After four days of Tamiflu and 8 days under quarantine, we’ve been released or unleashed, depending on who you ask. No one has shown any symptoms the last few days, and all of our temperatures check out. Last night was pretty quiet in anticipation of our departure; the proverbial calm before the storm, and when morning came, it was organized chaos! Vans, cabs, and shuttle buses, all taking each healthy last one of us back out into the free world.
I think most of us were happy to see the last of each other for the time being. When I was in college I went on Semester At Sea, and the sentiment was similar…happy to have hung out with you, can’t wait to get away from you. As the days turn to weeks nostalgia and fond memories will undoubtedly set in and the friendships made inside will probably be stronger than most foreigners make in an entire first year here on the kimchi penninsula. Heck, it’ll be one of those stories that no one would really believe happened. ”So this one time, at english camp…I got freakin’ quarantined for 8 days!”
As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk, back at my officetel.
As I write this, it’s a beautiful day outside, and I can go out for a walk, a hike, or a jog without triggering a manhunt.
As I write this, our bags are finally being unpacked after more than two weeks here, clothes migrating their way to hangers for a year or more.
As I write this, my suitcase and backpack are being tucked away in closests, not to be used again and lived out of for awhile.
As I write this, it’s good to be free!
Some of us joked that we wouldn’t know what to do with our freedom. That future english teachers would walk into offictels, finding notes carved into rafters ‘BROOKS WAS HERE’ and a corpse swaying from a noose just like in Shawshank Redemption. Others laughed about not wanting to leave, that they’d grown accustomed to the routine or the food. I think I may still wake up at 7am on instinct alone, ready to have my temperature taken, my ear probed, and I’ll shed a tear anytime there’s an announcement on a P.A. system without a cheerful Australian accent behind it.
Heck, I’m sure some of us will spot each other on the subways and byways of Korea over time, eyes going wide, waving like two war buddies who spent time in the trench, laughing about our wacky antics, the sheer battle against boredom, the unknown changes and fears that we were all in a sinking ship of germs, pariahs to both the doctors inside and the world outside. Yeah, we spent time in the trench, but our trench was quarantine and our enemies were germs and boredom.
Now we’re back among you, no different than we were before, healthier too, and all we’ve got are funny stories to tell about it which will undoubtedly grow less interesting as the next crazy thing on the kimchi peninsula comes around.
And if one thing living in Korea has taught me, it’s that you never know what’s next.