Being sick sucks. Being sick away from home is even worse. It's safe to say, at this point, that I've been sick for most of my time in Korea. Sounds bad, but it's very common for foreigners to get sick a lot during their time in Korea. Seoul is unfortunately an extremely polluted city- thanks in part to China for sending its chemicals our way, which creates a huge fog known as yellow dust. Seoulites can often been seen sporting surgical masks, and the environmental reports often discourage people to go outdoors on certain days. And let's say that Korea is not as obsessed with germs are we are in North America: often no soap in bathrooms, or simply a communal bar of soap. Yuck. Antibacterial gel is nearly impossible to find, and kids at school cough and sneeze on me constantly. I scold them and try to teach them good manners. Some folks on the subway could also use a tip or two.
I got so sick when I first got here, and it never really went away. Every few weeks I get a variation of a cold- nothing bad, just very annoying. A cough, a runny nose. My body never quite adjusted to the polluted air, although I was always quite healthy back home. It's now a running joke between Aaron and I: "Korea makes me sick!!" My diet might also be lacking in some areas, I'm not sure.
Thankfully, there is a pharmacy located on every single street corner, and the pharmacists are usually very helpful and generous with medication. Which is not always a good thing, but it's cheap and easy. Pharmacists usually speak very good English, are very friendly, and they give good advice (and free Vitamin C drinks).
If you feel really bad, then you have to go to the hospital. Sounds quite extreme, but medical clinics are usually located in hospitals, so it makes it sound worse than it actually is. I only had to go to the hospital once, when I had pharyngitis, and it was not so pleasant. The doctors and nurses did not speak English, and there were a lot of misunderstandings (I had a sore throat, but the doctor thought I might be pregnant- that kind of misunderstanding). I was also upset to see that they didn't even use my last name for my file- nothing big, but I was exhausted and feverish and it got me feeling so unimportant, somehow- as if I'm not even a part of Korean society. Weird moment.
Another odd moment was that the doctor examined me right in the waiting room (thankfully it was only my throat and ears), and I somehow found myself getting an injection I had no idea what was for. I left the hospital with a sore lower back, and three bags of pills that no one explained me how to take.
On the bright side, it was the quickest recovery I've ever had (probably the injection!), and the fastest service I've ever had at the doctor- no waiting at all. I do not wish to get sick like that again- it makes for good stories later, though. And I'm definitely looking forward to fresh air.