Ruby Ramblings

Tamiflu Blues
May 26, 2009, 1:49 pm
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , ,

Maybe this is example training for us new teachers.  Those of us who have taught before know that if you don’t lay down the law the first couple of days, it is almost impossible to undo the damage.  That is exactly what has happened here.  The quarantine was completely unorganized when we first got here.  We were allowed to mingle in the common areas, use the computer consoles, roam freely with or without masks.  Then yesterday some new folks came in got strict about staying in the rooms all day, wear the mask, don’t use the public computers, absolutely no smoking, and STAY IN YOUR ROOM.  I’ve been content reading, searching the web, and chatting it up with my cool roomie, but this last rule has been extremely difficult for some of the folks, especially since the precedent had been set that we could socialize.

So to remedy this situation they’ve started to lie.  The doctor is now telling everyone that hanging out in sunlight and smoking cause the same symptoms as the flu.  So don’t do it.  I’m not sure I buy that one.

The next step in the quarantine drama is that they are forcing us all to take Tamiflu whether or not we are showing any symptoms.  People have objections to this for various reasons.  The Tamiflu website claims it can be used to prevent flu as well as treat it, but I would assume the website is also trying to sell as much tamilfu as possible.

Oh yea, and some of the people who had opted to start taking the Tamiflu yesterday have said it is making them feel worse (probably because they didn’t really have symptoms to begin with.)  Apparently side effects include diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue.  The people who were actually sick that took it said it made them feel 100% better.

They are now saying we are leaving on Tues. no matter what happens, unless someone is sick, which really isn’t ‘no matter what happens’, but well enough.  The hagwon says we will be teaching on Wed.  I wonder if anyone will be class?

Regular Scheduled Programming

Us Americans here just got a call from the American embassy. They let us know they are keeping tabs on us and are concerned about our situation.  They also that after we are out and all safe and sound, that they are going to commence a massive country wide campaign to educate about how viruses are spread and not to fear every foriegner that crosses your path. So that’s that.

I figured I might as well keep up with some of my regular blogging activities, since I have the time, and the inclination.

Teaser Tuesday Hosted by Should Be Reading

 Post two “teaser” sentences from what you are currently reading to get folks interested.

“Others subsequently thought that Krakatoa, or the more common local form Krakatau, derives essentially from one of three words, karta-karkata, karkataka, or rakata, which are the Sanskrit and, acoording to some, the Old Javan words meaning “lobster” or “crab.”

…rendering this story less credible; though perhaps rather more credible than the notion, briefly popular in Batavia, that an Indian ship’s captain had asked a local boatman what name was given to the pointed mountain he could see, prompting the local to reply, kaga tau, meaning ‘I don’t know.’ ”

From Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester

In a quarantine facility somewhere between Incheon and Seoul, South Korea. How often am I going to get to say that?! (Well hopefully not too much more often.)

Pizza Loves Women?
May 26, 2009, 5:50 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel

On a lighter note, lunch.

What is this about Mr. Pizza loves Women?

Love for Women Mr. Pizza

Love for Women Mr. Pizza

Some proof that the embassy knows about us, and that it was even the Korean government that gave them the list of names:

Our son is among those quarantined. Before he left for Korea, he received no warning from the US Govt not to go.
When we hadn’t heard from him in 2 days, we called the US Embassy in Seoul Sunday night (Monday afternoon Seoul time) and the Duty Officer was very helpful. She seemed to have some knowledge of the facility (dorm-style, no individual phones, sporadic internet access) and had a list of names of those who were there, which they had received from the Korean government.

Found in the comments section along with other good information on this post His new post has some interesting information and foreshadowing for how this is going to spin out.

Another “warning against foriegners” account on Staypuff.

