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Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter vacation

As a hogwan (private English academy) teacher, I don't get to choose my vacation, but I have national holidays plus two weeks, one in the summer and one during winter. The winter vacation for me started after work Christmas Eve and ran until the first Monday in January.

Want to know how I spent literately my whole vacation? Answer: sick. In bed sick. Ugh. My coworker had been sick the previous week but I like to think of myself as a pretty healthy person and had been lucky not to catch any of the illnesses my students have been carrying and spreading all fall and winter.

My luck ran dry. I decided on Tuesday I would go to the hospital. Let me explain Korea and hospitals.

Doctor/Hospital = same same. You go to the hospital if you have a cold or broken arm. You don't really hear of family doctors here. And actually, it's quite efficient... It took me off guard at first. A student would be absent and I would ask why. The Korean staff would say "hospital." I'd freak out in my mind and wonder, "Oh my gosh, is he/she dying? I didn't even know he/she was sick!" No no... He/she needed a shot or simply had a headache...

So there's hospital close to my apartment, right? I can walk there. It's not that far... And I know where it is... Easy. It takes all the energy I have to get out of bed, bathe and bundle up. I set out walking, and see a "cross" (universal hospital/medical symbol) in the distance. That's the hospital. I walk towards that tall building.

As I approach, I see a woman pushing a REALLY old man in a wheelchair. And an old woman with a walker. And another old person... Hmmm... You guessed it. I was at a nursing home, not the hospital. I took that as a sign that fresh air was really all I needed, got some orange juice and dry "cheddar cheese soup" and went back to my bed.

After two more days of still not feeling better, I try the hospital thing again. This time I took a taxi - and actually looked up how to say "hospital" in Korean. I totally could have walked there.

In American doctor's offices, the patient goes in a room and the doctor makes rounds to treat the patients. In Korea it's the opposite. The doctor is in one room, the "nurse" (not really a nurse) escorts the patients back and forth from the doctor and the other "stations" they need to go to. In my case I went from the doctor, to the X-ray department (to make sure I didn't have pneumonia), to the blood drawing department (for a blood test) back to the waiting area, then to the doctor again. Then I waited until the pay desk called my name. I paid ($10) and was given my prescription to be filled at the pharmacy conveniently located in the parking lot. The pharmacist filled my script in like two minutes and gave me nice little breakfast-lunch-dinner packets to take for three days. I didn't ask what all the pills were for. Each packet contained 4-5 pills. I've heard rumors that the "party packs" (as I like to call them) can typically include a laxative, anti-diarrhea, steriod, anti-biotic and another laxative. So I really didn't want to know what each pill was for... I just took them. And, magically, I felt better.

By then I was actually well enough to get out a little bit. One of my students invited me to her piano concert and I didn't want to miss that. My piano concerts when I was a kid lasted an hour. Each student played two or three songs, and that was that. Well..... Korean kids start playing the piano when they're like three, first of all. This was a concert for an entire piano academy. So I sat through upwards of 60 students, playing one song each. Only each song was like five minutes because they were three movements of [enter famous composer's name]'s [enter number] opus/aria/contata/etc... The level of musicianship was amazing. Absolutely amazing (a five year old played a more elaborate song that I could have ever play in nine years of lessons). But I sat there for three hours hearing minor ballade after minor ballade... My student's song was actually quite quick. Haha. I met her parents quickly, posed for some photos, and I was out of there. If anymore of my students invite me to their piano concert, I might be busy that night... Does that make me a bad teacher? lol

 Kids playing the ocarina (Google it. I didn't know what it was at first either.) 
My student is second from the left.
 All 60 kids, singing a ridiculously catchy song. I'm still singing it in my head. 
And maybe there weren't 60 but it sure felt like it.
Me and Sophia!

I continued to feel better. Better enough to party it up on New Year's Eve with some amazing friends. Then the next day was, again, spent recovering. And my amazingly wonderful friend Frances surprised me New Year's Day (apparently we talked about it so it shouldn't have been a surprise when she came into my apartment since luckily she still remembered the code - Quick note: Korea doors are amazing and have electronic key pads instead of keys! No more getting locked out). Anyways, she surprised me with McDonalds (she somehow new I wasn't going to make the big brunch I had talked about the night before) and movies! Twas a great day.

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