The Penis Chronicles
@2 April 2007     
Thor's Korea Diary

This is not a story for everyone. But as Mao Zedong once almost said, men's penises hold up half the sky, so there is some interest in the subject. If you want advice on blue pills, penis stretchers, and all the other paraphernalia of fragile male egos, look elsewhere. This is a tale of medical misadventure in a South Korean provincial hospital (though it could probably have happened anywhere), and perhaps a small warning about what can happen when even well-intentioned medicos start to play with your dongle.

Let's deflate your erection right off by starting with the current state of my glory stick. Admittedly this appendage has not been an object of fascination for large numbers of the world's women, but it is the only one I have, and managed a medium to decent size in its finest moments. Now, a few months after the tale to be told, it has recovered all its old derring-do. This is thanks to a bit of inventive self-therapy, and no thanks at all to the medical profession, which basically gave up on the job. A little while back, attacked and abused for a week by the instruments of modern medicine, my dongle was a sad and sorry sausage, bent and bleeding, unable to erect its head above toe level and hurting like hell at any attempt. Desperate, I extracted the surgical records from the country hospital and fled to a Seoul city andrologist. He studied his scans of the inner tubular highway they call a penile urethra and declared that from end to end it had been scarred and corrugated from violent assault.

One prime suspect in this crime was a young doctor, no doubt doing his best at 3 am in the morning in the back office of a crowded and dilapidated emergency ward. He had pushed an outsized catheter up my prick without anaesthetic, centimetre by centimetre. It was already raw from a bungled operation three days before. He sweated, I gasped and yelped. It took an eternity, and I seemed in danger of living with the consequences for the duration. The medical profession, in its pretentious way, has even invented a name for the obscure condition of having a banana in place of a penis : they call it Peronyie's disease, and the best advice Seoul's best hospital could give seemed to be to wait for a year to see what happened.

Prior to that bit of advice, the provincial hospital's urinary specialist had pulled out his own solution. This was a set of metal rods of increasing diameter, the last one as thick as a thumb. They looked for all the world like a set of hex spanners, and I regarded this assembly of tools with some misgiving. He squirted local anaesthetic into the penis (hey, this was civilization), and proceeding from the smallest rod, pushed each rod, larger and larger, up the internal length of my penis and gave it a twist. Blood everywhere. "Don't worry about the blood", he assured me cheerfully. Then, to take home I was given a tube of antibiotic cream and a medical thermometer. The thermometer, he said, should be pushed into my penis once a day as an expander, until things straightened themselves out. "Whatever happens", the fellow told me with a straight face, "don't get an erection for the next three weeks." Hmm. The Seoul andrologist listened to this account with mounting incredulity and muttered something about the nineteenth century. When push came to shove though, he had no answers either. Maybe in six to twelve months, he suggested, I could try a very difficult and expensive operation.

Enough of doctors. Applying logic and a lifetime's experience of hard-learned knowledge about sports medicine on rebellious muscles, the best solution I could think of was to break up the scar tissue by wanking my way out of it three times a day for a fortnight. That worked. The trick was to coax an erection to just before the point of pain, hold it for a while, then push a little further next time. Step by step Mr Dongle lifted his head and straightened his neck, until he was back to fancy-free.


It all began in quite another way. Distance running is one of my great joys, a celebration of being fully alive, and a daily reminder when I falter at the edge of power that soaring ambition can be burnt as it flies ever closer to the sun. For eighteen months my flight had been hobbled by a tear, a stubborn, hidden injury between a collar bone and rib that had mysteriously happened at rest after a run on a cold day. It had taken cunning stretches, but by September at last the thing was almost tamed. I was trying again for full freedom.

Then one Friday morning came a new kind of unspeakable pain in the groin. A urethral stone apparently. My sister, who has popped babies and had stone pain, makes a succinct comparison. Having babies, she says, is basically shitting bricks. With a stone, which is like a diamond cutting you up from the inside, you roll on the ground with no care for appearances.

This was all new to me. I staggered into the provincial hospital of the small South Korean city where I live, and looked around the casualty room at the way my neighbours had smashed themselves up on the eve of a national holiday. They parked me on a stretcher near a fellow, gap-toothed and wild of eye who was tied down hand and foot with white martial arts belts. Every two minutes he would struggle to sit up, spitting at the plastic hose in his nostril, and bellow for the 'kanhosa' (nurse). Nearby a great hulk of a man with lacerations and bruises all over this face and arms must have been in one heck of a street fight. A drained middle aged woman looked over him, taking off her own jacket to keep him warm. Faced with this level of carnage, it is hard not to feel insignificant.

