I have been writing and rewriting the same post all this week but have officially swept it away due to increased rambling spurred by lack of human contact. For all our sakes, it has been deleted.
I woke up this week in the middle of the night with a strange allergic reaction. Still on cold medication and not wanting to spend days with a burning eye, I returned to the nice clinic. The doctor was wearing a mask but looked deep into my eyes (to inspect them) but it still felt profoundly intimate.
(Later on a walk a woman would turn to stare at me and I would feel seen, then realize I have been affected by the lack of contact much more than I thought.)
The English speaking doctor prescribed some truly helpful steroid eye drops along with two days worth of medicine with the promise to follow up today. For a moment I thought, is this how national health care increases its salary? Three visits in a week?
Even so, my clinic visits and medicine came to ₩22,800, or 19 USD. If it doesn’t get better, he said, I may need to do an allergy test.
Allergies would make the most sense at this point. Since moving here I’ve had everything from mild food poisoning to fevers that appear and break in a day to chest congestion to swollen eye lids. It’s a battle between a new continent and its flora, the human Petri dish of big city life, and lowly regulated pollutants.
(Busan tutor said “I heard the air in Seoul is good because China factories were shut down.” I laughed and then attempted in my most garbled sentence yet “if that were the case then every day for the last five months should have been green. But they weren’t. We still had many yellow and orange days.” Note: South Korea says China is to blame for most of the pollution here. There is evidence to suggest not all the pollution is from China but peninsular countries are stubborn and China is China so the fault will always lay in a no mans land between them.)
Yet why was I feeling so odd? The pollution was in the green today and I haven’t spent time with another human since who knows when. My dinner plans with Busan Boy and separate walking plans with another friend had to be canceled this week because of my weak immune system.
Then I checked the weather and wouldn’t you know it, the humidity was thirteen percent. Lower than Las Vegas at the same point in time.
At least I’m not completely alone: my online tutor lives in Busan and has similar problems in Seoul. “My boogers turn black,” she told me, in both a truthful and educational sentence. I now know “boogers” in Korean.
Anyway, my point is not to bore you with my mediocre medical complaints. Although I’ll be sweat staining every shirt, I’m looking forward to summer when the air is clean and humid.
Even though the air was too dry today, I said screw it! And walked to the river to watch the sunset. I’m glad I did.
Honestly, these weeks, these months, this entire winter has been weird. I needed something to feel like my old self. My summer self.
Once I reached open space my eyes had trouble adjusting and then I had to wonder just how much time I’ve spent in my little apartment.
Probably too much time.
Before I made it to the river I hit a dead end under a bridge. South Korea is not a place where I need to be worried if I find myself in the shadow of an abandoned bridge at sun down. But my miscalculation led me to something great…
They say cherry blossoms are blooming early this year— but with the virus still raging in the coastal cities and the most famous park for the blooms in Seoul closed to the public through April, I assumed like most of my plans for this year I’d have to wait for next year.
But around the corner and curling over the fence of an apartment complex were a short row of cherry blossom trees, bloomed early like the reports said.
The delight wasn’t over. The sunset on the river was something else. After weeks of poor air quality, I was especially grateful.
I spent another hour walking around as the sun set and saw my first star in what felt like a very long time.
South Korea has been living under a coronavirus reality since January. Truthfully we’re all struggling, whether here of elsewhere.
But I just hold my own hand and tell myself “everything will be alright”.