Friday, September 26, 2008

Boy, am I bitchy today!

Yeah, that's right: bitchy... No, it is not a misspelling of beachy... I feel far from beachy today....

I feel, I feel... almost as disgusted as my profile portrait ;-)!

You see: my stomach hurts. A lot! For a few days now and alka seltzer, pink soup and even immodium seem not to make it better. So I need to find a doctor and make an appointment.

My real estate agent, Aida Martinez, (AIM Realty), who is a local Cabo Rojan, and a very nice person, recommended two. I call, ask if the receptionist speaks English... and hear no.

(I am surprised. Just a moment ago I called a local vet to make an appointment for my cat and the vet's assistant spoke decent English. While the doctor's assistant doesn't. Is it because most people who take care of pets here are English speakers... and the vet would not make any money catering to Spanish speakers only??? Told you I was feeling particularly bitchy today...)

She does not even try. Nor does she utter a polite disclaimer " I am sorry" or "lo siento". (And SHE is an American citizen, while I am not! The b... word again...) She just says "no".
Yet, instead of deciding right then and there to end this attempt at conversation, I do try my Spanish.

I explain that my stomach hurts and I need an appointment. ("Yo tengo mucho dolor de estomago y necessito pronto una cita con doctor ..."). She asks my name, tells me October 2nd and asks what kind of plan I have. All in Spanish, but that much I understand.

I have a stomach pain now and she tells me to come a week from now? And without specifying an hour? Or telling me the address? So I ask ... and she gets irritated and speaks now in this rapid fire Boricua, which to me is almost totally incomprehensible.. it does not even resemble the Spanish Spanish I know a bit of. Sigh...

I ask her to speak slower, she speaks even faster. And this only about specifying time and address. And keeps asking about my insurance and telling me "no". I tell her, don't worry, no se preocupe, knowing I am unable to explain to her that my "plan" will pay for any doctor's fees, but she tells me "no".

A rude, obstinate idiot, who should never be allowed to work with people. What kind of a doctor, I think, hires such a stupid bitch as his assistant?

Do I want to see such a doctor? I decide I do not want - let me rather die of stomach pain : he should have had enough sense to hire someone more educated and nicer. (Unless she is his wife... or lover... but then I definitively do not want to see him: the guy's judgement can't be trusted!) So I throw the receiver down in frustration.

And then I laugh at myself: why am I not mad at myself for not knowing adequate amount Boricua? Good question. Perhaps I am getting too old to learn effectively?
I did not have a problem in communicating in Spanish with medical support staff in Spain... they often do not speak English in the public medical system there either (but private doctor's assistants did), but they at least spoke Spanish, slowly, distinctly, like to a foreigner... ;-)

My stomach hurts... a lot... and I am sick of Puerto Rico... again (yesterday I dealt with car licence... don't get me started!!!!) and I want back to a civilized country: be it USA (which is not quite civilized, either, but at least medical staff there knows how to behave... and speaks English), be it even Spain... anything, ANY COUNTRY would be more logical and better organized than Puerto Rico!!!

Told you I was particularly b...y today, didn't I???


Anonymous said...


I hope you are feeling better. I hesitated to post since I think perhaps you are expecting only close friends to respond.

First of all, if you are feeling worst you should consider seeking medical assistance at an Emergency Room or an Outpatient Clinic ("Clinica Ambulatoria" if they have them in Cabo Rojo). I am just thinking that with the storm you may have gotten sick from drinking contaminated water. On the other hand, if it is a virus there may not be much they can do other than to try to provide some comfort. I am afraid that Emergency Rooms are not necessarily fast taking care of people in PR so be mentally prepared. This may be specially true after the floods in your town.

One thing you may want to try is the BRAT diet which means eating Bananas, Rice (steam or boiled white rice with no oil), Applesauce, and Toast. Some people add Tea or Yogurt to this diet. It is intended to give the gastrointestinal system a break digesting easier items (relatively bland and low in fat and fiber) while nourishing your body.

