LASIK EYE SURGERY in Korea (One-month post-op) WARNING SUPER-LONG POST

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Since I arrived in Korea about over a year ago, I kept seeing ads for an eye clinic called BGN eye clinic in Gangnam, advertising great deals for lasek and lasik eye correction surgeries. I don’t really have the time to explain the differences between the two but to keep it short I got lasik.

My Relationship with Glasses

My relationship with glasses began in the 11th grade when I went to the nurses office to get a heating pad for my menstrual cramps, and walked out with not only a heating pad but also a note to my parents saying I needed glasses ASAP.  I remember when I was younger and thought glasses were so cool; they made you look so smart but finally I got them, and I wasn’t wearing them often for aesthetic reasons (I wanted to look cute!). As I got older I started wearing them permanently because my vision seemed to be worsening.

Prior to coming to Korea, I would see ads for companies such as Lasikplus and Lasik vision institute which caught my interest but it was just sooo expensive plus they were charging by eye. The ads i saw in Korea boasted some pretty inexpensive prices. 700,000KRW (about $650) for lasek and 1,300,000KRW for lasik (about $1000) for both eyes.

Consultation Day

One day in March, some friends and I planned a girls day in Seoul. Another friend who would be ending her contract soon mentioned she would be going to gangnam for a consultation. I asked her, “WHERE?” and she mentioned BGN. I said, “Omg, I wanna come!” She contacted the business manager at the clinic asking if she could fit me in and the answer was a yes!

So we hopped on the subway, looked for the clinic which is located in Kyobo Tower (you can get there from gangnam station exit 10 and then walk straight for 500m or simply Sinnonhyeon station exit 6; the building is right there when you exit). The consultation took awhile; so many eye tests checking cornea, optic nerve, astigmatism, blah blah blah. They mentioned that my cornea was a little thin and my astigmatism was very high which is something I wasn’t aware off. They even took a hair and saliva swab to do a dna test to determine if I had any conditions that would cause issues. I then spoke to a doctor who told me I qualified for both lasik and lasek, and asked which one I wanted. Lasek is cheaper however these are my eyes and you only get two. You don’t splurge on yo eyes! From what I know, lasik boasts faster recovery times and lasek takes longer, so many follow-up appointments, and is quite painful so I chose lasik.

I set my appointment for the first week of May where we would have a long holiday-weekend but after speaking to my friend who had her surgery a week later, I decided to push up the surgery date to the 29th (of April).

Surgery Day

On the day of the surgery, I was super excited! I brought a friend with me (if you choose the lasik option and do not reside in Seoul; you will get one-night stay free of charge in a super nice hotel called hotel designers).

When I got to the clinic,  I made my payment, I had an eye exam ; said my eyes looked good and another doctor plus an English-speaking staff member sat me down and explained the procedure, and what to do post-surgery to make sure my eyes are well-healed and without any problems.

It took maybe 30-40 minutes of all this before the surgery. Prior to entering the surgery room, I had to take off my shoes and place it along with other items I had with me in a locker. I was then adorned with a robe and a shower cap. A nurse came in and put in some numbing/anesthetic drops in my eyes and then I was seated in a dark roam with other people, told to keep my eyes closed, and wait for the surgeon to come get me.  Then a surgeon came and led me into the operating room. I was placed under the one machine to cut the flaps,  clamps were placed on my eyes to hold them open. I was told to not close my eyes (I admit I almost tried to close them because of the pressure but the surgeon kept telling me “keep your eyes open!” I guess the technology can track the movement of your eyes); at this machine the flaps were made then I was moved over to another machine where they would zap the lasers into my eyes. This all together took 10 minutes.

After that I was sent to a room to rest; my eyes were checked under the light and I was told to come back the following morning for a check up.

My vision was very blurry but as I kept going it started clearing up. Some describe it this way; when you are showering with hot water, the mirror gets cloudy because of the heat, but as time passes by; it all starts to clear up.

Btw I was given some drops plus artificial tears and was told not to fall asleep after the surgery for 4-5 hours. One drop was a steroid drop and I wasn’t sure what the other one was but it was yellow. I was told to apply them every 2-3 days; 4 times a day until they ran out.

20-30 minutes after the surgery, the anesthesia wore off and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. When we got to the hotel room, I just wanted to nap but my friend and I made the decision to go out to explore Itaewon and get some dinner. Thank goodness I had sunglasses.

My vision was improving but it certainly wasn’t 20/20 considering I knocked over a glass in a restaurant breaking it (oops!)

I also kept applying those artificial tears every 5-10 minutes.

