3.3 Fall 2021

December 21, Make it stop

On Saturday I had to get a COVID test. Last Sunday I had to get a COVID test. Two weeks before that I had a test, and a week before that, you guessed it, I had a test.

This week I thought I might have finally escaped the streak of bad luck but I was wrong.

“Did you see the emergency alert today? If you went to this cafe you have to get a test. One of the employees tested positive.”

As I had to drive from Busan back to Jinhae for the test on Saturday, and then cancel my dinner plans to quarantine at home for 18 hours for results as Korea does not do rapid testing, I decided to treat myself the following morning to a mocha latte at one of my favorite neighborhood cafes.

2021 swiftly punished me for this attempt to enjoy myself.

“Oh no. I went to that cafe this weekend. But just for five minutes to get takeout. Do I really have to get another test?” I begged Helen.

The chatty sub mused in the background if it was needed given I had been in and out, and concluded the result was likely going to be negative so there was nothing to worry about.

“You work with a lot of kids and it’s policy, so yes.” Helen responded.

Obviously, every single test I’ve taken since COVID began has come back negative. In all honesty I have not worried once this year that I actually got COVID. I’m masked, the kids are masked, the gym is masked. Even the multiple times I’ve been in close contact with a positive case, the safety protocols have done their job.

Rather, I’m just annoyed that I keep losing chunks of time to getting my sinuses scraped. Will there be anything left of my mucous membrane by 2022?

In my frustrated state, the chatty sub offered to drop me off at the health center on her way home from work as I did not drive my car to school. I was hoping she’d drive me back home, too, but alas I had to ride the bus like a plebeian. I didn’t even have enough money on my dusty metro card to pay for my fare and thus dumped all the coins in my wallet into the change box, hoping the cascade of jingles was enough to convince the bus driver I had paid my share.

We were pulling under a bridge when the sub told me, “I think you’re doing well at this Korean life. You’re brave. I could never go off and live in another country. Just vacations for me!” She said touchingly, or perhaps out of some pity for my nth COVID-19 test this year.

I appreciated it, all through the winding line at the health center where I suppose all of us were being punished for drinking coffee. There were some adorable toddlers who kept me amused and one brave baby stood all by herself on the 3m sticker, waiting stoically to be called to the window. For a moment I wondered if she was all alone because it really did seem like her against the world, but her mom was simply three feet ahead getting pierced by a cotton swab.

When my turn came, I stared at the ID checking man through the window.

Is he wearing eye liner?

The mystery remained unsolved as Korean efficiency had me pulled to the next window to another man of indistinguishable age for my own torture. Out of the innumerable tests I’ve had so far, this swab stabbed my sinuses the farthest. Give him an award! I swear it went so far that I actually tasted cotton.

I’ve written and deleted so many blog posts these last few weeks because every time I feel a rush of hopelessness at the never-ending hell of this pandemic, I wake up okay.

I keep on trucking even when I think I cannot stand this for a single day more. Because there is really nothing else to do but keep going.

As long as no one else in my vicinity tests positive, I’ll be able to go on my New Years sunrise fishing trip with Helen and her friend. Like the real type of bright blue fishing boat that I’ve seen in every Korean harbor.

So please everyone, keep it together! We have just three days until winter vacation! Save my sinuses!!

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