Ruby Ramblings

Quirky Nomads
August 15, 2009, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Korea, South Korea Quarantine, Travel

Unless you teach at one of the S. Korean schools that is mandating quarantine for everyone who leaves the country, you probably thought you were done hearing about “the Quarantine.”

Sage Tyrtle from the Canadian podcast Quirky Nomads contacted me about doing an interview and I had a great time talking with her about our time in the swine flu madness lockdown.  As much as it was up and down while in it, everyone was right, it does make an interesting story to tell.

I think her hook-line for the story is fantastic: “When Shanna Underwood of Ruby Ramblings and her friend Jim were laid off at the same time, they decided to go to Korea and work as English teachers for a year. A week after arriving, Shanna was woken up at four in the morning by a knock at her hotel room door.”

Quirky Nomads has a lending group on Kiva if anyone is interested.

Swine Flu Craze Ain’t Over Yet!
June 17, 2009, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Korea, South Korea Quarantine, Travel

It seems the H1N1 virus is being brought back into the spotlight.  WHO announced it is a “pandemic.”  I suppose the common cold is pandemic, but does anyone care?  This may be a little more serious than that, but given what I saw in the quarantine with people getting over it in a matter of hours, not that much more for people with decent health.

I’ve received a couple of e-mails from folks about continued concern from schools.  One said her school is requiring her to undergo a nine day quarantine after she returns from a trip to the US in July. 

Another said that her school is having a break, and all foriegn teachers are being asked to come home from their vacations 10 days early in order to insure they are not sick.  Take ten days out of their once a year trip to visit old friends, family, deal with paperwork from home, and stock up on favorite supplies.  Not take ten days out of a full school year, but ten days out of precious vacation time.  None of the Korean teachers got the same memo.  She said they have agreed not to come home early amoungst themselves, and the school can take it or leave it.

On another note, I witnessed for the first time the use of corporal punishment.  A math teacher borrowing one of the rooms from our school had kids lined up and was giving them wacks across the butt or hands.  It was pretty scary.  I went to one of our Korean teachers and asked since our school is very strict on not using corporal punishment, if we could demand that teacher not use it as well when in our building.  She said not really. 

I thought this had been made illegal this year!?  (Another side note to home that it is unbelievable that hitting kids in school has only been illegal here since January.)  I almost said something to the teacher myself, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t speak any English, and I’m sure calling out another teacher in front of students would probably get me fired.

We’re free, and confused.
May 31, 2009, 9:38 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel


All the people, the flashing lights, the signs! What do I do?

We’ve been relased from quarantine and sent to either our locations, or various hotels around the city. There is a rumor that no hotel will take more than six foriegners at a time right now. I haven’t really heard at all what I’m doing, so I’m enjoying catching up with MSNBC on some American politics. I ventured out with a group, but couldn’t stand both the influence of “group think” and the hustle of it all. I guess I need a couple of days to reacclimate to the real world.

Jim rescued a small child whose head had gotten stuck in a fence. The mom was very grateful, maybe she will tell everyone we are not just flu infested pigs.

Talked briefly with a nice old man who lived briefly in Los Angeles. He gave me the most jubilent Welcome to Korea I’ve received yet.



Ahhh, the issue of the day

My dear, dear Colleagues,

There was a time in college, oh so long ago for myself, when I lived very briefly in the dorms. My inability to contain myself from hurling insults when I’m asleep, besides being a sign of some anger management issues I haven’t dealt with when I’m awake, made me quite unpopular amongst my late night peers.

That was a college dorm. This is a quarantine facility that I would like to get out of with both my health and my reputation as a professional English instructor intact. 

Apparently there are a group of folks in here who do not feel the same way.


The next time I am woken up by the sound of excess alcohol being forced out of someone’s esophagus, I will not be so kind as to inquire if someone has food poisoning. Although my demeanor is generally mild, I have brought grown men to tears on more than one occasion.

