Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sick in Korea

It's slightly amazing that I haven't written a blog post on this paradox yet, but I suppose I can chalk it up to the fact that I rarely get sick - knock on wood. Also, when I do get sick i'm not one to go rushing off to the doctor, I tend to live by the lost of rest, water and healthy food prescription. But now that i've been through the entire process I figure i'd break it down for you: sick in Korea - step by step:

Step 1: Get sick
Okay this doesn't really need it's own "step" but I thought i'd mention some of the common ways people wind up feeling like death.  Most likely is that you work in an Elementary school with hundreds of grimy little children - thankfully that is not me. Or maybe you just have a terrible immune system - again not me. Another likely possibility is that you've been to a party during cold season and played beer pong or passed around some delicious drink with your friends - okay i'm sure that's been me. But this time i'm chalking it up to the marathon field trip I took through Jeju last week with 250 high school students, strong winds, and little to no sleep.  Oh and follow that up with a school wide hike through the yellow dust sodden mountain on Friday, yeah Saturday my bed was my best friend. 

Step 2: Pretend everything is okay 
Usually when I wake up feeling like shit I drop an alka seltzer in a glass (thanks dad) chug it down, take a few extra naps and am feeling 100% by day 2 or 3. Hence why I never wrote this post - 2 steps is kinda boring.  But this time my cold didn't want to let go so on to step 3 we go...

Step 3: Be told numerous times how terrible you look
Monday Tuesday morning came (we had off Monday for the schools, birthday - another perk of teaching in Korea)  and it was time to go to school, oh great just in time my eyes decided to be puffy and swollen with a little red. My first thought had nothing to do with my own health but rather the comments I knew were coming from my staff. Although I haven't been terribly sick at school before I have been tired - and boy do Koreans like to comment on it.  The morning wasn't too bad with only a few "you look tired" but then as everyone was centered around the food table in our office Anna says "Stephanie, why does your face look so terrible today" I could do nothing but just laugh and shrug my shoulders. If I were new to Korea i'd be insulted but I'm used to it - in a way this is them showing concern, somehow it just doesn't translate very affectionately.  On the plus side though, I was sent home from school early yesterday so I could get some rest!

Step 4: Get ridiculed for not having been to the doctor yet
So once my co-workers discovered that I looked like s#!% yesterday the next question was, of course, "have you been to the Hospital?" First I should explain - any clinic or doctors office is referred to as the hospital here, so the question isn't as ludicrous as it first sounds.  Nevertheless, if you thought Americans rushed off to the doctor for any small cough, hiccup or fart; well you should see the Koreans. So of course seeing that it had been at least a day since i'd felt sick and I hadn't yet seen the doctor people thought I was crazy.  Also, there's really no acceptable answer to the "why" question.

Step 5: Suck it up and go to the doctor 
When I woke up with my right eye plasted shut I knew it was going to be an interesting day.  Surprisingly some of my co-teachers told me I looked better (maybe they forgot their glasses), but the "teacher tired" "why are you sick" "oooh red eye" "are you okay?" comments continued throughout the day - along with my growing headache.  So by the time my last class was over I decided it was time to pay a visit to the doctor. This is where the story gets the US to see a doctor you need to call and make an appointment, if you're lucky you can get something the same day and if you're really lucky  you won't have to wait for more than a half an hour in the waiting room. Not in Korea - I walked down the block to the nearest clinic, handed my insurance card and ID to the receptionist, sat in the waiting room for maybe 5 minutes and then was called into the doctors office.  Now maybe they do a little more background work and small talk with the Koreans but given our communication barrier the doctor cut straight to the point - where does it hurt, how long, okay let me take a look (eyes, throat and temperature).  Next thing I know i'm released back to the receptionist where I pay a measly 3,000 won (~$3) and am handed my prescription.

Step 6: Drop by the Pharmacy
Down the stairs, out the door and around the corner, i'm in the pharmacy where I proceed to hand over my mystery slip (it's in Korean, who knows what the doctor ordered) to the pharmacist.  Another brief wait before i'm handed my bag of goodies, pay another paltry 3,000 won, and am on my way.  So this is the REALLY fun part - the drugs. I've had friends tell me about it before but this is actually my first experience with the Korean mixed bag of cold medicine - literally I have no idea what the doctor gave me. I was simply told 3x a day, for 3 days - which was also written on the bag and really not that hard to figure out.

Baggies of drugs, legit 
Step 7: Wonder why you didn't just go to the doctor in the first place 
Okay so if you followed that post at all it's pretty apparent why Koreans go rushing off to the doctor at the fist sign of symptoms... It's quick, easy, painless, cheap, efficient..need I throw out more adjectives?
I guess i'm a little premature in writing this as I've only taken my first medicine cocktail so I can't really vouch for the effectiveness of the drugs, but as for the doctors visit A+ Korea, you win.

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