Quarantine with my Soldier in South Korea: What You Need to Know

What you Need to Know— Quarantine with my Soldier in South Korea

Quarantine sucks! I had to quarantine once after a week-long trip to New York City. And once again, after our road trip across the country. Neither one equipped me with the necessary mentality to deal with the mandatory 14-day quarantine in South Korea I just experienced. And here’s why.

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One-Spouses-Experience-in-Military-Quarantine-800x450 Quarantine with my Soldier in South Korea: What You Need to Know

One Spouse’s Experience in Military Quarantine in South Korea

With many of the world off-limits to the foreign traveler and severe entry restrictions and quarantine requirements in place for many others, the prospect of traveling abroad at this time is scary at best. However, when Uncle Sam invites you to visit, it’s not a matter of choice; it’s a matter of preparation, being informed, and flexible.

We arrived in South Korea around 4 pm. It took 3 hours to go through customs and Covid-19 screening. And another hour for our ride to arrive. I was well past exhausted when the bus pulled up to the medical center around 10:30. We endured one more briefing and another Covid-19 test before our chariot, an old Hyundai 7-passenger van, whisked us (and our 11 pieces of luggage) to our quarantine home for the next 14 days.

Quarantine in a Military Facility

Room 108– Our Home for the Next 14 Days

I’m not gonna lie. I had watched several videos about military quarantine in South Korea on Youtube. Still, I felt uninformed about what was happening to us most of the day, most likely due to the language barrier combined with a 14-hour flight. But each room is slightly different. And what you get assigned is based on your family size and when you arrive.

Our room was a 1970-style barracks with a view of a lovely gas propane tank. The room was compact, to say the least. Two double beds flanked a small window with fusty curtains that had seen better days. Each bed had a thin spring mattress and a “set,” used loosely, sheets, pillowcase, and pillow. If you have the room, bring your own bedding. If not, you may end up with a scratchy green wool blanket and a feather pillow.

One-Spouses-Experience-in-Military-Quarantine-from-my-bed-800x450 Quarantine with my Soldier in South Korea: What You Need to Know

Twin Beds

An Island for Each of Us

Steven gave me the first dibs. I picked the bed farthest from the window with the non-feather-stuffed pillow. That bed also had one of the old-school Army green wool blankets too. I didn’t feel too bad. He was the reason I was here in the first place, and rightly so to take one for the team.

We initially thought we’d push the beds together. I brought one queen size comforter. But I’m glad we decided against it because it gave us our own little island– a separate space for us to breathe. Quarantine is hard enough. We’ve been married for 25 years, and it took a toll on us too. I can’t imagine doing it with little kids. I can recall a few times where we snapped at each other. And I utilized my noise-canceling headphones a lot. Once, I even gave up my yard time to have the room to myself for 45 minutes. Trust me– mandatory quarantine is not the time to have serious conversations. It’s not even a good time to ask, “what are you thinking?”

You’ll have to sign for everything in the room. There were a small desk and chair, a refrigerator, a microwave, and three wall lockers. There were two nightstands in the hall wall lockers. We left them there and used the two boxes we had as nightstands instead.

We didn’t have a television, but I recently discovered a few rooms with TVs. Our refrigerator door didn’t always close unless you pulled up on the door handle at the same time. And the microwave sat on top of it, which wasn’t exactly easily accessible to me. But we had one, so I’m grateful.

The Bathroom

The floor-to-ceiling tiled bathroom had one of those industrial twenty-pound shower curtains I refused to touch. The bathroom was burgundy with a black strip three quarter’s up the wall. The vanity sat opposite the closet just outside the privy. Thankfully, we had good water pressure in the shower. But it was far too small to get dressed in, and the toilet seat was fragile. Every time (twice) I sat on it, it buckled like it was about to break.

Supplied items included hand sanitizer, multipurpose cleaner, a stack of brown paper towels, and what barely passes as a broom with a dustpan.

The Quarantine Basics

1. Quarantine is a 14-day— period. Since we are military, we served our quarantine on a military installation.

2. Complete the daily check-in on the ROK’s Self- quarantine Safety Protection App. If you are visiting short-term not only do you have to pay for your quarantine accommodations but you must submit to daily temperature checks.

