been so prejudiced against it on our own world. We have at least been fortunate to have occasional bright lights like Terence McKenna to illuminate our darkness with flashes of insight.

Notes:

[1] Unless you like to eat a balut, of course: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balut_(food)

[2] “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.”: see https://i.pinimg.com/originals/48/f1/5f/48f15ff7949996f4e65454b4b129fa29.jpg

An End to Civilisation

One would like to think that one were a “civilised” person, in terms of its connotations of sensibility and behaviour, but the term becomes unacceptable under the simplest analysis. Which other term could be used more accurately?

This time, I want to broach a theme which I have been mulling over and digesting for a long time, and the use of which – on reflection – perfectly encapsulates the psychological prison from which we have been unwilling to free ourselves. Yet that act of liberation – when it arrives – needs to be a psychological one, and not a physical one; it is a transition from one state of perception to another, a change of viewpoint. Physical liberation cannot come before psychological liberation.

Recently, I have been watching the videos (and listening to the podcasts) of Mark Passio on YouTube. Mark’s focus is upon the occult nature of much of what surrounds us in everyday life, as well as pointing out the common misconception among “lay” people (meaning, in this particular case, people who are not themselves occult practitioners) that the term “occult” itself necessarily equates with “evil”. As he points out, there is no actual connotation of anything in this term beyond its original meaning, which is merely “hidden” or “obscured”, and that many things in daily life are “occulted”, for example (my input here) the results of scientific research, which are usually sequestered behind a paywall erected by publishers. However, Mark’s real focus is with actual practitioners of the dark arts, whom he distinguishes from beneficial practitioners by referring to them as “dark” and “light”. He goes into some depth examining the psychology and motivations of the “dark” practitioners, having been for some ten years, and by his own admission, one of the “dark” ones himself, although, he admits, at a relatively low level.

Part of Mark’s exposition is that the modern practitioners of these dark occult activities are the descendants of others whose blood-line goes back thousands of years, that their own focus is primarily psychology, and in particular psychological methods of controlling large numbers of people to do the practitioners’ bidding; it is thus that such practitioners can attain and maintain positions of relative power, and hence profit and have a better lifestyle for prolonged historical periods despite themselves being relatively few in number. However, the result seems to be that they themselves have become demonstrably psychotic.

You can see almost four hours of his lecture on YouTube:

Likewise, when one reads the novels of Carlos Castañeda, his teacher, Don Juan Matus, who was supposed to be a modern-day nagual or Mexican shaman (sorcerer), asserts that the true controllers of our lives achieved their aims by simply inculcating their own psychotic mindset in the general populace. After that, of course, people became easy to control by simply putting the appropriate ideas into their heads and diverting their attention. Let me here quote (at length, for clarity) the appropriate passage from Castaneda’s “The Active Side of Infinity”:

“This is the appropriate time of day for doing what I am asking you to do,” he said. “It takes a moment to engage the necessary attention in you to do it. Don’t stop until you catch that fleeting black shadow.”

I did see some strange fleeting black shadow projected on the foliage of the trees. It was either one shadow going back and forth or various fleeting shadows moving from left to right or right to left or straight up in the air. They looked like fat black fish to me, enormous fish. It was as if gigantic swordfish were flying in the air. I was engrossed in the sight. Then, finally, it scared me. It became too dark to see the foliage, yet I could still see the fleeting black shadows.

“What is it, don Juan?” I asked. “I see fleeting black shadows all over the place.”

“Ah, that’s the universe at large,” he said, “incommensurable, nonlinear, outside the realm of syntax. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico were the first ones to see those fleeting shadows, so they followed them around. They saw them as you’re seeing them, and they saw them as energy that flows in the universe. And they did discover something transcendental.”

He stopped talking and looked at me. His pauses were perfectly placed. He always stopped talking when I was hanging by a thread.

“What did they discover, don Juan?” I asked.

“They discovered that we have a companion for life,” he said, as clearly as he could. “We have a predator that came from the depths of the cosmos and took over the rule of our lives. Human beings are its prisoners. The predator is our lord and master. It has rendered us docile, helpless. If we want to protest, it suppresses our protest. If we want to act independently, it demands that we don’t do so.”

It was very dark around us, and that seemed to curtail any expression on my part. If it had been daylight, I would have laughed my head off. In the dark, I felt quite inhibited.

“It’s pitch black around us,” don Juan said, “but if you look out of the corner of your eye, you will still see fleeting shadows jumping all around you.”

He was right. I could still see them. Their movement made me dizzy. Don Juan turned on the light, and that seemed to dissipate everything.

“You have arrived, by your effort alone, to what the shamans of ancient Mexico called the topic of topics,” don Juan said. “I have been beating around the bush all this time, insinuating to you that something is holding us prisoner. Indeed we are held prisoner! This was an energetic fact for the sorcerers of ancient Mexico.”

“Why has this predator taken over in the fashion that you’re describing, don Juan?” I asked. “There must be a logical explanation.”

“There is an explanation,” don Juan replied, “which is the simplest explanation in the world. They took over because we are food for them, and they squeeze us mercilessly because we are their sustenance. Just as we rear chickens in chicken coops, gallineros, the predators rear us in human coops, humaneros. Therefore, their food is always available to them.”

I felt that my head was shaking violently from side to side. I could not express my profound sense of unease and discontentment, but my body moved to bring it to the surface. I shook from head to toe without any volition on my part.

“No, no, no, no,” I heard myself saying. “This is absurd, don Juan. What you’re saying is something monstrous. It simply can’t be true, for sorcerers or for average men, or for anyone.”

“Why not?” don Juan asked calmly. “Why not? Because it infuriates you?”

“Yes, it infuriates me,” I retorted. “Those claims are monstrous!”

“Well,” he said, “you haven’t heard all the claims yet. Wait a bit longer and see how you feel. I’m going to subject you to a blitz. That is, I’m going to subject your mind to tremendous onslaughts, and you cannot get up and leave because you’re caught. Not because I’m holding you prisoner, but because something in you will prevent you from leaving, while another part of you is going to go truthfully berserk. So brace yourself!”

There was something in me which was, I felt, a glutton for punishment. He was right. I wouldn’t have left the house for the world. And yet I didn’t like one bit the inanities he was spouting.

“I want to appeal to your analytical mind,” don Juan said. “Think for a moment, and tell me how you would explain the contradiction between the intelligence of man the engineer and the stupidity of his systems of beliefs, or the stupidity of his contradictory behavior. Sorcerers believe that the predators have given us our systems of beliefs, our ideas of good and evil, our social mores. They are the ones who set up our hopes and expectations and dreams of success or failure. They have given us covetousness, greed, and cowardice. It is the predators who make us complacent, routinary, and egomaniacal.”

“But how can they do this, don Juan?” I asked, somehow angered further by what he was saying. “Do they whisper all that in our ears while we are asleep?”

“No, they don’t do it that way. That’s idiotic!” don Juan said, smiling. “They are infinitely more efficient and organized than that. In order to keep us obedient and meek and weak, the predators engaged themselves in a stupendous maneuver – stupendous, of course, from the point of view of a fighting strategist. A horrendous maneuver from the point of view of those who suffer it. They gave us their mind. Do you hear me? The predators give us their mind, which becomes our mind. The predators’ mind is baroque, contradictory, morose, filled with the fear of being discovered any minute now.

“I know that even though you have never suffered hunger,” he went on, “you have food anxiety, which is none other than the anxiety of the predator who fears that any moment now its maneuver is going to be uncovered and food is going to be denied. Through the mind, which, after all, is their mind, the predators inject into the lives of human beings whatever is convenient for them. And they ensure, in this manner, a degree of security to act as a buffer against their fear.”

“It’s not that I can’t accept all this at face value, don Juan,” I said. “I could, but there’s something so odious about it that it actually repels me. It forces me to take a contradictory stand. If it’s true that they eat us, how do they do it?”

Don Juan had a broad smile on his face. He was as pleased as punch. He explained that sorcerers see infant human beings as strange, luminous balls of energy, covered from the top to the bottom with a glowing coat, something like a plastic cover that is adjusted tightly over their cocoon of energy. He said that that glowing coat of awareness was what the predators consumed, and that when a human being reached adulthood, all that was left of that glowing coat of awareness was a narrow fringe that went from the ground to the top of the toes. That fringe permitted mankind to continue living, but only barely.

As if I had been in a dream, I heard don Juan Matus explaining that to his knowledge, man was the only species that had the glowing coat of awareness outside that luminous cocoon. Therefore, he became easy prey for an awareness of a different order, such as the heavy awareness of the predator.

He then made the most damaging statement he had made so far. He said that this narrow fringe of awareness was the epicenter of self-reflection, where man was irremediably caught. By playing on our self-reflection, which is the only point of awareness left to us, the predators create flares of awareness that they proceed to consume in a ruthless, predatory fashion. They give us inane problems that force those flares of awareness to rise, and in this manner they keep us alive in order for them to be fed with the energetic flare of our pseudoconcerns.

There must have been something to what don Juan was saying, which was so devastating to me that at that point I actually got sick to my stomach.

After a moment’s pause, long enough for me to recover, I asked don Juan: “But why is it that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico and all sorcerers today, although they see the predators, don’t do anything about it?”

“There’s nothing that you and I can do about it,” don Juan said in a grave, sad voice. “All we can do is discipline ourselves to the point where they will not touch us. How can you ask your fellow men to go through those rigors of discipline? They’ll laugh and make fun of you, and the more aggressive ones will beat the shit out of you. And not so much because they don’t believe it. Down in the depths of every human being, there’s an ancestral, visceral knowledge about the predators’ existence.”

“Diverted” is certainly how one would describe the modern city dweller, and at an observational level, the maintenance of distraction, obfuscation, misinformation and confusion is readily apparent in the media on a daily basis. To keep our minds diverted, we are fed an endless stream of these “pseudoconcerns”, to distract us from the real concerns created by the same people, for whom the world is simply a source of resources to be plundered and recreated into the objects of their desires, and for which the bulk of humanity is merely the slave labour through whose efforts the parasites’ collective dreams are realised. If you should doubt that these things are true, consider that when Don Juan discusses “… the epicenter of self-reflection, where man was irremediably caught…”, he is referring to the inculcated and ingrained narcissism of the individual who has been given the predator’s mindset. The public figures we see in the media, especially in “showbusiness”, are without doubt utterly narcissistic. Think about that. When they say that something is wrong and they think that something should be done about it, are you, as the observer, being manipulated by a narcissist?

But to be specifically on-topic, and to begin to see how easily their control might be exercised, let me begin by stating that a practical magician (occult practitioner) is acknowledged, broadly, to be a person who affects the behaviour of others by putting a suggestion into their minds, to the extent that they find it difficult not to see things in the way intended by the magician. In other words, by programming the listener’s or viewer’s perceptions before the event, an alternative outcome is prevented, or an event is factually different from the magician’s intention but the percipient still sees it as it was intended to be seen. It was for this reason that after the recent Doctor Strange film (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) came out, some online commentators marvelled (so to speak) that less familiar viewers did not realise that about half of what they had seen was actually possible in real life, simply because it relied upon the practitioner’s mastery of suggestion and perception. Engineer the perception of your target, and you too can work magic, or at least maintain an illusion.

This implies that much of what we might call “magic” is not, in fact, necessarily a physical result of a previous action, but rather an act of perception, the outcome of which was predetermined by the practitioner; the percipient has been pre-programmed by careful and selective verbiage and direction of attention to see a particular outcome. This means that it is possible for nothing visible to actually “happen” because the “result” is entirely in the percipient’s head. Much advertising in the media needs to be seen in this light, as both it and outright displays of propaganda are frequently varieties of public programming, in which the public are slowly conditioned, by sheer repetition if need be, to expect something to happen, and to react in a certain way when it invariably does. This is called predictive programming.

Remember: “A lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth.”

