Welcome Home!

Written By: Charles - Sep• 29•23

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Friday gratefuls: My bed. My house. Shadow Mountain and Black Mountain in their Autumn finery. That Mule Deer Doe welcoming me home yesterday morning. Alan and Joan this morning. Jackie at 12:30. Airing out the house. Safeway. All the conveniences and comforts of home. My son and Seoah and Murdoch. Chuseok in Okgwa. Seoah’s family. Her home village. Body and soul in different locations. Jet lag. Getting back into the flow of my life.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Body and soul

One brief shining: Have you ever awakened and not been sure where you were, either in time or space, like coming out of a dream and thinking, oh I’ll head down to the Grilled Fish Shop this afternoon for lunch with Seoah, and shaking your head and saying no, silly, you’re on a plane headed back to the USA and it’s midnight back there in the land of the Morning Calm.


Slept 8 hours last night. 9 pm to 6 am. Jet lag still present and accounted for yet I’m adjusted to Shadow Mountain circadians so it won’t last too long. Still have that buzzy, jaggedy feeling that comes from having left a bit of my soul in Korea. It will wander home in the next few days, reunite. Have to take extra care right now. Fall risk higher when the head and the body don’t have the same reference points.

I remember our trip to China Kate, my son, and me. Late 1990’s. When we got back to the U.S. in Seattle and went through Customs and Immigration, the Immigration officer said, “Welcome, home!” Felt personal and very welcome. Yes. On Wednesday the Immigration guy said, “Welcome back.” A bit more desultory yet still good to here. Back in the U.S.A. As Dorothy so wisely said, “There’s no place like home.”

Realized we come home in gradually narrowing circles. I left Korea and Asia. Biggest circle including Shadow Mountain. When the plane hit U.S. airspace, that circle narrowed to the Western U.S. In Dallas the circle got smaller still encompassing a mostly north-south area with the Rocky Mountains dominate. When I arrived in Denver, the circle shrank again. At the Parking Spot where I picked up the Rav4 it became smaller still, contracting with each mile I drove, finding an intimate level when I turned right off 470 onto 285 to the stretch that leads toward Conifer, up the Front Range. The circle closed when the Rav4 hit my driveway, the garage door went up, and my house light came on to welcome me home. Welcome back, Charlie. It was 11 pm when I turned Herme back on for the first time in over a month.

Home is the same, yet changed. The material artifacts my stacks of books, the bed, the couch, Jerry’s big painting, the fireplace, the induction stove all the same yet the mental overlay I bring to them now includes the streets of Songtan, the Bongeunsa Temple, the Korea Art Frieze, a long and welcome time with my son and Seoah, the trip to Jeonju and the hanok houses, the fish market, Daniel and Diane, Senior and Jake, Sejong the Great’s palace and statue in Seoul. The smells of the barbecue places, the hotpot shops, kimchi. The Songtan Orthopedic clinic and the Family Care clinic.

This is true every time I leave home. The Korean instance being close to me now and markedly different from the life of Shadow Mountain. Yet after this morning’s breakfast with Joan and Alan I will return home changed, too. With the warmth of friendship, with new food digesting, a morning drive in the Mountains behind me. This is Heraclitus, you can’t step into the same river twice. Or, come to think of it, ichi-go, ichi-e, each moment is once in a lifetime. And you leave each moment changed.


Written By: Charles - Sep• 28•23

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Thursday gratefuls: My own bed. Stop now the journey has ended. 21 hours from Incheon to Shadow Mountain. Reasonably smooth. No real hiccups. Korea. The USA. The Rocky Mountains. The Mountains of Korea. Just realized I have no immediate family in the U.S. Gabe and Ruth, yes. Grandchildren. That woman who helped me open my snack on the plane to Denver. Incheon. Dallas. Denver. The Parking Spot. Home by Rav4. Up Shadow Mountain Drive for the first time in over a month. Getting mail today. Breakfast at Aspen Perks.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: 8,800 feet

One brief shining: Lost my light LL Bean coat somewhere in the Dallas Airport, left only with the t-shirt on my back, having packed everything else in the blue plastic bin for storage in Songtan, refused to buy a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt even though I wouldn’t get back until after 9 pm, found a zipup sweatshirt at a store in the Denver Airport, liked it, and wanted the warmth so I bought it only to realize that the color I liked and the fact that it zipped up on the left meant it was a woman’s sweat shirt.


