Korean nurses and staff posing for a photo outside Hana Hospital in Cheongju, South Korea.

Since I want to extend my contract to work for another year at my school, I had to undergo a second physical examination designed specifically for foreigners living and working in Korea. Basically, in order for Chungbuk’s Provincial Office of Education to grant me an extension, I can’t have any transmittable illnesses.

The results have been determined, and it seems like I’m as healthy as I was when I arrived. Although, I wouldn’t know since I couldn’t understand anything on the official statement from the hospital. I just turned it in to my co-teacher with a smile, reminiscing about all I went through to get the dang thing.

There are many reasons I adore Korea. My visit to the hospital on Saturday added a couple more highlights to the list. It all started when three nurses called me back into the x-ray lab for a mini photo shoot, after I already had my x-rays taken. They simply wanted to take pictures of me with their cellphones. Let’s just say I got all Vogue-up-in-there.

The phlebotomist that drew my blood after the photo shoot was also fascinated with me. Correction: She was fascinated by my blood vessels. The only thing I understood from our interaction was her excitement about my large veins. Then the doctor asked if I had ever tried cocaine. It was really random, but following a brief consultation with him my medial examination was complete. 

I decided it would be a good idea to ride my bike from Ochang to Cheongju to collect my results on Monday. This normally takes about 30 minutes; however, it was raining, and once I got to Cheongju I had to practically bike across the city to reach the hospital.

It took about an hour and half to get there. And the hospital was closed when I arrived. Welcome to the story of my life. These things always happen to me. I biked the hour and a half back, making sure to hit all the big puddles along the way. That made everything better again.

This afternoon I was determined to make it to the hospital on time. I decided it would be best to bike to a certain point on the trail, and then take a taxi the rest of the way. I only had about an hour to get to the hospital after school. 

At the last moment I changed my mind and chose to bike the entire way. About ten minutes before the hospital was going to close, I frantically messaged one of my co-teachers to please call the hospital and let them know I was on the way. She said they’d wait for me, thankfully, and I arrived only five minutes late—a sweaty, hot mess.

I burst through the doors, panting. I hadn’t even caught my breath or wiped the sweat off my face before another photo shoot was happening. This time some of the hospital staff wanted a picture with me. I couldn’t believe it. I was literally dripping, dirty and disgusting after biking an hour to get there. I did it anyway. It was the least I could do after making them wait. 

I backed up slowly, without turning around, so they wouldn’t notice my major “swass” (butt sweat) as I headed for the door. But, five minutes later my ‘swass’ was in a coffee shop, sipping some kiwi juice, trying to make small-talk about anything and everything with four of the hospital staff. The barista even brought us free cookies. It was like everyone was in on this plot to hold me hostage with hospitality.

Various other women stopped by to say “hello”, or to simply look at me, giggle a bit, and then leave. The entire situation was quite entertaining. I made sure to exchange contact information with my new friends. We plan to get together for dinner sometime soon. Hopefully next time I won’t be so sweaty, but apparently that doesn’t matter. 

My random and slightly awkward experiences with Hana Hospital in Cheongju have added a few more highlights to my list of reasons why I love Korea so much. Where else would I get the chance to have a photo shoot in an x-ray room with three nurses? Or, be taken out for coffee by hospital staff? Now do you understand why I don’t want to leave anytime soon?