New News
May 26, 2009, 4:04 am
Filed under: Politics, South Korea Quarantine, Travel

New Korean Herald Story

{Okay back track – I’m sure we’re receiving mixed, misleading, or sometimes untruthful information.} I’m what the source is for saying that 14 people tested positive. We were told that everyone here that was tested is negative, although they may have tested positive for cold viruses, and a possible flu virus that is NOT H1N1. Also except for the first couple of people, the people being held in isolation at the hospital are largely negative. Of course we may not have the correct information here, I don’t know. It just seems the article is targeting teachers a little bit, when absolutly anyone on that flight could have brought it over. The information we’ve ben led to believe is that the point of origin was not on the ground in the US, but on a certain flight. Sparkling Chaos comments on this on his own quarantine blog. (oh dear, I just looked at his blog again and it looks like he’s come down with it).

Again, I’m just wondering what ramifications this going to have for teachers all over the country.

There have been helecopters circiling the building all day. I don’t know if it’s just because we’re close to Incheon and it’s airport or military base stuff, but this is the first day I’ve noticed them. It’s easy to notice stuff when all you have to do is look out the window and obsess about blogging.

So if all new teachers from the states need to be quarantined for seven days, does that mean tourists or folks visiting family members won’t be allowed in at all (presuming most people only go on vacation for a week or two at a time) ?

Clarification: A (somewhat) minor point that seems to be misconstrued in the media is that we all “stayed” together. We all stayed at the same hotel, but with no more than one other person in our room. It’s not like we were hanging out after hours, cooking together, or in any way “living” together for the training week.

Feelings of another Blogger in Quarantine.

A morning of…
May 26, 2009, 3:49 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , ,

… Got up late. Started Harry Potter six. I avoided reading those for so long, but it is really good feeling-like-you’re-not-where-you-should-be-reading. They brought us ham and cheese sandwiches from Paris Baguette and tiny bottles of juice for breakfast. Pretty good, but I’d trade my favorite magazine, or a book (sorry I don’t have cigarettes to barter with) for a coffee. Possibly even an instant one. Took a shower. Enjoyed the view.

They are apparenlty bringing new people here. Someone new just posted on the e-mail group we have between us that he just got here yesterday. Welcome! They’ve been put in their own room.

The people taking our temp. twice a day have all of a sudden started wearing loose plastic gloves, and they are finally changing the tip on the thermometer with little plastic covers like some people had mentioned. It went from doing nothing in between sticking them in everyone’s ears, to wiping it down with alcohol, to now changing the little cover. From the events of the last 24 hours it seems that someone with a little more experience in running an effective quarantine has stepped in.

People are starting to wonder if everytime an American teacher catches the sniffles they are going to be put under house arrest. Actually most of us in here are wondering if we are even going to be able to stay in the country. That might be paranoia and exaggeration, but it’s still on people’s minds.

Reading a free online of version of Funny in Farsi. You can get it here.

Another point of conversation is how being singled out as a nationality is unfortunatly still how the world works. Here is an interview with Paul Schama and Bill Moyers. Watch Part II of the interview.

Meanwhile the highlight of the day is mealtimes. Can we make requests for coffee?

Winds of Change
May 25, 2009, 8:37 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel

So there has been a complete change in game plan.

We have been told all of the folks sent to the hospital this week have tested NEGATIVE for H1N1. We are all happy that everyone is healthy and that the symptoms were any combination of side effects from moving to a new country and not swine flu.

In spite of that, we are all being put into solitary confinement, and will only be allowed to leave our rooms to go to the bathroom. They have announced they will be posting guards in the hallways, and anyone caught outside for an unreasonable amount of time will have to start their quarantine over.

The duration now is seven days from today. I’m one of the lucky ones that a) I have a laptop and the internet works in my room and b) I get to stay with my roommate as there are only two of us and niether of us is showing symptoms. (Some of the rooms have up to four people in them, but they will all be slpit up. Several people do not have their own computers or cell phones, so will have no way to keep in contact with people.)