With regard to magical practice, what startled me, some time ago, was how I myself had failed to comprehend what was on a printed page right in front of me, and which related directly to all of this. Reading a copy of a compiled book version of the early editions of “Man, Myth and Magic” (given to me as a present by my grandmother, of all people – what was she thinking of???), one page referred to the Dictionnaire Infernel of the French mage, Collin de Plancy, a book in which – among other magical things – the author had included copies of sketches which he had drawn of demons summoned by himself during previous sessions in the circle. In this particular entry, I read that although de Plancy had drawn/painted the alleged appearances of the demons named in his text, they were not “real” in a physical sense – they were, instead, impressions implanted within the minds of the percipient (in this case, a practising ritual magician or similar occultist), such that a non-occultist standing in the circle right next to him/her would probably not be able to see them; an illusion projected directly into the magician’s mind such that two occultists in the same room would probably see the same demon differently. I actually did not realise the meaning of all this until very recently.

The demon, in this way of seeing it, was pure illusion, and this explains precisely why one demon (or similar entity) would be able to offer infinite visual versions of itself to an infinite number of percipients. This is also like saying that the definition of a physical object would likewise be different between individuals. Maybe that is an important statement. Alternatively: the “demon” was a real entity but its appearance was not real, as it existed only in the sorcerer’s mind and, at the end of the session, could be dismissed. [3]

Now we come to my main point. We have this thing called “civilisation” which is constantly lauded as a state to be emulated and maintained, but it seems to me that this is shaky ground. Why? Well, we should perhaps consider where the term “civilisation” comes from. It comes from the latin civis, meaning “city”. The corresponding modern English verb civilise, therefore, means what? According to WordNet [1], it means:

1. educate, school, train, cultivate, civilize, civilise — (teach or refine to be discriminative in taste or judgment; “Cultivate your musical taste”; “Train your tastebuds”; “She is well schooled in poetry”);

2. civilize, civilise — (raise from a barbaric to a civilized state; “The wild child found wandering in the forest was gradually civilized”).

It is interesting that these descriptions refer to discrimination, training and schooling; no actual “definition” is given here. One would suggest, in fact, that the literal meaning of “civilise” is something like “citify”, meaning to condition people into a suitable mindset for living in a city. And we might ask ourselves why it should be considered necessary to do such a thing?

You see, in the mainstream paradigm’s interpretation of “history”, “civilisation” is supposed to be somehow undeniably superior to an allegedly “barbaric” state which existed beforehand. This is because there is some elitist intellectual arrogance according to which notionally “uncivilised” people are supposed to be “inferior”, when in fact they are more capable of surviving in their chosen environments, and do not surround themselves with the useless frippery which “civilised” man thinks is so wonderful (be warned, however, that historically wherever there has been a minority power “elite”, there have always been a majority of “slaves” to do their bidding…).

In traditional Western thinking, this was expressed in terms of the “uncivilised” life being “nasty, brutish and short”, but generally speaking, people who lived in such a state, even into modern times, represented very little threat to civilisation; if anything, experience has shown that the opposite is true – “civilisation” in the Western model has proven horrendously destructive towards those whom it considers “uncivilised”, whereas the supposedly primitive “savage” was a person more closely in tune with their environment, and therefore more self-sufficient (being better able to find their requisites within that environment) and materially independent. What has really happened is that, having set itself up as a paragon of its own paradigm of a civilised state, the Western mindset has used the “uncivilised” periphery as a threat with which it, in turn, threatens its own citizens with a dire warning of what state they might descend into if they do not give the body politic the authority and resources to defend itself (and therefore, by implication, the citizens over whom it exercises its dubious “authority”). The nominally “uncivilised”, therefore, have usually ended up as the victims of the better-armed “civilised” nations. You couldn’t possibly observe a clearer and starker example of iniquity. Yet we call it civilisation.

Let us also ask ourselves what happens when the body politic’s identified “enemy” already happens to be, er, civilised. What normally happens is that they then try to dehumanise their notional “opponent”, the better to justify irrational (but highly profitable) warfare against them, which also has the helpful (from the elite’s point of view) characteristic of reducing the population of underlings… Our problem here is that the West has been self-regarding and narcissistic, and when their opponents are of a similar level of “civilisation”, ad hominem attacks (which is really what their irrational rationalisation of their intended or practical assaults are) is all that they have left. And as they are often unable to prove directly that what they assert is true, they are not above falsifying evidence and controlling its presentation at home to justify their destructive activity abroad.

We should also be asking ourselves what this actually means for the individual “citizen”, as all of this cannot possibly have happened without some obvious reason. To put it into an appropriate context, let us return to our supposed “primitive” and “uncivilised” person. Remember that we suggested that such a person must be more in tune with, and therefore self-sufficient in, their native environment, whether it be the forests of Africa or South America, the jungles of Borneo or even the coastline of sub-Arctic North America. People who lived in these places traditionally were able to feed and clothe themselves and do a range of other life-related activities without huge inputs of technology, but the essential point I would suggest here is that the logistic chain through which raw materials came to them was extremely short; they did not need expensive stores to offer them processed pseudo-foods, for example, because they knew from experience where to find what they needed to make things themselves. Likewise, they would have a way to clothe and house themselves and did not have to buy the raw materials for building their dwellings, because they could just walk out and get it for themselves, for free.

There is no mystery about this; what we have termed “civilisation” is simply the entrainment and coercion of people to travel from the countryside, where they were more or less self-sufficient, to the cities where they were dependent upon supply chains which were then used to siphon off the wealth that they were generating with their labour. The controllers (or their gofers) then also moved in (and, according to the experience of Mark Passio, are still moving in) to buy up the vacated land cheaply. The majority of the population, by this methodology, have slowly been deprived of their original resources and wealth. And with the added finance resulting from taxing their own “citizens”, the controllers then moved on to do the same to the inhabitants of other lands to increase their profits – empire – and the footsoldiers who achieved this were the same people from their own lands who had already been asset-stripped by their dubious leaders.

So we now see that what we describe as “civilisation” cannot be anything but a millennia-long confidence trick perpetrated upon the gullible by Passio’s “ancient psychologists”. The very people who were abused and coerced into becoming the hands of the power elites were the ones who created all of this, while the elites claimed all of the kudos and profit. Those who actually broke their backs putting it all together were the ones who were intentionally forgotten by the official histories because they were factual (or later, economic) slaves; a living could not be earned except by working for the elites in one form or another.

The greatest mistake that a modern “citizen” could possibly make, when repulsed by seeing the sequelae of this process, is to assume that there is a ready political cure for it. There is not. The rise of the Left since the time of the French Revolution has not led to any kind of Utopia – quite the contrary, since those people simply represent another narcissistic power clique who use the masses to whom they pay lip-service to achieve their own ends, and then show their utter contempt for them by abandoning them. Politicians are not there to serve the interests of the “citizens” – their function is to control the “citizenry” on behalf of their masters who exploit them. The obvious (and rather simplistic) dichotomy of “political thinking” is merely a dialectic imposed to split mass opinion and set people against each other. At best, any “revolution” has been merely a mask behind which authorities hide, and in which those who are ruled willingly enter into an increased servitude. The people you vote for represent only the interests of your rulers – everything they say is lies. The “facts” presented in the media are “facts” which are convenient to their narrative; the “education” you received suited their requirements in potential workers at the time, as well as constituting “propaganda” in their own right (because they were according to the dominant paradigm, and necessarily restricted in scope according to circumstances). Always think it possible that your “thoughts” are not original and your own, but were put there by someone else.

The first thing that anyone confronted by all of this needs to do is to learn to distance themselves from their emotions, since (as Passio explains) it is mainly by emotional dependencies and fear of a false unknown that the majority are usually manipulated. The second thing to be aware of is that in order to do this, they have to make people believe that there is some kind of a threat, be it a warlike enemy, or something in the environment, and then push this relentlessly, like a drug, until the public emotion has reached such a fever pitch that they are begging the leaders to provide a solution. In the modern context, the third thing to realise is that the controllers usually have some kinds of “provocateurs” to provide instantaneous stimulation to sweep people along – to lose themselves in their emotions and thus be more willing to react in the heat of the moment. It is for this final reason that we should always treat apparent “rebels” with suspicion, lest by losing ourselves while under their influence, we should simply be achieving the aims of the “leaders”. The very fact that any such person may be (a) in the media and (b) stridently criticising the status quo is a sure sign that they are provocateurs, and not genuine at all.

If this methodology seems somewhat far-fetched, it may be that you are suffering from a condition which came to be known as “Stockholm Syndrome” [2]. In other words, because of the apparent beneficence of your captors, it is difficult for you not to be sympathetic towards them when confronted with an alternative view both of them personally and their behaviour. But they are your captors: you live in a goldfish bowl, and they throw in some food for you every now and then. You are afraid of venturing beyond the goldfish bowl, because despite your restricted environment, it actually feels safe; and what you see through its walls is distorted and disturbing to your sight. You do not wish to remove the distortion for fear of the truth being even more disturbing; and so you stay in your goldfish bowl, accepting your situation; therfore, as we suggested at the beginning, your physical liberation is precluded by your refusal to first undergo a psychological liberation – to see that there is a different world out there and that you do not need your dependency. But the price of losing that dependency is the responsibility of making decisions in your own interest, something which the afflicted seem unwilling to do because they are so inured to being led by someone else, and to being in thrall of authority. It is only when we realise that the “authority” is flawed and factually toxic and destructive that people will realise that self-determination is not so bad, after all; better to die free and self-determining than as a helpless, mind-controlled slave. This is also what our aforementioned “neoteny” is all in aid of: the inculcated and conditioned maintenance of an immature psychology in the individual, the better to prevent them from making more informed decisions which might be detrimental to the Body Politic.

Again, quoting Carlos Castaneda at length, Don Juan provided an insight into what was required from the individual:

Don Juan kept on pushing his barb deeper and deeper into me. “The sorcerers of ancient Mexico,” he said, “saw; the predator. They called it the flyer because it leaps through the air. It is not a pretty sight. It is a big shadow, impenetrably dark, a black shadow that jumps through the air. Then, it lands flat on the ground. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico were quite ill at ease with the idea of when it made its appearance on Earth. They reasoned that man must have been a complete being at one point, with stupendous insights, feats of awareness that are mythological legends nowadays. And then everything seems to disappear, and we have now a sedated man.”

I wanted to get angry, call him a paranoiac, but somehow the righteousness that was usually just underneath the surface of my being wasn’t there. Something in me was beyond the point of asking myself my favorite question: What if all that he said is true? At the moment he was talking to me that night, in my heart of hearts, I felt that all of what he was saying was true, but at the same time, and with equal force, all that he was saying was absurdity itself.

“What are you saying, don Juan?” I asked feebly. My throat was constricted. I could hardly breathe.

“What I’m saying is that what we have against us is not a simple predator. It is very smart, and organized. It follows a methodical system to render us useless. Man, the magical being that he is destined to be, is no longer magical. He’s an average piece of meat. There are no more dreams for man but the dreams of an animal who is being raised to become a piece of meat: trite, conventional, imbecilic.”

Don Juan’s words were eliciting a strange, bodily reaction in me comparable to the sensation of nausea. It was as if I were going to get sick to my stomach again. But the nausea was coming from the bottom of my being, from the marrow of my bones. I convulsed involuntarily. Don Juan shook me by the shoulders forcefully. I felt my neck wobbling back and forth under the impact of his grip. The maneuver calmed me down at once. I felt more in control.

“This predator,” don Juan said, “which, of course, is an inorganic being, is not altogether invisible to us, as other inorganic beings are. I think as children we do see it and decide it’s so horrific that we don’t want to think about it. Children, of course, could insist on focusing on the sight, but everybody else around them dissuades them from doing so.

“The only alternative left for mankind,” he continued, “is discipline. Discipline is the only deterrent. But by discipline I don’t mean harsh routines. I don’t mean waking up every morning at five- thirty and throwing cold water on yourself until you’re blue. Sorcerers understand discipline as the capacity to face with serenity odds that are not included in our expectations. For them, discipline is an art: the art of facing infinity without flinching, not because they are strong and tough but because they are filled with awe.”

“In what way would the sorcerers’ discipline be a deterrent?” I asked.

