Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blood, sweat, and tears

Today, I got chewed out for the first time by a superior. More accurately, he's the superior of my superiors. He's a supervisor in the provincial office of education (POE).

About a month after arriving in Korea, I was told that I needed to have this medical document. No one seemed to think it was that important, and actually wasn't mentioned at all during my application process. I actually went to the doctor just a month before I came to Korea, so it would have been easy to come by--well at the time. The doctor has since left the clinic so I could have here write up some document saying I'm in decent health.

Anyway, this has been looming over my head for awhile now. However, there are some things that are nearly impossible to pantomime. I can go to a store and get by without saying a word. I can even ask for help from employees--again with no words. I have become very good an gestures, body language, and all-out pantomiming. How would I go into a clinic--especially if I don't know where the clinic is located--and pantomime what I need a basic health exam? Then, what if they need to ask me a question?

So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would need one of my Korean handlers with me to translate. The problem is, the none of them understood exactly which kind of exam I needed. It was even suggested at one point that I may have to stay overnight! Weeks and weeks passed. Finally direct communication came from the POE and my local Korean handlers. Now, the Koreans were at least on the same page. The big hurdle now, was finding time to take me. My schedule is pretty much free everyday after school--so I'm not the problem.

I figured that my handlers worked it out among them who would take me and when and all that and they would tell me when they felt I needed to know--probably ten minutes before we left. Boy was I wrong.

I got an angry phone call directly from the supervisor in the POE who is handling all of the native speaking English teachers. I was asked why it was taking so long, and why I hadn't gone yet, and asked, "What am I supposed to do? I have given you so much time to get this done."

My emotions were a mix of frustration, anger, and even a little worry. I will admit, I almost cried (there were some small tears that formed in the eye, but never made their way down the cheek). I conversations with my recruiter back in North America, they mentioned that I might possibly lose my job and my visa. So, I explained the gravity of the situation to my handler at the Geoje Education Office. She took me this afternoon.

Oh boy. So got weighed, blood pressure tested, and a basic eye exam (good thing I know my Korean letters). Then, I got my chest x-rayed (I'm guessing for tuberculosis, but there are much cheaper and easier ways to test for that). Then, I went to the lab. I was told to pee on this stick and then they were going to take blood.

I've had blood taken from me many times. I'm a "type O+" hero, and before being disqualified because of my time in Eastern Europe, I donated blood about every two months. I have never had it done like this.

The lady did this at the same desk she had her computer, papers, etc. I put my arm down. She pulled my arm closer until my hand was touching her breast. I slowly pulled away before she pulled it back toward her again. That was a little akward. The she withdrew the blood and injected the blood from the syringe into a plastic tube. There were no lids on the tubes! They just sat there in the open air! Ooops. She spilled a little of my blood on her desk. No worries. She grabbed a peice of toilet paper to clean up the mess! Toilet paper is used to clean virtually everything here. In fact, one teacher asked me, "Is it true that Americans use rolled paper only in the toilet?" I said, "Yeah mostly. Sometimes for nose, but mostly for toilet." She laughed! TP here, is used for facial tissue (Dan aren't you glad I didn't say "Kleenex"), napkins, the toilet, and to clean up spills.

The blood lady put a piece of gauze over the hole in my arm and sent me away. I thought I was done. Then, I learned that that along with my blood, urine, a picture of my insides, and personal statistics, I also need two pictures of my face. So, I had to go to a photo place and have them take my picture. My handler took me to an actual photo studio, so he charged me W10,000 (~$10) for the ID-sized pictures.

Now, I can accurately say that I have given blood, sweat, and tears for Korea--and all in the same day!

1 comment:

  1. You can take your bloody Kleenex and Band-Aids and Q-Tips and throw them in the nearest Dumpster, as far as I care. =)


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