The questions being raised by several of the folks in the quaranine are as follows:
1. We were supposed to be quarantined seven days from the last day we had contact with the positive person.
2. That person was removed from training the very first day and put in the hospital and treated. We’ve heard she’s doing great.
3. That was seven days ago. So technically none of us has had contact with a positive person in seven days and no one here is showing elevated temp. or major symptoms.
4. So why do we have to do another full seven days, with ramped up security and even more isolation? (Never mind the poor folks who are under house arrest).

I can unerstand another couple of days for show and just to make absolutely sure, but seven full days in isolation in small, really hot rooms? Of course we as quarantine folks don’t have all the details, and the goal is to not get anyone sick, but when does something just get way out of hand?

I had deleted the post I put this story in, but now I think it is really relevant. I do not put this in to cause heresay or panic, but I think it has become important:

J. got his test results from the hospital by phone: the spots were left from a harmless fungal infection. (yeah!) He called the hospital to tell the nurse he couldn’t come in for his appointment, and she told him that the hospital had not been informed that we were here, or what had happened to us. She had noticed that a couple of the girls were sick in our group, but they had not been told by the school or by the government agency keeping us that it was a possible swine flu breakout.

If we are such a public threat that we have to be held for another seven days even after eight people testing negative, shouldn’t the hospital we spent an afternoon at with a very nice nurse who helped almost all of us be informed?

I bring these points up to start a dialog about consistency and how this is going to effect foreigners working in Korea in the future, not to complain or start rumors.

Update: I just saw this in the comments thread of RJKeohler’s Blog:

A friend of mine who works for EPIK got an email this afternoon saying:

“This is to let you know that ALL foreign teachers who enter the country after May 11, 2009 are required to do a home quarantine for 7 days before returning to school.

During the quarantine, you are required to stay home and wear a mask if leaving the house temporarily to run errands such as grocery shopping. At the end of the 7 day quarantine, you must visit a public health clinic for a final checkup.”

Another blog with interesting commentary.

Ripple Effect
May 25, 2009, 7:23 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel

Kimchi Ice-Cream just sent me a link to another blog that really should be looked at. Also Kimchi has some great information about H1N1, treatment, world health guidelines and so forth.

Quote from above blog:

Her: “Joy! Do you have the H1?”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
Her: “The pig virus, do you have any symptoms?”
Me: “No.” (serious and confused look)
Me: “Why?”
Her: “Somebody is asking, there are some cases.”
And she proceeded to tell them something on the phone and then we continued class.

The above teacher has nothing, nothing at all to do with any of the people in quarantine. They don’t work at the same school, they have never met any of us, for all I know they are not even in the same city as any of the teacher’s from the quarantine.

When I thought there was an overreation to our group being rounded up and bused back to a central quarantine, I have a feeling it will be nothing compared to the discrimination that is coming. One thing that has been pointed out over and over is that his could have happened anywhere. We have yet to see if taking care of patients and potential patients is going to be done with education, or with discrimination and fear.

I think teachers who run into this kind of situation should post about it so that we know how far reaching it is really getting. Those of us in quarantine really only know what is happening in here. A couple of people have blogged or e-mailed to me that they are seriously reconsidering taking visits to the states or Canada because of complications getting back in. Hopefully because of the precations taken with our group, it won’t affect the rest of the instructors around the country like that.

May 25, 2009, 4:07 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel

Just to answer a few questions and make a few clarifications:

When I mentioned that blood was drawn, that was during our training period for the mandatory medical exam, not as part of the quarantine.

They sprayed all our rooms, hallways, bathrooms, with chemicals today. Although they said the chemicals may cause coughing, which is the main symptom they are looking for when deciding to put people in individual quarantine.

The staff has been really helpful with getting us food that appeals to our western taste, providing hot water for tea, and bottled water. We’re really comfortable (well, except maybe the smokers).

Kimchi Ice Cream to answer one of the questions on your blog, there has been very little face mask protocol. They are having a hard time just getting people to wear them, never mind following things like washing before taking them on or off. We’ve all had the same face masks on for days (although there are some others available somewhere). Some people really want to get sick so that they can go the hospital and just get the whole proces over with, some people really don’t think they will/can get sick, mostly people are in a good/positive mood and I just don’t think there is a huge sense of urgency.