On returning home. Realized I returned to Shadow Mountain agency when I left Joe and Seoah behind at the airport in Incheon. I love them to pieces and get the same back, yet to them I’m also an old man with a bad back, a lingering cold, a certain frailty that needs to be accommodated, accounted for. I am an old man. I do have a bad back and that damned cold wouldn’t go away. All true. I’ll even cop to a certain amount of frailty, at least from their mid-forties perspective. Yet I experienced this time with them a slow and quiet unintentional leaning into their love, their care. I liked it, appreciated being looked after, considered. Seductive and in the end, at least for now, not the side of our relationship I want to nurture.

It was an unusual trip. The episode with my back put me in a need to rest, to consider how much I could handle mode. And just as the orthopedist and Mr. Lee got me back to regular exercise and much, much reduced back pain we all got that cold. They both had it and recovered. I had it and it lingered, then became a sinus infection. Meant I spent more time than I wanted dealing with acute health care issues, then reckoning for the chronic nature of my back issues.

The net result of all this was that I presented as a needy old man for significant chunks of time. And, I was. However, in the Shadow Mountain context I would have handled all this with my own health care team. Made the appointments, followed up. But in Korea, I couldn’t due to the language barrier. That meant Seoah had to take charge of much of the detail oriented side. And I’m glad she did.

Not sure what I’m trying to say here. I loved being with my two favorite people and their dog. I loved being loved by them in practical ways. Yet I’m also my own guy, leading his own life on Shadow Mountain. Guess I want both at the same time. Seem incompatible. The future though?

The Last Day

Written By: Charles - Sep• 26•23

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: American Airlines 280, Incheon to Dallas. My son and Seoah going with me to the airport. Shuttle from Osan. Packing, almost finished. Checking my bag. Airports. Jet planes. Tom in Seattle. Going home. It’s time. Back to Shadow Mountain. CBE. Regular exercise. Flu/RSV/Covid boosters. Passports. Immigration and customs.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Standing upright in the world

One brief shining: A light rain fell, the air was warm, my son, Seoah, and I stood at the traffic light on Songtan-ro, the green walking man flashed on, we crossed only to find Senior, our other companion for the evening standing there, having walked from the base in the rain.


After Temple Bongeunsa and the Korea Frieze there was the cold. That got us all and occasioned a lot of weariness. It took me a long time to recover only to discover at the end that I had a sinus infection. Taking the last meds for that today. The result of the cold? I stopped my exercise which had been gradually strengthening my core and giving me regular shots of endorphins. Just too sick to do it. The result of the long recovery arc and the back pain has made the end of the journey less pleasant than I would have hoped. Too tired.

Did not stop us from going to Jeonju or doing screen golf and having a wonderful evening with Diane and Daniel. In Jeonju we saw the hanok village built around the turn of the last century. Wandered around for half a day. Seoah got  her fortune told. She’ll live to 158 and come into a large sum of money in her late seventies. May it be so. We also had bibimbap, a signature Korean dish which originated in Jeonjeu. Rice and vegetables. A sunny side up egg on top.

Senior, Jake, my son, and Seoah drove golf balls into an soft projection screen. A delivery guy brought pizza and hot wings, a bottle of Coke. The game went on.

Later that evening we had supper with Daniel and Diane, a young couple who have built up a large food distribution company that serves all of Korea. Fun to talk with them and hear their interpretation of things Korean.

Daniel talked about middle school in Korea. I went to public school from 8 to 3 pm. Then, I went to a tutor from 4 to 9 pm. Five days a week. On summer break Korean students see the time off public school as a time to race ahead so do the whole tutoring thing from 9 am to 9 pm. Sounded exhausting to me.

In between visits to Seoul, screen golf, Jeonju, and meals with friends I saw the neighborhood, the dong, here in Songtan. A valuable and persistent lesson in ordinary Korean life.

Today I leave. Feeling wistful about leaving my son and Seoah, Murdoch behind while excited to sleep in my own bed, enjoy my usual rounds of lunches and breakfasts, get back to caring for myself.

