It has been a week of business. In between 40 plus hours of teaching I’ve had to make several trips south over the Hanggang – gang means river – to take care of those tedious administrative tasks that are all part of living and working in a new place.
The medical check is a compulsory examination that all foreign workers have to undergo in order to qualify for their working visa. It is, in the very definition of the word, thorough.
First you are ushered into a change room where you disrobe, dump your stuff, and put on brightly coloured pants and a tie-up gown that are equal parts medical scrubs and clown costume. I came out of there a baggy, ragged character in bright turquoise, the pants finishing well above my ankles, the brown leather slippers barely fitting my enormous foreign feet. It actually looked surprisingly similar to traditional Korean costume.
The medical exam covers three floors of the Korean Medical Institute building, teams of neatly uniformed nurses ushering you silently (lack of English confidence) from station to station. The first nurse made me take my shirt off before clamping things onto my ankles, wrists and chest, then measuring my ‘bust.’ I was then weighed and measured – apparently I’m only 191cm now, not 192, and I’ve lost 4 kilograms. I was then given a hearing test, sight test, blood test, chest x-ray, dental check, and of course a urine test. It was worth coming to Korea just to see a middle-aged Korean nurse try to mime the actions of pissing in a cup, pouring it into a vial and putting the stick in.
I was then brushed upstairs where a doctor checked my pulse, asked me how much I drank and exercised, then pulled my eyelid down and looked at it for a split-second, calling it ‘eye-checking.’ And that was it; I hope I pass. The Korean government now knows more about my body than anyone in the world. Best of luck to them I say.
The second order of business was meeting the Chairwoman of my company. This is a big education company – one of the biggest in Korea, and every new teacher gets a 5 minute audience. She looked like any other nice old Korean lady, and by that I mean, she smiled and laughed a lot and didn’t look like the other kind of old Korean lady. You know, the one that wears large plastic sun-visors with flowery blouses and elbows you on the subway.
She asked me where I’d been in Korea and how everything was going. All through a translator – yes, the owner of an English education company can’t speak English. I was an idiot for even being surprised by that. Somehow we got onto the topic of my Korean ex-girlfriend; I wisely avoided using the plural. There are stereotypes out there one is wise to avoid, at least with your employer. Overall I’d describe the interview as warm, and benignly professional.
And that’s the week. Aside from these things, I probably should be eating more food. I realised during my 7pm class last Wednesday that I hadn’t eaten since 6:30 that morning. The girls in my evening class are absolute darlings, and they went out and got me some biscuits in the break. Admittedly, they were free biscuits from our study room, but it’s all about the thought, right? Now they bring me polo mints and biscuits everyday. Gorgeous little things.