“Sorcerers say that discipline makes the glowing coat of awareness unpalatable to the flyer,” don Juan said, scrutinizing my face as if to discover any signs of disbelief. “The result is that the predators become bewildered. An inedible glowing coat of awareness is not part of their cognition, I suppose. After being bewildered, they don’t have any recourse other than refraining from continuing their nefarious task.

“If the predators don’t eat our glowing coat of awareness for a while,” he went on, “it’ll keep on growing. Simplifying this matter to the extreme, I can say that sorcerers, by means of their discipline, push the predators away long enough to allow their glowing coat of awareness to grow beyond the level of the toes. Once it goes beyond the level of the toes, it grows back to its natural size.

“The sorcerers of ancient Mexico used to say that the glowing coat of awareness is like a tree. If it is not pruned, it grows to its natural size and volume. As awareness reaches levels higher than the toes, tremendous maneuvers of perception become a matter of course.

“The grand trick of those sorcerers of ancient times,” don Juan continued, “was to burden the flyers’ mind with discipline. They found out that if they taxed the flyers’ mind with inner silence, the foreign installation would flee, giving to any one of the practitioners involved in this maneuver the total certainty of the mind’s foreign origin. The foreign installation comes back, I assure you, but not as strong, and a process begins in which the fleeing of the ‘flyers’ mind becomes routine, until one day it flees permanently. A sad day indeed! That’s the day when you have to rely on your own devices, which are nearly zero. There’s no one to tell you what to do. There’s no mind of foreign origin to dictate the imbecilities you’re accustomed to.

“My teacher, the nagual Julian, used to warn all his disciples,” don Juan continued, “that this was the toughest day in a sorcerer’s life, for the real mind that belongs to us, the sum total of our experience, after a lifetime of domination has been rendered shy, insecure, and shifty. Personally, I would say that the real battle of sorcerers begins at that moment. The rest is merely preparation.”

If an individual is repulsed by the sight of what their controllers have created, the “discipline” spoken of here by Don Juan is the maintenance of the sensibility which allows us to see it, to keep our eyes focused and trained upon it, and to avoid the recidivistic habit which would otherwise cause us to forever revert to the former controlled state, because the inculcated desire to delegate important decisions to “authority figures” empowered by ourselves leads, in the end, only to destruction. [4] The real world that we want to see will never come to fruition until we insist upon self-determination and self-ownership, and exercise the self-discipline necessary to do both successfully.

These have been the concepts which have been foremost in mind since my cancer operation earlier this year. I was frightened at the idea of having a fatal medical condition, but more frightened at the prospect of death, so I voluntarily surrendered to a procedure in the first major surgery of my life, and the result was that said life has been prolonged; nobody knows for how much longer, but we are all mortal and can only prolong our lives by making the correct decisions. At the same time, however, the realisation that nobody gets out alive has turned out to be motivating: this is MY life, I make all the decisions and I accept responsibility for those decisions. I have always disliked the ways in which some people have tried to involve themselves in my life and influence my decisions, and now I have a zero-tolerance attitude towards such interference. If people don’t like it, tough. I will make no apologies for my self-assertion. And what has emerged from this is greater self-discipline (somewhat more than previously, at any rate) and overall determination about the things I want to do and how I want to spend my life.

Bottom line: this is my personal existence. It does not belong to any government or to anyone else, but to me alone. I will determine for myself what I will eat and drink, what thoughts I will keep in my head, how I support myself and my own ultimate fate. I will not delegate these to anyone else and I will maintain the discipline until the time comes to submit to mortality. Which, I hope, is a long way yet to come… and if that means being “uncivilised”, then so be it. If history has any lessons to learn, it is that in the end, all “civilisations” have proven to be as mortal as any of their citizens.

[1] https://wordnet.princeton.edu

[2] https://www.history.com/news/stockholm-syndrome

[3] See “The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage” (translated by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers) for how an ancient practitioner might have done this. A version is available online at http://www.hermetism.info/pdf/Grimoire/The%20Sacred%20Magic%20of%20Abramelin%20the%20Mage.pdf.

[4] See: https://www.activistpost.com/2018/04/how-the-globalism-con-game-leads-to-a-new-world-order.html for some more enlightenment, so to speak, on this topic.

Cancer Diary Update, 21st April 2018

It’s been some time since I last wrote anything about the actual cancer and treatment, due to the situation which arose at the end of January. However, it unfolded like this…

Things have of course happened since I last wrote properly about my situation, but the outstanding thing, at the beginning, has been the response of the employer at that time – who, of course, is not my employer any longer. As you will see, my case is neither unique nor non-illustrative.

Originally, when notified of the need for an operation and time away from work for the operation and the resulting recuperation, the company seemed very accommodating. To recap, they first stated that my health was the first priority, and that they wanted me to take not just the statutory (as I discovered later in discussion with Professor Kim) one month for recovery, but two, taking me up to the end of the contract, at which point, having hopefully made a complete recovery, I expected to re-sign for another year. Regular readers (here and on FB) will recall that I also received a personal e-mail from the CEO of Times Media expressing his sorrow at the fact that I had contracted cancer, and that he wished me a speedy recovery and that I could be able to resume work as soon as possible.

All of that began to unravel on Wednesday, January 25th, the day I actually had the FDD removed and was therefore technically no longer even an out-patient. That afternoon, I got back from the hospital after FDD removal and endoscopy (without anaesthetic, and with some lubricant goo still trying to escape, leading to frequent dashes to the bathroom and a sticky arse…) and received a call from one of the established seniors in the company’s Seoul office (“established” meaning that she has been with them for longer even than I remember, and I am sure there is a reason for that – right? Right?). The person concerned has never had my confidence as a speaker of English, because she never quite seems to select the appropriate vocabulary, and hence does not really seem to know what she is saying… Basically, the company had decided not only that they would not re-sign me at the end of the contract, but also that they did not want to proceed with it to the end as originally planned, and wished to terminate it on January 31st 2018. My own understanding was that they wished to end it as planned (but as I couldn’t understand her mangled English very easily, there was no way that I could be certain), and would not see any disadvantage for them in this because, as I was not working, I was not therefore receiving any salary. I forgot, of course, that they also paid my rent according to the contract, and they wanted to stop doing so as soon as possible. Seems like they resented the prospect of having to do this even though, at the time, only one more payment would be required before the end of the contract.

The lesson here is that companies like this, which often experience tough times profit-wise because they are really just a one-trick pony, can be quite ruthless; they clearly consider employees, and foreign employees in particular, to be an expensive liability to be disposed of as soon as possible. I shall return to this later, but to jump ahead temporarily to my current situation, my new co-worker Jonathan (from The Great White North) told me a similar story about his (younger) colleague at the university here in Jinju (to where I relocated recently for my new position) – said (male) colleague had the misfortune to break his leg, at which point his contract was immediately cancelled and therefore he, like myself, had to find something new rather sharpishly. And funnily enough, he did precisely that… how did that happen? It’s another mystery of Korea…

Getting back to the story… what happened next was that almost immediately after receiving the bad news from the erstwhile employer, came a call from one of Job In Korea’s (JIK’s) representatives in Seoul, Tony. He asked me whether I would still be interested in a position with the Air Force Aviation Science High School (AFASHS) in Jinju, whose information I had seen previously at JIK’s web site, and I said “yes”. He did offer me a choice of another job which would allow me to remain in Daegu (incredibly, the same salary but only three days’ working per week!!!), but having worked with the Korean military previously, and noting that the salary would be identical to that received with Times, I decided to pursue it further. The alternative, in fact, was school work anyway.

This decision, like so many made by foreigners in Korea, turned out to have its swings and roundabouts. The prime advantage of working for any government agency in Korea is that they will generally stick to the conditions of a contract and make great efforts to make sure everything is okay; the disadvantages tend to relate to things like the cost of relocation and the inconvenience of their own location and the relationship between their physical placement and the location of your apartment, and transiting between them on a daily basis. This means that some patience is often required while information accumulates, as such institutions are invariably staffed mainly by people whose tenure is short (due to being conscripted, for example, as part of their National Service requirement), and hence, as with so many institutions I have experienced in Korea, they experience a constant haemorrhage of collective memory.

As it happened, the major drag was that because this is a military institution, they had to conduct a long and lengthy background check before I could be permitted to come here and sign the contract. So I was stuck in a strange situation for a few weeks – no contract signed, a limited period of remaining E-2 visa which was slowly expiring, and no money coming in, meaning a lot of stress and tension. I was repeatedly assured that yes, they definitely wanted me but unfortunately, they could not change this requirement, until finally, on Thursday 8th March, I got the message that it would be okay to come down and sign the contract. When I received the message, I was actually in a coffee shop in Gangnam, waiting to apply for a D-10 visa (and frankly, expecting a negative response). I then took my leisurely time going back to Seoul Station, caught a KTX back to Daegu, had a shower and hit the sack, as I would have to be in Jinju fairly early the following afternoon in order to get the visa attended to!

This new position technically began the same day that I signed the contract, which was three days before the visa was due to expire (another close shave), although work proper – in the sense of being there and present in the classrooms – actually began on the following Monday… alas, there have proven to be a number of problems: although the Air Force supplied me with accommodation in the form of Bachelor Quarters (BOQ) onsite (and this would have been especially wonderful during holidays when the students were absent), it proved impossible to move in permanently because of the allocated furniture – the room had a new bed, new desk and even a new refrigerator, but this meant that I could not move in, as I had also likewise purchased a new bed, desk, and several other items previously and was not willing to part with them. This was because the allocation was permanent and it was not permitted to remove them; once in situ, they would have to stay in situ until whenever.

So this meant that I would have to have external housing, and here, again, was a unique problem in my experience in Korea – the Air Force would supply accommodation as their customary BOQ, but had no provision in their contract for assisting the new employee with the cost of non-BOQ housing, so I will be bearing this on my own (although at a cheaper level than my new co-worker Jonathan). I spent some time with a local estate agent who was recommended to me by another local foreigner who had used her services previously, and after viewing a number of mainly new (and also rather small and pokey) new-ish residences, was shown an apartment in an older property some distance from work (I had hoped to find somewhere closer). Although I thought the deposit was relatively steep at five million won (the previous maximum had been 3.3 million with the KDLI), I also thought that the monthly rent was relatively acceptable (although not cheap), and did not represent a serious financial drag. So the contract was signed, but the move was much more expensive than expected due to being during the spring moving season. But I had to move out, so I bore it.

In the long term, however, this arrangement will be beneficial. I can increase the size of my deposit as far as ten million won and have a reduction in the monthly rental payment, as is so often the case with places in Korea. So the deposit itself will then represent a saving of eight million in addition to the two million brought forward to Jinju from Daegu.

In the course of all this, I was naturally discussing the question of travel between apartment and work, and it transpired that there was, in fact, a daily shuttle bus and there was a convenient boarding point at a local bus stop not far from my new place. Although the return drop-off was much further away, I decided that again, this was no big deal because I needed the exercise and shops and banks, etc. were conveniently along the roadside. I then went to the KT guy across the road to sign up for a new Internet contract, and I was away, so to speak.

Drawing parallels with my previous stint at the KDLI, the shorter commuting distance makes a big difference; not having the same class four hours a day, five days a week means much less stress; and there is absolutely no likelihood of suffering the kinds of disadvantages I experienced with the previous (now unmentionable) employer, like not enough students to set up a new session, or the resultant slashing of my salary due to lack of a session. I may have to pay in full for my accommodation, but the salary will always be full and complete, and the cost of travelling to and from work is effectively zero. Plus, as per Professor Kim’s admonishments, I am not drinking (much) right now.

The new place has two rooms, one smaller and one larger, and I decided that the smaller room would become the bedroom, as I had left my mouldy old bookcases behind in Daegu, and these would have to be replaced, the new ones eventually occupying part of the larger room. The kitchen area in the middle has plenty of space, including an area which I suppose most other people would populate with a dining table and chairs, but as I am single this will probably be co-opted for further storage. The larger room will be used for both work and relaxation as soon as furniture can be purchased – new bookcases, a closet and a reading lamp, and maybe some other storage to accommodate the likes of the printer and scanner. The bedroom could probably use at least a chest of drawers.