Although I am sure this opinion will not make me popular here, I want to remind everyone acting in this manner, that this is not club med, a vacation, or a 24-hour dance club on Ibiza.

You will have plenty of time to imbibe in the local drink of choice when you are out in our new country of residence acting as an ambassador of culture. There will be plenty of time to show your true colors after you are placed in a professional, paid position. Your true personality can shine while you are acting in responsibility of other people’s children.

If you don’t think that teachers’ reputations are a big deal in this country, try perusing a few blogs, or maybe just check this one post out.

For the people who delivered the alcohol that started last night’s party: please don’t. I know you are trying to make our stay here more pleasant, but it really just causes more complications. I’ll gladly join a few folks for a drink after we get out of this, which, at present, is a little ambiguous as to when that is going to be.

Mis.Adventure Esquire

China following the lead – Westeners in Quarantine
May 28, 2009, 7:42 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , ,

Why do they make headline news? We were quarantined first. Sniff, Sniff.
May 26th:
24 Americans quarantined in China

Same story in ChinaView

I guess we weren’t the first, these articles and video are from May 5th……
ABC News – 1st American to die (showed many health factors besides the flu) and Americans under quarantine in China.

USA Today – a measly four Americans in Quarantine in China, they’ve got nothing on us.

Seriously though, I hope everyone is fine and gets to go on their merry ways soon.

Even NBC!

May 3rd:

Some Mexicans quarantined just for having a Mexican passport, regardless of where they had been staying previously.

Update for those of us in the South Korean quarantine.
We received this e-mail from the American Embassy today:

I’m certain that your biggest question is when you will be released, and the answer we received is probably the same that you have already heard: seven days after contact with a person who has contracted the virus. That means that some people could possibly be released as early as Monday, but if other cases arise, it could be several more days until you are released. The Ministry of Health says it uses international guidelines favored by most countries and followed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

I’m hoping this doesn’t change our exit date, although it makes it sound like we may be here seven days past when the last person was sent to the hospital, which was yesterday. That may not be the case, it’s just me making worse case speculations. I stick by my observation that people who are the healthiest are actually going to end up spending the longest time in quarantine.

Another blog recounting a story of foriegn/Korean interaction about the flu.


Regular Programming: Thursday Thirteen
May 28, 2009, 4:14 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags:

This is a regular meme I participate in. As nothing new has really happened today, people are laying low, hanging out in their rooms, this post is more for that community then to add anything new to the discussion.




1. I am currently undergoing quarantine in South Korea for possible exposure to the swine flu. The saga begins here. It’s probably easiest if you click on “May” under archives and browse the month if you are interested in all the posts.

2. My belief is that S.K. was not prepared (or was in denial) that a quarantine would ever be necessary. Although everyone has treated us great and as been really nice, the circus of the first few days proved that this was not expected/prepared for.

3. The upside of that is that this is all taken care of by the Korean government. If this were the US we’d probably be handed a bill with our food and medication expenses at the end of the quarantine.

4. I’ve never been in a quarantine before, the positive aspect is that it has been really nice to decompress and have time to think after our whirlwind training.

5. We’ve got a great view of some mountains.

6. Although the jokes have been going around about the belief that kimchi cures everything, Korean food is much healthier than the western counterparts here. kimbap as opposed to pizza, McDonalds, or bacon-alfredo-spaghetti. I’ve lost 2 kg since we’ve been here.

7. So far all I’ve seen of Korea has been inside things. The inside of my hotel, the inside of the training facility, the inside of the subway, and now the inside of the quarantine. There will be an overeager American gawking at all things interesting soon.

8. Got to meet Supertalya from afar, and hope to meet Bybee soon. Book clubs await.

9. Would like to go to a teahouse.

10. Books I’ve read/am reading since I’ve been in quarantine: The Magician’s Assistantby Ann Patchett (of Tennessee), Krakatoa (P.S.)by everyone’s favorite travel journalist Simon Winchester, and Harry Potter 5 and 6

11. The last I heard there were 27 confirmed cases in South Korea. It seems even Australia is getting hit with 16 cases so far.

