I though the worst of the swine flu fears had passed. At our Monday meetings, we were no longer reminded to get our temperature checked every day, something the bosses had been adamant about in the early weeks of summer. We stopped reading about swine flu cases in Korean schools. Erin was even allowed to go straight back to teaching after returning from Australia.

In a recent e-mail, we were told that Paju English Village, which is much larger than SEV (it employs about 100 foreign teachers; at SEV there are only about 25), had to shut down for two weeks because several teachers contracted swine flu.

I knew something was up a few minutes later when Robbie, our head foreign teacher, sent five of us (presumably the teachers who don’t make that daily trek to the nurse’s office) an additional e-mail reminding us to get our temperature checked every day. Yesterday, I was talking to our boss in between classes, and she said the words that would change my week forever:

“Eight teams cancelled this week because of swine flu. Now all of the Wednesday-Friday students won’t be coming. We’ve got five teams–44 students–for the rest of the week.”

Now, SEV averages about 25 teams a week. With daily students (kids who only come for a day or two and don’t sleep here), we’ve had 40 teams in a day. To go from that number down to 44 students is crazy. All of my classes for the next two days have been cancelled and the hours have been turned into programming. Since we’ll have no students on Friday, teachers are required to use a mandatory paid vacation day. Forced three-day weekend? Not the worst thing in the world. I’ve still got two more paid vacation days left, and I’m planning to use them for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Swine flu has taken Korea by storm. My friend Karen, who works in a public school, was denied permission to take a vacation to China, for fear she’d contract the flu. Our own boss has asked that we notify her before traveling abroad because we won’t be allowed to teach until we’ve been back in the country for a week. It almost feels like foreigners are being targeted. I’ve already ranted about Korea’s slightly xenophobic mindset, so I don’t need to do it again. Suffice it to say that if we weren’t foreigners, but natural-born Koreans, I don’t think these issues would have ever been brought up.

Sigh…only five more weeks till I don’t have to worry about swine flu ever again…


Erin getting her temperature checked in the nurse's office, a new SEV tradition.

Erin getting her temperature checked in the nurse's office, a new SEV tradition.