A Day in San Jose

Plane's shadow

I despise San Jose.  Truly, it is possibly my least favorite city, next to Los Angeles.  It is dirty and cold and there are just way too many people, too many cars and too much concrete.  I don’t know why anyone lives there. (other than every person I talked with told me in Spanish: “too much heat in Quepos!”)

That being said, I did have to go there a few weeks ago. I purposefully booked a morning flight and an afternoon flight so I was only there for a few hours and did not have to stay overnight.  I had an appointment for a check up at Clinica Biblica in downtown San Jose (which is a $50 round trip taxi fare from San Jose International) and while I was there, the doctor I was seeing ordered some blood work and got me in to see a specialist.  He also gave me some medication, free of charge (always nice when they go into their cabinets and pull out free meds!).

The hospital itself was very nice, modern and clean.  The staff were all helpful and friendly and some spoke English.  Surprisingly, efficiency is definitely a strength.  Before I even got on the plane to return home, the blood work results had been emailed to me.  And a few days before I arrived, I received two text messages on my phone, reminding me of the appointment and asking me to confirm (it’s surprising that the country is capable of sending out messages like this but cannot get the voicemail function to work on cell phones).

From what I’m told from a friend, the cafeteria has good food (actually, she said they had really good and cheap empanadas) and there’s a hotel attached to the hospital for people who have to stay overnight for family or friends.  I didn’t go to the cafeteria as I really just wanted to get back to the airport.  Of course, at the airport, I found myself paying $9 for a veggie sandwich at Quiznos so I guess I should have eaten at the cafeteria.

It was an expensive, long and tiring day but all in all, the photos I got from the plane made it worthwhile. 🙂  And I should also mention that my friend Michelle’s organization, Equilibrium, has hopes to create a more green San Jose, building gardens and parks in the more concrete-dense areas.  A good sign for the future of the city…

Costa Rica's Central Pacific Coast
Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast
Manuel Antonio view
Manuel Antonio view
Plane's shadow
Plane’s shadow
Quepos, Costa Rica
Quepos, Costa Rica

Pura vida…Chrissy

A Visit from the Doctor

Last week I took an hour out in the sunshine and while I didn’t return home burned, there was a slightly pink color to my shoulders. I knew it would just turn to tan, which it did, but a few days later, I developed a rash on my neck. It didn’t itch…but it hurt. And I couldn’t tell if it was the rash causing the pain, if I had somehow pinched a nerve, or as a few friends told me at dinner one night, possibly it was the botfly that had burrowed into my skin and was laying its eggs. I’m so grateful to have such wonderful friends who put crazy thoughts into my head. ; )  And I urge you not to google botfly because the pictures will horrify you.  Just trust me, it’s not something you ever want to experience.

So I called the doctor and asked if he made house calls. I knew he lived in Langosta so figured he’d just come by when he was done with work for the day.  And I know I will sound incredibly lazy when I write this but really, the $10 extra dollars I paid to have the doctor come to my house was totally worth it.  Time is money here and either I have to pay $20 to the taxi driver to save on time or I have to take an hour to walk into town and back, which means I lose working time and in turn, lose money.  My neck was also in so much excruciating pain that the thought of walking was not something I could consider.

I had already been to the pharmacist earlier in the week and showed her the rash (since they’re somewhat trained here to make diagnoses and can offer me medication without a prescription) but she said it was just an allergy and sold me 1/2 ounce of hydrocortisone cream for $12 (seriously, next time you go to CVS, check out the size and prices and then be grateful).  But the pain in my neck was excruciating at times and I was having to take my prescription ibuprofen just to be able to function so I knew it couldn’t be an allergy, plus the cream wasn’t working.

The doctor told me I have shingles, that there’s no explanation for the cause and that since the rash was only a mild one, not to worry about it, just let it run its course and continue to take the ibuprofen for the pain.  I joked with him about how my friends said it was the botfly and he confirmed that it wasn’t but that just before coming over, he had removed a botfly (called tórsalo in Spanish) from a guy’s head.

Okay, I guess things could be a lot worse – at least I wasn’t having a fly and its eggs being pulled out of my head.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Asking for help

Asking for help is not something that comes easy for me.  Often times in the past, when I’ve reached out to people, I generally got a negative response or something like – you have to do everything on your own, you’re an adult.

When the nurse flushed out the cotton swab from my ear last week, the accumulation of water ended up causing an infection and I had to return to the doctor on Tuesday.  Earlier that morning though, I was still trying to be strong and take care of myself.  I was still trying to work and go about my daily life.  I went to breakfast, I tried to chitchat, and I went back to my room and cried because it took all my strength to get through those few minutes.  The pain was excruciating and it didn’t matter how much ibuprofen I took, nothing helped.

But living at a hotel, word spreads quickly and very soon, the restaurant was delivering lunch to my room, telling me I needed to eat for strength, the server who delivered my lunch told me to call him if I needed anything else, the front desk told me that if they could do anything, to let them know and the owner of the hotel called me to let me know to call her on her cell phone for anything I might need and arranged to have a special dinner (not on the menu) sent to my room.

Another boss emailed me to say not to worry about work, to rest and let him know if I needed anything or had any questions about the treatment or doctor’s recommendations.  It’s funny that I have to come all the way to Costa Rica to be supported but there’s just such a different mindset here.  It isn’t all about independence and being on your own.  It’s a connection that’s been so lacking in my life these last few years.  And I’m grateful to finally have people I can depend on.  Whether it’s an illness, trying to find a place to live, buying a temporary cell phone or opening a bank account (more about that next week), it’s nice to have people who support me and want to help me succeed here on the Rich Coast.

Doctor’s visit: Free (I found out the hotel has an agreement with the doctor to provide free care to its employees)

Antibiotics, acetaminophen and ear drops: $75

Taxi to the doctor and two pharmacies: $10

Total time for all of the above: 30 minutes (had I been in the States, I would have still been at the doctor’s office after 30 minutes and it would have taken me 15 minutes just to drive there)

Pura vida…Chrissy

A trip to the doctor

Well, it was only a matter of time before I did something stupid and ended up at the doctor.  Now that I’m living here, I’m trying to be so much more mindful of everything I do…whether it’s holding on to my camera (so it doesn’t end up in the river like it did last year and I know how difficult it will be to get a new one) or being careful not to hurt myself (because I no longer have health insurance), I’m really trying to be careful!  But, it was just inevitable that at some point, something would happen.

This afternoon, I put a cotton swab into my ear and when I took it out, the cotton was no longer attached to the stick. *&^% is all I could think about as I put my finger in my ear and poked around, hoping I could find the little piece of cotton and pull it out.  Nope.  I searched on the floor for it but it wasn’t there either.

It seemed like the cotton was expanding because within an hour, I could no longer hear out of my left ear.  So I hopped in a cab and went to the nearby emergency clinic.  No one there really spoke English so I tried out my Spanish in addition to using hand motions to describe what happened and fortunately, they understood.

The really funny part (besides the actual incident that brought me there) was that no one asked me for my name or to fill out any paperwork.  I didn’t have to sign any forms to release them from any liability.  No worries, right?

15 minutes later, the cotton was out of my ear and I went back to reception to pay.

It was high tide at the beach and the road was muddy from the storm so I took a taxi both ways.  No, I was not being lazy.  I could just imagine myself being swept into the ocean or slipping on the muddy road and hurting myself!

Cost for a taxi and emergency medical services: $59

I’ve started a list of things I need people to bring me from the States…I’m adding “Real Q-Tips” to the list.

Pura vida…Chrissy