Friday, February 22, 2008

Sick as a Boshintang Dog

I was a healthy person in the US. I really was. I almost never got sick. I can't even remember the last time I got a cold in the US before coming here to the land of killer diseases. I have a cold now, a terrible one, and this got me to thinking: what's so different about Korea that I get so sick on a fairly regular basis here.

My initial theory when I first came over was that it was from working with kids all the time. I thought their little kid hands dragged germs to me from filthy kid things all the time. While that's probably true, I don't see too many kids around these days, filthy or otherwise (unless they sneak in while I'm sleeping), so I doubt that theory holds up.

Then there was the theory of food. I definitely eat differently here than I do in the US: lots of weird pickled stuff, lots of red pepper paste. Maybe my body doesn't like that stuff and is trying to teach me a lesson. I suppose a cold's not really the way to teach that lesson very well but still. Ah, but I'm sure Koreans would cringe to hear me say that about their food. They insist that their pickled spicy stuff is great for you, so well, maybe it's not that either.

It could always be that I'm just getting used to Asian colds and flus and so forth, but damn, I would hope three and a half years would be enough to get through the super-colds phase of living here. True, I get sick less often these days than when I first came, but when I do, yowza!

I've briefly toyed with the notion that it could be magic: a curse on foreigners or some sort of ill-will generated from failed students.

But then I have to accept that perhaps my super-colds, the shoulder I hurt a few years back, my little wrist troubles, and all the like, those aren't from any mystic source. I'm not in as good a shape as I used to be. Maybe I sit around a little bit more. Maybe I eat a little bit more. Maybe I'm a little less careful and a little bit more stressed. And maybe I'm just getting a bit older; I am, after all, already 30 in Korean years. Maybe it's not Korea at all. Maybe it's just life. Maybe this is how things work. Maybe this is the trade off I get for getting the better job, and the lovely wife. Maybe disease is trade-off for stability and wisdom. And chances are good I'm exaggerating my super-healthy American days anyway. I do that. So maybe it's all that.

Or maybe it's just the magic.



At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Celular said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:22 AM, Anonymous bakyeono said...

children? you mean us?
but, hey! i'm a man of mysophobia.

i think korean government doesn't offer good health care service.

to be sick here may be a problem for you because it's hard for you to explain your symptoms to your doctor.

At 6:40 AM, Blogger Korean Ryan said...

No, of course I don't mean that my college students are children. When I first came to Korea, I taught at a hagwon. The students there were children. I even say "I don't see too many kids around these days," because I don't teach there anymore.

Compared to the US, Korea has MUCH better health care. It's far cheaper, and far easier to get.

It's a little hard to explain my symptoms, but not too bad. I speak Korean well, and my wife speaks English well (so she can help me when I don't know words in Korea). In addition, many doctors here know many English medial words.


At 2:18 AM, Anonymous bakyeono said...

were you in hagwon? my friend from england is teaching english in hagwon too. but she has a limited working visa and someday she have to go back. i teached english to middle school students. it's a shame because i'm still a student learning english.

i heard that america's health care service is very bad. they say even a simple treatment like picking a tooth costs a thousand dollors in america. it's horrible. i hope it's an exaggeration.

but i still can't say our health care service is good because we are supposed to pay 50% of the cost and the public insurance donsn't support patients who suffers from some serious disease like cancer. when my father unfortunately got cancer on his liver, my mother couldn't pay the cost and i lost him.

i envy some countries that offer free medical service such as finland, norway, and england. even poor countries in latin america like venezuela and cuba offer free health care service. but why can't we do?

i fear our government's legalization of private medical insurances like 'AIG' would destroy our current public health system. some progressive doctors worry that large hospitals connected with private companies will not accept public insurance but accept its own company's private insurance only.

public service is for ordinary people. the rich have much time to exercise, but many ordinary people don't have. rich men eats nutritious foods and drink purified water, but ordinary people eat processed food with much chemicals and drink tap water. and the rich take medical checks often, but the ordinary people checks after they are sick.

when private insurance overrun the public one, only ordinary people will sign on the cheap insurances. they sick often and the insurance companies cannot pay that much money. eventually, companies will remove cheap insurances. public insurance gets money from the rich and support the poor. but private insurance can't.

did you see michael moore's movie 'sicko'? i heard that it exposes problems of private health insuarance in america. it is going to be shown korea from 3 april. i will watch the movie. i hope you watch too, if you didn't yet.

you can check it here:

At 2:35 AM, Anonymous bakyeono said...

you know, "laughter ISN'T the best medicine."

... it's the ONLY medicine.

At 5:56 AM, Blogger Korean Ryan said...

Yes, I taught in a hagwon for about a year when I first came to Korea. It was a good experience, but I much prefer teaching at PNU.

Korea's health care may not be perfect, but it's very good compared to the US. As you mentioned, the US system is very expensive and not very good. I've seen Sicko, but I already knew about the problems with the system long before watching that movie.

I know there are problems with the Korean system too. As you said, the biggest problem is with serious illnesses.



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