3. After 3 days, we are given 45-minutes of supervised yard time. Don’t pass this time up. It’s the only opportunity (other than laundry day) to get some fresh air and stretch your legs. But don’t think you’ll get to roam around freely. The area was roped off, just large enough to lap it while staying socially distanced.

4. A hot breakfast, box lunch, and hot dinner will be delivered every day. There are a few places we can get delivery from as well. All were western junk food chains, so we didn’t bother. This is also the best time to ask for trash bags and toilet paper.

5. You are allotted one day to do laundry on day-9, escorted, of course. The washer and dryers were fairly new and free to use.

6. No visitors, but we could have friends drop supplies off. More on that later.

7. Medical came to us to administer the third Covid-19 test on day-12.

8. No more yard time on day-12 until pardoned.

9. If we had any questions, we could contact the “wardens” via Google Hangouts. By the way, the staff was very friendly and accommodating. They did their best to make quarantine as painless as possible.

10. You are responsible for cleaning the room upon departure.

11. You cannot just leave. It would help if you were released to your unit representative. We had to wait for a bus that took us to Daegu.

One-Spouses-Experience-in-Military-Quarantine-2-800x450 Quarantine with my Soldier in South Korea: What You Need to Know

Preparations for Quarantine

What I Brought With Me

I had watched more than a few videos to know I had to bring a few things to survive. And even then, I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I hoped. Here is a list of things I brought specifically with quarantine in mind:

  • blanket
  • throws (2), robe
  • coffee & mug, soda, and Crown Royal
  • Healthy snacks
  • resistance bands and jump rope
  • Kindle
  • shower shoes (2 pair— one for the shower, one for the room)
  • noise-canceling headphones
  • pen, paper, a coloring book with markers
  • medications
  • VPN Account
  • laundry detergent

What My Friends Brought Me

  • Yoga mat and block
  • chips, chocolate, crackers, Raman noodles, and sugar
  • wine, soda, and water
  • pillows, towels, and washcloths

What I Wished I Had Done, Brought, or Asked For

  • Deck of cards— my eyes started to hurt from all the screen time (Kindle, phone, and Mac.
  • Hot sauce, salsa, queso, bread, or Ritz crackers– for variety. Here’s a good place to talk about food.
  • I wish I had borrowed a table lamp because the overhead lights had bright white light bulbs in them, which irritated my eyes.
  • Changed all my two-step verifications from phone to email. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to log in to certain websites or apps once you leave the country and no longer have access to your Stateside cell phone if you have two-step verification activated.

Unemployment Compensation

On a side note, forty-six states allow military spouses to apply for some form of unemployment benefits if they quit their job due to military PCS. As of today, North Dakota, Ohio, Louisiana and Idaho are not on board yet. Hindsight is 20-20. Benefits do not replace your paycheck. Payments are based on a percentage of what you’ve contributed for this exact reason. If I had known I’d have problems with two-step verification, I would have set up my account differently. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a live person online to help.

What we Ate

Breakfast

Most breakfasts consisted of some combination of scrambled eggs (every day), grits, hash brown, oatmeal, french toasts, or waffles. There were a few days where we served turkey, bacon, or sausage. And there were a few days we opened our containers to eggs and rice. We never knew what was coming our way.

I’ll never understand why it took them a week to realize you need syrup for the waffles and French toast.

One-Spouses-Experience-in-Military-Quarantine-Box-Lunch-2-800x450 Quarantine with my Soldier in South Korea: What You Need to Know

Lunch

Lunch was a boxed lunch that consisted of tuna, chicken salad, buffalo chicken, or  pb&j. All meals came with two wheat tortillas (instead of bread), a granola bar, tootsie roll pop, can of Pringles, and a juice box.

Dinner

Dinner was by far the best meal of the day. Like breakfast, it was a hot meal. It also varied the most. Some of the meals we were served included: chicken fried rice, pasta, chicken breasts, bbq chicken, and cheeseburger mac. It was a good day when dinner came with a side salad even though the dressing included was Ranch or French– my two least favorite salad dressings.

Final Thoughts on Food

We didn’t have a kitchen or even a kitchen sink, so there was no chance of cooking. However, you won’t starve. They serve you so much food; you’d be crazy to eat it all because there is no way to work it off. So don’t try. Don’t bring a lot of snacks for the same reason. Boredom creates the space to over-eat. You can also order food from a few fast-food restaurants if you want. It will be dropped off at the CQ desk. You’ll find all that information in your room.

