Disclaimer: This is another post related to swine flu. Read on if you dare!

Mondays at SEV are both loathed and loved. On one hand, it’s Monday, and come on–who really likes Mondays? We have to deal with brand new kids, and our lunch hour (and a half) is cut short by a staff meeting. On the up side, Mondays are the marker by which Erin and I count down the weeks. Each week, coworkers comment on our predictable Monday Facebook statuses. Donny has taken to asking, “Five weeks left? How many weeks left now?”

Nobody likes returning to work on Monday morning. Coming back to work today was especially hard after such a good three-day weekend (of course, courtesy of swine flu). The nice weather offered the chance to get out and see some new sites, as well as visit a few old favorites with my parting friends. When I woke up this morning, I mentally geared up for another typical Monday, completely forgetting than 90 percent of the students signed up to come this week had canceled. Was blissfully reminded of the situation when I walked into the office and was immediately told that I had the morning off. Wahoo! Or as the Koreans say, Asahhhh!!!

The afternoon proved to be just as good as the morning. Schedules were revamped and I was given three hours of programming, which turned into playing with the laminator in the office. The only downside to this week’s schedule, besides the fact that I’ve got 13 hours of teaching, is that three of those hours are going to be spent teaching yoga to high school boys. Cue the hysterical laughter from my head teacher. Thanks, Robbie.

In between my lovely morning break and the afternoon of office antics, we had our mandatory meeting. I go into every meeting hoping for something out of Wet Hot American Summer, but am always let down. This week’s meeting was probably the most eventful one yet (and that’s impressive, now that I’ve been to, oh, around 48 meetings). The fear of swine flu has turned into its own epidemic, burrowing itself into the minds of Korean parents all over the city. We were told that it is expected to be very quiet for the next couple of months, until people forget/get over their absurd fears. Seventy percent of the students signed up for next week have already canceled. Any teachers with remaining vacation time are being forced to use it during the next month or so. Some short-term teachers were even let go. The new teachers we’ve been expecting to come this month have had their arrivals postponed indefinitely. By the end of September, we’ll be down to 13 foreign teachers.

This situation presented me with an option that, until recently, seemed absolutely improbable. I could leave Korea early–a few days or even weeks ahead of the end of my contract–and still collect my severance (which amounts to an extra month’s pay). Doing this would put me in Thailand earlier than expected and give me extra time to pick up surfing (ha ha, go ahead and laugh) or just lounge on the beach. Leaving work a week and a half early (the option I was seriously considering) would mean I’d be paid about $500 less than a usual month’s salary. Not included in all of this configuring were the extra costs that accumulate from spending an extra week in Thailand.

After mentally weighing the pros and cons and speaking to my family, I decided to stick it out. Now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, that week and a half might seem torturous, but money is money. While I’ll be missing a week of beach hammocks and banana hammocks on the beaches of Phuket, I think staying the length of my contract is the right choice. I’ll still have a month and a half of exhausting travel ahead of me when I finish, and I think that will be enough to mollify my inner free spirit–at least for a little while.

Soon enough, I'll be back under the palm trees with a good book...

I'll be back under the palm trees with a good book soon...

 UPDATE: According to AsiaNews:
“In South Korea the authorities have announced that more than 9 million people, those who are most at risk of contracting the influenza A virus, will get free vaccinations. They include about a million medical and quarantine personnel, 7.5 million school children and 660,000 soldiers. In recent days the government sent envoys to Europe to buy supplies.”

Nine million people–that’s about half the population of Seoul. Let’s see if this changes anything…