“We are going to do what?!”
Have you ever experienced a moment in time when your heart is suddenly jolted and stops altogether? I imagine mine did as the future of my trip began to unveil before me. Our planned itinerary, given to us back at home, was one which promised to create unforgettable memories for all of us. Who would’ve imagined what laid before us as we arrived to our much anticipated destination?
Exhausted from a ten hour flight, learning that we would not be retiring in a hotel was bad enough. Add to our discovery of having to stay in the airport for another eight hours – and you have a group of very grumpy teenagers. We learned after the screening and tests, a group member tested positive for swine flu. As I heard the airport official’s announcement confirming the results, I was shocked beyond words. Never in my mind would I have thought my trip to South Korea would result in this. My stomach churned at the thought of a summer adventure being ruined all because of this dreaded ailment.
It was then disclosed what would happen to us. The Korean government found it necessary that we needed to be quarantined at a hospital in Seoul until we recovered. To say my heart dropped to the floor would be an understatement. I had the whole trip envisioned, start to finish. After being given the opportunity to go on an all-expense-paid-trip through the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) Summer Study Program, I felt I was handed a golden opportunity! However, the current reality convinced me otherwise that everything would fall apart and this trip was going to be ruined!
What made me feel worse was the constant reminder of my health status: contagious, a carrier of the terrible epidemic. The moment after we were tested we were required to wear facial masks at all times to prevent the spread of germs. When we were picked up by a Korean hospital worker, they were fully covered – head to toe, in a white suit. Ah, that made me feel a lot better.
As we were admitted into the hospital I, along with the others, sulked at the fact we were losing valuable time by being confined in a room. As the days progressed nothing was happening and that burning flame of anger and frustration began to fade. Each of us began to reassess our outlook on the situation. I mean, how many people would be able to say they’ve been hospitalized in a foreign country? Or even better, been quarantined for swine flu in a foreign country? Besides, this could create an opportunity for everyone to bond, especially since we would be confined for a week. This renewed outlook of optimism helped us deal with our situation and created a better environment for all of us.
When I was released, exactly one week after I landed in Korea, there was such an adrenaline rush flowing in my veins. Filling my lungs with fresh air and feeling the sunlight touch my skin was delightful, like sipping crisp water on a hot day. Never in my life had I realized what it is like to be confined in a single area – and I often took this freedom for granted. As I walked through those hospital doors, I had a sense of fulfillment that, “Wow, I actually survived this.” Indeed, I had experienced a momentous event, one which I will never forget!
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