URGH. Last week was terrible. And I never suspected it would be. Last week Wednesday was Memorial Day and thus, we all scored a mid-week public holiday. Not that I did anything interesting to commemorate it, just hit my books (I am studying part time to qualify as a teacher). So with a public holiday in the middle of the week, it was looking good. But unfortunately 2 things ensured that it was a terrible week for me.
Last week Faraaz and I were both miserably sick. A bad cough, tight chest, congestion, sore throat, phlegm, body aches and all that jazz. Before I came to Korea, I NEVER got sick, despite living in a large household with kiddies. Since I came to Korea I find myself sick at least twice a semester which is something I am NOT used to. My co-teacher rushed to the pharmacy as soon as she took one look at me heard my predicament and came back with some capsules and Strepsils. Luckily I have no allergies so I took the proffered pills and suffered through the rest of the day.
In the afternoon I went to a doctor. Now this is not something I would in South Africa. For a simple cold, I wouldn’t even think of heading to the GP. But here in Korea, visiting a doctor for a consultation is cheaper than purchasing over-the-counter medicines.
Why is it cheap? It’s because of National Health Insurance. Every Korean citizen living in Korea and foreigners can apply for health insurance. If you visit a hospital or medical clinic the government pays 20%-50% of the total applicable medical charges. If you purchase drugs with prescription, the government pays 30% of the total applicable charges. For example, a visit to a gynecologist costs about 4,500 won (R31). This is of course about 5 times less what a person with private medical aid in South Africa would pay to consult with a gynecologist.
The consultation with the doctor was just around 10 minutes. He asked me questions about how I felt, when was my last major illness, if I’m planning to have a baby soon (Uh… NO) etc. He checked my temperature using a fancy thermometer and asked me to open my mouth to check my tonsils (of which I have none). Then he prescribed the medicines using his computer. Korean doctors only type their diagnosis and the list of prescribed medicines will appear. Voila! It’s that easy! It’s quite interesting because it’s so different from what I was used to in SA- the handwritten prescription that only doctors and pharmacists can read. Haha. The care was on par, if not better than care I’ve received in the past; I did not have an appointment, and I waited a total of about 3 minutes. I’ve never waited less than 15 minutes WITH an appointment back home. In summary, Korea does medicine right.
It’s a well-documented fact that teachers of young kids get sick lots. Try working as a teacher in Korea with young kids! In any case, we get colds all the time, and it’s no wonder when you see the condition of some of the kids that come to school. Koreans don’t take sick days here often, and even with the cute little masks they wear around when they have a cold, there are many germs floating around attempting to latch on to our immune systems at all times. It probably doesn’t help that I’m constantly high-fiving and tickling the kids.
Most people get sick pretty soon after they first arrive in Korea. A combination of pollution; Koreans spitting, sneezing and coughing as if it’s a competitive sport; lack of hand washing after using the bathroom and sharing of food dishes leaves you vulnerable to all kinds of bugs floating around in the air.
On Friday I was starting to feel slightly better and on the road to a full recovery. But halfway through my day and in the midst of a class, I received news that my elderly grandfather had passed away in South Africa.
His passing did not come as a shock but the realization that I would never see him again was quite a lot to take in. He was a man who lived a long life and saw all of his grandchildren well into their lives; he always had sweets or chocolates in his pockets, never refused any requests I asked of him whether it was to drive me to the library or slice up my fruit. I know I should be sad, and I am, but I am filled with more joy because I know without a shadow of a doubt that he is with God, free of difficulties and much happier. It crushes me to think that he will never see me marry, or meet my children, or share any other big moments with me. But there are so many reasons why I know my grandfather is looking down on all of us right now smiling from heaven. He is no longer restricted by his age and frailty. He is no longer in pain. So, even though I will miss him tremendously and would give anything for just a little more time with him, I am glad knowing he is happy.