Thursday, December 30, 2010


No, in YOU endo!

A couple of months ago, a bunch of us at SPPA got notices that we were required by law to have physical checkups by the end of the year. It came with a little chart: Lauren- general. Chris- general. Steve- general, stomach, large intestine. Apparently my age makes them want to shove a large tube into my innards and take a look.

I was relieved to find that an endoscope goes in the top endo, not the bottom endo. But still. I am not going to be ordered by some faceless bureaucrat to have an uncomfortable, invasive procedure to check out hypothetical diseases that, if I had them, would affect nobody but me. I have zero family history of cancer (we like to go in for strokes and Alzheimer's) and am not up for a procedure for which proper sedation would involve a handful of Valium, a fifth of Jack, and a large mallet.

So I went to Mr. Park, the boss, and he told me I didn't have to have the endoscope. I have no documentation for that, but I'm happy to take his word for it. I'm offended that the government believes it can demand such a procedure, especially from a waegook (foreigner). In a silent protest, I waited till the third-to-last day of the year to go in for the checkup. (Also, I am a champion procrastinator; none of that amateurcrastinating for me.)

The Pren Dawktaw (their phonetic attempt at "Friend Doctor") clinic is on the fifth floor of an office building by Yangjae Station. It's filled with dozens of patients, mostly in green jammies and all of them Korean, and a handful of staffers, none of whom speaks but a word or two of English. (The first form they gave me to fill out said "DENTAL HISTORY" at the top; I bared my choppers, pointed, and said "Dentaw meanf teef.")

It was stressful with all the waiting and misunderstanding and trying to call the school (nobody there) and my fellow teacher Billy, who speaks excellent Korean (no answer). I wanted somebody to insist to them that they weren't sticking anything in either endo and, after my blood pressure reading was 30 points higher than normal, to explain that it was the stress of the moment.

But, with long intervals between each pair of tests, I struggled through with the chest x-ray, height and weight, another hypertension check, and blood and urine tests, for which I'd been up cramming the night before. (Incidentally, I'd never had a urine test before that involved sticking a little paper stick into the cup and turning in the stick. The good news is that I'm not pregnant.)

Finally I got to talk for a moment with a doctor who had decent English. He told me I should take hypertension medication (I do) and that they'd call me in two weeks to let me know if I'm alive. The subject of the long nasty tube never arose.

The big take-away for me was the frustration of being unable to communicate. It surprised me that every technician and attendant was of an age to have taken several years of English in school but nobody could talk to me. (I don't want to be the ugly American here; I know it's their country and my job to learn their language.) It almost made me want to really study Korean. Almost.

The fact is, it's an enormous amount of work to learn a language so very, very foreign to ours, and it's seldom all that much of an inconvenience to only have a rudimentary knowledge. I can read the letters, I know possibly as many as two hundred words (if you count fust-baseuman, left-fielduh, and the like), ten or twenty phrases such as Gogi baegu (without meat) and Wajongshil audieh isseoyo? (Where's the toilet?) And you know what? That's chuweoyo (OK) with me.

Kamsahamnida. Annyeongikeseyo! (Thanks. Bye!)


Almost Home said...

It's their country, we are supposed to speak to them in their language. But they have had English in school for how many years? And we have had to teach ourselves Korean for how many months? They just don't want to try. They can speak English, but they are too scared/lazy. And it's not like they don't have the opportunity. There are teachers/GIs/businessmen a plenty here, everywhere. And it's not hard to spot us.

Almost Home said...

It's not that bad having one of those things........... what the? No, it's awful! I had a 3 month bout of anorexia (I weighed in at less than 60kg for my 1.74 frame) in my 2nd year in university. I had cut out everything containing gluten or pastry or gas in my diet -no Coke and no bread, only oats! I would scrape off the bread crumbs to get to the chicken inside. So a few months later and the persistent nausea feeling remaining, I was booked into the hospital for a quick in and out. Literally. The night before I had to prepare my insides. Yuk! I had to make a concoction of water and what looked like milk (you know how I feel about milk), and drink 2 liters of it in an hour, for 2 hours. (I believe I'm remembering more or less correctly.) And don't get me started on the enemas! What a traumatic experience.

I was awake for both procedures -or I should have been. First I had to swallow a camera. Sis, I didn't like it when it came back up. Then they turned me around so this time my I was looking at the colour TV. The inflatable blood pressure armband thingy kept inflating, and it hurt, but for some strange reason I couldn't tell them that. They apparently gave me 3 shots but I was still awake. They must have hit me over the head, because the next thing I knew, I was being wheeled back into the hospital room, and given (oh gloriously delicious) food. Nothing much, just some crackers with cheese and some sort of fish meat, but oh my was it good! They didn't find anything wrong with me, but since then I haven't had a problem with eating anymore! Maybe I just needed a good cleaning!