Have you ever done something so crazy, you add it to your bucket list just so you can cross it off? No? Okay just me.
Despite the fact that “hospital visit” is the free space on every K-Drama bingo board, hospitalization was not on my Korea bucket list. Mainly because hospitalization implies sickness and possibly death,
But, if there’s any place to understand another culture, it’s in a hospital. So in a much larger sense, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am grateful for this experience, but it wasn’t that bad. I learned a lot. But let’s back up.
Two days ago I had a bap burger, which is essentially burger patties made of rice with fillings. I always ordered the bulgogi, or beef, because it is delicious. But the other day I was feeling whimsy and took a chance. Why not the pork and kimchi? Now this wasn’t entirely crazy; my co-worker gets the pork and kimchi bap burger every other day, so it wasn’t exactly a glorious adventure as much as me being a copycat.
For reasons I don’t understand, my particular bap burger did turn into an adventure. When I was eating it I didn’t think anything was different. Everything is different in my life right now. It was quite good, but I still preferred my bulgogi next time.
Everything was going well until my second class of the day, with my devilish Ninas. Naturally. This may get a little personal for which I am sorry but if you’re reading this blog you already know that I’m trying to hold nothing back. Anyway, suddenly, I got that itchy feeling in the back of my throat. You know it? The one that’s like, “you better get ready because I have a delicious surprise for you.” It was so random, I ignored it for a couple of minutes. And by minutes I mean seconds. Like, what? This doesn’t make sense.
But sometimes life doesn’t make sense. The Ninas were being surprisingly good, working on their book work and Mr. E playing with some kind of pokemon-like cards. I had to make an executive decision–do I ignore this feeling because it is crazy and risk destroying the floor, or do I run out of the room like
It ended up being the latter, and I just said, “I have to be right back” and yes, my throat was right. Let’s just say my bap burger was no longer in the digestive process, but down the sewage.
I wasn’t gone for very long, but when I returned Director had taken over my class, which was embarrassing to say the least. I told her I could come back but she pushed me out of the room and told me to go to the teacher’s lounge. She finished the class, but I taught for the rest of the day. She came and checked up on me every class and I nodded to say I was fine because I was fine and then she left. I went home, slightly weirded out, but feeling chipper.
Fast forward to the next day. Everything is dandy. I had a strawberry smoothie for breakfast and an energy bar from Lotte for lunch. Yep all good. I taught all day without ever feeling weird until the middle of my grammar Navis, my second to last class of the day, when suddenly I felt like I was going to faint. The room started swirling a bit and I was grabbing Sunny’s chair for stability. Once again–another executive decision. There were only 15 minutes of class left, so I told them to do a certain exercise while I went to the teacher’s lounge. Another co-worker was on break and I begged her to finish my class to which she wholeheartedly agreed when she saw my face.
Next class comes and it’s my last, My Ladies. I went into Director’s Office and told her my symptoms. I asked if it was okay for me not to teach it and she said, “no it is not okay.”
She said I could sit down and teach the first two pages and then see how I felt. Okay fine bring it on.
“Teacher your face is very red. Are you sick?”
“Actually Wonwoo, yes. I am. But we are going to work anyway.”
I then proceeded to cover one eye at a time because everything was rather blurry.
“Teacher, your face is swollen. You should go to the hospital.”
This was so funny to me I burst out laughing because I didn’t think Korean people actually said that. You see, in dramas, as I mentioned before, people are constantly going to the hospital. OMO YOU JUST COUGHED 3 TIMES YOU NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL is the same as OMO YOU JUST GOT HIT BY A BUS WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL.
Korea has socialized health care. So when you are hurt, no matter what that hurt is, you go to the hospital. By Western, or at least US, standards, this is completely ridiculous. You go to the hospital when you get hit by a bus maybe but being dizzy and puking the day before are not quite that reaction. A doctor visit the next day perhaps, who then may decide you need to go to a hospital, but to be rushed there in an ambulance… on a stretcher? Absolutely not.
Well guess what.
Director called 119. They came with a wheel chair, which then turned into a stretcher as they loaded me into an ambulance.
The rest of the night is kind of a blur. I remember Director jumping in the ambulance, and being the translator…until 6 o’clock in the morning. I was rushed to the ER where there were people with missing limbs and screaming “OMMMAAAA” while I’m laying there feeling a little dizzy and put on a drip.
Director did many things that night she didn’t have to–including let me use her phone to talk to my parents and also talking to them herself. She paid for things she didn’t have to pay for, and I have vague memories of waking up from subconciousness and feeling her stroking my sweaty forehead and holding my hand while they took a CT scan and an X-Ray told me to get some rest. I knew I’d be okay until the head nurse comes in and suggests I get an MRI incase I have leukemia or hemoragghing.
This was not heartening, but I went into the white tube anyway, which is not a pleasant experience as anyone who’s had an MRI will tell you.
Don’t worry. I ended up not having anything.
At the time it was fine seeing as I wasn’t entirely mentally present, but in retrospect, it was pretty incredible. From what I’ve experienced, boss-employee relationships are not usually this way. Let alone the Asian ones. I’ve seen the way the other Korean teachers are around her. There’s a lot of respect and distance. Like you know your job and I know my job and I will do it and our paths will not cross.
Yeah there’s definitely a line there. I saw it, leapt over it,
I also learned a lot about Korea. Yes, it has socialized medical care. But everything and everyone knew what they were doing, and took upmost precaution to save me from presumed death. Everyone spoke some english as they wheeled me around to various rooms.
It wasn’t actually the first time I’ve been to a foreign hospital. While in Yangshuo, China (beautiful by the way), my friend got in a minor scooter accident with a biker. Don’t ask the whole thing still pisses me off. Anyway, we went to the hospital to get a CT scan and I took this picture of the room.
Around 7am the doctor said I was fine and ready to go home. They hailed me a taxi and I found myself in my apartment on Saturday morning wishing my life wasn’t the way it was.
But, in conclusion, if you’re going to get sick in a foreign country, I highly recommend Korea. They seem to overreact to your health and will take care of you.
And now I’m going to go add it to my bucket list simply so I can cross it off.