The entrance also has a nice amount of space, and it did occur to me that some kind of storage or shelving unit would be especially welcome there – as well as an appropriate coat stand or rack. The amount of storage available in the kitchen area was likewise not to be sneezed at, but I would have to do some appreciable cleaning not only there but generally, as the amount of time the place was vacant had led to it being infested by small flies, whose corpses could be seen littering the kitchen floor as well as the balcony next to the washing machine. Thankfully, the floors appear not to have been so filthy as those in the previous place in Daegu were two years ago when I first moved in.

The area itself is fairly lively, having not apparently succumbed to the depredations of the larger stores and retaining many small shops, restaurants and coffee houses as well as the more customary convenience stores; one GS25 just down the road even had my usual Danish cider in big cans, but of course, Professor Kim had told me to leave it out for the interim. And I always do as the doctors order. Sure I do!

So this brings us up to where we are right now. In my second month in a new job, and seriously, it would be so nice to stay here for a few years. Daily travel costs are zero, there are not too many lessons each day and the classes are all at the same level (high school, third grade), are either speaking or writing and I only need to prepare two lesson plans per week. This is just as well, as I have been waking up too early on weekday mornings lately to get a full night’s sleep.

It also demonstrates, again, the falsehood often propagated about the “ageism” of the English teaching apparatus in Korea. I will be 56 this year, have had a major operation and recovered (I certainly hope) from colorectal cancer and set myself up in yet another city, because I was literally snapped up by the Air Force. Perseverance and patience seem to be rewarded in the end, although it should be said that even when not looking for a new job, you need a constant influx of vacancy-related information in your Inbox and have to keep everything updated.

So let’s see how this one goes…

[No references this time LOL]

Entr’acte II

As things have been rather quiet with Yours Truly of late, a brief blog to bring everyone up to speed…

As a freezing cold winter slouches kicking and screaming into spring, and factually some of us are not getting any younger, we are also waiting – still – to sign our new contract and move on. How so? Well, I have (so to speak) “been here before” – caught up in the time-consuming activity of background checking for the new position, which is associated with the military. Again. And this time I think it is worth the prolonged agony, based upon what is a quite extensive experience of different employers.

See, in recent years, I’ve been through an alarming number of institutions, and the original motivation for chasing them for jobs was that I always thought they were professional entities, but the experience I have had with them (as a vulnerable E-2 visa holder) has been stressful; no wonder my hair has dropped out! And this whole thing has been very… disillusioning, as if the depth of diabolical despondency I had sunk into before I even left the UK was not enough. It has become very apparent to me that (in this particular instance) I was severely misguided in my assumption of “professionalism” in these companies, and so, now that the opportunity has arrived, I have had to reassess my opinions and ask what kind of employer is most suitable, and the answer is simple: the ones who will, for reasons relating primarily to their relationship with the Korean government, always honour their contracts.

Now, don’t get me wrong: the situation remains one in which I am surprised to discover that even at the tender age of 55 (in other words, I will be 56 this year), there are still institutions which will throw new opportunities at me: even the fact that I have been treated for (and technically am still “recovering from”) cancer has – it seems – not dented their enthusiasm. And this time, the essential “difference” is that my students will be exclusively high schoolers, which is something of a departure from my norm. However, the greatest surprise is the apparent eagerness, on the new employer’s part, to get me in there no matter what; so I temper my natural anxiety at being perilously close to the end of a visa with an element of patience and expectation – in anticipation of a positive and, one would hope, a mutually beneficial relationship to come. And I hope it lasts for a suitably substantial length of time. I’m talking years, dude!

It’s not clear yet how this will pan out because of the fiendish length of time I am having to hang on, right now, waiting for the (already apparently positive) result of the new employer’s two-stage security clearance checks before actually putting pen to contract, as my current visa is slowly edging towards expiry; also, surprisingly, the lack of actual details of the post itself, as the “interview” turned out to be something of a damp squib (apparently I was expected to do some kind of demo, but the recruiter didn’t pass that on to me, among other things, quel surprise). But, previously, I have worked for the Royal Air Force back in the UK and have done instructing for another military employer here in Korea, the KDLI in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do, so it’s not like there will be a huge surprise, in terms of practice and procedure (and security implications, of course). Right now, it’s just a case of being patient and getting in there ASAP.

But an interesting theme seems to be emerging while I am waiting… it’s been a long, long time since I had the dubious pleasure of a TV in my apartment, and truth to tell, when you consider that a lot of the time, I only want to watch older stuff (with exceptions such as trying out the latest Star Trek and X Files), and the amount available for free, on-line and on demand, from the likes of YouTube, DailyMotion and – right now – 123MoviesHub.ag [3], means that a TV is basically unnecessary; everything is digital and available for free through my Internet cable. This doesn’t mean that TV is actually redundant (UFC, anyone???), but the dominance that it had over my mind when I was younger is shattered forever. I made a choice, and the result is that my mind is much freer. I need hardly point out that as this is Korea, much of what I might have to subscribe to here would also be rather irrelevant in cultural and linguistic terms.

All of which means that I have become progressively more open to information and opinions which formerly I would have considered ridiculous, unjustified and downright way out, which subsequent events have demonstrated to my satisfaction are possibly more deserving of consideration and merit than social (and media) conditioning would previously allow me to countenance. And yet, at the same time, I do think that since I was a teenager, I have been on a path away from notional orthodoxy, be it in terms of historical truth or scientific honesty, for example, in search of a kind of verisimilitude which cannot be tolerated by a control system the machinations of which depend upon the demonstrable covert destruction of important historical materials, the perversion of historical events and the erection of whole paradigms which work only as a result of indoctrination and saturated media propaganda (Bill Nye, anyone? Neil DeGrasse Tyson??? Who will the next buffoon be?) which seems to be resulting, especially in the USA, in a new caste of younger people who are emotionally unstable when their knowledge or opinions are questioned. This latter is the very opposite of learning and wisdom, and it is very revealing that, being unable to mount a rational and complicated argument against even just a person with a different opinion, the response tends to be a kind of emotional violence akin to that of a two-year-old. A recent example from Sputnik:

Professor Says Men and Women are Different

At a personal level, I am repulsed by this kind of thing, and it has been stimulating me to look more towards traditional philosophers; it does seem to me that inculcated infantilism is not a suitable response to the dangers which are arising in modern societies – and if you look at places like the Ukraine right now, it’s not “new” dangers that are arising: instead, it’s the return of the “old” dangers, rooted in the previous centuries but especially the events and attitudes of the mid-twentieth century. There is a word for this, and that word is recidivism – meaning a return to a former, inferior and usually criminal or otherwise socially unacceptable mode of behaviour [1]. Experience shows us that it is usually not a good idea to try to return to the environment of our past, primarily because we have changed – the increase in our knowledge and experience, not to mention the resulting changes in our personal sensibilities which also change the limits of what we will now tolerate, is what really makes a return to a past situation impossible. It is for this reason that we will often hear that the transition from an old paradigm to a new one is referred to as “being like dying”, as we shed the old attachments, possibly with great psychological difficulty, in order to accommodate the new – which seems somehow reminiscent of the comment by Max Planck: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” [4] – except here, of course, it is the concept which dies rather than the adherent.

As an example of the type of new input that I have been accepting, take a look at “Redesigning Reality”, a relatively new vodcast put out regularly by Dylan Charles of “Waking Times” [2] fame, assisted by his friend, Jeff Anthony, whose response to his own bodily injuries has been very philosophical and mature and has impressed me greatly:

http://redesigningreality.com

and you can see them regularly on YouTube:

plus, perhaps, honourable mentions for the likes of Vin Armani and his show… but alas, I do not tune in to Vin as often as I should.

However, we have to face all of these (and other) potential inputs with a severe caveat: none of them is one hundred per cent. reliable.

One would think that this was the prime result of enlightened exposure to conventional media – the realisation that there is a limit to how much credence we can extend to them. So, for example, recently Vin had David Icke as a guest on his show:

David represents an interesting example of information and opinion input, largely because of his long-time claim regarding the manipulation of humanity by unseen reptilian beings, for which he has frequently been lambasted by the mainstream media. But here’s the interesting point: take this away (or ignore it temporarily) and focus on the rest of his message, and what do you discover? It all connects well, and makes a disconcerting amount of sense, as well, perhaps, as being a lot more humane than the conventional narratives. Notice here how well it seems to interdigitate with Vin’s personal take on the situation. Subtract the one part of David’s narrative which is difficult to prove, and the result is a coherent picture; there is nothing which David expresses which should attract disrespect from the listener.

This is teaching us something: no source of information is absolutely reliable and foolproof, so approaching verisimilitude means having the bullshit detector on and weaving our way through a constant morass of misinformation and disinformation to uncover reality (note that I do not say “the truth” here). I would not accuse David of disseminating such materials – rather, the interesting point is that when his most contentious (and difficult-to-prove) topic is placed to one side, the rest makes striking sense. We should do this until it can either be definitively proven or disproven.

The implication here is that there are truthful elements within all narratives, but according to the reliability, affiliations and provenance of the originators of those narratives, each needs to be assessed on his/her/its own merits and compared with other narratives to arrive at a more realistic assessment of what we are seeing and hearing. To what extent are any of these truthful? How do they corroborate or deny each others’ veracity? Sometimes we need to return to these fundamental points, especially when we realise the extent to which such institutions as schools and universities are really just indoctrination houses for a particular paradigm. This point should be foremost in our minds at all times; we cannot judge the truthfulness or falsehood of what confronts us otherwise. When we hear the sayings of others, when we watch a documentary or read a book or a newspaper article (online or offline), what we are confronted with is either an opinion (which may or may not be reliable or truthful, depending upon previous inputs of information to the speaker) or a concoction of facts and non-facts intended to bolster support for a particular agenda – which I once saw in an old cartoon expressed as (and here I paraphrase): “a subtle blend of truth, half-truth and anything but the truth.”

To put it another way: On the spectrum from zero to one hundred per cent. “truthfulness”, where would you routinely place what you hear in the news? This is always a simple and convenient way of measuring things, and I often use this kind of scale for other purposes with my students:

NE horiz scale med

On this scale, I would put David Icke at about 85%.

The final element here relates to my recent brush with death in the form of colorectal cancer, something I had not expected, but having said that, something for which I was mightily glad to find an accommodating surgeon; and the fact that post-operative recovery seems to have been so rapid (due to the experimental device used) cannot allow me to ignore the implications for the future. But one side-effect I have discovered, at the psychological level, is a loss of patience. By this I mean to suggest that the sudden unexpected encounter with mortality, having made me realise that my days are ultimately numbered, has stripped away my usual forbearance with certain social behaviours, and the constant attempt by certain sources to indoctrinate me into the obviously false paradigm is one of these; another is the visible recidivism in both myself and others, which will result in stagnation if allowed to proceed unchecked; essentially, I have lost my tolerance for distractions, and feel as if I want to apply Occam’s Razor to everything, the better to avoid constantly wasting precious time.

So from my current perspective, the arrival of my new employer has to be seen in terms of how it will enable me to develop and progress, as it is not like previous positions – what promise does it hold in its own right, and what might it eventually lead to, bearing in mind that I have never subscribed to (what seems to me to be) a rather antiquated view of “retirement” – excuse me? If I arrive at an age at which employers no longer wish to take me on, does my life suddenly end? Does my brain suddenly stop functioning? Of course not – this is really nineteenth-century thinking, a leftover from a time when employees of such institutions as the British railways could have the luxury of working for a single, reliable employer for their whole lives and then stop working. But my mind is too active for that. So we now arrive at a time of transition.

