Ruby Ramblings

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.


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….

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.

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?

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…..