Thursday, February 2, 2012

From Russia With Love

Dear Czech Republic,

Hasn't this been a simply deightful winter? The sun is shining, the ducks still paddle around the village ponds, and all of the hormonal, cigarette addicted teenie-boppers can still venture out until 5 in the morning with high heels and a pair of nylons on. It must be really nice to forget your gloves at home and still be able to wiggle them after 20 minutes outside.

I'm sorry to break the news, but you and all of your closest European neighbors are in the midst of receiving a little taste of what we in Russia like to call "I wish I could feel my nose, toes and rear end" cold. This is the kind of cold that will make you see sense in having a drink of something boozy right before heading outside, so you have a have a good laugh at why you made the non-sensical choice to live in a place that gets so ridiculously freezing.

Thought polar fleece was unfashionable? Fur? Wearing a hood, leg warmers, and multiple layers of hand coverings? Forget fashion, you cosmopolitan bourgeosis whiners. The gust of cold air we're blowing your way is going to require everything you have, and even then, don't plan on spending more than five minutes outside at a time. You'd better hope where you're walking, there's an open shop every 200 meters you can stop into and pretend to browse.

Now we know that you didn't choose to live in Siberia, and we promise this will only last a few weeks, but for the time being we appreciate your patience and acceptance as ice immediately forms when you accidentally spill tea on the sidewalk. Remember that film, The Day After Tomorrow, when the ice spreads immediately as the dooming cloud of cold covers the earth. We just wanted to give you the pleasure of experiencing it first hand.

So hang in there, crank up your heaters (we're sorry if you can't afford to), have a couple glasses of wine, and get used to feeling a little anti-social for a while, because the cold is here, and you're just going to have to deal with it. Suckers.

With love,
From Russia

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Hospital

A place of waiting.

It seems like Christmas really took the writing kick out of me. How irresponsible I've been! But let's let bygones be bygones, accept that January is always a "hit the ground running" kind of month, and boy, did I hit it.

I seemed to have hit it so hard that about two weeks ago, I was so excited to build a castle out of cardboard boxes with my afternoon class that I excitedly sliced a giant gash in my left hand with a boxcutter, with only about 30 minutes to quitting time. (Disappointing...)

My first reaction at seeing the inside of my body was, slap a hand on it! Stop the blood flow! I'm such a good first aid responder. But of course the second reaction was, PLEASE, oh please, don't let this require stitches. I've never been to the emergency room for stitches. The only time was actually in Taiwan, after my scooter accident. I had no idea how health care worked in this country, but going by the incredibly lax and...time consuming...procedures required by the government, I envisioned myself sitting in a giant Soviet waiting room, for hours and hours, wagging my bleeding hand at nurses who couldn't understand me.

My level headed co-teacher Zuzka broke the bad news. "You are going to the hospital." she said as she mopped the blood off the castle boxes (still hasn't been built!) and after someone shoved a few Skittles in my hand to calm me down, and getting a professional-looking butterfly bandage, I was driven to the largest hospital in Prague, Nemonice Krc. Effectively, this makes it the largest hospital in the Czech Republic. Very large.

If Czech is confusing in everyday words like "Good morning" (dobre rano) and "tomato" (rajcata), imagine the fabulous confusion of driving into this sprawling compound and having no idea what EMERGENCY ROOM looks like. It turns out all people needing immediate attention are required to drive, or walk, to the back of the hospital estate. I can't imagine how thrilling it would be to break a leg bone, take the bus to the hospital, and then have to hobble about half a mile to the ER.

And so, I entered into the world of health care without English. I have Czech healthcare, and so my total fees for services rendered totalled a whopping $1.50. Thrilling! If you're going to get cut, you might want to consider doing it here...

The hospital ward was entirely outdated, a sad shade a tan that was cracking at every edge, and the nurses were this kind of short, button-up shift that looks like an insane asylum dress. WITHOUT PANTS. It's cold here, I don't know how they do it.

It was in the moment that I sat down in the waiting chair that I felt very alone. I started to cry. The last thing I wanted to do was wait for 4 hours in this cold and moldy place. But what do you know, this is a place that apparently burns on efficiency and I was in and out in forty minutes, three stitches in the hand (and a lot of tears) later.
Just keep smiling, wherever you are, no matter what you did with a box cutter.

And today, after two more doctor's visits, I am proud to report that the old hand is unstitched and looking..a little freaky, but completely healthy. And I am happy to review Czech medical care as a little dingy, a little on the downside of fashion, but completely effective and cheap as chips.