The physical difficulty I’ve had on this trip does make me wonder if I need to modify my expectations, my habits while on the road. I’m not 60 anymore.

My son and Seoahs

The first half

Written By: Charles - Sep• 25•23

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: My son on leave. Seoah and her quiet commentary on her life. Murdoch the silly. Aided by my son, a silly one, too. Rainy and cool in Songtan. My son’s learned Hangul. Last full day in Korea. Journey’s end. All the memories. Shadow Mountain. Going home.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Jet planes

One brief shining: The day when the hoped for and expected become past tense as in go now the trip has ended, the trip of 36 days to Korea, to see my son and Seoah, Murdoch and Korea, the trip my first abroad since 2016 back to where the last one started, Songtan.


All journey’s end. Yes. Including this human journey when our particular constellation of atoms, endowed with life by the hand of evolution, dissolve back into the more random body  of the universe. Perhaps to get collected together again, somewhere, in someone or something. To quicken. To once again open an eye, catch a sound, feel a breeze, taste fresh water. Oh marvelous path, the path of miracle in a wonder filled cosmos.

On a less lofty note my trip to Songtan has reached its last full day in Asia. It’s been an odd one in some ways. Also precious. Definitely memorable.

Still jet lagged and much less aware than I prefer we drove down to Okgwa to Seoah’s parent’s brand new house. I fell into a deep sleep after the three hour drive. Around 5 we got into cars and headed for Gwangju to the Outback Steak House where we met Seoah’s two sisters and their families to celebrate Seoah’s mom’s 70th.

My body and I ended up in the same zone at some point the next day. Much better.

My son went back to work while Seoah and I toured the neighborhood around their apartment building. Stopping first at a wonderful sushi restaurant, Mida. Labor day weekend. My son was off so we went to a going away dinner for Senior, my son’s top non-com whom he liked a lot. At a restaurant in the Rodeo called the Meat Shop.

My son, Seoah and I, walked to a restaurant in downtown Songtan for a hot pot dinner with a whole chicken each, rice in the bowl, plus the usual abundance of side dishes. Noticed on the way my hip had begun to announce itself. Hey, I’m here! Pay attention.

The next day when we went into Seoul for the first time we made two stops. One at the Noryangjjin fish market where we had sashimi made from two large fish alive until we purchased them a half hour before. The second, the palace of Sejong the Great. By the end of a hot tour of the vast palace grounds I found myself in a lot of pain. That hip. Remember me?

This problem loomed large for me.  I was only in the second week of the trip and I knew I couldn’t keep going unless I found a way to lessen my pain. Frustrating. A visit to a Korean orthopedist, a massage therapist, some procedures. A repeat visit two days later. Learned about the wonderful Korean health care system and got myself a new way to walk. I could continue my trip somewhat as planned.

The next weekend we went to Gangnam, the fancy neighborhood of hip Seoul. My hip behaved as I tried out my new way of walking, that is, walking like Mr. Lee taught me. We saw the Bongeunsa Temple and I saw the Korea Frieze show in the Coex mall right across from the temple By the end of the day I was tired, but still able to walk. A big improvement.

I’ll finish this summary tomorrow.




Written By: Charles - Sep• 24•23

Fall and the  Harvest Moon

Monday gratefuls: This trip. Daniel and Diane. Their gift of special teas. Our meal together last night. Walking in the Songtan night, a cool breeze just warm enough weather. Screen golf. Jake and Senior. A good Sunday. Those asteroid pieces return home. Amazing. Trump’s followers offer violence. Not amazing. Mini-class reunion in Alexandria on Saturday. High school. College.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Friends

One brief shining: Thwack, thwack, thwack the screen catches the golf bowl and lets it dribble down to the gutter where it reenters the queue as Joe sets into his stance, knees bent, concentration shaping his face, an arcing gentle swing and thwack again for 286 yards, right down the middle of the fairway.


Screen golf has a lot of adherents in Korea. Cheaper than any golf course it still allows for using the full range of clubs.  18 holes of one simulated course or another. Driving from a tee has no difference from IRL golf. The irons a bit different since there is no forgiving soil underneath the ball. But close enough. Putting on the other hand. Difficult to do well in this environment.