I was also given some sleeping googles to slept with for 2 weeks so that I wouldn’t rub my eyes.

Also I could shower but not wash my face and apply makeup for 3 days (no eye makeup for 3 weeks). Challenge accepted! plus I only went to work on Tuesday so I am good there.

 

Day one Post-op

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The following morning I woke up and I could see clearly! We were on the 12th or 14th floor of the hotel and I could look down and see people walking in the street. No blurry blobs, no squinting.

At the one-day check-up, we went through the routine. Read the eye chart, look at the little house in the thing, take pictures of my eye and then had my eyes looked at using the light. The nurse told me I wasn’t 20/20 yet but my eyes looked good. I was told to come back in one-week.

One-week post-op

This week was the super long weekend holiday. I spent it in Busan with some friends. On Saturday I had to come back for another checkup. I got kinda discouraged at this check up because I was told I had a little inflammation in my eyes, and I was one line from 20/20. The inflammation was due to my eyes being super-dry and I blame myself for that. While in Busan, I was out and about a lot so I wasn’t applying the artificial tears as much as I should have.

I was also prescribed the one steroid again. I had to use it until it was done but here is where I goofed ya’ll; I didn’t ask where the drugstore was because I was under the impression that I could find it at any drugstore. I was wrong. I tried a pharmacy in Myeongdong; nope. I went to a pharmacy in my town but it was a no again. They told me they had the same drop but a different brand but couldn’t sell it to me without the permission of the eye clinic. Of course it was the day before the presidential election so the clinic closed early.

Luckily I had a  Korean friend who said he would take me to an eye doctor in the morning who would look at my eyes and prescribe the drops for me, and that is what we did in the morning. I was in and out within five minutes and the cost of the visit plus the drops were cheap! (gotta love the Korean healthcare system).

I was also applying the artificial drops every 10-15 minutes. I do admit that a few days later while washing my face something got in my left eye (maybe it was an eyelash, maybe it was soap) and I ended up waking up with the left upper-eyelid more swollen than the other (the dryness causes puffy eyelids in the morning but this is no more because I now use Theratears dry eye therapy drops at night before bed.)

One-month post-op/final thoughts

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At my one-month checkup, I am now 20/20 in both eyes and no inflammation! I am a bit concerned because I feel like one eye (right eye) is way better than the other (left); it’s not blurry but it is not as crisp as the other. I play camera a lot (look through one eye, then the other). Together they work  really well but I was told at the consultation prior to surgery that one-eye would be better; the one manager wasn’t present so I wasn’t able to ask her about it but next time I will if this is still an issue at the 3-month check-up. I am still healing so we will see.

Overall I do not regret this procedure. I love my new eyes. I am still in the healing stages so I am praying for continued healing. I am aware that in old-age I will need glasses but who doesn’t?

As for my routine, I use Refresh Plus lubricating eye drops daily. At night I use Theratears dry eye therapy drops (blue box). They are thicker  in consistency than regular artificial tears. Due to this night time routine, I no longer wake up with dry eyes and puffy eyelids. I purchased them on amazon.com and had them shipped to Korea via the shipping company boxoregon.com. Refresh drops are sold in Korea but the ones here are 36 vials per box while the ones sold in the U.S are 100 vials per box. I recently had my parents buy me two boxes of both drops and ship to me. I have to apply the drops for 3-6 months and then I will be able to produce my own tears again (I hope!).

As I sit here now at my desk at work, I realize I no longer apply the drops as much as I do. Previously, I noticed that my eyes are very dry on week days when I am working. As you all know; I am a teacher. I have to look at computer and TV screens often while teaching but I manage this by focusing my eyes away from the screen when I don’t need to. For example, if we are reading something on the computer, I read it directly from the books.

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“Will you be renewing” Yes or No?

16142243_10155033350337160_2171826669736939938_n At the moment I am desk-warming in the main teacher’s office, waiting for 2 to hit so I can go downstairs to teach 1st and 2nd graders the alphabet. To make it not so painful, we cover three letters per day for the duration of the 9 days. Today’s letters are :S, T,U. This is something I was asked if I wanted to do after coming back from vacation in the U.S. I don’t regret taking on this task because it gives me something to do for 40 minutes and once I am done, there is only an hour and a half left for me to desk-warm.

Moving on to the topic at hand: renewals. Before I came to Korea, I (and everyone close to me) thought I would do just one year and then come home but turns out through the minor complaints and homesickness, I actually like it out here. My school is great, my apartment is spacious and cute, and the kids (most of them, not all lol) are sweethearts. At the half-way mark into this contract, I kept contemplating on what to say if asked to renew. As you all probably know I have a significant other at home. If I didn’t the answer would be an absolute yes! but when you are in this situation you have to consider the other person as well.