Well, they said, the weekend is tomorrow. Come back on Monday. It won't get any worse. Uh, yeah. Just what you want to hear as you roll on the floor with no care for appearances. This was the point at which I should have hijacked a bus to Seoul, but a sucker forever, I stuck it out. They were kind of right. It didn't get any worse. It was a long, long weekend. By Monday the overworked pain centers in my brain had decided to turn down the volume from that flaky outstation in my groin area.

We need X-rays, said the hospital. Lots of them. Korean hospitals love X-rays the way Chinese hospitals love penicillin drips (each Chinese clinic has rows of meat hooks for the plastic bags of penicillin solution that Mrs Li and Mr Chan line up to cure their common colds with). So getting irradiated in South Korea is a three-step guarantee which starts with every hospital. The second step is a pending melt-down from any of twenty nuclear power reactors, and the knock-out event waiting a few kilometers north of the border is Kim Jong Il's atomic bomb.

On Monday morning I arrived suitably starved and dehydrated for so-called IFV tests. The radiology department was a museum of clunky machinery. It required a muscular slamming of large negative plates into developing units, and finally large slippery sheets of obscure film to pin up on light boards. The hospital's technician was an energetic, attractive single lady in her late thirties. We discussed her career in fractured English during the long waits to get results out of the machinery. It was a bit like those conversations you used to have in old fashioned railway compartments, total strangers comparing their life stories, then disappearing forever. She shook my hand coolly at the end and that was that. A 61 year old foreigner with crooked teeth and a pain problem wasn't much of a candidate. Sigh. Women usually decide these things.

The Internet is awash with magic potions to "dissolve" things like kidney stones (evidently they come in several types). One cure even prescribes several large bottles of Coca Cola, which might be enough to dissolve anyone's innards. Trade pride or realism, doctors are apt to dismiss the painless option of melting the problem away. They can, they say, blast the buggers into fragments with sonic booms, or go in and grab them out the old fashioned way. The thing about sonic explosion is that you have to know exactly where to do the demolition, or you might turn perfectly functional bits of a patient's insides to jelly. The X-rays I scored were, well, rather expensive bits of useless celluloid. Their blurry images did not show a damn thing that had anything to do with a urethral stone. As a consequence, the urinary surgeon told me, they would have to do some emergency surgery the hard way.

The general idea was to send a stone-grabbing claw on the end of a wire up through my penis, through my bladder, and into the right urethral tube from my kidney. It was a fishing expedition. The outcome was exceptionally unpleasant. They got the stone OK, a miserable little pea of a thing. On the way out their grabber tool wreaked havoc, damaged the mouth of my bladder, caused uncontrolled bleeding and eventually forced a second emergency operation that turned into an unplanned prostate operation. Out of that mess came the banana dongle and, oh yeah, the pain of what seemed like a hernia requiring yet another operation (not in this goddamned hospital ...).

For the "hernia", I either had to live with it for another eight weeks or abandon my students for three weeks of recuperation in the middle of term. Hernias are body rips through which poke bits of your insides. They never heal without intervention, only get worse. Weeks later, after expeditions to three hospitals, three doctors said there was a hernia and four doctors said there wasn't but refused to offer any alternative suggestion. The urinary surgeon who started it all said that whatever the pain was, it had nothing to do with his operation. Yeah, right. My sister came to the rescue. It's probably an adhesion, she said, tugging in an awkward place. "Adhesion" is doctor-speak for an illegal bit of growing that your tissue gets up to when the proper order of things has been cut up or otherwise mangled. Apparently, adhesions growing in the wrong places kill some people. I decided to give the hernia-whatever a bit of its own medicine and devised a program of controlled stretching. Yep, that worked too. It's all fixed.

With decent imaging equipment, and let's say a competent medical team, none of this would have happened. Yuk.


If the bureaucracies of the world have one thing in common, it is a disposition to treat the hourly value of clients at $0. Usually there is not much that you can do about it. Some people don't mind. I'm an energy guy. Not the raucous energy of hyped cheerleaders, but a junky for the life force that can burn so brightly but so briefly in our short time on earth. I value the energy of other beings, and expect them to respect mine. Languid beauties do nothing for me. Sitting around in waiting rooms and corridors, let alone lying trapped on a hospital stretcher can be enraging. I have to bring a book to study, or a list of Korean to learn, or as a last resort reinvent the world's philosophies on a mental expedition while the corridor queue dozes.