I think the point was not so much to isolate us from each other, unless someone gets really sick, but to keep us isolated from the general public. We had already had so much interaction with each other it would be pretty irrelevant. The one thing I am confused about is why none of the staff of the training center, or the trainers that were the classrooms with us were required to come here. There is speculation that they were trusted with monitering their own home quarantine. (We just got word that all the adminstrators, trainors, and other people that came in contact are under house quarantine.)

Although two people have tried to get out (not seriously to run away, but as a joke), one was on accident. Apparenlty one young man went out to sneak a smoke, and the door to the fire escape locked behind him. He then tried to scale the side of the building to get back in a window, and then fell through what he thought was a roof top of a smaller building, but was actually just a canvas tarp. He was taken to the hospital for minor scraps and bumps, but then brought back here. There is a rumor that the nurse at the hospital touched his open arm wound with her bare hand.

They just informed us that they are bringing our text books so that we can prepare for our classes for when we get out of here. I guess that means they probably aren’t going to deport us?

I would also like to clarify that everything I post on here is my opinion and observation and not that of the group. There may be people with very different perspectives from mine. I had started blogging about this to keep my family informed, but it seems to have drawn a bit more attention, and is in no way meant to be taken as factual news. Most of what we are experiencing here is heresay and rumor anyway. Especially given that we have been informed that it is Korean culture to keep patients out of the loop until absolutly necessary.

The Saga Continues…..
May 25, 2009, 1:19 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , ,

…. And starts over.

Every day a person comes down sick, our nine days of lockdown starts over again. If they keep brining in new people, a person who doesn’t get sick could be here indefinitely. If you have a natural immunity, or alread had a flu at some point and aren’t as suseptable, and they keep bringing new people in, we could be here forever. The best way to get out is to either get sick or fake getting sick, do your nine days of solitary confinement in a hospital, and be on your merry way.

Of course now all the rumors are flying about whether we are going to have jobs after this, whether parents are going to start pulling students out of schools, and the biggest one of all – a rumor that every American instructor coming over will be placed in quarantine before being allowed to continue to their posts.

One of the instructors here tried to get in touch with the embassy just to make sure they knew we were being held. The care is fine, they just thought that, in case the Korean government hadn’t told them, that they might want to be made aware. Here is the post of their conversaion.

Apparenlty they don’t care.

It’s only day two and things are getting pretty stinky around here. Our trash is considered bio-hazard and they haven’t found a company qualified to come take it away yet, so the usual efficient Korean recycling system has gone out of the window, and stinking bags of trash are in every corner (all the food they bring us comes in extensive packaging materials, so that is why the garbage is accumilating so quickly.)

So we are officially still nine days away from starting work, or getting deported. Oh, and they’ve declared that anyone who smokes is not allowed, which has caused a huge uproar amoung a bunch of people who are already stressed out. I’m not a huge fan of smoking, but now doesn’t seem to be the time to make a fuss about it.

Oh yea, and we ran out of coffee.

The thing that makes this all pointless, is that we are allowed to socialize, which is great for our mental well-being, but not really a quarantine. Plus they use the same thermometer to take our temps. twice a day, barely cleaning it with an alcohol swap and not giving it time to dry.

When we all had to get our blood drawn together at the hospital, none of the nurses wore gloves, and one was even caught wiping a blood drip of one guy’s arm with her bare hand.

Needless to say, this is making it really hard for all of us to take this seriously and follow what appears to be fairly arbitrary rules. We’ve been told we’re getting moved again, that they can’t hold us here because this isn’t what this building is intended for.

A couple of the people that tested positive for “a flu virus”, not necessarily swine flu, got sick and got over it within a twelve hour period. This hardly seems “deadly disease” some folks were accused of having two days ago. I can understand them not wanting even a regular flu virus to get out to the public, as it interferes with general life and is dangerous to people who are already sick, but it’s really hard not to view this whole situation as a huge overreaction.

