Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Medical Leave

As part of the conditions of the job all foreigners have to go through a medical check-up as soon as you get to South Korea.  I'm not sure if there are more scattered around the country (I'm sure at least Busan has one) but our closest hospital for employment purposes is in Seoul and since I work in Bundang it's a little bit of a trek to get there (approx. 30-40 minutes on the subway). I'm the only new teacher in YBM LIA but there are two new teachers in YBM PSA (Pre School Academy) which is just up a few flights of stairs from us so the schools made an agreement that I would go up to the 8th floor at meet them at 9am and we would make our way there together.

Quick side note about YBM: this is considered an umbrella organization that offers private schooling with a focus on English. For our school, we have three blocks of classes so after the students complete their day at public school they come over to YBM LIA in either Block A, B, or C which meet on certain days and times. Confusing?

So 8:50am I get into the building and go up to the 8th floor. No one is there yet so I just sit and wait. 9am. Still nothing. 9:10am, well, maybe they're just late. So I ask around the school if they know where the new teachers are. No one has any idea. And no one knows why I'm even there or what medical stuff we have to take care of. 9:20 I finally decide to call someone (Min, the educational director at LIA) from the PSA phone to let her know what was going on.

I'm really wishing that something could just go as planned at this point. I also forgot to mention that I had been fasting since midnight so no food or water and all I had wanted was a little cup of water or something. Anything. And amidst the frustration it seemed as though food and, more importantly, water would be an oasis in my desert of Korean frustration. A little dramatic? Lol, well that's certainly how I felt at that moment. Living in a foreign country where you don't speak the language is a lot more daunting than I had anticipated.

After some explaining of where I was and who I was not with (the other teachers) followed by a Korean conversation between Min and the PSA receptionist (who does not speak English) we finally figured out that the principal from LIA would take me down to the hospital rather than doing it by myself. Thank you thank you thank you.

And so my day begins.

We make it on the red line out to Gagnam station, and then transfer to the green line out to Seullong (sp?) Station. We then walk about a block to the hospital. Nice and easy. I should be able to remember that for the way back.

So Kay drops me off at the hospital and they tell me to take of my shirt and "brassiere" and put on a hospital gown. Now this thing is not like the scratchy, back-opened-to-the-world kind of shirt. They give you a nice, cottony-soft robe that ties around the waist -- similar to something you'd keep at home. Then at this point you get bounced around from one heath station to the next.

This building, or at least a few floors, offer what seems to be an entire conglomeration of all things medical, and we have to be poked and prodded by them all. Being an extremely careful and paranoid person -- my boyfriend would definitely agree that I'm a worrier -- I took as many tests and as many shots as I could possibly do in the US in order to pass any medical exam here with confidence, but all the hub bub did make me nervous. They took blood, did my blood pressure which was "high" they said (gee, I wonder why), did my height and weight, hearing and visual, took chest x-rays, and finally, and the most intrusive thing that did make me feel like a horse being sold, was that they had a dental set-up in which they checked your teeth. Let me also say that all these stations took less than 2 minutes each. So you'd go to a station, get checked up, sit down, wait, repeat. They also re-did my blood pressure which I guess had normalized by the end of the chaos.

The final point where you see the doctor who asks you the normal questions which seemed to be programmed into her mind. She didn't know enough English for me to ask any questions though.I'll, or I should say the school will, get my results in about a week and then after than I need to get my Alien Registration Card. One step at a time.

And then it was over. Simple, fast, and a little dehumanizing. 

When I make my way downstairs -- the elevators have a touch screen for which floor you want rather than pushing a button -- I see a little "Parisian Cafe" to my right. "Perfect" growled my stomach.

As my eyes went down the line of all the pristinely kept bottles of various assortments of mineral water and juices, illuminated by a backdrop of light and hunger, I knew, I chose wisely.

I guess these little cafes are normal in Seoul. Lots of foreigners, especially French ex-pats live in the area so bakeries are commonplace. I really wanted to take a picture of all the cute pastries they had but the girl working was adamant about me not doing so. Tourists must try to do that a lot. Pfft, dumb tourists. Glad I'm not one. ;)

I happily picked up a bottle of sparkling pomegranate flavored water and a little chicken salad and sandwich combo, purchased it with 10,000 won (a little less than ten dollars), got my change, and took the brown paper bag I would later consume back at the school. I could handle this!

Apparently not, as I tried to make my way back.

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