My son, Jake his friend from Georgia, Senior, my son’s top non-com, and Seoah, dressed in her Malbon outfit played yesterday. I sat in the bleachers and enjoyed the show. The screen and various cameras offer a lot of data. When Joe drove, for instance, the ball hit the screen which then shifted to a scene featuring his ball as it flew off the t. Apex 47 yards. Swing speed. Spot on the club where he struck the ball. Finally, the ball lands. Fairway, 286 yards. Time for the next golfer.

There are bunkers, water hazards, penalty areas, and out of bounds spots in forested areas. Jake and my son played even golf to the very end, finishing in a tie after 18 holes. Jake, due to more consistent play was the MVP according to the computer.

Inclement weather. Too hot. Too cold. All drive golfers with an itch to play this game which can become an obsession to screen golf. It’s far from a perfect simulacrum of playing outside, but more than close enough to make it a challenge and an opportunity to learn, sharpen your game. Lots of spots to play, too.

A nap after screen golf. Then Diane and Daniel came. They were the folks we met at the Noryangjin fish market a few weeks ago. Daniel and my son served together in 2015-2016. Daniel the Korean interpreter between Korean Air Force folks and my son’s squad. He interpreted for me when I performed my son and Seoah’s wedding ceremony in 2016. They brought me some Korean teas in a lovely wooden box.

Over dinner we talked about Korean culture. I wondered where the competitive nature of Korean schools originated. Diane said it came from a time when Korea felt it had no natural resources other than its people. Doing your best in school was good for Korea and good for you. A lot more to unpack from that conversation.

A day in Jeonju

Written By: Charles - Sep• 23•23

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Jeonju. Traveling with my son and Seoah. Making rice wine. The bus ride. The rest stop area with so much on offer. Murdoch wiggling when we finally, finally got home. Korean traditional housing. Warm floors, central courtyard, blue tiled roof. Seoah and her 108 bows. Korean pears and apples. Land not covered with buildings covered with crops. Density.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Memories

One brief shining: Streets of traditional Korean houses, hanok, now housing fortune tellers, coffee shops, souvenir dealers, craftspeople bustled with tourists and folks wearing hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing, women strolling with their hoop-skirts much like Southern belles at a fashion soreé while children ran down a water course that followed one of the streets and jugglers kept wooden discs in the air on small spindly poles.



Not quite what we expected. But fun anyhow. Not a Korean Williamsburg. More like a Korean fair with lots of kids laughing and eating ridiculous food on sticks. The occasional street performance by roaming jugglers and small bands. An air of festivity.

This area filled with over 700 traditional Korean homes has cobblestone streets which you can see in the picture above. Hard to walk on for me. Must have been a charming place to live in the early 20th century when it was built. Seoah says her parent’s original home was just like these. The home before the one Kate and I visited in 2016. Many of the houses in Okgwa are hanok homes still.

These homes featured walled courtyards, heated floors, the traditional tiled roof. Some of the best preserved have wonderful wooden doors with iron hinges, door pulls and decorative features.

Jeonju has a special place in Korean history. It is the ancestral home of the Yi family, the family of the first King of the Joseon dynasty. It also has a reputation as a city of the arts and culture. The hanok village that we visited lies inside the now more modern and much larger city.

The Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 has cast a pall over contemporary Koreans. Got another taste of that in the first part of our trip. We made Korean rice wine.

Making the wine itself was not hard. Put the rice in the bowl. Cover with yeast. Knead. A while later, pour in pristine water. Knead some more. Pour result into a covered jar. Take  home, put in a shaded spot. Wait ten days.

The hard part lay in the narration of why we were doing this. During the occupation Japan imposed a prohibition on any liquor made in the home. Presumably to control restless, drunken resistance.

The old recipes, a part of folk culture, gradually withered away until no one had them anymore. Now the owner of this little DIY project has dedicated himself to seeing that his fellow Koreans never again lose their birthright. At least as it pertains to the making of rice wine.

The odd part for my son, Seoah, and me was that none of us drink. We brought ours home anyhow. My son will give it away to his squad when it’s ready.


