My day started-off pretty good. Today was not a teaching day at our school, but rather a day for all students to head-off to various parks in Seoul to have a drawing contest. For most students, this meant giving the least amount of effort possible - doing a super fast sketch as required, then heading-off to enjoy the park. For the elite few students who took the exercise seriously, it meant 3-4 hours of water colour paintings of their park surroundings. For all students though, it was a chance to get away from school for a day, not wear a uniform, and enjoy the outside before the cold weather gets here.
For me, it meant a one hour commute down the stream by my house to our meeting place at Seoul Forest - an Olympic-Park-sized outdoor space with fountains, gardens, sculptures, sporting facilities, and of all things - a deer compound.
The deer had a decent amount of space, but they were still behind a fence. The wire fence had spaces in it large enough for the deer to stick their heads almost all the way through, and they were quite friendly. I took the opportunity to give one particular deer a good massage - for about 5 minutes, with two hands, I really let him have it. Starting at the base of his neck by the shoulders and working my way up, bracing his forehead and letting my fingers and thumbs do the talking where his neck muscles join at the base of his skull. Dude loved it. I walked away to offer my services to another deer, but deer #1 came-by and stuck his neck in the way, then bent his head down to me to indicate that he wanted more. Awesome. I could really do worse than starting most mornings with a 2 hours bike ride to Seoul Forest to massage deer.
Anyway - the real story...
As students were gathering around at the end of their assigned time, they were playing in a nearby fountain - the kind that shoots-up from the ground and you can walk-over and try to dodge the spray. I got close, and soon surrounded by a group of 10 boy students who picked-me up and led me to the fountain. I stopped fighting and let them carry me, when I noticed that I had my phone and ipod in my pocket. I tried to hand it off to a student, but nobody bothered taking it, so into the fountain they went with me.
This kind of pissed me off. I picked them up out of the water and tried to make my way back out of the fountain, when one male student tried again to force me in. I was wearing sandals (now wet) and was easily sliding back. I asked them to stop, but they thought it was all still fun and games. Somewhere in the ensuing struggle, as other students joined in again to get me back into the fountain area, someone's shoe shot forward and hit my open big toe on my left foot - lifting the nail back and almost completely off. The sides of the nail were completely out and it was hanging up at a 90 degree angle - much like the tongue of a sneaker pulled-up with the laces removed... and a great deal of blood pooling into my sandal.
At this point, I asked them to stop again. When they saw my foot, I had what seemed like 300 students surround me to apologize. Hurt like a summumabitch.
Anyway, wasn't sure if I should just try and pull the rest of it out, or if I should go to a hospital to get it looked at. I wasn't sure how a nail completely yanked-out would grow-back, and the teachers encouraged me to go have it looked at, so Choi Yong (PE teacher) took me to a nearby clinic.
In my first year of teaching in Korea, I closed a door on my middle finger nail - instantly turning it black and giving it its own painful pulse until the next morning when I "had it looked at" at a nearby clinic. The doctor took a paper clip out of his desk drawer, bent it to create a sharp point, held it with pliers over a Bunsen burner, then drove it in through my nail to release a mini fountain of blood before squeezing the shit out of my finger and causing me to go through the roof. It's a sensitive area - that under-the-nail business.
Anyway, back to my toe...
The doctor looked and said something about "stitching". I went into a room where a nurse was preparing a bunch of sterilized instruments. Doctor came in, and with 3 nurses now watching, drove a needle into my toe 7 times to freeze it, then cut and pulled-out the side pieces of my nail that had come out of the side pockets of my toe, bent the smaller nail back into place, and then, using a small metal hook and some wire, stitched my nail back into place. It's hard to describe without photos (of all the days to not bring my camera), but he essentially sewed through the center of my nail in four places - through the nail, into the sensitive flesh underneath, and then out again before tying it off.
I'm pretty sure that I can now tolerate any amount of pain. I squeezed my fingers nails into my palms, sweated, and grabbed my hair. Let's just say that the freezing (which hurt like a giant bitch of a hurt - who doesn't loved having needles jammed into the points of your toe?) didn't really take enough effect. So, with four joyous stitches through my effing nail and into the exposed toe bits underneath, I was about ready to pass-out.
I have to get the dressing changed daily for the next two weeks, but I'll tell you what I'm really not looking forward to - getting the stitches out. That is going to hurt like a big pile of hurty things, and I'd really rather not think about it. It's really starting to throb as I get ready for sleep on night #1. It's like having the sound of finger nails across a blackboard - hard to ignore the pain of a such a sensitive area when I keep picturing my nail bent-back and have the pain to accompany the memory.
I know people have been through a lot worse, but damn. Despite the lack of real camera, I took a photo with my shabby phone camera, so expect an upload tomorrow. Gotta spread the imagined pain around a bit.