Ever Been to an Optometrist in a Country Where You Don’t Speak The Language?

Thomo has. Picture this, gentle reader. Thomo, sitting (sober) in the back seat of a DeLuxe Taxi in Seoul, black seat, black glasses case, heading back to the office after organising a visa for a trip to India (which, as it turned out, was botched up … but that and the bureaucracy that involved is a whole other story). Pay cab fare, exit taxi and the watch it drive off with your glasses on the back seat. Teach the Koreans within earshot a few extra pieces of the English language and then return to the office.

This then was the start of the saga of getting a new pair of glasses in a non English speaking country.

I returned to the office, went across to Miss Chung, an absolutely delightful lady and my korean-english fixit lady at that time and said, “er, which way to the nearest optometrist, I need some new glasses as I have just lost mine.”

We did, of course, try the usual things first of telephoning the taxi companies (or rather she did) but nothing had been handed in. There was nothing else for it. Off to the Optometrist. We went across to a large optometrist just outside the northern exit to Samseong Subway Station. We walked in and Miss Chung engaged the staff in a conversation telling them what I wanted. The optometrist came over and spoke to me. He spoke Korean. I did not. Miss Chung stepped in and performed her role as a translator.

We were taken into the examination area of the optometrist’s establishment for an eye examination as I was not travelling with a copy of the prescription for my spectacles (like any of us do!). The optometrist looked at me and then looked at the eye chart in his examination area then took me into the laser examination area. He sat me down and used the laser measuring machine thingy to work out the spectacle prescription. He then made up a set of temporary lenses, put them on me and pointed out to the street.

Joy of joy, I could see clearly. In fact, I could see clearer than I had ever seen before. OUt of either eye. I could see for miles, crystal clear images. I turned to thank him and tell him they were terrific when I noticed that a poster on the wall about a metre from my head was a total blur. A few quick words to Miss Chung and the optometrist understood that I needed reading glasses. His face fell.

We went into the examination room. I sat down. The optometrist spoke something in Korean. I waited. Miss Chung translated.

“He wants you to read line 3 on the eye chart on the wall.”

“OK” said I. I looked over at the chart, looked down to the third line. It was a string of Korean characters.

“Miss Chung, can you translate line 3 for me please?” I asked.

“Certainly. ‘A’, ‘H’, ‘R’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘K’, ‘M’, ‘N’, ‘V’.”

“Thank you. Tell the optometrist line 3 says ‘A’, ‘H’, ‘R’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘K’, ‘M’, ‘N’, ‘V'” I said.

“What did he say?” asked the optometrist.

“He said, “(*$#%(*$#&;@&&&” translated Miss Chung.

“What’s wrong with his eyes then, they are better than mine?” said the optometrist.

It was about this point that we decided that the eye examination had best be done with numbers and shapes. An altogether interesting experience.

I must admit though that the glasses were ready three days later (and I have a requirement for lenses ground to order) and were inexpensive, costing around US $80.00 all up, lenses, frame and examination. They were also an excellent pair of spectacles. And I lost them in similar circumstances, again in Seoul, nearly 18 months later. This time, however, the prescription was in the Optometrists and so a new pair were prepared in a couple of days.

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