If anyone is interested about life in Seoul during the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic, below is a small snapshot.
Day 1 (Monday)—woke up with a slight fever and sore throat. Temperature ranged from 37.4-37.7. Normally I wouldn’t even take Tylenol, but now the maximum accepted is 37.5. I can normally work from home, but for classes I have to go to offices. If I cancel 24 hours in advance, I don’t get paid, but there’s no penalty. If I don’t give 24 hours notice, even if I’m sick, I don’t get paid and have to pay a fine of double the pay. Most companies were happy I reported it and cancelled. The one I’ve worked at the longest was not. Unsurprisingly this company has the highest staff churn I’ve encountered.
To add to the crisis, I got a call to report the breaking news that daycares were closing for 14 days. As a freelancer, companies can fire me whenever and don't have to pay health insurance, pension, or sick leave, but I'm free to decide content and meant to be able to set my hours. This would be good if I could say: I need the next two weeks because the government has closed all the daycares. Sadly, companies often forget the benefits. The same company who told me get tested, also said they'd have to report to HR about any 'missed' classes (basically, you're fired after four years). We agreed to postpone classes for a week because of my high temperature yesterday, and that the classes would be made up in March; not sure what will happen the first week in March. Not entirely sure if the Korean government realises they've shifted their responsibilities to keep us safe and the whole economic burden onto ordinary working families already struggling... but then they've saved their reputation with Chairman Xi, who'll still be visiting us, yay!
Went out with a mask to collect my daughter, Dora, and her artwork for the year. She showed me what she was taught mummy and daddy wear to work. My temperature returned to normal range by the evening.
This morning (Tuesday), another company closed offices to outsiders for two weeks. For me, woke up with no temperature and a slight sore throat, probably from shouting at my daughter. We went out in the rain with masks to jump in muddy puddles and to support local businesses.
Bought Korean side dishes and fresh bread from the bakery. This bakery used to have queues down the street and made bread twice a day. This morning, we seemed to be the only customers so far. Not sure how useful our masks were after they got soaked in the rain. Kept monitoring our temperatures all day. Normal range. Made play dough this afternoon.
The university sent an email to say all foreigners are banned from the offices. During nap time, worked on narrative in Chaucer for the PhD and read Mrs Beeton for the book. Apparently British POWs held by the Japanese also enjoyed reading Mrs Beeton. It does feel good to visit another world.
Stressful being pregnant here generally; vaguely terrifying at the moment. Want to get a cheap ticket back home with Dora. At this point, it’s basically not fair for us to go back and not self-quarantine, but we risk infecting whoever we stay with. Trapped here. Feel quite bitter that the racism Asians are complaining about in the west now, for us is basically ordinary life here, and totally legal.
Anyway, twelve more days of semi-quarantine; a lifetime of discrimination and racism if we stay. Read today that 60% of Korean adults also want to leave Korea... Trump was criticised for telling a migrant to go back and make things better in your country. Last week, a powerful person also told me, if you expect better, go back to wherever you came from. I hope people reading this can see the not so subtle difference, and also realise that people here are not happy with the situation. Is the answer for the lucky few to move to 'our home' in the west and not make things better here?