The Korean word for blood is said 'pee', a word which has caused countless work time chuckles. "Teacher! Pee in my ear!" "Teacher, pee all over hands!" I do find this to be a solid 7 on the scale from 1 to hilarious, but this blog post is not actually about my students. Or their blood. Or even their pee, for that matter. It is about MY blood, the delicacy worshipped and adored by mosquitoes all over the beautiful country of South Korea.
My legs have looked more or less like they have been covered in chicken pox since summer began, but it wasn't until this past Friday that it went from bad to wtf. While teaching my one and only Friday class, I realized that there was a happy little mosquito chomping away upon my my thigh. Despite what you may have heard, teaching a classroom full of children is not the ideal time to take care of an unfortunate, bug in the pants situation. While some may call me the little engine that could, I just like to think I am a fighter, and I went on teaching the class knowing that once it was finished, I would have a bevy of new bites to mark my once flawless legs. As I walked home the itching began, and once I was able to get a closer look, I found nearly 30 3D red spots, each the size of a quarter, covering both thighs. I apologize for posting the following photograph... but I feel a visual representation will add the necessary oomph to this posting.
Later that evening, while talking to two friends who seemingly never get bitten, we did a simple google search to discover what it is that makes one more prone to mosquito bites than others. I found many things, a lot of which did not seem to apply to me, the first and most obvious being that I am not, nor have I ever been, a pregnant woman. Drinking a 12 ounce beer will greatly increase your chances of being bitten, but that still doesn't explain why I get the bites and my beer guzzling friends still remain relatively unbitten. It wasn't until I read the next bit of information that I realized the true reason behind my large collection of bright red itchy polka dots.
"Researches have suggested that what really matters to the mosquito currently chomping on your toe is being able to finish her meal without being swatted away. Because of this, mosquitoes are more attracted to slower, less defensive animals, rather than the more defensive, and so is evolutionarily predisposed to biting lazy or incapacitated prey (reference drinking above)."
DING DING DING DING DING
With my new found discovery of the reason behind the sizzling attractiveness of my blood to this lower species, I made the bold decision to persevere and follow through with my weekend Mud Fest plans, despite my horribly itchy and ish miserable outlook on life as reflected through my legs. Mud Fest is precisely as it sounds, and it is approximately a 2 hour train ride from Suwon. Nearly everyone I know, eager to throw mud in each other's faces, attended this drunken romp on the beach. In my last post I wrote about the beauty of not understanding those around you and provided an example of the aggravation I experience while I was in a bookstore and overheard 3 Americans speaking in English. I completely and totally erase that example, in fact, I would like to go back and give those 3 individuals a nice hug, because they were nothing to the 10,000 members of the American military who attended the annual Mud Festival. My day progressed in a series of events which really annoyed the hell out of me, but the level of anger I reacted with to said events was abnormally heated.
My legs began throbbing and I felt pretty close to horrendous, this combined with a mood that could cut glass led me to decide between two things, either I was experiencing the first ever case of male menopause, or I needed to get home and go to the hospital. I went with the latter, left mud fest after only two hours of stomping around hating everyone, and made my way to the train station to head back to Suwon.
I tend to hate hospitals with every ounce of my being. Before I continue with my mosquito bitten tale, however, I am going to explain several elements of the American hospital that I feel have contributed to my dislike of the entire medical process.
1. Emergency Rooms, one would hope, would live up to the timely idea the word 'emergency' implies. As I am sure you have experienced, this couldn't be further from the case.
2. Once admitted, I have found that the nurse you meet with will ask you countless questions that really mean very little. My favorite is, "On a scale from 1-10, what is your pain level?" No offense to my nurse friends, but what the hell does this mean? I dragged my doctorphobic self to the emergency room, so clearly I think I should be here, but let's talk about how relative this question really is. Is the highest score of 10 based on my own pain experiences, or should I assume that a 10 only comes after a stint in Guantanamo? And if a 10 truly is based on my own experiences, shouldn't there be a follow up question of the highest level of pain you have ever felt? This difficulty in distinguishing the one to ten pain scale once led me to rank my appendicitis with a 6, because I genuinely assumed that this was a bee sting compared to what being water boarded must feel like.
3. Once the nurse stops asking these questions, you wait the standard half hour before a doctor sees you. It seems like the nurse/doctor relationship I have witnessed is a pretty dysfunctional one, as the doctors frequently re-ask all of the questions that the nurse did.
Back to Korea. I entered the hospital fully planning on bailing should the wait be long enough to allow me dwell on the fact that I was about to see a doctor. Luckily, I didn't have time to even consider leaving as I met with a doctor and a nurse within two minutes of entering the building. Due to the language barrier I mimed out mosquitoes and immense pain, and they nodded in understanding. The doctor took my temperature and made a few notes, gave me a big smile and said goodbye. Having no clue what was going on, I followed the nurse behind a curtain. I'll admit that I was not really expecting what happened next, as the nurse quickly pulled down my pants and began lightly spanking me. She then gave me three shots in the rear (I still have no idea what I was injected with), wrote a quick prescription, and directed me to the front counter.
This entire process, including picking up my prescriptions at the pharmacy located at the front counter, took less than 10 minutes and cost me about $25, this included the examination, injections and a week's worth of pills and prescriptioned lotion. I am so impressed with the Korean medical system, and will happily return to the hospital should a situation arise again during the remaining 4 and a half months I am here. In the mean time, I wish a painful death to all Korean mosquitoes, and though my legs still look like bad 70s' wallpaper, the vomiting/shaking has subsided, and I am once again able to take on another work week in my year long stint as an English teacher in Korea.
Until Next Time,
PS. I am really enjoying writing my blog, and am assured by my mother that people are in fact reading it, but I would like to hear from you! Comment or send an email, I would love suggestions and thoughts. PeterWest.firstname.lastname@example.org