Getting ready for Jeonju

Written By: Charles - Sep• 22•23

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Tom and the lag. The Woolly Christmas at Nicollet Island Inn. Jeonju, our destination this morning. A hanok village. Feeling better. Seoah and my son. Getting ready. A cooler, but still warm day ahead. Songtan in the early morning. Sleepy yet never fully asleep. A good night’s rest. Buses. Museli. Milk. Cold Water.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Sunseen. Sununseen.

One brief shining: Up early for a view of old Korea reminds me of the other times like getting up with Mom to catch the Greyhound to the State Fair like going to work on a busy day like rushing through the house to get on the road to the airport for a flight to Maui like awakening in Rome to the sound of buses and cars, the smell of dark coffee and croissants, like any time expectation led the way like a little boy creeping down the stairs on Christmas morning.


Energy level better but far from robust. A two hour bus ride to Jeonju and back. Time to sleep a bit. Plan to stop when I need to and rest. Excited to see this Slow City. Love the idea of a slow city, slow food. Especially when the idea merges with the historic and the culturally significant.

My son compared Jeonju to Williamsburg. Maybe. Not really sure. Williamsburg was the birth place of William Schmidt. No, wait. That was Door County. Williamsburg and its colonial reenactors make for a quick dive back to the beginnings of our nation. The sights and sounds and smells, even the dialects. If that’s what we get in Jeonju, I’ll be pleased.

The touristy side of this trip has taken a back seat to health. Mine. That’s ok. I’m with family and in an everyday part of Korea that has given me ample opportunity to participate in and observe Korea as a home. The medical clinics. The neighborhood restaurants. The school kids coming home in their uniforms around 4 pm. The masked ladies ambling their way on a daily walk. The Korean seniors exercising on the Mountain behind the apartments. That kid on Thursday riding his bicycle through a pouring rain. Happy. The construction workers on site at the Peyongaetk City project in their blue vests and hard hats.

Some days I vacationed. Reading. A lot. A couple of days during the cold I never got out of the apartment. This room I have is at the other end of the apartment from the kitchen, the living room, and the master bedroom. I have my own bathroom, a desk, books, and the computer on which I’m working right now. We can go about our mutual introverted lives intersecting for meals, the occasional jaunt out like today.

Realized a month or so ago that I tend to privilege reading above all other activities. Obvious you might say. But it wasn’t to me. If I have spare moments, I read. If I’m reading and other matters call to me, I often don’t pick up the phone. I’ve done that over the last week again. Healing and reading. A good combo for this guy.



Written By: Charles - Sep• 21•23

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Friday gratefuls: The disappearing cold. The streets of Songtan. My packets of antibiotics. 14. My son coming home early. A trip to a historic village tomorrow. Seoah. Murdoch. Kate, always Kate. Healing at 76. Slower, but happening. Travel. On the road again. Israel, too. Shadow Mountain and CBE. Home Granite, er, Turf.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Breathing freely

One brief shining: His sand colored combat boots sit by themselves in the land of outside footwear, his desert camouflage with the dark oakleaf of the Lieutenant Colonel lays draped across the back of his desk chair while my son now dressed in shorts and a t-shirt plays like a ten-year old with Murdoch, throwing a ball, hiding it, picking him up and holding him.


This trip has entered its final days. The last weekend starts tomorrow. A trip to Jeonju Hanok village on Saturday. Screen golf on Sunday. Not sure about Monday and Tuesday yet. My plane leaves Incheon at 5:40 pm on Wednesday. Interestingly, I leave Incheon at 5:40 pm on Wednesday, September 27th, and arrive in Dallas at 4:21 pm on Wednesday, September 27th.

Due to the week plus of cold induced rest I’m probably going to miss the National Korean Museum. See it next year. Don’t want to try the subway with my immune system weakened by the cold. The cold is gone, yes, and I have meds for the sinus infection, but I’m still in that fatigued state that follows an illness. Ode said that we don’t heal as fast at our age. He’s right. Slower, but it’s happening.


Made a slight tactical error when planning this trip and the one to Israel. Forgot I’m 76 and not 60. I’m neither as resilient as I was then, nor am I as quick mentally. Neither makes traveling a non-starter, hardly, but I planned on several days of self-guided wandering in Seoul for example. Not only did I encounter first the hip and back pain caused by spinal stenosis, but I found the subway maps and train routes did not clarify for me as fast I was used to. Then, the cold.