Now the enforced waits of hospital life were piling up ahead. This time my exasperation was not entirely private. Four hundred low-level university students were in my charge. They needed constant prodding, unable or unwilling to take the smallest learning initiative on their own. Like wind-up toys, they stopped whenever the teacher stopped. We officially had 15 weeks x 2 hours to do something useful about learning English. That was a tall order. Take out a week for the autumn festival, sports days, 'membership training' (hazing booze ups) exams plus sundry disappearing excuses and they would be lucky to get 12 of those weeks unsullied. Now at least another week would go down the drain, not that most of them cared. I cared though, and so perhaps eventually would the university administration. Well, stuff happens, as America's unmourned departed Secretary of Defense said as Iraq is turned into a killing zone. At least I was the only one likely to be killed in Chungju.

They parked the foreigner in a "urinary ward" with five old gents, and a new education began in the ways of Korean family life, as per the microcosm of a hospital. Beside each ward bed was a body length vinyl bench. On this bench would perch a rotating cast of family members, true to the sitcom tradition. Unlike the sitcom cutouts though, they mostly had little to say to each other, and filled that yawning gap by gluing their passive eyes to a TV screen. That bit was depressingly familiar worldwide. Everyman of the 21st Century was a catatonic creature, conveniently brought out of the trance state for certain hours to manufacture more TV sets.

The hospital was no state-of-the-art facility (although South Korea certainly has those elsewhere). It was a branch addendum to a big city private Seoul outfit, half-forgotten and obviously run on a shoestring to squeeze a few extra won out of the provinces. The toilets were not up to bus station standard, not only lacking any way to dry your hands, but also lacking soap. There was no soap to be found in the whole building. The ward beds lacked any call button to summon nurses, who were only seen intermittently when they ventured from an office up the hallway. In an environment where by definition patients were frequently going into crisis, it was a dangerous place to be. In the wee hours it could be a scary experience, made worse by some air headed night nurses who were erratic about changing intravenous drip bags etc. For the sake of buzzers worth a few hundred won each, the omission was criminal.

Given all the odds against it, most of the staff worked hard to do a decent job. In the urology department I thought at the time that I was probably a bit lucky that the senior professor-doctor had two young beginning urologists as a counterfoil. Surprise, surprise, like a heavy percentage of professionals here, they camped in Chungju only during weekdays, commuting back to the high life of Seoul on weekends. I was not to realize immediately the damage one of those novices would do to my dongle on admission after a first bungled operation, nor the maneuvers to avoid all responsibility that the senior urologist would undertake in the post operative period when things turned out badly.


The first operation call came late in the day. Travelling on the flat of your back, watching the ceiling trip past through the twists and turns of corridors, is a special kind of journey. We clunked into a wide lift and shot up to an untrafficked exit that led to a room with green and cream concrete walls. I always associate these colours with the busy ferries that ply Sydney harbour in Australia. Here in the Korean hinterland, instead of the swish of ocean waves and a salty sea tang, there were shadowy recesses sloshed with antiseptic. They hinted at things best not asked about as one waited at the mercy of the surgeon's knife.

In the centre of the operating room was the meat slab where patients were carved up. The only thing that looked vaguely "modern" about the place was a large articulated overhead disk carrying a galaxy of beams to light the scene of the crime. The enameled handgrips on the rime of the light disk were heavily chipped from long use. Dressed in elf green scull caps, a caste of assistants bustled around, more useful (I was hoping) than the caste of assistants that populate large Seoul stores.

When you are going to do dubious things to folks' nether regions, it is best that they don't feel too much. The first order of business was therefore to anaesthetize the whole of my lower body. This involved curling up naked into a forced foetal position while unseen hands plunged a couple of needles into my spine. I dearly hoped the anaesthetists knew what they were doing because a muck up with that game can have dire results.

Now, stretched out on the slab, I began to feel legs and feet tingle then go numb. "Lift your leg" someone said, so I did. The anaesthetic had not quite done its job yet. Using paper clips and a cloth draped between a couple of intravenous drip stands, the helpers erected a crude barrier to stop me from watching the gory details of what was to follow. Then the professor doctor got to work, and pretty soon it was all over, or so I thought. Rattling around in a pipette, they showed me the ridiculously small, jagged stone which had caused all this misery.

