From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


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Teacher’s Real Face

1One day, I walked in the classroom and found two of the girls in my elementary class wearing pink eyeliner which they made from clay.

“Wow, you girls look prettier today,” I said, trying so hard not to burst into laughter as the girls gingerly walked to their seats with their heads up, so that their clay eyeliner would not fall.

“Teacher, we wear eyeliner like you,” one of the girls, Mary, who was barely blinking, mouthed.

“I can see that, but mine is black and yours is pink.”

“Pink is pretty. I like pink.”

“I like pink, too, so sometimes I wear pink lipstick, but I have never worn pink eyeliner.”

“Sometimes teacher eyeliner is blue,” the other girl, Tiffany, was now putting back her clay eyeliner that fell as she was speaking. “Yesterday yesterday (the other day), teacher dress is blue, teacher eyeliner is blue.” 

I was flattered that these kids remember.

There is one boy in that class, and I didn’t want him to feel out of place with all the girlie talk, so I began asking the class about the weather and what day and date it was (which they all answered well), but to my surprise, the boy was also interested in eyeliners… not that he wants to wear make up, too, but he was obviously curious. In fact, he was the next one to mention eyeliner again just as we were about to start with our warm-up activity.

“Teacher, you have pink eyeliner?”

“No, Eugene, I don’t have a pink eyeliner. I use only black or blue.”

“Teacher, you buy pink eyeliner and next time wear.”

“Uhm, do you think I will look prettier with pink eyeliner?’

“I don’t know.”

I shouldn’t have asked Eugene that question. ^^

That time, the girls were busy putting back their clay eyeliner, which fell everytime they moved or spoke or giggled. Tiffany gave up, but Mary was persistent… and Eugene just would not let up interrogating me.

“Teacher, why you wear eyeliner?”

“I want to look prettier. Doesn’t your Mommy use eyeliner?”

“Sometimes.”

“I want teacher next time not wear eyeliner.”

“Why?”

“I want see teacher real face.”

Okay, an anvil just dropped on my head.

“But… this is my real face.”

Eugene and the girls took turns in skinning me alive with words.

“Next time teacher come here and wear no make up,” this time it’s Tiffany making the request.

“Sorry, guys, but I can’t do that. I never go to work without make up.”

“We want see teacher real face! Teacher real face! Teacher real face!”

Ugh, the kids were relentless!

“How about I just wear pink eyeliner next time I come to class?”

Of course I was kidding!

“No, teacher… we want see you not wear eyeliner.”

“No make up, teacher.”

“Only real face.”

“I told you, this is my real face. Do you think there is a monster beneath this make up?”

“No.”

“Does teacher wear too much make up?”

“No.”

“Okay, maybe next time I will wear less make up to make you happy. Shall we begin with our activity now?”

“Yes.”

Kids… ^^ (sigh)


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The Fugitives

A window-shopper from the hospital (At least she's not carrying an IV pole. ^^)

A window-shopper from the hospital (At least she’s not carrying an IV pole. ^^)

Clad in their hospital gowns, they can be seen moseying through the busy streets on Market Day, dining in a crowded restaurant or drinking in a 호프 (hof or bar) with friends, sometimes dragging their IV stands as if they are carrying a Prada bag with pride.

It is easy to spot them at the public parking garage or on a bench outside the hospital, smoking and chinwaging with other smokers, not giving a damn about other patients who went out of their room to get some fresh air. I call them THE FUGITIVES. You see, patients normally stay IN THE HOSPITAL and are allowed to go out as long as they are on the premises of the hospital where they are being cared for, but these patients I call fugitives are always itching to leave the hospital grounds. They don’t just leave; they paint the town red, more like they are on a hospital-holiday spree.

My husband was one of these fugitives. When he was confined for more than a month, he would escape from the hospital and spend the entire day at home. At first, I thought that he just missed me, so he kept coming to the house, but he would either be playing computer games or curl up on the sofa and watch TV for hours. At times, he would play pool with his buddies… in his hospital gown! Oh, and yes, he did the most dreadful thing a fugitive can do when he was admitted to the hospital for a minor accident… leave the hospital late at night to drink in a bar! He even attended a wedding a few hours away from the hospital! Good thing he traded his stylish hospital gown for a suit that day.

Hospital gown, check! IV, check!

Hospital gown, check! IV, check!

Fugitives are everywhere in Korea, and people who see them don’t seem to mind. I understand, hospitals can be boring… but wandering around town with your IV or drinking alcohol outside when you are being treated and cared for? C’mon!

I remember when my husband had a surgery in the Philippines, and he was confined for a week. He called the hospital a prison, the doctors the prison wardens. He couldn’t leave his room even when he could walk. He wasn’t allowed to smoke outside. The doctors kept reminding him to refrain from smoking and quit drinking, because his health problem is alcohol-related. When he had another surgery in Korea, none of his doctors told him to cut down smoking and stop drinking. He said that Koreans don’t like being told what to do, even by their doctors… unless it’s a matter of life and death. Could this be the reason why doctors in Korea are reluctant to tell their patients the “dont’s”? Could this be why the fugitives behave the way they do and get away with it? Well, there is no harm in enjoying a typical day outside even when you are sick, but should you really be wandering around town with that IV drip?

Could this “don’t-tell-me-what-to-do” mentality be the reason why a MERS-infectee from Korea flew out of the country on a business trip to China despite being advised by his doctor to wait and see if he was disease-free, thus causing panic among Chinese citizens?

Could this be the mentality that drove two Korean doctors under MERS quarantine to push through with their holiday trip to the Philippines without considering the possibility of spreading the virus if they were indeed infected?

Could this mentality be the reason why seeing an in-patient drinking in a bar or a hof like there is no tomorrow does not shock Koreans anymore, and not even one hospital staff would bother to remind patients who smoke at the entrance of a hospital that sharing their toxic smoke with visitors and other patients is illegal? Korea has imposed smoking bans in public places since 2013, including hospitals, but I guess the fugitives pictured below didn’t get a memo… or perhaps they just lack common sense and regard for others. 3

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