Last night (a Saturday night spent at home – again – because of the post-operative strictures imposed by the surgeon) I was looking at the philosophy of Epicurus, noting how it seems to fit quite well with my own outlook on pleasure and pain and (believe it or not) the avoidance of unnecessary acquisition of material satisfactions, and today, whilst thinking about this, noting afresh (and not without some surprise) how the basics of life could have changed so little since the man himself was alive. It is in this frame of mind that I will be facing the future – avoiding unnecessary discomfort (I would not use the word “suffering”, as this is illogical) by choosing carefully the things I wish to have in my life, and bearing in mind that what the likes of advertisers and other contemptible mind-controllers want me to waste my time on are not necessary for the essential core of my lifestyle. I am not someone’s convenient target market, I am a rational human being and will resist the tide of greed and idiocy in search of a reliable picture of reality.

So I come closer to the time of signing and remain here for a short while longer, throwing out trash and planning the transition, but it’s probably a good idea to remember that the avoidance of recidivism usually involves throwing out some of your own junk. That, I think, is a good point to end here: letting go of my junk and opening my mind to new vistas of knowledge and thought. Epicurus, at least, got that part right.

References:

[1] See also the definition given at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/recidivism?s=t.

[2] See: http://www.wakingtimes.com

[3] See, for example: https://123movieshub.ag/series/star-trek-discovery/

[4] See: https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=max+planck

Entr’acte

Before getting back to my Cancer Diary – and so much has happened since I last wrote any of it – let me relate that today was the first day of returning to the hospital to talk with the Professor since being discharged last Thursday, and as usual there were surprises.

See, this device he plugged into me has no proper “instruction manual” to go with it. I have really only just understood the proper function of the thing. So I have been avoiding the use of the lumen valve when in truth I should have been using it – during shopping or other trips out of my place, for example. The lumen valve, which is actuated by injecting water into the device with a syringe, prevents the outward flow of gut contents. I think you can probably figure out the rest…

The second thing is that now the resectioning operation appears to have been successful, the FDD will be removed next Wednesday. But I had received the impression (wrongly, it turns out) that the FDD was to be a permanent fixture, but no! – it now appears to only be put in place to serve as a hygienic conduit while the rectum wall was healing. Once this process is competed (three weeks after the operation), it can be removed. The remaining gut will eventually adjust to working normally as it did before the neoplasm was removed. Or so I have been reassured.

So, while I was discussing my (generally favourable) health with the Professor, he said that I was already able to resume work.

“Ah,” I said: “but the company has given me until the end of February to recuperate.” I will return to the use of this time period in a moment.

Afterwards, a time was arranged for the removal of the FDD and a barium enema x-ray shoot, which will almost certainly be the actual end of the cancer episode.

But how about the job? The company had been signalling previously that they would be “open” to re-signing me, but how “open” were they, really?

I left the hospital and walked back to our office, just down the road, to tell my manager what the Prof. had said. During our discussion, she asked me whether I had heard anything from the company in the interim, and of course, the answer was “no”; since our conflab in Seomyeon back at the end of July, I had heard nary a peep out of them.

The gist was that there was a possibility that (based largely upon negative reviews from the students, never mind the fact that too many of them needed some severe improvements in their English in order to be fully functional) they might not want to re-sign me after all. Great. Should I start looking for a new job already? If they were not going to re-sign me, then I would have to do this; the lucky happenstance of having been out of work for literally only two days before signing for the current job was the exception, rather than the rule, as historically finding something new would take months.

Additionally, when I was waiting to go to the hospital in December, I spent the weekends working on lesson plans and materials for a proposed new course due to commence after re-signing; but if they don’t re-sign me, there is no point in proceeding with this. They are not paying me right now because I am not working – and another foreigner from a different branch is covering for me while I “recuperate” – and I will only continue with that work out of a sense of goodwill _if_ they are going to re-sign, otherwise I have more important things to do with my time.

Personally, I have always felt prickly whenever this question of student feedback being in the negative zone rears its ugly head. In my experience, “proper training” is something that Korean employers tend to avoid. Lack of communication is part of the problem, but a desire to avoid wasting money, I suspect, is in there somewhere too, however irrational that may sound. After all, if you don’t communicate with workers as a matter of course and don’t provide them with the feedback and training they need for a specific job, what possible right do you have to complain, really? I myself have plenty of things that make me want to complain, but my response is tempered nowadays by the idea that simply complaining about something is not enough – one acquires greater legitimacy when complaining if one has a viable alternative suggestion, at least.

My own complaint is that a job of this kind requires far more training and orientation for someone like myself, with a lower-level academic background than some of my peers here. Otherwise, I am constantly in danger of appearing inauthentic to the students, primarily due to lack of relevant experience. So I made this point today – that I would be perfectly happy to re-sign but would appreciate further training in order to be more effective in the position. You’d think it was a no-brainer – after all, it is not every person who can simply walk into a job like mine and be perfect from the get-go. But as I say, in my experience this is a big issue with Korean employers.

The real stumbling-block for so many Korean language-related companies seems to be the lack of product diversity – what has emerged over the last few years, for me, based on my own observations, is that too many of the English-based businesses here are one-trick ponies – it is often a struggle to get the management to accept that they need to offer a greater variety of products to attract more customers. And they are often scared of negative ratings from students who really do not have a sufficient level of English themselves to (as in our case) progress to teaching their own students. Business owners are often inflexible.

So suddenly, in the immediate aftermath of a cancer operation, I am yet again faced with the possibility of having to mount a job search. I have every expectation that the company will prevaricate until me having already found a job in the meantime is upon them, by which time, of course, it will be too late… but this is Korea, so what’s new?

Andrew’s Cancer Diary

The First Bit

Out of all the misfortunes which can strike us in life, probably cancer, in one form or another, is one of the worst. But as I sit here thinking about this, having already had a number of tests and awaiting a few more not only today but also the actual operation itself – yes, there must be an operation, this almost certainly cannot be avoided – and also gathering information, there is no feeling, personally, of having to regret things all the time. Self-recrimination and moping around wailing: “Oh, why didn’t I go to the hospital sooner???”… folks, it’s not helpful, either for yourself or for those around you, who probably have to pick up some slack in your absence. It’s a lot more important, for yourself and for others, to pay attention immediately upon what must be done.

Once you get over that and start to focus on the practical side of things, you may start to get the impression that some, at least, of those around you seem to suffer more than you do. One person in particular, a fellow ex-pat (but from a different part of the former British Empire) whose personal circumstances were – at the time of writing – rather difficult, and who had put himself in the situation of owing me rather a lot of money, suddenly realised what the consequences were of not repaying a sum which would now have made a big difference for me in a situation like this. But as I had other concerns (and had to find a way to pay for all of this without personal health insurance, as well as preparing myself for what was to come), I put it out of my mind and focused on what I would have to do both before and after the operation. After all, the point of having the operation is to live, is it not? That is a positive. People with this condition – any condition – should not lose sight of that!

To this we might add that, when the truth became known, the doctor concerned immediately pointed out what I had to do and this meant that there was no confusion either about relative timescale or choice of options; the general direction was crystal clear, and unnecessary prevarication was not on the menu… speaking of which, some foods also had to be avoided, which to be honest, left me feeling no pangs or cravings in their absence but instead, perhaps, were not missed terribly. This was something of a revelation in itself, and we will return to this later.

But at the outset, let’s be unambiguous about this: the reason why I have this problem is precisely because I am sitting here; this was the root cause. When you start to do a little online research, you find that, in many cases, cancers appear to be lifestyle diseases – people are either doing too much of something (especially eating too much sugar in their diet) or doing too little of something (for example, not getting enough exercise or sunshine); it’s not always simply a case of exposure to something carcinogenic – you may have bad habits. Or maybe your bad habits are exposing you to something carcinogenic! It’s very difficult to avoid things like electromagnetic or chemical factors that might contribute; the manufacturers (or other originators) don’t want you to think about such things – they just want your money!

My own case is simply that, for the last few years, I have had to do so much preparatory work at home for a series of teaching jobs that most of my waking hours were spent on my backside. And when the tumour was finally discovered, well, what a surprise! It looked like it was mirroring the pressure of said backside on a succession of surfaces – but the same point was always making contact and receiving the maximum bodily pressure.

Of course, this is not (and cannot be) the only causative factor; diet is also important, and the lifestyle I had been leading did not allow sufficient time for the preparation of reasonably nutritious meals (in the sense of allowing time for chopping up good vegetables, for example), or for regular visits to good (but not expensive) restaurants. Much of the processed food here has added carbohydrate in the form of HFCS or additional glucose. I had long since abandoned drinking sodas because of awareness of this, but the trouble with the rest of my diet was that it was very difficult to avoid fattening or otherwise unhealthy stuff. Some of it was undoubtedly stress eating, which was hardly helpful. So change was definitely overdue.

With something like this in mind, and perhaps presciently, for the last few years, I have had a constant influx of health-related information through a combination of regular e-mails directly from web sites or via my Facebook news feed (although I am wondering how much longer I will want to keep this – I don’t trust Facebook in the slightest with my data…), and as cancer has become such a huge issue globally, and especially in so-called “developed” countries, where the cost of treatment has conveniently (for the equipment manufacturers and Big Pharma) mushroomed, a wise person wants to be informed about what they should (and should not) be doing in what I would call a “prophylactic” manner. Compared to the difficulty in obtaining the simplest information in any quantity as recently as the 1980s, we now find ourselves bombarded twenty-four hours a day with information, and at times it is a chore trying to sift through it all; the input from “interested parties” who want to essentially profit from your medical misfortune, even though it may be well-intentioned, only adds to the confusion. You have to choose your sources wisely, and the ones I use will be discussed here.

To return briefly to the actual examination, I had in fact had a routine serological and urological cancer screening test about six months previously. The shock here – now that I can look back on it – was that despite the obvious flow of blood from my backside (and a stool sample was also part of this – how could they not have noticed the blood???), the tests were performed and two weeks later, I returned to be told that there was no sign of cancer, not to worry and to come back for a routine screening again “in two years”. Meanwhile, from that time until now, the bleeding never actually stopped, until one Thursday night recently there was suddenly a lot of blood; I texted my new manager and she arranged for us to visit a local hospital, and everything else has followed on from this.

The recent discussions with my first (examining) hospital doctor revealed (when I told him about the recent screening tests), firstly, that these routine biennial examinations, which applied to citizens and non-citizens alike (who were entitled to treatment as they were on a visa and contributing to the national health system financially) were imprecise (but it’s cancer, for crying out loud; how are they allowed to do that???), and secondly (immediately before the tumour was spotted) that like my father some years before, I had a number of polyps which had formed in my colon and rectum. So there was probably also at least one familial (i.e. genetic) factor involved. Type I (immediate) hypersensitivity has also been present historically in both sides of my family, meaning things like an irritable bowel, atopic eczema, and perennial rhinitis, for which I take routine medication (cetirizine 10mg tablets, once daily, but there is a story attached to cetirizine…).

What follows is a chronological sequence of events as they happened. I hope that readers will have an appreciative attitude towards all of those who have assisted me during this troubled time of my life; and realise, also, that we are not talking about me dying; we are talking about me living.

I am from England and make apologies whatsoever for any grammatical, spelling or other ‘deviation’ from what the reader expects. This is real English, from England.

Also, remember what I said above about living. Uncle Andrew is not about to die. At the moment, the doctors are telling me that, from a purely surgical point of view, I have been lucky with the location of the tumour being far enough away from the anal opening that this simplifies any surgery that will be required. The next instalment will be on Tuesday 26th December with the CT and MRI scans to discover what stage in the cancerous progression I am at (early, hopefully, with no metastasis).

And I shall not spare you any of the details. This is serious, so be warned!

Thursday, November 30th 2017

After work, I went home and needed to use the bathroom rather urgently when I arrived, which has been a recurring theme over the last year or so. I was shocked to discover afterwards that I had released quite a volume of dark red blood, and immediately texted my manager, Jamie, about this. In turn, she suggested that we should go to see a doctor at a local hospital (we work on the periphery of the Yeungnam University Hospital in Daegu, so in any particular direction, this would only be a short walk). We therefore agreed to do this after the end of the third lesson on the following Friday afternoon.