Regarding the rude person on the doctor's office, please know that all Puerto Ricans are not like that. It is true that a lot of PR people feel self conscious trying what is typically their second language, but a person working at a doctor's office should be more empathetic with somebody seeking medical assistance.

I am a Puerto Rican that have lived close to 20 years in mainland. I don't think I speak perfect English and when I first moved here people were expecting me to speak like an American from the mid-west. I have tried my best, but there are some days that my brain can not process either language well.

I am sorry you had to go through this! I am sending our family's positive vibes for your speedy recovery.



zooms said...

Naaah, you weren't the bitch, she was. Hope you feel better soon, you might want to try some fresh coconut water with a little salt.

Anonymous said...

With all the stuff we have had done recently we have learned a few things. We sometimes have to wait a long time AT the Dr's office but we don't have to wait weeks or even months to see someone. In Seattle some specialists had me waiting 6 to 8 weeks for appoinments.

I have found it easier to go to the Dr's office to make the appointment. If you go in and smile they are realy helpful. If the receptionists dont speak English they will get the Dr and he will speak to you. If you go later in the week and later in the day you will probably get in the same day! Try that in the states!

We struggle with the insurance issue. Sometimes it helps to go the day before and let them photo copy your card so they can call ahead of time. So far only one Dr refused to take it so we had to pay cash (no CC's, Checks, AND they wouldnt make change) this was from a highly recomened specialist.


Fran and Steve said...

1) Get to a doctor, even if it means going to an emergency room. This could be serious!
2) Post a more flattering picture of yourself. I know you have one!
3) Start a paper clip chain to count down your remaining days in Puerto Rico.
4) B-R-E-A-T-H-E.....

Minerva said...

Thank you, all for your comments and advice. H, I am glad you commented: I might try BRAT diet next time I need it. And the positive vibes must have helped: I somehow cured myself this time.:-)

Also I have a VERY GOOD experience with an emergency room in Rincon, so I would not have hesitated to go there, had I felt sick enough. But, although I had an awful stomach pain, I was working, able to work, thus, in my opinion, not a candidate for an emergency room, yet.

And I understant hesitancy in speaking foreign languages, especially on the phone: after all English is my fourth language and I remember when - long, long time ago - I hesitated when speaking it on the phone. But for Puerto Ricans English is the SECOND language and one of two official languages of the country (while for me Spanish - and Spanish Spanish, not Purto Rican spoken Spanish, is the seventh!).

I can't imagine in any of bilingual (like Belgium or the Aaland islands) or multilingual (like Switzerland) that anybody could be employed as a receptionist, who would not know both (or all) official languages of the country plus English.

There are much better ways of preserving your national identity, also linguistic, than being ignorant of other languages!
But perhaps we Europeans travel and live across borders more often than nonEuropeans (although there are more Puerto Ricans in the mainland USA now than they are in PR, and I doubt they can exist speaking Spanish only) and are more service oriented and politically correct towards minorities (be it linguistic or other).

I have heard -in a discussion on one of the blogs - that Puerto Rican's are politically astute.

To me, that's an utter nonsense. Puerto Ricans are too polite, to much accepting of various ills, and of inadequacies of their - ill functioning - systems, to be politically astute. How else could they allow their doctors to treat them like trash, that can be made to wait for hours, because the doctors are feeling too "important"? to get themselves organized. How else would they allow their authorities - their politicians - to treat them like helpless pawns???

Minerva said...

thanks, zooms. I am not a fan of coconut water - it tastes sweetly bland to me - but perhaps with some salt it will taste better. I know it is very beneficial alcalinizing the body.

Minerva said...

