Wednesday, January 24, 2007

That's Mr. Kim to You

The next morning I am full blown diseased. I called the front desk about getting a doctor’s appointment.

“Hello, Mr. Kim, how can we help you today?” Why do they keep calling my Mister?

“Yes, I’d like to know how I can get a doctor’s appointment.”

“Oh, well sir, you may either have to go to the hospital b/c it will be difficult for a doctor to see you today. You may also want to try the International clinic.”

Did she just call me Mr. Kim and sir? I write down the number to the clinic and headed off to work. When I got to the office I looked at my paperwork they gave me before the trip. There it was- Mr. Tran Kim. They all expected some Korean dude from the Dallas office to show up and instead the got a Vietnamese girl. Surely, when I showed up at the hotel, they would change it? They thought I was a dude! Gah, how embarrassing!

I ate lunch with my fellow co-workers for some “authentic” Korean food. I was thrilled because so far I’ve had chicken fingers, Outback Steakhouse, a mystery burger, and some Chinese food to add to my list of Korean food experiences. We walked down a series of dark alleys and stopped in front of a house (and yes, Amy, Korea does smell like poo). Inside, we sat down on the floor and this old man came out and served up some thick white noodle soup. No menus. Just one dish and everyone ate the one single item. Even in my tasteless sick stupor, I had to admit, it was gross. I smiled and ate politely and wondered, “What if I didn’t want the soup?”

So I called the International clinic and made an appointment. My teachers were not happy with me leaving at a mere 8 hour day instead of the usual 10. Luckily for me, I did not care. I walked to the International Clinic and stared at the Christmas tree in the lobby. I wondered why a tree was still up on January 24th. I was worried about what kind of healthcare I was going to receive. The doctor seemed nice and asked a few questions (in English thank goodness.) He wrote up a prescription and sent me on my way to a pharmacy with some very complicated directions.

I wandered the streets of Seoul for nearly an hour trying to find the pharmacy. I mostly got blank stares and an occasional Moshi moshi when I asked for directions. I found 2 pharmacies and was turned away from both. Finally, I called the International clinic for help. The front desk lady seemed very angry with me for losing my way. After another 45 minutes I found the pharmacy. They had Russian women and an old guy buying Viagra- all courtesy of the International clinic.

Afterwards I asked the concierge at the hotel to tell a taxi to take me to Korean BBQ. I was in Korea now for 3 days and I was damn well going to get some good Korean food (if it existed).

Korean people do not eat alone in Korean restaurants, I quickly found out. I pretty much ate a feast for 2 people all by myself and put up with the funny stares from other tables. I drank my last beer before medication and ate from the 20 dishes they put on the table. There was kimchee, some seaweed, potato salad, and some other things I did not recognize along with my Korean style ribs. There was a little plate of garlic too. I watched the other people eat the garlic heartily. Maybe Korean garlic was different than American garlic? I popped a clove in my mouth and chewed it quickly. Immediately tears welled up on my eyes and I gagged. Nope, Korean garlic is the same as American garlic. UGH. I washed it down with a glass of beer and went back to the hotel thinking I probably made a terrible stomach mistake. Boy, was I right! I had a stomach ache the entire night.

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