Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Thing One & Thing Two

Monday morning it was pouring rain. There was even thunder rumbling above, and the lava-stone sidewalks were rivers an inch deep. The standing puddles at the intersections were much deeper. I managed to avoid the worst of these, but my jeans were soaked to the knees anyway.

 It was so loud outside. Usually, the electric cars and hybrid vehicles make little noise on the streets, often creeping up behind you unexpectedly. But at rush-hour in a torrential downpour, all those tires splashing along the wet asphalt created a torrent of unpleasant sound. And there was techno music blasting up ahead for some reason.

My first thought was "really enthusiastic Buddhists." But the nine people were all wearing identical numbered jerseys under translucent rain ponchos and beating styrofoam-plastic cheering sticks together. Which isn't typically Buddhist. Were they rabid soccer fans? On the same traffic island that is centered with a pagoda and lanterns for Buddha's birthday is a pillar erected to advertise and celebrate Korea's hosting games in this year's World cup tournament. But why were they bowing, deeply, from the waist, to the traffic every so often? As I approached the corner I noticed that there was another group, similarly equipped with ponchos and jerseys and black tights, across the road. However, their jerseys were pink and they had the number two on the back, whereas the first group was wearing the number one and blue. They were under a banner advertising a presidential candidate. Ah! These were the supporters of individuals aspiring to replace the ousted chief executive. The blue team was backed by a truck flashing lights and playing music--in the mid afternoon, one of my students said the tunes were "caveman" vintage--and it continued literally until nightfall, making teaching with the windows open five stories above a little challenging. The election takes place in just three weeks. 

 Sunday morning, I woke up with my left eye glued shut with mucus. Nasty. And uncomfortable. I gently washed my face until I got it open to find that my eyeball was red. I don't think I've ever had pinkeye before. It is not a pleasant experience. When I got to the clinic Monday, the doctor didn't even look at my eye. He just glanced at me sitting on a stool a couple of feet away and wrote out a prescription. I dutifully had it filled and even more dutifully took the pills and administered the eyedrops. There was no reason to complain about the cost: the doctor's visit was 5500 KRW and the pharmacy prescription fill was 4200 KRW. The total combined time expenditure came to 15 minutes. 

I worked Monday, but felt so bad by Tuesday that I took my first sick day. Other teachers had to cover my classes, which I made me feel guilty on one level, but on another I was too tired to care. This morning, my eye looked far better--it wasn't oozing as much, though it was still red--and when the school's assistant director texted me asking if I had gone to the doctor again, I said I would, but that I was planning to work. He gave me the address of an ophthalmologist and urged me to go there for a checkup. So I did. And...the scrubs and sandal wearing guy looked at my eye carefully and closely, and told me that the previous doctor had given me the wrong kind of drops, and that I needed to rest until Monday. No work. He gave me new droplets and oral medication and told me to come back for a checkup on Friday. I hope and pray my eye is going to be OK. This second doctor didn't speak English like the first I saw, which implies he didn't go to a western medical school. On the other hand, he did actually look at my eye, which the first doctor didn't bother to do. He didn't charge me at all for the visit, and filling his prescriptions cost 3500 KRW. His son is one of my more diligent students.

What am I supposed to do in the interim?  If I don't work, I don't get paid. And my coworkers end up being overwhelmed by having to substitute for my classes. Apparently my predecessor had conjunctivitis and she still had to come into work. But maybe she didn't see the same doctor I saw, who told me that I can't work. This is so confusing. I sent a message to my coworkers, telling them the situation and offering to run any little errands they might need in the meantime. I want to make myself useful, particularly as they are being mightily inconvenienced by my eye issues.

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