Here we come to a complication: due to the routine cancer screening earlier in the year, when the result was apparently negative, it had not occurred to me that I might actually have cancer. So the assumption on my part was that I had a bad case of piles (haemorrhoids), a condition which (like the accompanying polyps) my father had experienced when he was at a similar age. Again, no idea that I might actually have cancer; everything seemed to point away from that conclusion.

Friday, December 1st, 2017

After classes, we went to a local hospital to see a consultant. We discussed the situation and I got the old rubber-finger-up-the-bum-hole, after which he said that there was no sign (feeling???) of haemorrhoids, but he needed to have me inspected for polyps, and put me on a restricted diet and gave me a prescription for suitable pharmaceuticals (I won’t say ‘drugs’ here) as well as a laxative pack with dosing instructions for both. The pills were straightforward, but the laxative was to prove quite an experience (and no, I will not spare you the details)…

As you can imagine, by this point I was beginning to wonder what I had got myself into, yet there could be no doubt that some kind of inspection and treatment would be needed; but the final discovery, the following weekend, would basically put the seal on it.

Saturday December 2nd-Thursday December 7th 2017

As I normally do not work on Mondays and Tuesdays (they are my ‘weekend’ in this job, so to speak) and as we are short of students for the normal weekend classes, the company informed me that it would be okay for me to come in to the office over weekends. The university building is very cold during the winter, as I had discovered when I started here in March; and to save electricity, the building management wisely (though not necessarily helpfully) has a timer system in place to turn off the air conditioners/heaters periodically, so we had to pay attention and keep turning them back on again!

We also have a couple of upright portable radiant heaters which we could use, and so we would use these to try and maintain the warmth in our large lecture room. It is surprising how late into the summer months the place stays cold, but this appears to be because there is a shielding wall beyond the building wall itself, and sunlight is only visible aslant this wall at certain times of the day.

We therefore have trouble trying to keep the place warm, especially during afternoon hours when the cold winter air really seems to strike. However, if there are no students, we can use the portable heaters, too.

Weekend hours, therefore, have been spent this month inspecting and preparing materials for an intended new Children’s 120-hour TESOL Certificate course. This proves tougher than expected due to some historical inattention to maintaining the materials, especially a set of videos which originated with the BBC, and which have subsequently been blocked globally by the organisation. It would prove difficult and time-consuming to find a suitable set of replacements from other sources around the Internet.

There were not any other serious bleeding episodes this week, as I was being careful with a diet consisting mainly of chook (Korean rice porridge) of one or two different types and brands, and otherwise restricting my diet as recommended by the consultant. The surprise here was how quickly this change of diet led to me losing weight, as alcohol was completely off the menu for the duration and actual food input was both minimal (mainly just the porridge) and easily digested and assimilated. When I returned to work on Wednesday having spent the first three or four days eating like this, Jamie commented on how much thinner I looked, although personally I wasn’t sure whether that was good or bad. But I did feel factually lighter when walking around, and it felt surprisingly good… the idea came to me then that I should try to stay that way when treatment was over.

Friday December 8th 2017

Tonight, I had to lay off the food (such as was actually allowed by the dietary restrictions) and start taking the laxative, which was a diluted solution of polyethylene glycol (PEG-3375) and D-sorbitol, the latter of which is probably the active agent due to its irritant effects upon the gut lining. The solution also contains added electrolytes, because (as I was to discover about an hour after I started drinking the stuff), it was very powerful and rapid-acting, and certainly left me with some soreness after its effects wore off the following day. I finished work and had one small, final serving of chook before diluting the first dose.

But I didn’t get much sleep that night…

Saturday December 9th 2017

Got out of bed feeling rather groggy after a night spent dashing to the bathroom periodically with the effects of the laxative. Now the bad news: I had to take the second dose! And the big question was whether I would poop liquid on the consultant’s bench while he gave me a session of endoscopy and polyp-popping (as there was no mention of cancer up to this point).

With regard to the effects of the laxative, let’s not forget why it would be necessary to do this: for a serious medical inspection and possible surgical procedure, you want any food/faecal matter completely out of the way. There’s nothing wrong with the patient eating again after the fact (although a similar gentle diet would not be a bad idea for about a week afterwards, to avoid damaging what are effectively wounds in the gut wall, caused by the surgery), but beforehand it should be removed and the lumen of the gut should be as clean as possible. The effect of the laxative had removed all solids by the time I left my humble abode, and what had been coming out was purely liquid, stained a light shade of yellow by remanent bile salts. When I saw that, I knew that I was ready for the procedure. My insides were not able to get much cleaner!

I took the bus to the office and then walked to the hospital with Jamie. We had to wait for a while as first one, then a second plastic bottle of Ringer’s Solution made its way into my veins. Interesting point: Ringer’s Solution’s function is the relaxation of the muscles. Contraction of the smooth muscles in the gut wall, which enables the motion of food through the gut by peristalsis, would be unhelpful when any surgery is necessary there, so Ringer’s is administered as a temporary relaxant. Well, now I know what Ringer’s is for – I had always wondered…

One temporary side-effect of the Ringer’s was that my heart rate went up to about twice normal (should be 60 beats per minute or less). Blood pressure was high when I first entered the hospital, but settled down to a more reasonable level (125/80mm Hg) immediately prior to the surgery.

Here is a point which should be observed by both practitioners and patients, and which I have not only observed in my own annual medical checks (first instigated back in December 2007 by President-Elect Lee Myung-bak, along with the requirement for a criminal record printout) but also apocryphally through third-hand accounts, and this is that hospital practitioners do not appear to give sufficient time to applicants to settle down properly before taking blood pressure readings. In my own experience, assistants sent with applicants to guide them around the hospital and through the procedure often have no idea exactly where they need to be taken, with the result that no matter how young they may be, they must arrive at the correct place looking and feeling as if they have just run a marathon or been over an assault course, and naturally this means an elevated blood pressure. They also arrive feeling nervous because they are now in a foreign country and do not know what to expect, even though nominally the medical checks should not be substantially different from what they might expect to undergo at home; in a state of nervous and muscular tension even if they are familiar with the procedure because, as we often discover, practitioners under the shadow of Western-style iatrogenic (read: pharmaceutically dominated) medicine look to drugs as some kind of remedy for such things, when dietetic and other lifestyle changes such as increased sunlight exposure and exercise are what are really needed. Practitioners should be aware of the need to relieve the applicant’s nervous and muscular tension prior to blood pressure readings, as they may be receiving the wrong signals.

Likewise, practitioners should probably try to avoid using the type of automatic, arm-insertion blood pressure machines on the grounds that they often involve a posture in which, if the applicant is anything other than wafer-thin of body, excess fat deposits around the torso will lead to distortion of the ambient abdominal pressure and lead to an elevated (and therefore factually incorrect and misleading) blood pressure reading, both for systolic and diastolic pressures. In any case, the main take-away here is that due to a number of physical and psychological factors, upon presenting to the practitioner, the applicant’s blood pressure is likely to be elevated beyond their normal resting values, and that an extended period of rest plus a non-compromising abdominal position are advisable before attempting to take a reading. Interestingly, readings prior to the polyp inspection were made in the prone position, where one would expect minimal additional abdominal/thoracic pressure and following a period of settling-down with the Ringer’s Solution, was pronounced ‘normal’.

Back to the action… I then made my way (on foot, the space was too small there for a gurney or similar) to the surgeon’s bench, assumed the position (on my left side, knees pulled up the chest, pulling my right cheek out of the way, ahem…), exposed my rear end and the doctor and nurses got to work on the polyps with their endoscope and other tools. I was not anaesthetised for this and felt no pain or discomfort during the procedure; I was able to see the whole thing on one of two large panel monitors, and I have to say that it mainly looked fine. However, the endoscope’s camera was pointing forward during all of this; when they turned it back to look at the ‘exit’, that was when they discovered the tumour, and quelle surprise, the shape of it looked like the corresponding area which experienced the most pressure when I was sitting down. We will return to this in a moment…

Thereafter, it was obvious to the consultant that there was little point in popping any more polyps, as the revelation of the tumour meant that more serious surgery was required, and many of the remaining polyps were within the range of proposed surgery, in any case. Having taken a series of photos of the situation with the endoscope, there were saved (along with other information) to a CD-ROM for the next hospital consultant’s reference.

The session ended with behavioural recommendations and note-taking by Jamie (with translation) and a further prescription for the next couple of days’ drugs. After that, I would basically be on the restricted diet (I thought this would be a good idea, to starve the tumour and any potential metastatic tissues of glucose, despite the doctor’s recommendation that a return to my normal diet was now acceptable. I qualified in biomedical sciences including biochemistry and pharmacology, so I do have a good understanding of these things) from that point onwards, including the avoidance of alcohol. This meant that I would continue to lose weight and become thinner, although it should be stressed that this was because of dietary restrictions and only in that way related to the presence of the tumour. Perspective is important!

Afterwards, we went back to the office, where I was working on lesson plans and materials for the proposed new 120-hour Children’s TESOL course, and also had another potential student to interview: interestingly, she was also in Daegu because she had been living in Seoul but came back for treatment of a rare kind of tumour…

Sunday, December 10th – Sunday December 17th 2017

As you might imagine, reading this, I had rather mixed feelings after the discovery of the tumour. After all cancer is… serious, right? But the consultant had said to me not to worry and that everything would be okay… well, I suppose he had to say something like that to a patient in such a condition, but he also stressed that I was lucky, because of the location of the tumour away from the actual anus; the intervening eighteen centimetres or so could be removed surgically and the two ends resectioned so that I simply ended up with a shorter rectum (and interestingly, during the later consultation at the university hospital, Professor Kim quoted a figure of only ten centimetres, which immediately seemed additionally optimistic, although it would not change the necessary extent of the surgery required).

In the wake of the first examination, however, several things happened.

Firstly, there was generally much less leakage of blood from the tumour, which would be visible with stools after defaecation. I took this as a good sign. ‘Good’ stools should ideally be as pale as possible, depending upon the food(s) consumed previously.

Secondly, depending upon the extent of bleeding and the nature of the original food consumed, stools themselves often appeared quite normal, although not consistently due to the extent of blood mixing with them. I was not bleeding to death, but rather losing a small amount of blood regularly, which often led to me having to rush to the bathroom even though the volume to be voided tended to be rather small.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I have always felt much better with an empty gut than a full one. This is simply a fact of life. So I actually felt really good in this condition; I cannot tell a lie. I was enjoying the feeling of emptiness and lightness. I was being careful with my diet and trying also not to eat too much. Psychologically, I was not feeling too phased at all.

Dietary Restrictions

Now we have mentioned the kind of dietary restrictions imposed as a result of this situation. But what is the rationale for this?

As I get a lot of health-related e-mails from various sources around the English-speaking Internet on a regular basis, the message is about as crystal clear as it could be: mitochondria in pre-cancerous cells often have a biochemical lesion – a genetic fault – which prevents their normal ability to process fat for energy and forces them to use sugar instead. Possible result: cancerous cells may proliferate and form neoplasms (like my tumour) when the diet includes excess carbohydrates, specifically glucose. Possible solution: by restricting the amount of available carbohydrate and forcing a more aggressively ketogenic environment within the body (i.e. forcing the body to metabolise fats rather than carbohydrates for fuel), the cancerous cells are starved of their primary oxidative fuel – glucose – and must die as a result. Therefore, creating and maintaining a habitually ‘ketogenic’ (and possibly more alkaline) physiological state within the body, future growth of cancers is rendered more difficult. This appears to be an emerging realisation among practitioners nowadays as a number of lifestyle and dietary factors formerly considered sacrosanct are being cast into doubt by modern research.

Likewise, there are other dietary factors, such as habitual lack of Vitamin D, which feed into the picture, if you’ll pardon the pun. Here’s a recent, very interesting discussion between Dr. Mercola and Dr. Michael Holick where they discuss this very subject:

We should perhaps add to this that since ambient lifestyle stress may be a contributory component, other dietary factors such as lectins from uncooked fruits and vegetables should perhaps also be taken into account. Although the following discussion between Dr. Mercola and Dr. Steven Gundry is not directly related to cancer because the primary topic of discussion is autoimmunity, the overall relationship between dietary lectins and bodily stress is probably indirectly relevant:

… especially the point which Doctor Gundry makes about resting both the gut itself and other parts of the body, such as the brain.