Well the time came. After listing out the pros and cons, I talked to my parents and my s/o and they all agreed it would be a good idea to stay so yes I will be staying In Korea an additional year. The cons on the “returning to the U.S” list was just too much. I had to think about my financial goals, and my own feelings/emotions about this experience. Leaving after one year would be premature. Also the job market in the U.S….I am in the process of obtaining teaching credentials in the state of Texas, but I also think, “what if I don’t get a job?” but even if I did get a job that means I would be sitting home jobless without an income for about 4 months before the school year begins. This means I would be burning through what little I have saved thus far to pay my bills, and that is not what I intended to do with that money earned. Some may say, “well you can get a little minimum-wage or slightly above that job” but I REFUSE to go back to that customer service life. Prior to coming to Korea I was working at a work from home call center while completing my masters. While that job taught me a lot about credit cards, and having compassion for customer service reps (it’s really not their fault most of the time), I refuse to go back to being verbally abused on the phone for 8 hours a day.

So I will remain in Korea an additional year, save double (or more) of what I currently have then come back in another year. Crossing my fingers for a good year. I started out rough being thrown in with 0 experience and no orientation prior but I have grown a lot and look forward to another exciting year 🙂

6 months in Korea

Yeah, It has really flown by quickly. I am at the halfway mark of my 12-month contract. At the moment, I am sitting in my office at school writing this post. I am currently “taking a rest.” It’s a Konglish (Korean + English) term that  most of us NETS in public schools  often hear. Sometimes your coteacher decides that she can teach a class on her own that day and you can go relax. I can’t complain, because I love having the option to relax.

As you can tell, this post is a bit disorganized because I don’t have any new insight. To keep it short, I am still enjoying my time here after 6 months. I can’t really say if I had a honey moon period or not. I came in unsure, but now that I am settled in; I am quite comfortable in both my teaching and in my personal life.

While here in Korea, I have also been mapping out my post-Korea life. Begging in early August, I have started working on becoming a certified teacher in the state of Texas. How am I doing this all the way from here? I am enrolled in an alternative certification program (ACP) approved by the state of Texas called A+ Texas Teachers. To sum it up, I opted to complete the training (modules) online. I am almost done with them. In addition to the training, I also have to take tests in the subjects I plan to be certified in (ELA & ESL) which I plan to do when I go home and do 30 hrs (15 online and 15 in person) of I guess shadowing in a school in Texas.

When I will be doing the latter half is up in the air because I am still unsure on if I want to renew my contract here if given the option or if I want to go home after completing my current contract. The program evaluated my undergraduate transcript and due to the fact that I had so many English Education (7-12) credits  I am considered “Highly Qualified” to teach ELA (English language arts) 7-12. This means that I can start looking for jobs teaching ELA 7-12 before I take the test. I can forgo the test however it is advised that most school districts in Texas want to see that the teacher has passed the test.

So why Texas? Well because their path to certification is less complicated than in my home state of Pennsylvania. Also there is a demand for teachers and especially ESL teachers. Post-Korea I still want to work with English language learners and Texas is the place to be because they have a high population of ELLs. In addition, I hear that the cost of living is quite good there. Kooky Konservative politics aside, Texas seems like an okay state. I do have to research the different places in Texas. I do not want to end up in a redneck-y sundown town (research what those are).

But yeah  TLDR: I am enjoying my time in Korea after 6 months, I am still on the fence about if I want to renew for an additional year due to many factors, and I am currently working towards becoming a certified teacher in Texas for my post-Korea Plans.

Thanks for Reading!

 

 

Birthday Celebration

This past weekend I celebrated my 25th birthday in Korea. I had a sleepover and invited a few of the close friends I made during orientation. Yes, I was able to fit 5 people in my apartment. I have a one-bedroom, so there was enough space for everyone. It was really fun. One of the best birthdays I have ever had.

After getting everyone from the train station, we went to the local oven-roasted chicken place and ate, went back to my place and relaxed till nighttime. At night, we went downtown to Megabox (a movie theatre) and watched movies. Three of us went to see Me, Before You and the other two went to see The Conjuring. Our movie finished first so we went to the game room and sang Karaoke. It was quite fun!

Anyways here are some pictures and video clips from the lovely day.

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My Boyfriend had this surprise delivered to me 🙂

Commentary on a few Cons of Working and Living in Korea

Thus far I have written about my experience (s) in Korea and it has all been positive but there are some negatives. While these negatives don’t bother me much because the positives far outweigh them; I still want to touch on them for those who are considering coming here.

