Welcome to Seoul - Now What's Your Temperature
My trip to South Korea started off with a bang. After flying from Cleveland to Atlanta, we took off for Seoul. 14 hours, a touch-screen personal TV (which, I must say, made the 14 hours a very pleasurable 14 hours. Ferris Bueller anyone?), one inflight medical emergency (of which I know nothing about besides they asked for doctors and that I couldn't help but wonder if our pilot too had died), and three "delicious" meals later, we were in Incheon. This city where Seoul's airport is located is about an hour away. They built the airport there so that it could be the jewel of the city. I was told they spent millions on the airport to give a great first impression. I must admit that while I was there I was quite exhausted and it just looked like an airport to me.
In addition to filling out the normal immigration forms in flight, I noticed one different from the rest, asking me about if I had coughed, sneezed or had a fever. Now of course the answer, even if I had cough (which I didn't) would be "No" to all of these. I figured that this was for the H1N1 or Swine Flu scare, and that would be the last I heard about that.
Right off the plane you were lined up and had your temperature taken with one of those ear thermometers that they use on babies. I was fine and got access to the airport. That process makes sense. Detain the sick ones before entering the country to prevent contamination. Nothing wrong with that. That's probably all I will hear about the Swine Flu.
After arriving at the university, immediately after getting my key I was told to go see the doctor sitting in a chair about 100 feet away. There I had my temperature taken again. Also I was given a chart and my own thermometer to fill in my own temperature as I take them every morning and evening for a week. "Ok," I think. "A little extravagent, yes, but if this is how their country wants to deal with it, alright."
But, not only are we required to take our temperatures and monitor our coughing and sneezing, on the first two days of classes we all also must wear breathing masks. When they handed them to me I almost started laughing at the picture in my head of 20 students sitting in a classroom looking like we just escaped from the ICU. I am bringing my camera that day.
They also cancelled our orientation and only gave us packets of papers, also to prevent the spread of the terrible flu. I am a little sad about this because orientation is where you meet people and ask questions. Where you learn about the area around you. But oh well. What can you do?
Maybe I am jaded in thinking that this is not a big deal. So few have died, and if you do contract it, resting and doing the normal "I am sick" routine will eventually bring you back around. It may also be because I have access to Tamiflu. :)