By Tyler Seed
We were going to her hometown to spend a few nights at her parents’ house. I had already met her parents, and got on well with them. They had been nothing but warm, welcoming, and very patient with my rudimentary Korean language skills. While we hadn’t officially announced our engagement, the well-understood subtext of the visit was that we were planning to get married and that their daughter would be coming to live with me in Canada. This was a very important weekend.
My future wife, Gaeun, had been having some problems with her stomach, and her mother had scheduled a ‘stomach check’ for the morning after we got into town. Apparently informed about my frequent diarrhea (not uncommon among expats in Korea), she made an appointment for me too. This was a very generous offer, as they insisted on paying for it. I wasn’t yet sure what the whole thing would entail, but I was touched that her mom would care so much about my health. Who was I to refuse such a gracious gesture?
I continued to study my vocab book and looked forward to the delicious Korean home-cooking I’d heard so much about.
Shortly after arriving at the family home, we were introduced to the 4 litres of chalky laxative we’d each be drinking that night. Gaeun explained to me that by the time we were done I’d be pooping water. A lot of cups, about 4 hours, and many bathrooms trips later we’d finally finished it. Long evening. I don’t know how she kept it all down, but I celebrated finishing the last cupful by quietly puking it right back up. I was a guest after all. In retrospect that was a real bonding experience for us.
Gaeun looked a little green the next morning and I can’t imagine I looked any better. But I was of full of grim determination. I understood the basic mechanics of what would be happening and was eager to get it over with.
Before the test we each had our blood pressure taken. It’s always been an odd source of pride that with a relatively modest amount of exercise I’ve always maintained a blood pressure on the very low end of normal. Other people who’ve lived for a prolonged period as a visible minority in another country might understand the satisfaction I took in imagining how fit they would think this foreigner was. Apparently my blood pressure was quite low that morning. I was unaware of the consequences this would later have.
Gaeun and I were each given a pair of special pants with tail-like flaps covering the big hole left out of the seat. We were led to a little change room and had a little laugh about the assless pants as we put them on. Again, bonding experience.
I was a little surprised to see that the examination room had two tables, each equipped with their own set of viewing screens and what for lack of a better term I’ll call ‘stomach probes’. The nurses pulled a curtain across to separate the room and my future wife/translater was gone.
Through a combination of basic Korean and crude charades, the two or three nurses led me to understand that it was time to lie sideways on the table and hug my knees. I was now acutely aware of the hole in the back of my pants and feeling a little sheepish about my hairy white man asshole, but not that worried. I’d be sedated for the whole thing and was pretty much okay with whatever was about to go down as long as I was unconscious for it.
Then the doctor was beside me with a needle. A short yelp (she hates needles) from the other side of the curtain followed by silence meant that Gaeun had gotten her shot and was out. Lucky her.
The needle went in and I relaxed as I felt the drugs begin to take effect. I waited for oblivion and it never came. As I later discovered, my low blood pressure had caused the doctor lower my dosage. By a lot I guess.
An involuntary whimper escaped my lips as the camera entered. There’s not much to say about what happened next except that it felt large, went deep, and moved around a lot. Time slowed. Whatever sedative effects the drugs had had on me were now long gone. I was very much awake and not enjoying myself in the least.
My relief at having the probe finally pulled out of myass was quickly replaced by confusion when they instructed me to turn around and open my mouth. Another camera then went into my mouth and right down my throat. It was good thing I didn’t have anything left in my stomach. I wouldn’t say that this was worse than the first part of the exam, but continuous gagging on a tube shoved down your throat while a camera moves around in your stomach is also not fun.
When this ordeal was over I was led into a little recovery/resting room where Gaeun was peacefully asleep. I got onto a bed and finally lost consciousness.
In the end, my stomach was fine and the whole thing turned out to be a great icebreaker. Afterwards Gaeun’s dad told us the story of when he had his test done. In one of the toughest moves I’ve ever heard, he voluntarily opted out of the drugs and watched the whole thing on screen. Although our communication was far from perfect, his chuckle told me that he knew what I’d been through, and I felt a little like my stomach hadn’t been the only thing tested that day.