Quarantine in South Korea

Start With a Routine

Quarantine in a military facility is not much different from quarantining in a government facility. Aside from the obvious, we do not pay for our accommodations. However, the facility does adhere to ROK guidelines.

Set a Routine

Morning

For the most part, we both maintained a daily routine. I woke up around 6 am, showered, made my bed, meditated, and practiced a little yoga. Breakfast was usually delivered around 7:30. I then worked on my blog, read or played a game on my Kindle. I tried to get up every hour to march in place or stretch.

We went outside around 11:30, followed by lunch and a movie. We set up the laptop on a chair we placed the chair between the beds. Fortunately, the wifi is excellent. We didn’t have the router in our room, but we never lost connectivity either.

Sometimes we watched back-to-back movies, listened to music, streamed news or Youtube videos. Thank you, Netflix, Amazon Prime Movies, CBS All Access, and torrent downloads.

Also, I set a goal to get in 250 steps per hour. However, I think the guy above us did too, which got old quickly. I was surprised later that I didn’t take many pictures, although I did journal quite a bit. As you can imagine, the days are long, and the nights seem longer. I kept a visual calendar when I forgot what day it was, which helped.

Evening

Dinner was served around 7:30. We usually ate that watching a movie together. And just before bed, around 10 pm or so, I’d perform a self-wellness check with friends or family back home.

I’d wake up around 2 am I’d sit on that fragile toilet lid to participate in Wanderful’s virtual chats and activities. These chats will forever be known as “toilet chats.”

Final Thoughts 

In the end, it’s a small thing to ask in return for all the adventures we plan to have here. We know we did not contribute to the spread of the virus, which means our new neighbors feel relatively safe being around us.

Also, I’m so used to giving, so I am truly grateful to have received so much. I felt the generosity and kindness of friends, some newly introduced and STILL unmet, through their gifts– pillows, towels and wine, etc.– while we were confined. All I had to do was ask. Which means I must be a good friend, or I have friends I don’t deserve. Lol

And Steven did get some much-needed downtime while I finally nailed putting on false lashes and eyeshadow without looking clownish. It’s a win-win for us both.

Comments

  1. countryroadmom

    Wow. Now I know why my brother bugged the hell out of me with game requests while he was in quarantine when he arrived. Glad you guys survived and hope you enjoyed your time there.

  2. jupiterhadley

    Wow what an interesting and unique experience – I didn’t think about military quarantine at all during lockdown.

  3. rhianwestbury

    I’ve heard varying things about quarantine hotels and I’m going to be honest this would be my idea of hell, I’m glad you made it through x

  4. Sondra Barker

    This is such an interesting story; I felt like I was reading a book. It provides great insight on how different countries are handling this unprecedented situation.

  5. Just Juan

    As I know well, this is the story of military life abroad at times. Life in the RoK is very interesting and the rules may seem a bit strict or even archaic but in the end, you’ll enjoy every bit of the experience.

  6. Stephanie

    Oh wow, what an adventure! I don’t know how you wouldn’t go absolutely stir crazy. I would have to have so many books loaded on my kindle reader. I do wonder, though, do they take allergies into consideration? Because with a dairy and egg allergy, I probably couldn’t eat a lot of the food they provided you.

  7. Stacey

    Good question? In the end it’s a small thing to ask in return for all the adventures we plan to have here. We know we did not contribute to spreading the virus– which also means our new neighbors feel relatively safe being atound us. In affition, I’m so used to giving, so I am truly gratefulto have received so much. I felt the generosity and kindness of friends, some newly introduced and STILL unmet, through their gifts– pillows, towels and wine etc– while we were confined. And Steven did get some much neefed down time while I finally learned how to put lashes and eyeshadow without looking like a clown.

  8. Miss Footloose

    This is an amazing story / account! I am sure it will be useful for others to read. Thank the gods you had a good wifi connection! This is one expat experience that I have not had, and having lived in a number of foreign countries, mostly poor ones, I do have stories. I suppose that what kept you sane (?) was the fact that it was ‘only’ two weeks! Have you found any ‘silver linings’ or something positive that has come from this experience?

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