Little did I know that the fun was just beginning. The spinal tap made for massive anaesthesia is perilous. It takes quite a while for your body to get over the insult. My instructions were to lie dead flat on my back, and on no account raise my head. A head raising, they said, was not only highly dangerous but would be punished by the mother of all headaches. Have you ever tired to lie absolutely flat on your back for 18 hours?? Sleep seemed out of the question. A Korean hospital ward can erupt into Grand Central Station at any time of the day or night. Lights, noise, action, and damn the denizens. That was the least of it though. My back ached, my gut ached, and there was no escape. The minutes ticked by, treacle time. It was the longest night of my life.

For the kind of surgery I had had, you were supposed to remain an inpatient for about four days, but I had 400 students to think about. At lunchtime on the second day they pulled the catheter out of my prick and let me go home. I was back in the real world, no longer suckled on intravenous drips. The lady in the supermarket bread shop wondered where I had been when I dropped in to buy a baguette. Everything seemed back to normal.

More haste, less speed. Whatever the butchers had done, it was no longer possible to urinate. Just a few drops of blood. Yuk. Something was awfully wrong. I gave it half a day, to sort itself out, the checked back into the emergency ward about 9pm. Emergency in this place is run by the interns. The first intern this time around was proud of his bedside manner, and had passable English. His portable sonograph machine confirmed that the system was totally blocked and bursting with urine. He managed to insert a fine catheter without too much trouble and pumped it out. Then they shuffled me into a back groom with instructions to gorge on water, an try to piss without assistance. Not a hope of that. By 1am in the morning, it was clear that I would be back in the clutches of the hospital as an inpatient. At 3am, a second young intern decided to put another, larger catheter up my already sore prick without anaesthetic. Wah! I yelped, he sweated and got it there after an eternity. Talk about pain. This stuff would have Osama Bin Laden singing like a bird.

After another day, the hemorrhaging showed no signs of letting up. The doctor professor was off to a conference in Japan the next day, and there was talk of keeping me in the place for the next week, until a surgeon might be available. My employer, the university, was aghast. Then, later in the day, the doctor professor offered to tack me onto the end of his list, his nineteenth operation for the day. The stone grabbing gadget had mangled the delicate mouth of the bladder, which was causing all the bleeding, and the best way to handle that was to cauterize it with a kind of hot knife. Carving out that region would be halfway to a prostate operation, so the suggestion was to do a proper job of it and ream out the prostate while they were about it. There were signs I'd need that sooner or later anyway, so it seemed like common sense to sort out the whole mess as soon as possible.

The choices were all rationale, but the worst case scenarios weren't pretty to contemplate. This crew had already botched one operation. Was I setting myself up for worse trouble? And heck, the prospect of another 18 hours stretched out with instructions not to raise my head .... Sometimes you have to be decisive though, and I decided.


For the second admission, finding a free ward bed at 3am in the morning hadn't been easy. Eventually they had shoved me up into some kind of pulmonary ward with three old fellows who all looked past social niceties. Their eyes didn't register a flicker at our banging, all lights on intrusion. One poor wizened husk gurgled noisily in an oxygen mask. Yet even this edge-of-life microcosm had its own ecology. Over the next day generational descendants came to visit the husk, who was no longer able to speak coherently. There was the respectable gent in white shirt and tie, already with a dangerously expanding waistline - probably a clerk in some government office - and his slightly less sartorial brother. By the second visit in the evening they were flushed with soju. Next came three women in their early thirties, stilly trying for prettiness. Reluctantly roped in for the evening session came two scrawny youths, who could have been my students, doing the ritual thing but scarcely acknowledging the husk in the oxygen mask. One was still wearing a backpack.

At 5pm I did the obligatory enema, and around 6:30 the banshee trolley came to pick me up again for that fateful journey looking at the corridor ceilings whiz by. The operating theatre hadn't changed at all in two days. There are moments when your life constricts close to its mortal point, and you wonder what the Fates have in store. Hospitals are exceptionally dangerous places. Everyone kept saying "don't worry". I wasn't worrying, just hoping like hell for good luck.

Soon it was back to the foetal position for the spinal tap, and the intern with the bedside manner rather unnecessarily held me there in a close hug. He chose the moment to whisper that this operation carried a high risk, a near certainty, of future "dry climaxes" as the bacon carving would cause semen to reverse its flow into the bladder. Well, at 61 I wasn't avid about making babies anyway. Maybe all this was meant to be a distraction from the long anaesthetic needle. Or maybe the only way to get macho males to submit to a prostate operation was tell them the bad news about their sex life while they were helpless to run. As it turned out after the turbulent post-operative nightmare period, everything eventually did function as normal in my case. I had already researched the facts anyway, but the operating room pantomime left me feeling that there was something vaguely unwholesome about this doctor's style.

