17 October 2012

The Rain In Spain Leads Mainly To Throat Pain

I like to think of myself as the type of person who doesn't need medicine. I like to think that my body goes to battle against germs and bacteria without outside help. I like to let my defense systems hone their skills by giving in to the sick for a day or so, letting them figure out how this newest bio-weapon works, and kicking it's ass. 

Apparently Spain's deadly blow was too much for it to handle. After five days of being permanently attached to a tissue box, I gave in and went to the doctor. It wasn't so much that I was feeling terrible; it was that only half of my throat hurt. The left half felt like someone had sprayed fire down it before repeated forcing me to swallow a sword while the right half felt 100% totally normal, thank you very much. That ish is too weird to leave to its own devices.

So after a couple frustrating calls with my private insurance that resulted in a couple overwhelmed tears, my saint-like roommate walked me to the hospital. I gave her my insurance card, she asked what was wrong, and I went to the other room to wait. And let's be clear here: this wasn't the socialized health care waiting room of the GOP's nightmares. There were 6 people there: 1 man with a broken arm, 1 little girl missing all her teeth, and 4 with no visible maladies. I waited 45 minutes (45 minutes! I've waited longer than that for most appointments I've made with doctors) before I was called back to a room. 
This penis-shaped plant is my only complaint about the hospital
And once I got there it was on. No "the doctor will see you in a (read: 15) minute(s)." The nurse took my vital stats and asked me if I came to Spain for love or money. When she was done, the doctor walked in -- he was wearing jeans and scrub shirt -- looked at my chart, looked at my throat, and did a quick culture for strep. He left and came back five minutes later with a (typed!) prescription for antibiotics and directions. I was in and out, without an appointment and for a grand total of $0, in less than an hour. 

And then the pharmacy. The pharmacy! I handed the pharmacist my paper and he handed me my medicine. There was no waiting 20 minutes or overnight. And did I mention that I only paid 5€ for each of my two prescriptions? 

Last time I went to a doctor, I waited a week and a half for an appointment, which I then paid $35 for (twice, because I had to go back). I had the pleasure of spending another $7 for a medicine I bought at the office and $20 for a prescription I had to wait two days to get. And that's with the privilege of health insurance; I've got it pretty easy. 

I know there's plenty here that's not right. The economy is in shambles and looking at the possibility of a bailout. Unemployment in Spain is at 24% and nearly half of all young people are jobless. When you order pizza, it comes with a layer of ham underneath the cheese. But it still seems like there's something we could learn. 

Maybe it's just the high from the whole experience, but I think I feel better already.

08 October 2012

Food, Glorious Food!

Quick. If you had to choose any one American TV show to export to the rest of the world, what would it be? Because I like to assume that the people who make their way to my blog are mostly sane (which, to be honest, isn't really a very good assumption), I'm guessing you wouldn't pick Man v. Food. And yet that's exactly what the five of us -- me, my two roommates, and their girlfriends -- spent yesterday morning watching while we ate our breakfast.

While we debated weather or not French toast and French fries are, in fact, a French export, someone pointed out how bad the Spanish are at marketing their food abroad. "Our food is so rich and varied," she said, "But when you say 'tortilla' anywhere else in the world, people only think about the Mexican version." A month or so ago, I would've disagreed. As we all know, the Spanish don't have a "rich and varied" diet so much as "1000 types of ham." But it turns out that I was wrong. Not only is ham not disgusting (we'll get to that in a minute), it's not the only thing to eat around these here parts. 

In an effort to impress my family and friends, I'm starting a catalogue of all the weirdo foods I've eaten since I got here. While I realize that not all the foods on this list are weird in most people's books, I need you to keep in mind that we're talking about me (this is my blog after all). In high school, my friend Lydia used to describe me as "the girl who only eats white food." I didn't eat chicken until I was 19. I once described eating pesto as "adventurous." So armed with that knowledge, onward ho.

