The latest incident in my “I’m allergic to the country that I so love living in” saga has been eye problems, starting with an impressively ugly burst blood vessel in my right eye last week.
Although it healed very quickly, my eye has been scratchy and sore ever since, staying shut in the morning until I wash it, giving me blurry vision, watering, and causing me to feel headachey and tired.
Hang on, it’s still giving you trouble? exclaimed Terri this afternoon as I wiped away another irritating tear and mentioned that I would’ve thought it would be better by now. I nodded sheepishly, sensing a lecture, and she put her hands on her hips. You don’t want to take chances when it comes to your eyes! Why don’t you go to the doctor?
I explained that, had I been back at home, I would have gone to the doctor at the point at which I burst the blood vessel. But here… I just feel so helpless! Any time I want to go to the doctor, or even get medication for something as simple as a cold, I have to get someone to take me and be my voice. It’s incredibly humbling to stand there helplessly as the nurse or whoever asks about your symptoms and you can only look blankly at them, while your boss does all the talking. I like to be independent. Having to take someone with me to do the simplest things just makes me feel like an infant, and a burden. My school director is a genuinely lovely woman who insists that it’s no trouble, and that she’s happy to take me to the doctor rather than find out that I’m struggling to get through the day due to some easily treated illness. But still… no one likes to have to rely on someone else for things that they could previously do by themselves. I hate being babysat!
That’s all very well, said Alex, who’d wandered into the office as I told all this to Terri, but if your eye’s still sore and blurry after all this time it could be something far worse than an infection.
Go to the eye doctor! added Terri sternly. Which sounds like the better option: being babysat, or going blind?
Suitably chastised and more than a little alarmed, I went to the eye doctor. Thankfully, I’m not going blind and he told me (well, my boss) that my eyes are just dry due to air conditioning (get used to it, eyes) and tiredness. He gave me a prescription for drops, we collected them, and my boss drove me home. The whole thing took about 20 minutes from leaving work to arriving home, thanks to the crazy see-it-to-believe-it efficiency of the Korean healthcare system. They might have an annoying reluctance to dispense medication in large enough volumes to allow you to have a medicine cabinet at home, but it’s very cheap and very fast to see a specialist of any body part – you don’t even have to make an appointment, and the visit plus eye drops cost me a total of 6,ooo won (about £3). If I spoke even slightly better Korean, my frustrations at the need to go regularly to the doctor for what we’d call over-the-counter drugs probably wouldn’t exist, as it really doesn’t take any more time than it would have taken me to drive to the nearest chemist from my house in Ballymena. It’s just the fact that I can’t do it without burdening someone else that makes it a hassle – I’d rather pay the extra money for medication just to avoid having to disturb someone else in order to be able to visit a doctor.
Still, I suppose, philosophically speaking, it’s good for a person to have to depend on others now and again. Keeps us humble and grateful! But still doesn’t make this damn language any easier to learn…