A Daejeon safehaven ...
Updated: Sep 10
What a gift to be able to quarantine in a friend's apartment! I doubt anyone expects to get COVID, and certainly we all wish to avoid it, but I guess it makes sense that my immunity would be low after arriving into a new country and new continent that I have never been to. I believe I've been traveling for over a month now, having finalized things at my previous job, packed my entire apartment in Maine, drove down the whole U.S. Eastern seaboard with my best friend, stayed with family in multiple states, and then finally gotten on a plane to Korea. Although I miss the people I care about and the New England coast, I am still surprised by how much I like it here.
Traveling tends to somehow make me feel free, like I can explore new and undiscovered parts of myself, which I definitely was experiencing arriving to Korea. Before getting COVID, I was exhausted from exploration but hopeful and optimistic about the many exciting things I was seeing. Then testing positive, and all the subsequent plans that had to be managed and changed, really challenged my viewpoint on my travels and experiences. How funny it is that information or health concerns can affect your mental framework so much! I think it is this process of quarantine, which is requiring me to take care of myself physically, that is also allowing me to return to a positive mental equilibrium.
Even though the world has been dealing with COVID for over two years now, it's still shocking how confusing and scary all of the information about it and the process for managing it can be. Procedures are changing all the time, with different requirements based on different individual circumstances. In Korea, after going to a clinic or hospital to get tested, when you receive your results via text, especially if they are positive, the government is notified. A slew of confusing texts, calls, and emails ensures, mostly in Korean which was difficult for me, and anyone you talk to seems to have conflicting information. With your results you're given a quarantine timeline, and one of the things I do know is that currently if you somehow break quarantine you can be fined a million won and even go to prison, two things I don't imagine anyone wants. It was incredibly scary and overwhelming to begin receiving such information and my mind immediately went to worse-case scenarios like deportation.
I won't share the entirety of the chaos that ensued, but I am unbelievably grateful to my government medical liaison, work administration and HR department, and friends who helped me get through it all. Know that there are specific venues for quarantine including a specialized medical facility and approved AirBNBs or WeHomes, which the liaison was suggesting I search for due to lack of room at any government-run hospital or center, and that many or even most hotels will not allow people to quarantine if they are sick. After discovering I couldn't stay at the hotel, shouldn't go to the medical facility, and that all COVID-official AirBNBs or WeHomes were not accepting me, I had no where to go. It was through the grace of friends, calling in Korean to the hotel, government medical centers, and even my work, that found me an apartment I could quarantine at alone.
The belief that "all things happen for a reason" can sometimes be a tricky thing to accept or even tolerate, but I do wonder if maybe I was supposed to stay on the peninsula a little longer, get some physical and mental rest, reconnect with my personal work and spirit, in order to best prepare to leave for work on Jeju. As I heal, I have to be patient with my body's own processes and the continuous speed of time, accept when things are out of my control, and be grateful for where I am. I understand and empathize with anyone who has gotten sick with COVID or been affected by it. Canceling and adjusting plans has certainly not been fun, but being sick has been even more difficult. I'm grateful I'm here, safe, healing, and that things weren't worse! Take care everyone!