As Arkwright would say, it’s been a funny sort of a day, all in all. I was told last week that today, Wednesday – our paperwork day – I should come to the hagwon for 8:20. I did so, but – irrational fears coming true – no one was there to meet me. I waited ten minutes then went home to sit on my new old sofa being depressed.
At around five to nine there was a rather tentative knock at the door. It was the man from the hagwon come to take me to the hospital. I spent an hour or more follwing him around the Eul Ji Medical Center to take a variety of tests. The EMC (which is a real hospital, as opposed to the clinic I’d been to in Ansan for my bowel stuff, and which all the Koreans kept calling a hospital) has, in its large reception area on the ground floor, a small branch of Shinhan Bank; on the B1 level it has a Mini Stop convenience store.
First off was a dental check. I’m aware that I have a few self-inflicted cavities (from brushing too hard; the dentist who told me this in St Helens filled them, but some soon came out. I haven’t been to the dentist in nearly three years now – it’s one of my objectives for this stint in Korea), but the check seemed OK.
Next up for inspection were my eyes. My sight was tested in each eye down to 10 on the chart of ever-decreasing characters. I was also given the kind of colour-blindness test I remember from primary school. In fact, I was given it three times – presumably on the hope of the clinicians that I would get less colour-blind with practice. The women testing me had little pieces of paper that clearly had the answers to the ‘What’s this number?’ questions. And I did get better as my brain started to distinguished between identical shades of different colours. The latter discs of blobs each had an upper and lower track to trace with your finger. I could just about get the bottom tracks, I think, but, as far as ‘eye’ could tell, there were no upper tracks.
Next up was hearing. I was put in a booth with a pair of headphones and a button to press when I heard a sound. I think my hearing is pretty sound (ha ha), but I could tell from this test that I’m insensitive to soft low tones in my left ear.
After that, I think, I had a chest scan of some sort. The door to the room was left wide open, and I saw a couple of people have scans before me, leaning up against a square panel that was part of a big grey machine. The doctor invited me to look at the image as it was rendered onscreen and told me I was fine.
Next on the itinerary was blood and urine. Which I gather from ESL Café are required for testing for HIV and drugs (but not cannabis, not any more – too many people were failing, apparently) – and possibly other things. After last year, I’m an old hand at blood tests. Somehow the prick of the fantastically sharp needle sliding into my vein always feels worse than I think it will but better than I fear. I was given both a paper cup and a little specimen jar to inundate, then the Korean guy showed me to the nearest toilet – once he figured out where it was. I waited a good few minutes for the only cubicle to become free. Fortunately, the restroom was very quiet – in terms of traffic – so I didn’t suffer from nerves too badly. As soon as I came out my guide took both jar and cup from me (he’d earlier taken my laptop bag, and as I followed him round I watched it slap against his backside in exactly the way that I try not to let it do). If he wanted to carry a cup of my piss I wasn’t going to stop him.
It was after that that I started worrying about whether my medication would have any deleterious effect on the results. (Amusing aside: last night I left work early as there wasn’t anything for me to do. I had some toast at home then went and bought myself a hot chicken pizza. When I returned to my apartment I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to eat before my test. Jon had told me not to eat after midnight; it wasn’t that late yet, but I decided to err on the side of caution and put my hot chicken pizza straight in the fridge.)
Finally, I was taken to the family clinic to have my height, weight and blood pressure taken.
Then we left. No – down in the car park, the Korean (I probably ought to learn his name) drove the school minibus forward a few feet so I could get in (because of the pillar on the passenger side), backed it in again and returned to the hospital on some mysterious task. He came back about ten minutes later – and then we left.
When I got home, I had half my chilled hot chicken pizza, showered, blah blah blah.
At school I was left with very little to do – all my paperwork being pretty much done (although there may be more that I don’t know about). I chatted a little with my white colleagues, we had food.
At one point one of the Korean teachers (amusing aside the second: when I was with Bo last week we talked about the Korean teachers’ names – he’s also quite new, and neither of us know many of them. He identified one of the teachers by her large breasts, and said that he’d asked one of his students who his home-room (ie, Korean) teacher was – the boy had made a large breast gesture. I wasn’t and I’m not entirely sure who this might be. Just as Koreans in general all tend to dress the same, Korean women all tend to have the same size breasts (it’s better than having one bigger than the other – ba-dum-tsssh!) – which is to say, quite nicely-sized, not too big. (Amusing aside III: while hanging out with some foreigners last year, a New Zealander girl had complained about not being able to find bra. She said, I have the biggest boobs in Korea. My tall, overweight, also New Zealander, male colleague, Kerry, said in response, Ahem-hem-hem.) However, I have my suspicion as to who this might be: a pleasant (but not nearly so pretty as your typical K-girl) teacher who’s given me a few looks and smiles. (If I was less emotionally inept, I might know what that means.) ), at one point one of the Korean teachers (who may or may not have large breasts, who may or may not have some sort of liking for me) came and asked for my key so my heating could be fixed. I was sitting and she was standing right in front of me. I knew it was wrong, but the first thing I did was glance at her breasts.
Anyway, now I can use my stupid shower and not have to find new ways of stopping the water draining from my retarded bathroom sink.
And somehow, this evening I feel a hell of a lot less depressed than I did this morning.
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