Friday, April 12, 2013

Seeing a Korean ENT

The first time I was sick, it was a public holiday, so the 이비인 across the street from my alley was shut. I trudged all the way up the stairs to find the door locked. I was very disappointed. But, it worked out in the end when a nice stranger drove me to a doctor and I got a jab in the bum.

Now it's yellow dust season, and I'm starting to get sick again. I think my body just isn't used to the cold, and the killer Korean germs. Yellow dust is basically chinese sand mixed with pollution that blows down over the rest of Asia and makes us all sick as dogs. When it rains it leaves chalky yellow marks on the ground, apparently. You can check the yellow dust levels online; right now they're still pretty low, so I think this cold I have is more a result of the sudden cold front that has hit us. 

The end is nigh! 

In Korea they have a saying: 꽃샘추위. My co-teacher told it to me when we first met. It means, "Winter is jealous of the flowers blooming in Spring, so it's cold again." Thus while cherry blossoms are blooming early, it's snowing in the countryside. And I'm a cheapskate who stupidly slept with my ondol turned off the night the cold front hit. 

So yesterday after school, I hopped on my bike and headed off to the 이비인 I hadn't been able to see before. Once again, I waited for the lift that never comes, and trudged up the stairs. This time it was open! The receptionists didn't speak any English, and looked terrified the moment I walked in. I handed over my ARC and had a seat. A little girl came in with her mother, and said hello to me. Seven times. Then I was ushered around the corner to see the doctor. 

I spoke to him in bad Korean and looked up 'flu' in my phrase book. I coughed, mimed having a sore throat, covered my ears and sniffed loudly. He said, "Would it be easier if we just speak English?"

He asked me all the normal doctor questions. Usually this is the point where doctors whip out the ear-thermometer. 

Oh, no. This is Korea. This is where it gets interesting. From a table next to me covered in what looked like gifts from a torturer's birthday party, he grabbed a sort of gun thing with a long, thin nozzle. He used this to spray inside my nose, before tilting my head back and peering up my nostrils. Then, with my head in a vice-like grip, he twisted it and peered inside my ears.

"Aha!" said the doctor.

"Errr..." said I.

He retrieved a long, slender, hooked implement. Usually the doctor says "Oh, there's a bit of waxy build-up" but does nothing and lets you go on your way with your gunk-filled ears. My dad taught me never to stick anything in my ears smaller than my elbow. 

This hook was definitely bigger than my elbow. In my mind. He ordered me to sit very still, because he was going to remove the wax from my ears.

This was a distinctly unpleasant experience. 

After removing Paris Hilton and a Buick from my ears, the doctor prescribed a cocktail of pills and regular saline rinses. No bum jab in sight!

get me out of here!
I headed on my merry way, suddenly amazed at the magical gift of hearing he had given me. 

On my way home I bought a kilo each of strawberries and melons from the guy in the truck with the loudspeaker. If you hear someone shouting things over a loudspeaker, don't worry. It's not the authorities ordering a mass evacuation. It's a guy advertising a discount on delicious fruit. 

Strawberries + melons: W15 000
Doctor and medicine: W15 000

I love Korea's healthcare system. I love Korean melons too - they're the yellow stripy things. They taste like sweet spanspek. :D

If you want to see this glorious English-speaking ENT yourself, go to Chimsan Junction (tell the taxi driver Chimsan Negiri), and stand facing the bank next to the big church. Turn 180 degrees and look across the road for a sign with an elephant on it that says  이 비 인 . The doctor is on the third floor of that building. 


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