Once again my legs started to go tingly, once again they erected the rag barrier to hide my nether regions. The professor doctor, now in his green surgical cap and gown, asked if I had a girlfriend or wife, presumably following the same last-minute logic as his assistant. In the light of later events, it was also probably a legal cover for them against mishap. If I'd actually cared it was far too late to back out with a lower anatomy incapable of movement.

This operation seemed to take interminably longer than the first one. The cutting instrument was actually a kind of heated knife that cauterized as it carved, so this time there should have been no bleeding -- one reason for my ready agreement to the operation. But behind that rag screen, what was happening was all stuff for the imagination... On my conscious side of the screen, things were taking a very cool turn. I began to shake, in the tense frozen way you shake after jumping into icy water in winter. This was a bit of a mystery. I wasn't nervous at all. By the time my teeth started to chatter it seemed wise to let someone know about the situation. One of the nameless assistants immediately disappeared, then returned with two plastic drink bottles filled with hot water and wrapped in cloth. One was shoved under each armpit. They didn't seem to warm much else, but it was interesting to contemplate freezing to death while my armpits burned. The effect, they later told me, was caused by saline solution from drips being pushed through my body with such speed that internal body alarms were triggered, just as a small twist of the shower tap will take you from a sensation of being parboiled to drowning in ice.

Eventually it was announced that the bacon carving was done, for better or for worse, and I was wheeled out, first briefly to a way-station, just in case some post-operative shock set in, then back to the company of the gent in the oxygen mask. The trolley was a good eighteen inches above the bed level, but the nurses suggested that I "roll onto it". I looked at them in disbelief. Not only was my lower half dead to feeling and incapable of self-control, but it had just been grievously assaulted in its most fragile region. For the next month I would have to avoid any serious stress to it at all. Air-heads. I wasn't the first or the last time I would encounter dangerous zombie behaviour in this place. "Lift me!", I demanded. So they did a blanket lift.


Back with the rasping gurgle of the oxygen wraith, I settled down to the long, long eighteen hours before it would be legal to raise my head again. This time I had wised up enough to bring a pair of eye shades and an MP3 player. The shades were effective enough to let me drift off for around five hours sleep. In places like this, more people might be zapped by sleep deprivation than bad drugs, which is saying something. I learned later that friends had called twice, once while I was undergoing the Titanic ice death experience, and secondly as I lay asleep in the ward. Wouldn't have been much of a host anyway.

Sometime after midnight, when I had awoken, the wraith gave a great gurgle, clawed off his mask, and from the two-dimensional world of glancing with my head turned sideways on the bed, I saw that he had somehow managed to drag his pitiable body into sitting position and was babbling in incomprehensible bursts. Somewhere across the room the other ancient patients were insensible to anything. Thus, we were absolutely alone in a closed room while the night nurses sat cozily in their dispensary at the end of the corridor. There was no way to summon them - the ward beds had no call buttons. Suddenly he gave a mighty fart and expired. Stone dead. There wasn't a thing I could do, and I guess nobody could have helped him anyway. Death was a mercy. A cool breeze came in through the window, and perhaps his freed spirit had fled had fled to the mighty mountain of Gyemyeongsan behind us.

Half an hour later they found him. Lights, crashing doors and trolleys, the charade of action, a doctor to certify the departure, minions to wheel the remains away. Nurses stripped the soiled sheets, and eventually someone turned off the oxygen dispenser with its noisy bubbles fleeing through a glass water filter. The lights flicked off again and an eerie silence descended on the place. The next morning one of the other patients evacuated too. Maybe it was bad luck to hang out with the memory of the dead. Whatever. The new spaciousness was a definite improvement.


The social microcosm of hospital life provided a kind of interesting distraction from personal discomfort. These wards have a second level of approved hangers-on, who come in various colours of nylon uniform. It took me a while to twig that they were volunteers, and a little longer to begin to intuit their engines of inner motivation. In my first ward experience there were more or less permanent ward fixtures. These were invariably ajumas, middle aged women, who often as not slept on the vinyl benches at night, and otherwise performed small services for the patients. Sometimes they seemed to adopt particular patients. There were only men in the wards I saw, and perhaps these temporary adoptions provided a kind of vicarious emotional "marriage" in otherwise empty lives.