Foods I've Eaten For The First Time Since September 24th

     previous aversion: Um, the suckers. 
     verdict: Octopods are really cool animals. I mean, the UK has named them "honorary vertebrates." That being said, they are not by any stretch of the imagination my new favorite food. Even when swimming in garlic butter, octopus still looks pretty much like octopus and feels like chewing a particularly dense balloon. 

     previous aversion: Mostly because I delegate all animal products that aren't eggs, dairy, chicken breast, steak to the "strange and questionable meats" category. The fact that pig legs hang out with flies on the ceilings of almost every market, cafe, and bar in Spain did do much to help win me over.
     verdict: I can not tell a lie. As much as it makes me feel like a hypocrite, I have to admit that I like ham afterall. I forced myself to try it at a bar in The Middle of Nowhere, Redondela because turning down the 70-year-old barmaid's tapa seemed like bad form and kind of loved it. Instead of tasting like I expected (rotting un-kosher animal mystery innards), it was kind of just like eating salt. 

     previous aversion: Seeing dozens of pounds of salted cod sit out for days at a time in a depanneur in Montreal. 
     verdict: Unlike our so-intelligent-we-might-as-well-pretend-that-they-have-a-backbone friend the octopus, cod are actual vertebrates. I was so hungry that by the time the food arrived, I didn't think to ask if the fish still had bones and took a massive bite before realizing that I was essentially eating fried bones held together by bits of fish flesh. Going to a restaurant and ordering something that takes work to eat seems counterintuitive to me, so if I get bacalao again, I'm going to get something that doesn't involve espinas. 

     previous aversion: The sheer terror and disgust that old men with coffee breath inspire in me. 
     verdict: I actually kind of dig it. Coffee in the U.S. comes in size big, huge and gargantuan and cost an ungodly amount of money; coffee here comes in a tiny little tea cup and costs around a dollar. My favorite cafe here gives you coffee, a croissant, and a shot of orange juice (it's like an after-coffee mint!) for 1.50€. 

     previous aversion: Dissected these babies in 7th grade science and the hall smelled like them for a week afterward.
     verdict: Actually? Awesome. Like most food in Spain (e.g. shrimp with eyes, ham with toes, rabbits with ears), these guys showed up in full-on squid form. None of that namby-pamby fried calamari ring bullshit. My roommate showed me how to pull the cartilage out and squeeze lemon juice on it, and I was unstoppable.

+Carrot soup
     previous aversion: Unless it's a milkshake, I don't like to drink my food.
     verdict: Mehhhhh. It is, however, worth mentioning that I thought I was eating bunnies because my co-worker confused the worlds for "carrot" and "rabbit" and told me it was rabbit soup as he passed me a bowl. It wasn't until we were done eating and I asked why rabbit soup was orange that someone corrected him and I realized that it was only carrots. 

     previous aversion: n/a. Never had the opportunity to try it.
     verdict: Just no. (N.B. I ate it in our school cafeteria, so I'll consider giving it another chance if someone wants to take me out on a fancy swordfish dinner date.)

     previous aversion: I don't know. Un-outgrown general childhood stubbornness?
     verdict: The turkey was in paella, so I just pretended like I was eating chicken and I didn't die. 

+Ham flavored potato chips
     previous aversion: Nothing about this combination sounds appetizing. 
     verdict: Again with the ham. I ate at least 1/3 of the bag; they are that good.

+A taco that was actually spicy in Spain
     previous aversion: n/a. I love hot things! The problem here is that Spain's idea of spicy is a -3 on the universal Thai/Indian restaurant scale of spiciness. 
     verdict: Yum. After being disappointed to find out that we were going to a soup restaurant for lunch, I was ecstatic to find out that they were having a special taco day on Friday. 

p.s. Foods I miss: red onions, black beans (paying 2.5€ just doesn't seem worth it), cilantro, corn (despite the fact that Galicia is like a mini-Ohio when it comes to corn farming), popcorn, peanut butter.

07 October 2012

The Name Game

We have no Internet* but I'm getting impatient and want to write about what's going on in this strange, magical place called Spain. Since pictures are not an option at the moment, today is going to be one of those play-along-at-home kind of days. The name of the game today is:

How Do You Say That Name?

1. Uxia
2. Brais
3. Iago
4. Loira
5. Izan
6. Xurxo
7. Bieito

*This post was brought to you today by the unprotected wifi network "THOMPSON" and by the parents of the students in my class who have given them all awesomely unpronounceable names.

Answers: 1. oo-SHE-uh 2. Brice 3. ee-AH-go 4. lo-EE-r/la 5. Ethan 6. shur-sho 7. I wish I knew