Moving to a new country brings a few challenges, one of them being having one's body acclimate to a new environment. This past Monday, my body decided to let me know that it was pissed and wasn't feeling well in the form of a fever, right during the middle of my teaching day. I started the day feeling fine, a little hungry (when am I not hungry?), and ready to teach my little tykes how to pronounce their "r's" and "l's". Three hours into teaching, I had a horrible headache and felt like I should sit down, take a break. Monday's are the longest days and I barely have time between classes to collect my thoughts, so that didn't help. I went downstairs and had Mrs. Moon take my temperature. Sure enough, I had a fever (Mama, I'm not going to say how high, just be assured that I'm completely fine now). The news that I had a fever sent Ms. Lee into a mild state of shock (she told me the next day she didn't sleep a wink because she was so worried). I insisted that all I needed was some rest and that I had to leave for the rest of the day, but this was met with Ms. Lee's strong refusal and insistence that I immediately go to the hospital. After arguing for a few minutes, I succumbed and Mr. Moon and I took a cab to Seoul National Police Hospital.
Mr. Moon, who is the assistant director, translated everything and explained the situation once at the hospital. I was given a mask to wear and after informing the doc of my medical history (or lack thereof) and taking about a dozen different tests, was ordered to lie in bed while an IV was kindly injected into my body. I asked a few nurses and the doc if this was truly necessary but was told that I could not leave the hospital until my fever was gone. The IV was some sort of saline, which Mr. Moon translated for me with his cell phone Korean-English dictionary. I think they grew a little annoyed with me and my questions, so I just shut up and waited for the fever to go down. It took an entire five hours before I was finally deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital. The tests came back and the flu virus, both regular the and H1N1 strains, were negative. It was the common cold, coupled together with screaming kids and a little fatigue, caused me to have a fever.
It was an experience, not something I wanted, but fear of catching the swine flu virus here is as common as kimchi being served with your meal. Ms. Lee was not going to compromise her hagwon (which is what private schools in Korea are called) with a white man bringing swine flu and scaring the little bundles of joy, and the money they bring in, away. I'm currently going through a unit in one of my classes that covers illnesses. The unit, a little ambiguous in its naming, is called "What is Wrong With You?" We inevitably had a few sentences that used the word flu in them and one of the girls asked me why there were no sentences in the book with the word influenza. I explained that flu and influenza is the same thing but the students quickly tried to correct me by informing me that no, no, influenza will kill you! I tried explaining that the regular flu kills also, about 36,000 Americans annually, but they wouldn't believe me. How is it back home right now? Are people as paranoid about the flu as they are here?
I'm totally fine now, after battling this cold with sleep, juice, and what else but kimchi. (If you've seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Weeding, think of using Windex to cure everything. Except instead of Windex, use kimchi. haha.)