12. Symptoms and sickness are a little out of order with what needs to be done. It seems that several people in our group weren’t taken to the hospital until after they had gotten sick, and already gotten better. People would come down with syptoms, be given Tamiflu and a swab to test them for the virus, and then two or three days later after they weren’t sick anymore, they get a positive test result back and get sent to the hospital, held for a couple of days, and then released. Those of us who don’t get sick, actually spend the most amount of time in quarantine.

13. I think we’ll all be seeing a lot of this photo. So how did you get the swine flu?

boy licking pig

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

Quarantine in South Korea Video
May 28, 2009, 1:28 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , ,

When Roboseyocame to visit yesterday he took some photos and video of us up on the balcony. It doesn’t look like it posted to my comments, so I thought I would re-post it here. Go to his blog to see a video on how Kimchi cures anything!

If you can’t see the embedded video here is the direct link.

Got a little yogurt for breakfast. One of my personal favorite foods. Changing it up a little. Helicopters outside like made today….

Yeah! Visitors!
May 27, 2009, 12:11 pm
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags:

One of the things that was getting me down about being in here is that there were a few simple things I wanted to do in Korea. Stay at a temple. Meet my two bookcrossing friends who also teach here. Well SuperTalya came through we goodies, hand sanitizer, and a BOX OF MY BOOKS that she had so kindly let me ship to her house before I arrived.

She and a couple of other folks came to visit us, which was so uplifting. Even if it was looking down from a balcony trying to enunciate through a mask, it was good. Roboseyo came to visit, Ben the lawyer, and I believe someone else from the hagwon.

Another Day Down in the South Korean Quarantine
May 27, 2009, 11:00 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , ,


Today was a day of positive movement. The air-conditioning got fixed. (YEAH!) We got new masks, and a nice doctor who is fluent in English came around and handed out information on H1N1 and asked if we had any questions.

My roomie and I had an interesting dinner experience. They have been bringing menus from Korean restaurants around for us to order from the pictures, since most of us haven’t been here long enough to be familiar with Korean food. J. said he was told western restaurants are too dirty so he should only eat Korean food. This may be true, I don’t have enough experience to know.

My roommate and I coincidentally ordered the same thing. The nice helpful ladies who come to take our food orders seemed a little hesitant and I think may have been trying to sway me to something else. In the picture it looked like fresh meat and vegetables with rice and some soup on the side. What came looked like fried intestines with a soup the consistency of duck sauce with some really slimy seaweed in it. All in all it wasn’t bad, we were feeling adventurous. But the funny part was that they only brought us the plate and bowl that had the fried stuff and duck sauce soup in it, and two pairs of chopsticks. After being told continually that we need to WEAR OUR MASKS and STAY AWAY FROM EACH OTHER even in our rooms, it was apparently okay to share a plate. I love to share food, I think it’s the best sign of friendship. But maybe another time.

I had to find our amazing translator (one of the fellow quarantine-ees who is multi-lingual and got handed the job of translating, making all announcements, and generally keeping us all sane), and ask for another set of plates and bowls.

Good thing I did because tonight I appear to have a significantly raised temperature, although otherwise I feel great. I’ve been hovering around 36 C and then yesterday I dropped down to 34 and tonight I’m at 39.4. Maybe there’s a dip before the rise? Maybe sitting with the laptop on my lap all day raised my temp?

I know that some people are having a hard time with their hagwons, but I wanted to point out that ours is being amazingly supportive. They have reassured us we are not getting deported, not loosing our jobs, and have sent a representative to be a communicator inside the building. One of my trainers has been e-mailing and keeping in touch to check up on us. I feel like they are really involved in our well being and making sure after this is over that we can get on with what we came here for – to teach and enjoy living in Korea. They also sent a bunch of supplies today from books, to snacks, to new toothbrushes, all the stuff we need to make it through the next, gulp, week.

