Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Mythical Sick Day

I have a cold. It's not a terrible cold, not by any stretch. I can remain upright with little or no difficulty and can occasionally breathe through my nose without sounding like a sucking gun shot wound. All I need is a little rest, a day or so lying in bed, drinking orange juice and watching TV. But that's not going to happen.

My contract with EPIK says I get 11 sick days a year. There are all kinds of addendums to this, such as needing a note from a doctor after being absent from so many days, and how many days I can miss and still get paid for them, and so on. It's all very usual and proper and expected for a job. And it's all complete crap.

No one takes a day off at my school. You're sick, you come to work. If you're too sick to work, you go to the hospital and get a shot of vitamins in your ass and ride that vitamin high until the end of the day. I suppose if your eyes fell out or a lung popped out of your mouth they might let you go home after lunch, but really it's very frowned upon.

Not to mention inconsiderate of other teachers, as there's no system set up to accomodate illness. There are no substitute teachers. If you miss a day, the entire schedule gets reorganized so other teachers can cover your classes. And so everyone works sick. The students too all seem to come to class sick. They cough and sneeze all over the class, or sit with their foreheads against their desks, the other kids covering for them by saying, "He very sick." My God, kid, stay home. But no, you can't.

Last year (before I was here) Korea was gripped by H1N1 terror. People were terrified of getting swine flu. Events were canceled and people were really scared. If people had just been allowed to stay home when they got sick maybe there wouldn't be so much virus walking around the country.

I have been told that the reason I have not been able to kick this cold yet is because Korean colds are stronger than other colds. I have also been told it is because I don't exercise enough (any opportunity to get in a dig about my weight...). I retort that if I could just stay home for a day and rest it would magically disappear. Your body needs rest to effectively fight off the invading sickness, etc., etc. They only look at me and smile at my delusion.

Coming to work sick shows solidarity with the group. The woman who sits next to me has been sneezing and sniffling for months now. One of my co-teachers is sick every other week. I was told that the previous native English teacher did a good job, for the most part, but he took a few sick days and tut tut tut.

I wonder how hard I'd have to cough to pop out a lung. I could use the rest.

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