Ruby Ramblings

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…..

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.