Caveat: None of the above should be considered absolute in their application to individual cases. They are included here because, like a whole range of lifestyle diseases (such as Alzheimer’s Disease or heart disease, for example), you can’t get away from them in any reasonable way without possibly major changes of lifestyle. That’s just the way it is.

My take-away from paying attention not only to Dr. Mercola’s output but also that of others relating to the ontology of neoplasms is twofold: firstly, Vitamin D (and also Vitamin K) needs to be maintained at prophylactic levels in the body and secondly: neoplasms are most likely to be fuelled by dietary glucose, and therefore a glucose-restricted diet is probably part of a healthy and cancer-avoiding lifestyle. So I started taking high-strength Vitamin D supplements and restricting my overall sugar intake. I felt better immediately.

Monday, December 18th 2017

Today, I am due at the University Hospital to see a consultant about my current state of health (is there any metastasis that can be observed, for example, and possibly what preparations I should make, pre-op). So we’ll see what transpires…

With my manager, Jamie, we went to the hospital, which turned out to be only two minutes’ walk away, as it is actually the university in one of whose buildings we work!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of people there on a Monday morning, but the signs of an ageing population were all around. I wasn’t the only obvious foreigner there, but in general terms, there were few younger people there receiving treatment; children present were generally attending with adults from their families. The whole place was full of pensioners and geriatrics either sitting and waiting or in a state of confusion, wandering around trying to find out what they were supposed to be doing.

After a bit of the usual faffing around trying to find out where we should be, we ended up on a higher floor (via escalator), and as we already had an appointment arranged through the original doctor who examined me, had to sit relatively silently in the waiting area, keeping an eye on the screens on the wall (one was the waiting list, the other was a Korean rolling news channel).

Eventually we got to see the consultant, Professor Kim, who seemed to speak quite good English (but thought I was American), and we discussed the previous results briefly and the news was not all bad: I was fortunate that the tumour was positioned away from the anus (meaning that this would not have to be “reconstructed”, perish the thought!). This meant that the offending section of my rectum would be cut out and the two free ends attached to form a resection. This after the Prof had given me the customary rubber-finger-up-the-bum-hole and declared (as the previous hospital doctor had) that there was no obvious, tangible sign of tumour formation close to the actual anus.

Now, because I pay close attention to health-related e-mails and visit the web sites of the likes of Dr. Mercola and Dr. Merkin with some regularity, I had a good idea about the kind of restrictive diet that would be necessary, as well as beneficial vitamin supplements, and before we left, the Prof and I discussed the desirable foods briefly. Then we discussed when I could return later for CT/MRI scans, and decided when the actual operation could take place. The duration of the operation would only be a couple of hours or so, and would be done by laparoscopy (keyhole). I would be resident in the hospital for the better part of two weeks.

We then thanked the Professor and made way for his next visitors, at which point the dates had to be confirmed and changed, if necessary. Finally, I was set to return for CT+MRI on December 26th, sign in to the hospital for pre-op on December 26th and the operation itself was timed for January 4th. Another strange Christmas!

Tuesday December 19th 2017

Finally, I made substantial time available to put most of the above together, in between bits of clothes washing and cleaning bits of the apartment, before getting on top of tomorrow’s lesson plan checking and materials preparation, as my students have their final Micro-teaching session tomorrow, after which they begin the penultimate Module of the current course. Unfortunately, my Boss (the one in Seoul, not Jamie, the new manager) has insisted that I should take the remaining two months of the current contract following this session recuperating, which is far from helpful financially as it means that signing a new contract in March will still not result in a new salary payment until the beginning of April 2018!!!

But I felt that it was so important to share this overall experience with others who may be faced with a similar situation. You are not alone.

Wednesday December 20th – Saturday December 23rd 2017

Next week will be the last week of the current session, and to be blunt, considering what is to come, I am glad about that. One thing I have found is that some students (thus far, always female rather than male) seem to feel a sense of ‘entitlement’, having paid their exorbitant course fee and then expecting to simply be given their precious certificate, despite the fact that the pass mark average is very high (70%), and also that the point is made at the beginning of the course that enrolment and payment of fees does not guarantee a pass. Only working hard and carefully can do that. But we still get these rude, ‘entitled’ individuals who seem to expect everything without having to raise a finger – or, it seems, in this case because the person concerned was a business manager who was constantly ignoring the lesson and messaging to lackeys on her cell phone, something I had warned her about several times already. She also arrived for the first day about seven months up the spout, with all the hormonal selfishness one might expect when anything made her angry. Before Miss Kim, my original manager, left because she wanted to go on a tour of Germany, I put it to her that there should be an ‘advisory’ (let’s call it that) on our local company web site to the effect that if a candidate was more than six months gone, they should postpone application for the course until their sproglet was well and truly out, kicking and screaming, to which she seemed to agree heartily.

It was on the Thursday this week, when I wanted to make use of some time at the end of the session to discuss the Final Exam and prepare the students for what they had to do that she started acting up again. As if her foal-in-the-hole condition was somehow an excuse for laziness. She started complaining because she did not (she said) have a very good level of English. The thought came to me: Why do you think that you can teach English, when you can’t damned well speak it? She huffed and puffed because, of course, in her own business she was the boss, and could somehow not accept that in my classroom, she was not running the show… I let her rant, finished the discussion and exited as politely as I could.

When I started here, there was likewise one (older) female student who, it turned out, had spent some time down in New Zealand and fancied herself as a good speaker of English. But this is a far cry from being good enough to teach it. The major stumbling-block which the students fail to appreciate is that being a non-native teacher of English really means walking a lot of talk – and the simple fact is that most of them do not have strong enough grammatical and self-correctional skills either to speak accurately and reliably during a lesson, or to be able to correct written materials reliably when not actually teaching. Of course, one might counter this by suggesting that, given the state of modern native speaker educational systems, many of the foreigners who come here to teach English are not necessarily a lot better; but the difference here is that most native speakers arriving here with a non-language-related Degree, who suddenly discover that their grammatical skills are not as good as they should be, will then read up on grammar in their own time and rectify the issue.

This is the sad part of the Korean English teacher’s situation: our course is about teaching, not speaking English; we are here to give candidates some idea about what choices they have about introducing new grammar to their students. We are not running a language course per se. Yet there seems to be an expectation, as I discover often when interviewing potential candidates, that they will be able to improve their English by attending, and I have to try to make them understand that this is not the case. They need to write well in the target language in order to do both the assignments and the two exams; but they shy away from such things, so how can they teach a language they cannot fully understand, let alone complete the course?

Anyway, the upshot is that there is often friction between us and the students because of this. And it turns out that this one current student has actually been calling our head office in Seoul to complain and (from what I understand) lie about myself and my manager, for example that my manager is always out of the office when she wants to talk to her; but the truth was that she had an unreasonable expectation of being able to talk with her during her actual lunch break, when any reasonable person would probably be out eating somewhere (if they had any sense). In fact, she never went to see the manager at all; she was simply lying. Her pregnancy hormones combined with her haughty attitude and refusal to accept my authority in my own classroom basically resulted in her overstepping the mark.

And this would not end until she finished the course. I doubt if I would bother to give her a follow-up call…

Now we are coming closer to the final event with regard to my condition, which is to say, the actual operation itself, which is slated for Thursday, January 4th 2018… not quite the way I had intended to see the New Year in, with my abdomen perforated with post-operative holes, but better than the result of doing nothing, of course! But the basic trouble was this: when I first came to Korea, I actually subscribed to the health insurance service of BUPA International, and remained a customer with them for as long as the monthly subscription fee remained less than 10% of my salary (in my first job, in Changwon, I was receiving less than 1.8 million won per month). After some time, however, BUPA decided that they wanted to raise the monthly payments from about seventy-two pounds eventually to a proposed one hundred and twelve pounds and at this point, I decided that enough was enough. After all, I had made it up to that point (about 2006) without any major illnesses or accidents, and in any case as a holder of a valid visa I was entitled to subsidised health care here, so it seemed redundant. But the estimated cost (which actually did not strike me as huge) represented a problem for several reasons.

Firstly, lack of students originally for the weekday sessions and then more latterly for the weekend sessions instead meant that for a period of about four months leading up to December, I was not receiving full pay. Bills were being paid and everything, but saving money was becoming a headache. Luckily, when December came around, the company said that I could come in and work on the weekends, but I had to account for my time there (with a simple Excel spreadsheet, as it turned out).

A second reason was that a new credit card from my bank back in England had not been forthcoming since the last one expired in 2012, when I was working for YBM Premier in Seomyeon (the corresponding debit card had been munched up by an ATM in Hsin Chuang City, Taiwan, some time before I arrived here), and discussions over the intervening period with bank representatives revealed that they could not send me a new one because – unbelievably – South Korea had had some kind of ‘embargo’ applied to it… I requested a new card shortly after returning to Daegu last year (2016), but still nothing came of it. Later, when I hit my online account to check how it was all going, someone had actually changed my residence country to “North Korea”.

Now you might think that there is not a lot that I could do with a UK credit card in South Korea, and besides, I already had a Korean credit card; wasn’t that enough? Normally, my answer would be “yes”, but this is not a normal situation. Between the prolonged lack of salary, the fact that a full salary payment for December would not actually become available until the week after the operation plus one unmentionable person (whom I shall not mention) who still owes me a couple of million (which could factually be fully 50% or more of the costs of care), this situation was becoming potentially disastrous. I needed something extra…

And this is where the UK VISA card comes in. Why? Well, that neat little Lotte Card that I was issued with back at the end of 2012 (and which has been replaced several times, in each case apparently without good reason, except for the first week because they spelled my name wrong and had to remedy it sharpish) originally had a limit of five million won, but when I went up to work for the KDLI in Icheon, I got into some trouble between this, paying the deposit on my apartment outside of Seoul and having to wait for my first salary payment, so they gradually whittled it down to two million; the first time I had to pay interest, they charged me 400,000 won, which wrecked me up financially for another month… eventually I wised up, as the salary payments would be received on the last day of each month but Lotte Card would not take payments until the first of the next month, so I would take out one million physically as cash as soon as it was paid into my account, then stick two fingers up at the ATM and walk out.

Anyway, as I said, I didn’t think that the residual payment from the patient would be outlandish, but it does feel to be badly-timed, I mean after all, this neoplasm was down on the hospital form on Tuesday as a “malignant tumor of the rectum” (and I know because I read it. Usually upside down. Repeatedly!) and nobody in their right mind would want to be attached to that for any longer than absolutely necessary, but the timing on everything else, salary in particular, seemed to be very poor. But the limit on the new card would be £7650.00, or a little under ₩11,000,000, of which only two or three million would actually be needed; I could then resume a new contract and everything would be easy to prioritise and repay within a reasonable time-frame. This year’s bonus would arrive in time to help smooth everything out and make it all more bearable.

But the third thing that I would need would be a guarantor signature. Now I had no intention whatsoever of lumbering any other person in the country with the responsibility of shouldering my costs when I had the means at my disposal to handle it all myself, but unfortunately this is a legal requirement. It would be doubly awkward to find someone because I had committed myself to working Saturdays and Sundays this month in order to make up a full salary payment, so I would have to go down to Changwon late after work on Sunday evening (Christmas Eve, for crying out loud) by train, get a suitable signature and then get back with the form signed and ready for when I check into the hospital on January 2nd. Then, hopefully, there should be no more complications.

