Friday, November 6, 2009


So, people have been asking me how Koreans are handling the H1N1 virus. (Or, HiNi, as my coworker innocently calls it.) Well Koreans are absolutely crazy over the H1N1 virus. Everyone is geeking out about who has it.

As many people might recognize from pictures of China or Japan, Asians wear face masks when they are sick. A big part of this (and I'm thankful for the masks) is because they do not cover their mouths! Grown adults will look at you and sneeze right on your face. (And they don't say bless you, or any equivalent here).

Andrew and I were out for for dinner at Outback Steakhouse the other night, and our waiter brought us a loaf of bread, then open-mouth coughed on it, and walked away. If we could speak better Korean we probably would have asked for a new loaf.

Apparently, about 1/2 of the public schools have closed down due to the virus. Most of our students come to school wearing masks. It is very hard to understand who is saying what in class when you can't see any one's mouths. Nor can you correct their pronunciation if you can't see how they are moving their lips.

As I've said before, our classrooms are under surveillance. A parent was watching one of Lainy's classes and then got mad that she wasn't wearing a face mask. The T.A. then came in and told her that the parent was insisting that she wear a face mask. How are we supposed to be able to teach pronunciation to kids when our mouths are muffled and we can barely breathe?

They are also taking every student's temperature before they go in to the classrooms. This is a little troubling for us to watch because they are ear thermometers, and they do not use a fresh piece every time. Everyone gets the same thermometer rammed in their ears... so if someone has a funky ear fungus, everyone gets to share it.

We are also supposed to go around with hand sanitizer at the start of every class. We have been doing this since the first day of classes, however sometimes we forget. One of my classes calls the sanitizer their "jelly friend". "Ooh, where is my jelly friend?" they will ask. Or if the sanitizer drips off their hands and falls on the floor, "ooh, jelly friend die."

There is something about Korean logic that is off. For example, Sean told us tonight that he got a call at 10pm from his school telling him that he needed to wear a mask to class the next day (at 7:30am). He didn't know where to find a mask in the middle of the night, so they told him they would provide a mask for him. When he got to school the next day, he asked where the mask was. (Keep in mind Sean has been here for 6 years) Their response? "Oh, you're Canadian, and there is no H1N1 in Canada. You don't need a mask."

All in all, we have a lot of kids out of our classes right now with the flu. Most of the staff is sick in one way or another. Andrew and I both have sinus congestion, headaches, stiff necks, and sore throats (but no fever!). I am really hoping that it doesn't progress too much further because the doctor we have gone to a few times is laparoscopic happy. About a month a go Andrew and I both were sick. Andrew went to the doctor and he put the laparoscope up each nostril and down his throat. Lainy lost her voice and he shoved the laparoscope down her throat. I went with an ear problem and he shoved the laparoscope in my ear. I'm really not wanting any more camera action any time soon!

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