If you're really good at keeping track of the time zones, you'll notice that it's Friday night as I write this. Normal people go do things on Friday nights, but me? I'm in my pjs watching the second season of Community. That's because I'm sick.
I'm usually pretty whiny when I finally acknowledge that I'm not in tip-top condition. I'll deny being sick (or injured - anyone remember last week's concussion? I don't - bahaha!) until I positively can't stand up anymore, and then it's like the world is ending. I complain about being sick to everyone I see and I can't really be trusted to do simple things, like eat or shower. This time I'm not all that upset about it, though. I only have a cough and a sore throat, but since I'm leaving for Bali in NINE DAYS, I wanted to get myself checked out on the off chance it might be something worse than a cold.
After school, I headed down the main street in Gangnam. Hana and I met Jeanne outside a building once that she claimed was a doctor's office, so I set out in that general direction and hoped for the best. I had no idea if it would be open on a Friday night, but I wasn't sick enough to go to an actual hospital. The plan was to find out whether it was open, possibly get checked out, and return home with McDonald's. Simple.
The doctor's office was precisely where I thought I remembered it to be; unfortunately, it was on the fourth floor of the building. Whose cruel idea was it to make sick people trudge up four flights of stairs? Anyway, when I walked through the door and smiled at the receptionists, both their faces dropped. I immediately realized no one spoke English in that particular office. I approached the desk anyway and said, "Doctor? Sick." while pointing at myself. One of them handed me a form and circled the top portion. Although I have mastered reading Korean, my vocabulary is limited to "thank you" and "really?", so I had no idea what to write on the lines. The other receptionist waved her hands around in the shape of a small rectangle, and I knew she wanted to see my alien card (because that's the only thing I possessed that she could have possibly cared about). I handed it to her and she took the paper away from me as the other woman jammed a thermometer inside my ear. When it beeped, she looked at the number and waved me away to the waiting area.
I waited only a minute or two before one of the receptionists got my attention and directed me into the first exam room. The doctor looked at me and sighed. He said something that sounded like "Hangul," which is the name of the Korean alphabet, so I assumed he was asking me if I spoke Korean. I shook my head and he replied, "What is wrong?" I said "cough" and waited, beginning to regret my decision to seek medical attention. Fortunately, my lungs chose that precise moment to spasm out of control. When I calmed back down, the doctor looked inside my throat and declared it a "tonsillitis injection." Allowing for the translation error on the word "infection," that would be a pretty good diagnosis... if I had tonsils. I shook my head and pointed at my throat then mimed throwing something away. He rolled his eyes and pointed at his throat, which I took to mean, "Look, white girl. It's not actually tonsillitis, but that's my favorite English word. Just roll with it." I nodded and let the receptionist guide me into an adjacent room.
She indicated that I should set my things onto the table before starting to prepare a needle. I took off my coat, assuming she'd need access to my upper arm to administer my shot, but she looked me right in the eye and tapped herself on the butt. You've got to be kidding me. She flicked the end of the needle to get the air bubbles out and waited for me to remove my pants. When I unbuttoned my jeans and offered her my hip, she grabbed the back of my pants and yanked them down, stabbing the needle right in the middle of my buttcheek. When she pulled the needle out, she reached for my hand and wrapped it around a cotton ball then left me alone in the room. Usually when a nurse makes you hold cotton to a recent injection site, she means for you to hold it there for at least a little while. However, when she returned a few minutes later, it was immediately clear that my pants were expected to have returned to their normal position long ago. I sheepishly tossed the cotton in the trash and buttoned my jeans back up before following her out to the counter. She typed a few things in the computer, printed out a page written in Korean, and asked me for 5,900 won.
Most of my readers aren't familiar with the current exchange rate, but that's about five bucks. Five. Last fall when I had poison ivy, it cost me nearly $300 to get rid of it. But tonight, my tonsils magically regrew and became "injected" and I was able to take care of it for less than I paid for the chicken sandwich I got on the way home. Korea may have the worst education system I have ever seen, but they're onto something with health care.
The paper the nurses gave me turned out to be a prescription; I took it downstairs to the pharmacy and traded it in for about thirty pills of all different shapes and sizes. I thought maybe since the doctor's visit cost me next to nothing, they'd screw me on medication, but the pills totaled a whopping three bucks. The lady at the pharmacy told me when to take the pills, not to drink coffee, etc. and sent me on my way.
Despite having diseased yet non-existent tonsils, I'm actually feeling quite well, but I'm still going to use this as an excuse to avoid going out in the cold. I'm proud to have stumbled my way through my first solo visit to a Korean doctor, but I sincerely hope that next time I'll be able to remain fully clothed for the entire duration of the visit.