Drugs Please!

Last weekend I somehow managed to catch a cold.  Thankfully, it didn’t last very long but it left me an unwelcome parting gift: a cough.  A gut-wrenching, lung-expelling cough.  All week, I have been coughing myself silly.  I even managed to pull a muscle in my back during a coughing fit. (I know… totally pathetic. 🙂 )  Friday I decided enough was enough – I was going to the doctor.

I asked my co-T if she could recommend a doctor, and happily, there was a clinic near the school.  Following her directions, I headed there after school.

I found the building easily enough but it didn’t look like a doctor’s office.  It looked like an office building.  The outside of the building was covered in reflective glass, and I couldn’t figure out which panel was the door.  I walked back and forth a few times, trying to peer in the windows.  Suddenly the door slid open and a Korean woman stepped out looking at me strangely.  Behind her, I could see a waiting room with 2 nurses sitting behind a desk.  I darted in before the door could close again.

“Hello,” I said, approaching the desk. “Is this a doctor’s office?”

I was met with blank stares.  It could have been my race, my height or my terrible Korean.  The word for ‘doctor’ and the word for ‘chair’ sound remarkably similar; perhaps I’d mixed them up again.

“Is there a doctor here?” I tried again, speaking extremely slowly.

More blank stares.

“Can I see a doctor?” I attempted in Korean, and then again in English.

The receptionists looked at each other and shrugged.

“I have a cold,” I announced, pointing at my throat.

“Oh! OK, OK, OK!!  You, sitting, OK?”

I handed over my health card and sat down.  In less than a minute, the Koreanized version of my name appeared on the TV screen, blocking the scantily-clad KPop dancers.   I stood up and waited for directions.

“Ke-ri-ra-ra?” a nurse said, motioning for me to follow her.  (My last name always causes Koreans to panic and so they use my middle name, Lara.  Or they try to use it.  The L-R combination is usually too much for them to handle so instead of Carrie Lara, I get Ke-ri Ra-ra.)

I followed the nurse into the doctor’s office.  We were followed by both receptionists, another nurse, and an elderly woman who had been in the waiting room.  They arranged themselves around the doctor’s office and watched as the appointment progressed, their heads bobbing back and forth between the doctor and I like they were watching a tennis match.  I suspected they didn’t get a lot of foreigners at this clinic.

I sat on a rickety stool next to the doctor’s large desk.

“She has a cold!” one of the nurses told the doctor.

“I have a cough,” I corrected her politely.

“Hmmmm,” said the doctor, looking me up and down.  “You have many nose water?”

“Nose water? Oh, snot! No, not really.”

“Hmmmmm….You have many sputum?”

“Maybe yes?”  I wasn’t sure what sputum was but it sounded gross and mucus-like so I probably did have it.


The doctor steepled his fingers and peered at me.  Our audience looked back and forth between us, breathless with anticipation at the coming diagnosis.   The doctor nodded to the nurse behind me and she reached forward and pulled the neck of my shirt down.


“Chest, OK, OK,” the doctor said, wheeling himself towards me in his chair.

“My chest?” I sputtered, until he picked up his stethoscope.

He listened to my lungs for a few seconds then rolled away.  The nurse released my shirt and stepped back.

“Hmmmm….” the doctor said again.  “I give you medicine.  3 days.”

“3 days worth of medicine? OK.”

“Three days!” he repeated, waving three fingers at me.

“Thank you?”

“Three days!!!  Go, go go!”

And with that, I and my audience were dismissed.  I guess I wouldn’t be finding out what I had then…

I took my prescription to the drug store, and was once again reminded of the difference between Canada and Korea.  I got 2 forms of drugs – pills and liquid.  However, nothing was labelled.  I’m assuming that this is cough syrup even though it smells a bit like paint thinner:

And the pills come by dosage.

I take one package at each meal.  The circled package is for lunch.  I have absolutely no idea what I’m taking, what any possible side effects might be or if they will make me sleepy.  It’s all part of the adventure.

I was in and out of the doctor’s office and the pharmacy in under 15 minutes.  And it cost about $3 for the doctor and about $2.50 for the drugs.  Amazing.


About Carrie K

Teacher, writer, traveller. Slightly neurotic. Overly talkative. Loving life. You can also follow me on Twitter: kimchigirl72
This entry was posted in Korea, Life, Teaching English, teaching in Korea, Travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Drugs Please!

  1. oegukeen says:

    I’m not sure I would dare take that. I see you didn’t dare take the dentist one. 🙂
    In Europe, our pills come in carefully labeled boxes, with Braille, and a paper the size of a bed sheet tucked in the box that gives percentages of probability for every imaginable side effect. Koreans are brave.

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