Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: ‘I feel like I need to write a blog post about this. I SHOULD WARN OTHER PEOPLE!!’
The Canadian One: ‘Lol. Civic duty!’
Me: ‘I know!! IT’S MY DUTY TO WARN THE OTHER FOREIGNERS!! Have you ever heard of anyone having this done?! I HAVE NOT!’
The Canadian One: ‘I think so..or I might be thinking of when I worked at the pet store!’
This was Wednesday morning and I had just been for my mandatory yearly Korean-job medical check to get my medical certificate to work. Every job I’ve ever been in in Korea has made me have a medical test during my first week on the job.
The first time it went a bit like this. Myself, my head teacher from Canada and our school director’s husband who spoke no English other than ‘Get out of the car’ and ‘Take off your clothes’…No comment…all took the trip together. I had a chest x-ray, I peed in a paper cup and I had a blood test. Now, the first thing about getting tested in Korea is this: you pee in a small paper cup that is identical to the ones I drink my teeny coffees from at school each day
Once half full, you take the open-topped paper cup back to where you got it, in the room full of patients waiting to get their own paper cups to urinate in. You place it on a tray with a plethora of other paper cups filled with liquid in various shades of the yellow spectrum.
Then you go up to a desk next to two other people and have your blood drawn, trying not to cringe too much because the two people on either side of you are getting the same thing and there’s an entire room full of people watching you, impatiently waiting for their turn at the needle.
The next thing to be done is the chest x-ray. You change your top half into a gown and proceed to stand, arms in the air, hold your breathe and it’s done. It’s worth noting always always remember to wear a skirt and top or jeans and a top. You do not wanna confuse them by wearing a dress and have the nurses mildly panic at what they’re going to give you to wear on the bottom once your dress is off.
My second test a year later was the exact same, different hospital, but also included a vision test, a hearing test and a blood pressure test.
My third almost didn’t happen. Having been told I didn’t need it, I happily went home for two weeks only to return and be told I was to head to the hospital that week for my medical check-up. Knowing I already had my visa, I enquired about what exactly this test was for, specifically.
My Manager: ‘Drugs…and AIDS.’
Of course. I should have known. Ireland: Known for their drugs and AIDS. I made my appointment, went for my test and was surprised the total came to 150,000won ($135). Luckily, it was one of those things my company had agreed to reimburse me for in advance so I wasn’t exactly out of pocket for too long.
This fourth time, I’m working at a public elementary school and as I’m the first foreigner the school has ever hired by itself and not through any sort of program or third-party, they’d had me trying my best to adhere to the Korean application process. All my application forms were in Korean. All information I get from the school is in Korean and translated into English by my co-teacher. All my contracts and official visa processing documents are all in Korean too which has made that Google Translate App on my iPhone all the more useful.
On Monday, I got a list of documents I have five days to find, gather, copy and hand in. On the list are the usual suspects: degree, bank details, CELTA certificate, Alien Registration Card, worker certificates (apparently something every Korean has and it’s incredulous that I, the foreigner, don’t have one from every job I’ve ever worked at…ever….) and finally, a clean health certificate dictating I have no illnesses, AIDS, drugs or disease that will affect my working ability.
Knowing what getting the certificate entails, I agreed to go to the local community health center next to my school to get it done. Firstly, when I walked in, I was greeted by a security guard who made a beeline for me. While trying to help me fill in my forms, he took to yelling at me in Korean because God knows if someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying while you’re using your indoor-voice, the next logical step is the yell at them loud enough for the people on the 6th floor to hear.
A receptionist came to my rescue, took my ID card and did everything for me. I was due to have three tests: blood, pee and chest x-ray I assumed. I was handed back over to the trusty security guard who brought me to my first test: the chest x-ray. Luckily, no English wasn’t a problem as I’d done this before and knew exactly what to do. Five minutes later, it was off to the blood test in a small little room nearby.
An old Korean man sat behind a desk drawing blood from a young university aged girl while I sat on the chair nearby waiting. When it was my turn, I went to the desk, sat down and gave my name. He printed out three stickers with my details on them. He stuck one to a blood vile, one to a paper cup and one to a small tube with a long Q-tip in it.
I stared at it.
I had my blood drawn and was handed the paper cup. The man then took the cotton swab out of the tube and stood up.
This is exactly how it sounded to me:
Man: ‘Korean korean korean korean korean korean korean ANUS korean korean korean.’
Me: ‘I’m sorry…what?!’ (exactly what I said)
Man: ‘….Tip…’ (pointing to the tip of the cotton swab) ‘…anus….insert…tip…anus…’
….And then he did a demonstration over his clothing.
So, here I am, 10am on a Wednesday morning watching an old man demonstrate how to put a Q-tip in my ass while an old male security guard watches with a serious look on his face.
First thought: How am I gonna do this?
Second thought: I can’t wait to tell The Canadian One about this!
I wandered off to the bathroom and return
five ten minutes later, having walked across the floor of the health center with my pee in a paper cup and my tube of…Q-tip.
I was then deposited back to the reception area. I’m returning Tuesday to pick up my results…of what I don’t know.
As I work a public school, I knew I wouldn’t be reimbursed for the medical certificate costs and began to despair at the fact that now not only was I beginning to think I may have done the butt test incorrectly and would be called next week to redo it, I was also about to be out $135.
When it came to pay, I was charged 1,500won ($1.30).
Uh huh, ONE dollar and THIRTY cents.
I often wondered what I’d do to save myself a bit of cash, or rather save myself $133.70 in cash. But alas, now I have my answer:
I would happily swab my ass with a Q-tip…Oh come on, like you wouldn’t!