A Visit to the Doctor’s Office in Rural South Korea

Things are looking up since the last post guys. I took a shot in the side of my ass a few days ago, and I’m feeling hopeful. That’s right, a shot in the ass. No joke. Let me explain.

I went to work Tuesday with what little energy I had, sneaking in naps at my desk when no one was looking and trying not to hack up a lung while coughing. I’ve been teaching for a few minutes in each class and showing a video for the majority of the class period so that I can refrain from using my already hoarse voice. I was beyond relieved when the clock struck 4:30pm but just as I was packing up my things to go home, my co-teacher turned to me and asked me if I was okay. I had been coughing right next to her for days now, so I was surprised that she suddenly became interested in my health.

I honestly think the only reason my main co-teacher started to show concern for me is because she was paranoid about looking bad in front of her colleagues. Moments before she asked me this, one of my other co-teachers came down to talk to me asking me if I felt okay, because she heard me coughing, Whatever it was that influenced her sudden concern,  I’m grateful because she finally offered to take me to the doctor immediately after school.

I asked her many times before about where to go if I ever need a doctor and she failed to provide a solid answer for months now. In our recent texts exchange last month, she even said she would send me a map but that never happened. I had always assumed that most Koreans go to the hospital whenever they get sick, but on this afternoon she led me to a small clinic instead.

I was surprised when she took me to the small alley street right down the street from my apartment. We walked up a short flight of stairs into the entrance of the clinic. As she was checking in with the front desk, I looked around and noticed a few patients in the waiting room with their eyes glued to the flat screen TV mounted to the wall. There was even a kid’s play area in the corner with only one kid. This place reminded me a lot of the Health Department Clinic back home, which put me at ease.


My co-teacher speaking to the lady at the clinic for me.


Kid’s play room.

After her few brief exchanges with the lady at the desk, she walked me over to the waiting area and told me it would be a few minutes. I was dreading the awkward waiting time of sitting next to her more so than whatever was to come. There’s always been this awkward tension between her and I that hasn’t gone away since the first day I met her. But there we sat waiting.


The waiting area of the clinic.

I finally broke the silence by asking her if this is the place where I would go every time I got sick and she answered yes. Then, I asked if I were to come here alone, would they understand me? She laughed and she said “No, you had better come with me if you are ever sick. Unless, you have the same symptoms as you do now.”

Her response offered me no solace, but I appreciated her honesty. For a few more moments, we sat watching a grasshopper eat another insect to pieces on the TV screen. Then she turned to me and said, “Maybe you are not well enough to live here.” I had to consciously control my facial movements in that moment, because her comment definitely rubbed me the wrong way. In most instances, I would have said something to defend myself but causing more friction between us in this instance would not benefit me.


My view as I sat waiting to be called.

I was so relieved when they finally called for me to come back into one of the rooms. Instead of walking into an exam room, we were led straight into the doctor’s office where the doc dressed in bright baby blue scrubs sat behind a desk and alongside a wall full of books.

My co-teacher and the doctor exchanged a few words. She briefly told him about my symptoms. He put his stethoscope to my back, told me to take deep breaths, and listened to my breathing. Then, he told me to say ahhh while he flashed a light examining my tonsils. This was all familiar protocol at any doctor’s office back home, but then he wrote a few Korean characters on a small piece of paper and handed it to my co-teacher.

“You will get a shot now,” she said to me. I wasn’t surprised that they wanted to give me a shot, because I had heard about these infamous mystery shots given in Korean health facilities. But I immediately wanted to know a shot of what? The best answer she could give me was “this shot will make your pain go away.” I don’t think my Korean co-teacher watches enough American movies to realize that her response immediately made me think of psychedelic drugs like heroin.

I wasn’t really paranoid about the shot they were going to give me. But I was curious about what the shot would actually be. An antibiotic injection? Something to just help rid my symptoms? I had no idea and they couldn’t explain it any better in English. The doctor motioned us towards the door that led into this room.


The room where the nurse gave me a shot to hip.

My co-teacher told me she’d be outside waiting, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to stand or sit. I just stood in the room and waited for about 3 minutes before the nurse came in. She then motioned me to lift up my dress. She muttered some Korean as she slapped the side of my hip a few times before she stuck a 1-inch needle into my right hip. The needle was small and pretty much painless.

I left the room and joined my co-teacher at the front desk to pay. I asked her if that was all and she nodded. The doctor’s visit, including the mystery shot, cost me 4600 KRW (~$3.88 USD). I couldn’t believe how cheap it was, but then again I do have medical coverage taken out of my paycheck monthly.

I didn’t realize that the doctor wrote me a prescription for meds until my co-teacher led me down to the pharmacy right below the doctor’s office on the same alley street. She gave the prescription to the pharmacist and they filled the order immediately. I was instructed to take each pack of pills 3x day: one in the morning, the smaller pack after lunch, and another at night. Again, when I asked what the medicine was, she couldn’t offer me much of a description besides “it will make you feel better.” The total cost of the medicine was 6300 KRW (~$5.32 USD).


My mystery drugs from the local pharmacy. Instructions: take each pack 3x a day and you shall feel better.

We left the pharmacy and I thanked her again for her troubles before we parted ways. The doctor and pharmacy visit took about one hour. It was a weird experience that I’m glad was over quickly. It’s been two days since that doctor’s visit. I stopped taking my American OTC meds, and have stuck strictly to the mystery meds from the Korean pharmacy. I still have a cough and my symptoms have not subsided. However, I do not feel any worse than before which is certainly a good thing.

Being sick is never fun, but being sick in a foreign county is even worse. All the comforts of home are missing and relief comes in unfamiliar forms. Being ill has taken its toll on me in more ways than one, but I got to get out of this funk and push through because feeling sorry for myself has never gotten me anywhere. All I can do is take better care of myself. There’s too many more adventures to be had and it’s going to have to take more than a shitty cold to stop me now.


4 thoughts on “A Visit to the Doctor’s Office in Rural South Korea

  1. Oh wow! This certainly seems like an adventure…
    Are you allergic to any medication? I really hope not.
    Now whenever I get to traveling, I’ll have to make sure to know how to say what I’m allergic to!


    • yeah it was quite an adventure but luckily I am not allergic to any medications that I know of. It would be wise to definitely know what you’re allergic to, in both English and the language of the countries you’re traveling to! Never know what they’re saying and paranoia starts to set in about what could go wrong. Luckily for me, I’m still alive! lol, it wasn’t that bad.

      Liked by 1 person

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