Posts Tagged ‘Language difficulties’

Greek healthcare

June 14, 2009 Leave a comment

“You HAVE to come dancing with us,” she pleads. “You were so AMUSING last week.” Is this really the way any guy wants to hear his dancing described? She’s insistent, though that my dancefloor antics provided her with considerably comic photographs, and its my moral duty to produce more of them for her this weekend.

PylosAlleysandNioKastro 001

Cristo, one of our workmen

In fairness, as anyone who has seen me dance can attest, it is hella funny.

But I decline, friends, for tonight the nice Greek doctor I dragged myself to has prescribed bed rest, which I intend to take.

Alex, another workman, chiseling away with a 60 cent screwdriver

Alex, another workman, chiseling away with a 60 cent screwdriver

The hospital is on the outskirts of town, along the road to Methoni. I know I should take one of the more fluent professors with me, know that I should take a cab, despite the cost. But I’m a grown man, and a cheap one at that, and we can be funny about doing things for ourselves without troubling others. So after dinner I make my excuses, and figure I might as well find the hospital while I’m walking around town.

It’s only about a fifteen minute walk, though I’m not even sure at first if the building is in fact the hospital. There’s no red cross sign, no caduceus, but i take a stab that the Greek symbols spell out “Central Pylos” and a third word I pray means hospital, and check myself in.

The students enjoying Pylos' nightlife

The students enjoying Pylos' nightlife

The place looks like an elementary school after 3:31. A single clerk is on the phone at the front desk. I ask if he speaks English. Not much.

“Tessara mera…”

I think that means “four days” and I pantomime the symptoms. He smiles and points me toward a small examining room to his left, where I wait for the doctor.

He’s my age, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, which doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in me, but this exam is being paid for by the goodwill of the Greek people, so I can hardly complain. He takes my temperature: no fever. Great. Then it ain’t strep, the only thing I was remotely concerned about, and I figure I can be on my way. But he checks my breathing, just to be safe. “Orea.” Clear as a bell. He looks at my throat and I say “ah.”

“Oh no,” he says. “Very bad. Very red.”

Really, doc? But we were doing so well there…

Orthodox Church overlooking Pylos

He brings in a senior doc, who speaks no English but relays questions to the younger one. Through more stilted, broken English and Greek we manage to make ourselves understood to each other. I find myself quickly picking up entirely new phrases and words. “Endaksi” a word I’ve been unable to remember so far that means “okay.” You know that line about the hangman’s noose being a wonderful tool to concentrate the mind? Well, it’s almost as true for doctor visits.

It’s a virus, which means there’s little else for me to do but gargle, take some advil, sleep, and let it pass. Time for that mutant healing factor I’ve always enjoyed to go to work. We have two days coming up with no digging, hopefully enough time to finally sleep this damn thing off.

When I left I asked what I owed, but all they wanted to hear was “efharisto,” thank you, in return. I can’t imagine the culture shock for the poor Greek traveller who has to seek medical attention in the US, who likely would have been socked with a $10,000 bill for what I received for free. So thank you, Greek taxpayers. Efharisto poli.

It finally dawns on me during my trudge back to my room how much I’ve put my body through lately. The 10k at altitude, the stress of the move, hauling a couple beds down four flights of stairs single-handed (that was particularly bad-ass), the transatlantic flight, the six-day workweeks with shovel and pickaxe, the training runs after, waking up at 3am to watch hockey. It’s over now, and I shouldn’t have asked you for so much, body. You win. The next 48 hours are yours.