Travel for me now needs to factor in those changes. How? More emphasis on rest. More prep time before leaving for a sight seeing morning or afternoon. Greater use of taxis and buses. These are thing I know my sibs have already learned before nearing 80 years old, but I’ve not got the same level of experience they have.

My first trip outside the U.S. since 2016 finds me back in the same spot: Songtan, Korea. Back then I was 69 and still going strong. Thought I was picking up from there. Nope. In the retrospectoscope, a Kate term, I see all this as obvious. Yet it wasn’t.

I resist going too far down the road of accommodating my age. That way leads to rust in the joints and clogs in the mind. To ignore that my body has changed, on the other hand, simply brings me pain. More workouts with resistance, a stronger core. More walking with shoulders back, stomach in, heel contact, second toe in a straight line with something? And, yes, more leisurely lunches watching the folks of Songtan and Jerusalem going about their daily lives.

Life, that’s what all the people say

Written By: Charles - Sep• 20•23

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Wednesday and Thursday gratefuls: Korea. Slow healing. Rainy Skies. Sleep. Won’t come. Acting. Ming Jen. In Korea. Fuzzy thinking. Me. A bit of homesickness. For my own bed and my own home. A week from today I give back my pass to the future. My son’s sweet nature. Seoah’s persistence and culinary skills. Murdoch staying with me late into the night. Thursday. The family practice doc talking fast under her mask, pointing at my heart. Rain in Songtan. Umbrellas. Umbrella condoms. Sudden changes. Weariness. Recovering at 76. No pneumonia. That cute baby in the waiting room.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Home. Thursday Being old.

One brief shining: There are nights where the inner alarm trips too often, where King Bladder asserts too much royal authority, where no position feels comfortable, the nose plugs up, and the whole damned thing becomes a frustration.


Last night was such a night for me. Kate taps me on the shoulder, whispers in my ear. The tincture of time. Of course. Right. Ride it out. Keep drinking fluids and resting. Yes, my love.

Two and half years since she died. Seven years since we were in Korea together for my son and Seoah’s wedding. Her presence missed. Each day.

Life without a partner. Life without Kate. Alone, but not lonely. That’s almost all the time. How? Friends. Family. Books. Television. Purpose. Exercise. Health.

Would I like to have a partner again? Gosh I don’t know. If it could be Kate. In, well, you know, a beat of my heart. Otherwise? Learning the ways of a new person? Not easy at any age. I miss the love and day-to-day caring. Of course, I do. Yet.

I don’t miss having a partner often. I miss Kate, sure, but that’s not the same. Once in a while I’ll see a couple together and have a smile cross my face, then a nostalgia moment. Brief. Think how nice it would be. Then on to other matters.


Today, Thursday, I’m finally beginning to feel better. Still tired, but I slept well last night. When sick, a partner is wonderful. Kate, especially. Because she knew so damned much. Always felt confident about handling illness with her by my side.

Without her. Not so much. So I err on the side of caution. This cold had lasted seven days. Didn’t seem to be getting better and I got worried that it might be slipping down into my lungs. At 76. Respiratory illness? Avoid it if  you can. So I broke ranks with my ride it out thinking and went to see a Korean family practice doc yesterday.

No appointment. Seaoh and I walked about ten minutes from the apartment to a clinic next to Paris Baguette. Seoah checked me in and we were directed to the plain waiting area. Several Koreans of different ages from infants to old men and women sat there, umbrellas furled by their sides and wrapped in the saran wrap like condom available for them as you come in.

One little girl looked sick in that kiddy way. A frowning face, listless, I’m not having fun at all. An infant sorted through the toys his mother had brought along. An old man in a sweatshirt went over and stuck his arm in the blood pressure monitor machine. Korean news anchors said this and that on the inevitable TV screen.

A screen showed our position in the queue. About 30 minutes, Seoah said. Sure enough about thirty minutes late I heard a Korean version of my name. Seoah and I went to sit in the ondeck seats. A nurse had already come and taken my temperature. When she showed it to me (a digital thermometer), I almost jumped out of my chair. 376! Yikes. A slight fever she said to Seoah. Oh. The metric system. Right. And, no decimal point. Normal is 36.5 to 37.5.

