23
May

The Twilight Zone

The twilight zone-aka Korean hospital.

The biggest, most unforgettable, frustrating and surreal place I’ve been to since coming to Korea has to be the hospital at Jinju.

Poor Roberta, my fellow South African was admitted with pneumonia and Cara and I went down to stay with her overnight on the 16th. They have small beds on wheels about up to your shins that you can sleep on in the ward with the patient. Nice leather pillows too lol.

Before we venture into the twilight zone, let me just add the following disclaimer: Not all Korean hospitals are like this one, I’ve been to others and they are fine, not all Korean’s are like the ones we met there, most Koreans are lovely people I don’t hate Korea or Koreans just had a nice dip into a different culture whilst I was having a bad week. 

OK so I’m not a big fan of hospitals mainly because of the horrible disinfectant smell that you get in them. Well there was a distinct lack of this smell in Jinju. Why, yes that right cause there was none!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned before but one of the weirdest things I’ve seen since I’ve been here is how outside virtually every hospital you’ll see people attached to their IV stands, um yes IVs in their arms outside having a ciggie or worse at the chicken shop having a full on meal. Now I know why. Inside the hospital is an absolute zoo. They do serve meals but they aren’t that good and all the patients bring their own food anyway, hence the poor dudes outside at the chicken shops.

I don’t even know where to start…
Lowlights include:
*The red cross volunteer coming to cut an ICU patients hair in the middle of the ICU ward and leaving half the hairs behind. (I didn’t see this first hand, was passed on the information)
*Being subjected to the rotten kimchi smell that wafts from the open fridge.  So kimchi is fermented cabbage so think what rotten kimchi smells like…Um and our food smells???
*The cleaner mopping the floor and after she leaves it’s dirtier than before, lovely long dark hairs everywhere.
*People washing bodies, hair, underwear, faces, but not hands in the one bathroom for about four rooms.
*Having to pay 100won (10 US cents/62 SA cents) for 3 minutes of microwaving?!?

*Visitors mostly arriving at 10 or later in the evening, talking at the top of their voices and leaving around 11/11:30
*The TV being on constantly, from when the eyes are opened it’s on, full blast, regardless of if anyone is watching or not, until about 11:30. At one point when we were settling in for bed there was a TV drama on, it is not an exaggeration to say that all that was going on was the two characters screaming at each other.
*A Family Mart-corner/convenience store in the hospital??
*Being in the queue at said Family Mart behind an old man who has a tube in his throat so that he can breath properly. Yeah cause germs love to be around open wounds and shops.
*Everyone waking up at 5am, making a huge racket to all eat together-the collective-then about 2hrs later all, collectively going back to sleep.
*The shower toilet.

*Being in the ward from hell.  

So the ward poor Roberta was in was an old lady,(know as ajumas* in Korea) ward and had the bitterest, crankiest, rudest adjuma in the whole of Korea in it. When we moved Roberta from ICU to another ward (not that you can tell the difference) being shouted at for having smelly food, yeah strawberries, oranges and kiwis. 
They pretty much bossed us around the whole time.

Their pearls of wisdom included:
Don’t eat apples, they are a cold fruit and will make you colder?!?
Don’t breath deeply when you use the nebulizer, yeah cause you don’t actually want the good medicine in it to actually get into your lungs. When Roberta differed from the collectives way of breathing they called the nurse and told on her!!
Don’t close the curtains and allow Roberta to sleep during the day, cause it blocks the TV.
Don’t talk in the middle of the afternoon when everyone is awake.
What are you eating?
Why don’t you have any rice with your food? If you don’t have rice you won’t get better.
Why don’t you eat when the collective eats?

*Taken from Kimchi Soup about Adjuma-all are true:
Definition of AJUMA: An ajuma is a middle-aged Korean woman who has already had kids. It is said this woman needed seemingly supernatural powers to raise Korean children. Throughout Korea, there is an ongoing joke making fun of an ajuma’s super-powers, despite her unassuming figure. Basically, she could be an X-Men character.
Here are some ajuma facts:
-In Korea, there are three types of people – man, woman, and ajuma
-If there was a nuclear bomb that destroyed the entire planet, the only lifeforms to survive are cockroaches and ajuma
-If a seat becomes available in a crowded subway, an ajuma has the ability to dart to the seat like a lightning bolt

All in all it really was an eye-opener for me, just when I really thought I’d seen as much culture as I was going to see here, I get to experience this.

As I said before I don’t hate Korea or Koreans it was just so far from our western ‘free’ style. I’m appreciative of my own cultural and have learn a lot about Koreans too.