Since I’m just making lists in my head of points I wanted to make to you now, I think I’ll just close for now and continue later when I’ve formulated a better story…..

Tales from the Crypt(ic land of no communication)
May 24, 2009, 6:25 am
Filed under: South Korea Quarantine, Travel | Tags: , , , ,


This is my view for the next nine days. The pink hue is either from the batteries in my camara dying, or the ionic biosphere they have constructed to contain our highly deadly western dragon breath.

To answer some of the questions I’ve received on comments and in personal e-mails.

1. I absolutely believe this is at least partially (if not mostly) a power grab. The first thing the head adminstrator said when we arrived at the quarantine facility was that they have not tried a quarantine of this scale before, and that “Japan and America have both failed at containing the flu virus. We are going to prove that we will not fail, but succeed at this.” My fear is that they are going to make a habit of quaranting every new group of teachers that comes across border just for the hell of it.

2. As to my being sick or not: I was feeling really sick on Friday, but not in a flu-like way. I believe it was a combination of pure exhaustion from the training, and from my apparent strong allergy to the “yellow dust” everyone talks about. Everytime I step outside I immedietly start sneezing, coughing, get congested, and feel tired, but when I go back inside, it clears up within a half hour. Especially since my temp. doesn’t change, I seem to have demonstrated enough of a dog and pony show to the nurses this morning to prove that I don’t need to be put in private isolation as some poor souls have been.

In some ways it has been a relief after last week to just get to sleep and read. I spent the morning: drinking instant coffee, reading Harry Potter, went back to sleep for three hours, hung out with J., read Harry Potter, drank some tea, went back to sleep, and now I’m writing to you.

I think that may be a pretty sad statement to the school training that many people here is relieved to be in lockdown as opposed to having to start work after how hellish last week was. Several people are afraid to start their jobs because they are afraid of the critism and energy output if it is anything like what we just went though. That’s what we get for picking the highest paying company instead of the one that looked like it suited our personalities best.

The worst part about all of this is how woefully misinformed the Korean public and officials seem to be about how dangerous H1N1 really is or how to handle the situation. I think the biggest problem with the virus is more that it spreads so quickly. Areas want to make sure to keep up with treatment supplies, not that it is necessarily deadly or untreatable. One of the teachers had already been sent to his placement in Busan, which is at least 4 hours by train. He arrived at midnight on Friday, and was woken up early Sat. morning by a woman wearing a facemask in an absolute panic who told him he “was infected with a very deadly disease” and that he must leave for Seoul immediatly. First of all, there is no proof that he was ever in contact with any of the sick people, and second of all, telling someone they are going to die is not a good way to deal with kind of situation.

He was then rushed by ambulance, with the siren on almost the whole way, from Busan to Incheon (where we are all being held), and told several times that he had a deadly disease. But of course when he got here they treated him like the rest of us: took his temperature, told him to wear a facemask when around other people, and, by the way, have a nice stay.

Today they declared that we all have “supresed symptoms of the virus.” They have absolutly no proof of that, a lot of the people here had no contact with the sick people, and may not have anything at all. Some of the folks aren’t even supposed to be here. There were a group of people that got to the hotel for NEXT week’s training, that got caught up and told by the school they had to go into quarantine as well, even though they had never met any of us. They were told by the nurses this morning that {the school} was wrong, they hadn’t had exposure so there was no need for them to come, but now that they are here, they may have been exposed and can’t leave. Classic Korean misinformation.

So we are here for at least nine days, although, as you can see, they wireless internet for us. We are quite comfortable despite the food we are not really used to and the lack of shower stalls (I guess it’s supposed to be bathhouse style where everyone just gets naked?). But other than that it’s like a stay at a really, really boring camp.


Somehow, I wouldn’t be surprised if any officials saw me taking these pictures if someone wouldn’t try to come and confiscate my camera.