  1. Staring: If you are a non-Korean you are going to get stared at a lot especially if you live in a small town or smaller city. I live in a small city and I get stared at a lot.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I am one of the three black people in my city. At first it was uncomfortable because I am an introvert and hate having the spotlight on me but I slowly getting used to it. In a way I understand. When I was a little girl growing up in Ghana I was always curious whenever I saw a white tourist/visitor. They looked different from what I was used to.
  2. Space/Boundaries: Middle aged married women (ajummas?) and elderly women have no boundaries lol One time I was talking to another foreigner downtown and one of them came up behind me with their grandchild and started touching my braids. I also had one touch my braids while standing in line at a grocery store. I didn’t really mind it because I knew it was bound to happen. In addition, last week I taught second graders at my traveling school because the 6th graders went to an English camp. After saying goodbye to them and giving them hugs, some of them started touching my braids.
  3. Language barriers: Though you do not need to know how to speak Korean to teach English here I highly recommend that you learn it for your day to day life especially if you are placed in a small rural town or small city. It is rare to find an English speaker in Jecheon. Even if they do know some, they are very shy to use it. One teacher at my main school told me she is afraid of foreigners due to an anxious feeling of having to speak English. I had an incident in my second week where a taxi driver dropped me off at a hospital with the same name as my main school. It was far from where I wanted to be dropped off. It was a horrible feeling and I thought, “if only I knew Korean.”
  4. Feeling of loneliness: If you work in the public schools, most of your co-workers will probably not communicate much with you (this goes back to point #3 about language barriers). Now if you are an extrovert who craves conversation, this will suck for you but as an introvert I don’t mind it much.
  5. Co-teaching disconnect: While we are told that co-teachers will always be there in the classroom to assist us with our classes and we will always plan together after school, this is not always the case. Every situation is different. I really don’t plan with any of my co-teachers. With my main coteacher she just asks me to bring in stuff and she will as well. At my traveling school, I plan alone. Also there are a lot of people who complain about their coteachers disappearing and not helping out.

These are a few points I can think off right now. I am not writing this to scare anyone off but you should consider these factors.  All in all your experience in Korea will mostly be dependent on your relationship with your co-teacher and school. So far I get a long with my co-teacher and though I don’t communicate much with the other staff members outside of a hi and bye, they have been very welcoming and nice so far.

Two months In Korea

I entered the Republic of Korea approximately two months ago on March 25th.  Two months in, and I am still enjoying my time here. I haven’t really done much traveling besides going to  Seoul during  the 4-day weekend (Parent’s day/Children’s day).

Also in late April, I attended the orientation for the Spring 2016 Late intakers. I met some wonderful people and had a blast at Gyeongbukgang Palace, and at the theater to see Nanta.

As I stated in my last post, I didn’t come to Korea with high expectations. From all the posts I read online about xenophobia in Korea I thought, what the hell was I getting myself into? Just a disclaimer, I am not denying that these events do not occur but in my experience so far I haven’t had anyone be mean or nasty to me. I live in a small city, and while I do get stared at a lot (I’m one of the three black people in this city lol), everyone has been kind so far.

My school is amazing, the students are respectful (with a few baddies  here and there), my co-teacher is super helpful, and I love my living arrangement (apartment). In addition, the cost of living is super cheap. I send more than half of my salary home (with about $410 of it) going to my car payments. I hope to save $12K at the end of the year.

I am a bit torn on if I want to stay another year. I really would like to stay another year. I feel as though one-year is not enough, but I am in a relationship and he really misses me (and I miss him as well). I also think about my future classroom in the U.S, and teaching ESL students there. But then I also think about saving more money, and leaving these kids after just one year. I also heard the second year is a breeze because you are more familiar with the material and whatnot. This is something that I would have to revisit again in another 6 months but right now I am still on the fence.

Moving on to another subject, I am thinking of getting certified while here. I remember in previous entries 2 yrs ago, I talked about an acceptance into an alt. teaching program at a university of Texas. My mind shifted from it because the school was taking a long time to get things moving and after the frustration of rejections from other teaching fellowship programs, I set my sight overseas. Today I put in another application for the upcoming Spring semester. I most likely have to contact my undergrad and graduate institutions to request transcripts. I did mention that I would like to teach at the higher education level, but I think that can wait till later on life.

Ideally I’d like to teach ELA (English language arts) and ESL but I lean more towards ESL. If I can get the initial certification, I can also certify my M.Ed in ESOL. I also hear that Texas has a teacher shortage, especially in ESL and they pay really well so I guess, Texas is my next big move when returning to the states.