We went into the doctor’s office. No trophies. No fancy shots of nature. Looked like a down at the heels working class living room with no couch. The doctor, a woman, sat an old wooden desk with two computer screens in front of her, frantically typing. She looked up and motioned me into a chair beside the desk. The books in the modest bookshelf behind her looked visited often, none of them for vanity.

Maybe that’s a big difference between the two experiences of Korean medicine I had and the American one. A lack of vanity. This is a system that does not try to elevate medicine or the doctors above their patients. It’s clear that its modest decor and utilitarian approach to patient care is for the purpose of delivering medical care at an affordable and easily accessible level.

When the doctor wanted to examine me, she had me move into a chair that looked like a dentist’s chair from the 1940’s. Both in terms of design and use. She listened to my lungs and said, X-ray.

Got those by walking across the waiting room. Again, no need to go to an imaging center. She looked at the results. Nothing in the lungs. Sinus infection. A prescription. And we were out of there.

Total cost: $15 or 20,000 won. The meds, at 21,600 won, cost more than seeing the doctor. And, we’d gone in without an appointment.






Korea Observed

Written By: Charles - Sep• 18•23

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Tuesday gratefuls:  Tom. Zoom. The Ancient Brothers. Diane. Taiwan. Travel. At our age. My son’s tough work week. Seoah’s galbi stew. Eating special food while sick. Beef and Chicken. Murdoch staying in my room last night until I went to sleep. The trip ticking over to its last week tomorrow. Alan and Joan. Brunch a week from Friday.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Galbi stew

One brief shining: Seoah set out a bowl with chunks of Beef short ribs (galbi), Potatoes, and fat Carrots in a Tomato inflected broth while explaining that Korean people eat this when family members are sick, the Chicken soup she made a couple of days ago, too.


More reflections on Korea. A few thing I missed last time. No outside shoes in the house. A small area to take off my Keen’s and put on my New Balance in house kicks. The tiled roofs of traditional houses ending in an animal medallion at the corners. An overall earnestness that shows up in store clerks, folks walking on the sidewalk, workers going on an apartment building site. We will do our best!

The Orthopedic Hospital. What it did not have. A huge parking lot. A lobby imitating corporate buildings. Muzak. Personnel who came around to help with the financial aspects of your visit. A sense of protected distance for the doctors, obscured procedure rooms. It felt approachable, a facility there to care for your health, not to capture revenue for Allina or Centura or Fairview/Southdale.

In these ways the Korean health care system works in the way a non-capitalist tainted system should and can work. We  have much to learn from this modest and conveniently located approach to health care delivery.


Korea has a population density of about 1300 people per square mile.* This makes it one of the world’s most densely populated nation. Driven in part by terrain that is 70% uninhabitable-Mountainous and a massive in migration to urban centers over the last couple of decades it’s easy to see here in Songtan.

The complex of 16 buildings that holds my son and Seoah’s current home adds to that. As does the Peyeongan City complex going up right across the street from them. A walk in the neighborhood bounded by Songtan-ro and Seyeong-ro showed that four and five story apartment buildings make up the bulk of residential structures there.

When I asked Seoah where she thought she caught her cold, she said the subway. There are so many people here. She’s had several colds. She observed that I may not have had much illness because where I live there are far fewer people. Probably right.

This website’s South Korea entry reveals though an interesting reality. “… the birthrate still remains low and if this continues, the population is expected to decrease by 13% to 42.3 million in 2050 and extinction by 2750 is a possibility.”

South Korea has the fifth lowest birth rate in the world.



South Korea is one of the planet’s most densely populated countries with a density of 503 people per square kilometer, or 1,302 people per square mile. Nearly 70% of South Korea’s land area is mostly uninhabitable due to it being mountainous and the population is established in lowland areas, contributing to a density that is higher than average. In 1975, an estimate was made that South Korea’s population density in its cities, each containing at least 50,000 people, was nearly 4,000 on average. As a result of the continued following of the practice to migrate to urban areas, the figure was much higher in the 1980s.