The pulmonary ward, my new home, also had an ajuma whose coat said YWCA. She was a doughty lady who liked to sing hymns under her breath. Her main interest seemed to be the guy in the corner with a tube up his nose. She mothered him, spoon fed him, and slept by his bed. The night the wraith departed must have been her day off. Her care interest was an impassive fellow who rarely spoke. Anyway, whatever he thought of the coddling, there wasn't much he could do about it. One morning the nurses made him move beds, away from a privileged position near the window and a useful corner locker for clothes. The poor YMCA ajuma remonstated in vain. It became clear why. Into the locker, under the bed, in every available cranny, she had smuggled in towels and tissues and potions, combs, nick-nacks, bits and pieces, to add small homely comforts to her own life and that of her self-selected charge. It took her a distressed half hour to move them. I decided in the end that this lady in her own mind was salvaging an illusion of family life, to the point of choosing a surrogate husband, however briefly. A little sad perhaps. But this was all supposition on my part. My obvious independence didn't fit her template easily, but in fairness, she found me a water bottle, and took away my dinner plates regularly.

Then there was a more migratory species of ward carers. These wore powder blue dustcoats, and again were mostly women. However, one of them was man who proved intrusive, almost aggressive, checking everything I had, picking up my notes and demanding my name. He finally gave the game away when he asked me in English if I was a Christian. Yuk. Another rag and bone merchant of the soul. I told him bluntly that I wasn't, and his nuisance posture rapidly diminished.


Long ago I co-majored for a degree in social anthropology. It is probably this fascination with folk and their strange ways that has been a hidden persuader in choosing the life of an expatriate. In the ordinary, there is so much that is extraordinary.

At one level in the Korean hospital adventure, I was just another statistic, a corpse waiting to happen, a fool waiting to be saved from the consequences of being alive. I could look at the dubious hygiene and lax procedures of the hospital, and fret about my chances of escaping back to the fresh air, uncrippled and free from a paper trail of prescriptions. As time went by the chances looked slimmer and slimmer. That was hardly a surprise. There were worse places on the planet. The overcrowding and endless waiting lists in Australian hospitals were nothing to boast about. The tens of millions of Americans unable to access the rich men's hospitals at all in America were a matter of national shame. That grotesque discrimination was more than matched in China where the tens of thousands maimed every day on China's roads (not to mentioned the 600+ killed daily in road crashes) could anticipate total neglect and even eviction from the hospital premises if unable to pay in advance, on the spot for care. In Papua New Guinea, where I had lived for two years in the 1980s, hospital care could not enter the calculations at all of the poor, gentle folk crowding into squatter camps around the town. For them it was all black and white magic. And when I visited the hospital as a privileged white expatriate, I could observed the layers of dust and mould, and the empty dispensary where the embarrassed nurse on volunteer exchange from Finland had nothing to dispense but plastic bags of quinine tablets; (ten of those in one hit and you die a hideous death).

At another level, the country hospital stay was a way to meet a face of my host country which had hitherto been hidden. As you could expect in any zone of simmering crisis, it showed the best and the worst of Koreans. I could smile at the family visits, but they were an unadorned and sometimes touching element of Korean life. They lent a little humanity in a place where heedless bureaucracy the world over left people isolated and emotionally chilled in their moments of greatest weakness. I could look aside, a little ashamed to be privy to the unspoken, temporary "marriages" of lonely middle aged women volunteers to lonely old men, but their presence was a comfort to some where in other places around the world, no comfort was to be had. I could have sneered at living on institutional food for a week, but it was also a chance to eat as Koreans ate for a little while, and to be truthful, there was more care in the food than one could ever expect from the tasteless anonymity of institutional food all too common in the West.

In the end, for all the experience, the best moment in any hospital is the one when you leave. For the wraith in my ward, it was a departure from life itself. For me, it was escape into weeks of worry and pain, of dealing with evasive doctors and their pretentious labels. At last though, gradually, it was an escape back to the full power of a healthy body and the sheer exhilaration of distance running.

Bio: Thor May has been teaching English to non-native speakers, and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. At the moment he is teaching in Chungju National University, South Korea. Many of his papers, essays and stories may be seen on his website at ; e-mail . His doctoral dissertation, "Language Tangle - Predicting and facilitating outcomes in language education" is currently being examined at an Australian university.

The Penis Chronicles
   copyrighted © Thorold (Thor) May 2007
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