Ruby Ramblings

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.


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.

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?

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.