Running Amuck
May 27, 2009, 2:37 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

Well actually, it’s almost afternoon.  The positive side is that it is a gorgeous day, and fortunately since none of our air conditioners work in our rooms, there is a gorgeous breeze.

I want to thank all the blogs that have been posting about the flu, because we aren’t getting much information inside the quarantine. I’ve learned a lot from everyone and it’s helped me keep some perspective.  Thanks to Kimchi Ice Cream for getting me thinking really early on about the importance of this and how it affecting the whole country, and not just those of us in here.

Therein lies the problems we are having today. The group of us still in quarantine has split into two factions. The group itself is dwindling because for obvious reasons of inconsistency, method, and control, the quarantine has not worked for us on the inside and people are getting taken to the hospital every day. 1)Those of us who did some research and thinking, realized this problem is bigger than our own comfort and needs and have at least attempted to follow the ever-changing directions, and 2) those that decided they get to call the shots and have been hanging out in groups, not following any protocols, and acting like they are at a hotel on Phuket.

Not to be too harsh on anyone reading this who is here, but my roommate and I were kept up until 3am by wafts of cigarette smoke and chatter coming from the balcony.

One of the problems is inconsistency with punishment. J., my partner, is on the floor below me, a definite cigarette addict, and has stayed in his room and tried really hard to follow the no smoking rule by only having three cigarettes all day yesterday. A drastic reduction for him. He was yelled at extensively all three times. Meanwhile, there are a group of people who have been sunbathing, smoking, and generally running around who no one appears to have spoken to at all. One person even had five packs of cigarettes delivered by someone on the outside, without so much as a raised eyebrow. It seems they yell at the ones who are trying to comply, and are too intimidated by the loud ones to say anything to them. (Something that was just pointed out to me by someone else is that the people who have been running around and not getting talked to, and even getting praised for their behavior right after smoking, are Korean or half-Korean. I can’t vouch for that since I haven’t been out in the common area, but that’s what I was just told by someone staying on another floor. Take it or leave it.)

All in all, I would say the quarantine isn’t really working, for many reasons, and it appears the best way to get out of here is to get sick and sent to the hospital. Part of it is complete non-compliance from some of the people, and some of it is hygenic basics like not restocking the paper towels in the ladies room for a day and a half. I am under the impression that wet hands is one of the best ways to spread germs, especially if everyone is touching the same door handle. After 1 1/2 days of no paper towels, I raided some closets and found some.

So the voice over the intercom this morning expressed their sincere disappointment in us as a group, and has demanded we stay in our rooms, wear our face masks at all times, and take better direction. Honestly, even though I’m griping about non-compliance, I’m not going to wear my mask in my room. It’s really uncomfortable, fogs up my glasses (which I assume means it doesn’t fit right), and they’ve given us single use masks to wear for days at a time. Honestly I think they are just for show.

Sorry to be so negative on my first post of the day, but that is the chronicle of events. Thank you for your e-mails and comments, they are much appreciated, and keep me thinking.

This quote sums up what I’ve been reading and hearing from a lot of folks.
From Gusts of Popular Feeling:

Considering I’ve been told in the last week that ‘Koreans aren’t catching the swine flu because they eat kimchi,’ and considering the misunderstanding of the disease (helped along by the media) that it’s a foreign virus, and considering the way this is playing on xenophobic attitudes that die hard, I can’t help but see the similarity to the belief held by some a year ago that because of a misunderstanding of the science, media disinformation, xenophobia, and a belief that Koreans were ‘special’ (genetically) and therefore more susceptible, mad cow disease was going to ravage the Korean peninsula.

On a completely separate note I saw the most awful thing on an internet advertisement today. The top of the page had a giant flashing banner that said “You’ve won a free visa to live and work in the USA!!!!!” I’m didn’t click on it, but I’m sure it’s some way to scam money of people’s dreams.