the myriad difference between hospitals and clinics

well, it finally happened. today i went to a korean hospital for the first time. this, i guarantee you, is far less dramatic than it appears. here hospitals are called hospitals and clinics and walk-ins are called hospitals: there is zero differentiation between the two in discussion with koreans. you sort of realize you're not going to a hospital-proper when you're walking up a flight of stairs and a couple 13 year old girls in school uniforms are walking down, leaving their hagwon for the day.

after a lovely trip to neighboring gwangju, i managed to finally contract the epidemic that exists only in elementary schools. starting sunday morning i have felt like a dozen mice are running around inside my head. my nose won't stop running and it feels like my lungs are filled with soot. it doesn't matter if you teach at an isolated little town in the pacific northwest or a dingy metropolis on the other side of the world, you will get sick. this is why flu season starts. this is why doctors are rich and hated.

a note on the former. actually, a complete digression on the former: medicine here is cheap. and not cheap like insurance-cheap. i mean really cheap. i was resisting my co-teacher's attempts to get me in for a check up because i was afraid of the bill. i had seen angela go to the clinic and get treated for strep and she ended up paying about $80 USD for a pretty slick medicine drip (more on my costs later). as per usual, and being the cheap bastard that i am, it was difficult to get me to pay to pay for something i knew would just go away on its own in another few days. also i hate needles. they can just go sod off, thank you.

my co-teacher, mun su-eun (that's sue to you, by the by), finally got tired of watching me blow my sorry chapped nose and took me to a "hospital" today for a check-up. she asked if i had brought my insurance card and i told her that no, i wasn't planning on making a trip to the hospital today so i hadn't packed it with my lunchbag. "okay, no problem. just bring your ARC." from the time i entered the waiting room of the clinic, on the 2nd floor of a non-descript building on a non-descript street very close to where i live, to the time i was walking back out with a prescription notice in hand was less than the time it took for the battle scene on the bridge in mission impossible 3 to run. i was in and out in less than ten minutes and was informed that i wasn't as sick as everyone thought i was. it's tough to say i told you so sometimes. the doctor lady told me to take three and call her in the morning (actually quite literally), handed sue a bill and showed us the door. at the front counter i paid 3600won (just about $3.19 USD) and was out the door. there were no extended forms and liability waivers to fill out. there was no waiting for 20 minutes. dynamic korea comes through in a positive way here.

downstairs was the pharmacy. not across town like in the united states. apparently clinics and pharmacies work together in a federally-run health care system so that the crippled, or merely coughing, patient doesn't have to go on a vision quest halfway across the state to get their damned pills before collapsing in a heap on the side of the road due to exhaustion because they've run out of gas money and can't hitchhike because if they stuck out their thumb their crutches would fall out. i found this convenient. someone of more dire circumstance than myself might find this downright helpful. it took the people behind the counter less than 3 minutes to fill my prescription and for 9 doses of 3 pills each i paid 1700won ($1.50 USD). once again, no forms, no request of address, phone number, social security number, second piece of identification and the serial number of your first mountain bike. just in and out. later in the evening i would buy a pack of halls throat drops that cost more than my entire prescription.

as david sedaris so elequently put described his own habits while living in france, "now i can finally afford to be a hypochondriac."

...or maybe it's the air here?


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