Thanks for your comments, Jeff. It is true that sometimes you have to wait a bit - in USA as well in Europe - to see a specialist for a non-emergency visit, but I'd rather have that than the obvious - and pretty arrogant - disregard for patients' time that Puerto Rican doctors display in their ridiculous routines. Someone (= the natives) should make a revolution here to get things working properly! I know many of them vote with their feet and move to mainland USA, but that's not enough!
This island is way too pretty, and has such a turism potential, it is a pity it is such a bottomless pit of incompetence - and disregard for its populace - in nearly all aspects of life!

Minerva said...

Fran, Steve, you had me laughing.
ad 2. My, unflattering as it might be, picture on this blog is so much ME (the Polish rebeliousness, tons of attitude, lol), I have difficulties thinking of parting with it and posting something more flattering ;-)
But I am glad you know I can! :-)))
ad 1. My stomach is behaving since Friday night and my blood sugar is perfect - as a diabetic I always know when I have an infection or something really bad: my sugar level would tell me, even if I had no other symptoms. I guess it is one of the advantages of diabetes: always knowing whether you can sleep well at night or whether you should worry and do something about it.
ad 3. A paper clip chain would work only when I feel as bad about being in PR as I did on Friday.

Today I am almost at peace with the island (a)I have my car papers after less than a year's wait,b)my stomach is now behaving, c) I found one of my new neighbors is a visiting nurse, d)I almost managed to install my TV all by myself during the weekend, e) found out one of the maintenance men on my property speaks good English and f)this morning a hydraulic fixed my water heater in a few minutes, so all I need right now is to find a missing screen to my kitchen window and fix the blinds... the state in which an expensive appartment was let to me is another gripe, but I dealt - and deal - with it). What's more important it looks like I managed to negotiate a $ 75 000 grant for my nonprofit, so I know I am doing something good here. Won't be counting days to get off the island - though I know I won't choose it as a permanent retirement place: too - systemically - unfriendly. (People, save the receptionist I dealt with when I was low on patience, are both friendly and generally very helpful here).

Anonymous said...

I don't think of my island as a bottomless pit, I think you are a very unhappy old lady. It doesn't matter where you go for your retirement, you will never be happy. Happiness start in your heart. You are a guess on this Island, and most of the things I read is you putting puerto rico's people down. If you are unhappy in the Island, please go, find some peace some where else...but don't critize this Island and my people. I am sad that you are such a negative person.

Minerva said...

Aah, I think anonymous 2 (the author of the last comment) that you must have had as strong a stomach pain as I had when you posted your comment. Or troubles with understanding English... or with text analysis... If you had not, you would have noticed that I said Puerto Rico is a "bottomless pit of incompetence" - an exaggeration, perhaps, but not a "bottomless pit" in general. And I don't think I was putting down Puerto Rican people while criticizing them for being too passive, too accomodating, in sum = too nice for their own good. I might be an unhappy old lady: there are so many possible definitions to it that I am sure I could fit within at least one of them. But I still do have a right to criticize Puerto Rico or Russia or China or Pakistan or USA or whichever country "misbehaves" in whichever way. And without people who criticize and try do make things better there would be no progress. Germans and Russians are usually obedient and... theyir obedience allowed Hitler and Stalin. Not a good thing. Puertoricans are accomodating and thus they have incompetent, perhaps corrupted politicians, administrators, disorganized doctors who inconvenience patients by using a system far less convenient for patients than anywhere (?) else in the world.

Let me ask you: what are YOU doing to improve things in Puerto Rico?
Or does your righteous indignation with my criticism is your only contribution to the welfare of your country???

And you claim being an "owner" of Puerto Rico labeling me as a "guest" who should not be allowed to be critical of anything.

What a nonsense. I am a US resident and as such I have a right to be here as much as you do. Including both a right - and an obligation to fight ills.

But even if I were only a guest, I do WORK FOR the benefit of disadvantaged PEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO, basically uncompensated, often more than full time... in my retirement!

And that's a lot more than most Puerto Ricans do for their island. Including you, I guess.