I was glad to see that our unhelpful student was in a somewhat better mood on Friday, and lessons seemed to go without too much bother. It’s difficult for me to understand the reluctance of our students to actually work hard and enjoy the reward that they earn by so doing. But what I didn’t realise was that she had not only been complaining to our HQ in Seoul – she had actually called the CEO of the group, Mr. Kim, directly to complain about the slights she felt that she had been subjected to. Which, now that I think about it, rather reminds me of that court case in America the other year, where an African-American woman sued her employer for alleged emotional damage caused by said employer not buying her a birthday cake; an utterly foolish level of immaturity. People here are often kind enough to give me a birthday cake, but if they don’t then I likewise take no offence. But the following week, this was to lead to a very surprising e-mail…

Saturday saw me using our rescued laptop, searching for appropriate video materials for the new Children’s TESOL course. It is only when you see the mismatch between your requirements and the available materials on sources such as YouTube that you start to feel a sense of despair… my lesson planning was put back by weeks because of this. Jamie and Eunjeong, our weekend assistant, were mainly chatting away in the main office while I was partly freezing behind the dividing wall, as the air conditioners were on timers and would keep turning off every couple of hours or so. Most Saturdays are punctuated by a candidate interview or two and I had one of these. But the day was basically uneventful, largely because I have to arrive so early in the morning and leave so relatively late in the evening: if we had a normal weekend session, lessons would begin at 10:00 a.m. and finish at 6:00 p.m., but I was still required to be there before 8:30 a.m.

Sunday 24th December 2017

Sunday, on the other hand, turned out to be something of a strain, as I had foolishly decided to leave my tablet at home, and my USB memory sticks were all in the tablet’s bag! Fortunately, I had copies of the redesigned lesson plan blank on my computer at work and decided to suspend work on Module 01 temporarily and make a start on Module 02, which paradoxically, perhaps, inspired me with regard to Module 01 and would take me a long way towards completing it the following Sunday. But with no-one else in the office – precious few in the entire building, in fact – a flask of rocket-fuel coffee and a container of Lipton Rooibos tea bags, and ABC Classic FM on the Internet radio, I took my time and slowly, my perspective on the planning process changed, and I became more confident.

Eventually, however, I would have to get down to Changwon to get a guarantor signature, and would also have to swing by home first. So I had to get on the 410 bus, ride all the way home, grab my gear (including the aforementioned tablet and other kit) and then get on the bus again down to Dongdaegu and get a train… and therein lies a minor tale… When I asked for a ticket I was to told to hurry because the Mugunghwa train was due to leave in five minutes, so I hurried down to Track 5 to be confronted by a load of other passengers, all standing around and wondering where said train had got to… as it turned out, it was actually at the other end of the platform, and we all had to run to get on it, for an hour-and-a-half trip with no seat (again). I spent the time reading a PDF copy of John A. Keel’s “Operation Trojan Horse” on my cell phone until we finally came in to Changwon and I caught the bus to Jung Ang, signed in to the Paradise Motel before going over to see Justine in the Monster bar and tell her the Bad News.

Previously, I had arranged to meet a certain “Someone” in the old IP Bar down the road, but she was busy that night and finally called me to ask if we could meet the following day (Monday, which was actually Christmas Day). I agreed and sauntered back to the Monster before finally returning to my motel room, having a shower and hitting the sack and I don’t think I slept too well… I think it was all the UFC on the TV…

Monday December 25th 2017

I woke up fairly early and mooched around the apartment. The tablet, which I had left on charger next to my bed, had not charged much overnight, and I gave up on it; the LG cell phone, despite being twice as old as the tablet, performed much better for a brief perusal of Facebook.

After a while, I decided that a walk was in order, so I packed my bag, checked that I had not left anything behind and returned the key to the motel owner. Then I sent a text message to the person I had arranged to meet, and thought first about the Starbuck’s over by the Yongji Park, before changing my mind and going to the older one close by the Lotte Young store (a building which, for all the almost six years I had lived in Changwon, had been standing idle; then, when I left the town, it was refurbished and repurposed). I got a black Earl Grey tea and sat down to wait.

I was sitting there minding my own business (and trying to stay warm, as I was sitting close to the back door and quite a few customers were entering and leaving; bizarrely, despite knowing how cold it was outside, some of them would actually leave the door wide open) when the other party called me, sounding rather the worse for wear – the result, it seemed, of a late night spent drinking after she had completed her other task for the evening… so she would be delayed. But I had to get my guarantor signature before returning to Changwon because the scans and other tests were scheduled for that Tuesday afternoon… in exasperation, I texted someone else, explained the situation and showed her a picture (taken previously) of the guarantor document and she agreed to do the dirty deed herself. About twenty minutes later I was getting her a coffee and she and I completed the form together. Then she walked with me up to the bus stop at Jungwoo Sangga, where she had already arranged to meet someone else, and eventually I was on the way back to the train station.

This was one of those times when my desire to get a move on backfired slightly, as I had to wait nearly two hours for another Mugunghwa train back to DongDaegu, but it was worth it because this time there were plenty of seats and I kept falling asleep, at least when I wasn’t reading some more of John Keel. Then the subway to Daegu North, and the walk around the corner and up the hill to the bus stop for the bus home, and – aaackkk!!! The buses were uniformly full. I had to wait about half an hour in a freezing breeze before I could get on the bus and complete the journey. But I had achieved what I wanted; not quite as intended, but I was making progress.

Tuesday December 26th 2017

Today, I had to take a battery of tests, urological, serological, CT and MRI as well as (finally) a lung function test. The whole thing turned out to be somewhat less than perfect.

It started out OK as I paid for the tests with my credit card, then went to change into hospital attire, leaving my gear in a locker. I had an X-ray first, then had to have the heavy fluoride reagent injected, after which I had to wait 90 minutes for the stuff to permeate my tissues prior to the MRI scan. Alas, this was not to be: when the operator started putting the coils and other gear onto me, it felt very tight, and when he started to move me into the thing, I had a sudden attack of severe claustrophobia which I simply could not overcome. So eventually I just had the (less claustrophobic) CT scan and had the MRI fee refunded afterwards.

It was at this point that things started to fall apart somewhat, due to the lack of communication. In all the constant rushing between rooms and floors, my grey cardigan got left behind in the locker room, and I had to go back and retrieve it (some kind soul had thrown it in the wash), and then, thinking that everything was done and dusted, put my coat on and returned to the office, said goodbye to Jamie and walked up to the bus stop to go home… and just as I was standing on one side of the local crosswalk, waiting to cross the road, my cell phone started ringing. I had to struggle to get it out of my backpack, and then discovered that it was someone at the hospital and I couldn’t understand what she was saying, so I asked her to wait while I hurried back to the office to ask Jamie to call her back.

When she did so, it turned out that there were still three tasks to complete – blood sampling, urine sampling and the lung function test. We had to rush back because the hospital closed its doors at 5:30 p.m., and we just managed to get to the lung test and finish literally at 5:29. Then we went back to the office, I picked up one of my bottles of Seagram’s Sparkling Lime Mineral Water, then finally set off for home.

As you might imagine, I was feeling pretty stressed and tired at this point, not really because of the tumour but because of the constant confusion, rushing and general faffing about, plus the general avoidance of sugar input. But I think I slept pretty well. Eventually…

Wednesday December 27th – Friday December 29th 2017

Happily, the Final Exam seemed to go without a hitch, although I was a little concerned that some students seemed to get through it unexpectedly quickly. I didn’t evaluate the exam papers until the next day as I was feeling tired (and had to start the final Module immediately after the exam), but everyone passed.

It was nice to have a basically uneventful end to the course, except in one particular instance – while the students were engaged in a linguistics activity, I received an e-mail from the aforementioned Mr. Kim, the CEO himself, wishing me a speedy recovery and a return to the job! That rather made my day.

On Thursday I completed the evaluations, completed the spreadsheet with the students’ scores and printed their transcripts and certificates. We were ready for the graduation ceremony!

On Friday, we spent some time completing the most important points at the end of the Module, and I ended the course with a brief presentation of types of technology that they might want to consider in their own classes in future. Then we had to hang up the banner on the whiteboard (at which point, we discovered that one of our plastic suckers had vanished and had to use some pieces of sticky tape instead), proceed to robing, and finally the awards ceremony and chocolate cake (it used to be a cream cake but for some reason, former students didn’t like that very much, so I advised Miss Kim to switch to chocolate cake instead). Then I took my leave and returned to the office for the afternoon: the course was over.

Health-wise, I had been avoiding sugar like the plague, drinking mainly mineral water and Rooibos tea and taking high doses of the Vitamin D caps I had bought earlier out at Yulha Lotte, and I did notice one surprising change: there was much less blood now. This situation has not changed much from that time up until the current time of writing, and has been quite welcome, as the previous month the situation was more difficult. But all the sitting down is an apparently unavoidable causative factor and I will have to figure out a solution to this after the operation.

Saturday December 30th 2017

An uneventful day – I got in early and set to with the laptop, finally starting to make some progress with Module 01. There was one applicant who needed an interview and she seemed OK. I spent the rest of the time figuring out how to put it all together the next day, which would be New Year’s Eve without entertainment or booze.

Sunday December 31st 2017

Again, got in early and set up the computers, and as I was alone again, took my time, had ABC Classic FM on the Internet radio, a full (but soon to be empty) Thermos flask of strong Yergacheffe coffee and a supply of the remaining Rooibos tea bags. Inspiration finally came to me and I completed another four full lesson plans – equivalent to a full day of teaching on the new course. Then, finally, I made my way home and planned how I was going to do the cleaning on New Year’s Day.

Monday January 1st 2017

So… yet another weird Christmas/New Year period in Korea. At least this time I wasn’t actually looking for a job; signals from not only our head office in Seoul but also the actual CEO himself seemed remarkably positive, although it would all hinge upon a final medical opinion as to whether I would be re-signing with the company in March. But I have to focus on the task in hand.

I also felt that it would be nice to return the following week to a clean apartment, and spent most of today doing precisely that, also throwing out the trash and sorting out a load of old clothing for disposal. A lot of my stuff had slowly been destroyed by the sweat of several hot summers, and would have to be replaced. Everything else went out either earlier this afternoon or later tonight, leaving most of the place dust-free and cleared; when I returned, I would finally be able to sit in my new bean bag chair, which has been sitting there for four or five months while I have been too busy. The last thing to get done was one final load of washing, which would be placed in the kitchen (with an open window) to dry in my absence.

Most (I think) of the necessary packing was also done this afternoon, with a cheap black sports bag purchased specifically for the purpose, although I will take some other stuff in my customary black backpack. I don’t know how much really to take, as I suspect that the hospital will have me wearing the same blue short two-piece that I wore on Tuesday. But I will take a good supply of underwear and socks, plus some reading material and my tablet. I have a feeling, also, that the first few days post-op will be spent largely recumbent. I intend to relax.

Tuesday January 2nd 2017

So: T-2 and counting, and today I am due to sign in to the hospital preparatory to the operation, which is scheduled for some time (during working hours, I assume!) on Thursday.

Paradoxically perhaps, knowing that the intended procedure is laparoscopic seems to take a lot of the fear away, with the result that (as I said before) the thought of the laxative they give you is actually more unnerving than the thought of the operation itself, which I have been told is relatively short at about two hours. One friend has advised that I should, however, request that they give me some kind of painkiller in the immediate aftermath; the thought occurs to me that this procedure should really be rather less painful than the more traditional ‘cut-you-wide-open-yank-it-out-and-stitch-you-back-up-again’ methodology – less conspicuous scars, too, but then I’ve never been one to brag about past battles.

I spent yesterday (Monday) basically doing the remaining washing, packing some more clothing (although I suspect it will not be necessary; we’ll have to see later) and throwing out trash. Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of stuff which has proven to be either useless or very infrequently used, and much of this is actually paper printed over ten years ago when I was looking at programming in various computer languages, and the progress with these has probably rendered a lot of this information defunct by now, so they (and their rusting lever arch files) will have to be disposed of some time in the not-too-distant future. Sadly, perhaps, a succession of jobs here has kept me both busy and distracted. This also has to change.

So, with that, I probably will not be able to put any other posts up here until the second weekend following the operation (as the minimal recuperation period post-op is seven to ten days). We’ll see how it goes… short and sweet (and ideally painless) would be best!!!

The War that No-one Wanted (Continued)

And what should be doing the rounds lately, but:

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