Friday, July 31, 2009

I had my first experience going to an Irish doctor, and I thought I would share. As you know, I came down with a bit of a cold a couple of weeks ago, and I just could not shake it for the life of me, despite various bottles of cough syrup, two different types of inhalers, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Then, to add insult to injury, I developed conjunctivitis! We hadn't received word that our Medical Cards had gone through, but I couldn't wait much longer so I called up and talked to a very nice lady who put it through and gave me the number over the phone. I then called up our doctor's office to make an appointment. Their next opening wasn't for over two days, but I figured I could hold on until then.

We had to select our doctor before we sent in the Medical Card application, and, not really knowing anything about local doctors, we chose Mark's parents' doctor, who actually is the daughter of Mark's childhood doctor. We had met her once before when she signed our form. I wasn't exactly impressed even then, but with no other ideas for alternatives, we went ahead. Let's just say, she didn't look healthy herself. I felt it was sort of like getting a hair cut from a hair stylist with a hideous hairdo.

Anyhoo - the way the doctor's office works is a little different from back home. Back home, you make your appointment, and then when it's your turn, the medical assistant calls your name and brings you back, then takes your height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Then he/she leads you into the exam room, where you wait for the doctor to come in. (Sometimes for ages.) Obviously I can't speak for the whole of Ireland; this is just my experience at this one office. So here goes.

When you walk into the offices, you are met in the hallway by a woman who takes your name and writes it on a list. Then you walk on up to the waiting room. Normally you go inside to this interior waiting room, but when I arrived the doctor herself wasn't it yet, so it was locked, and an elderly woman ahead of me was waiting in the exterior waiting room. I sat down in the seat next to her, even though there were half a dozen other seats, because, as you'll see, that's how it works. The receptionist unlocked the interior waiting room to fetch something, and when she left, the elderly lady decided we should go in and wait there. But then the receptionist came back and told us that we couldn't wait in there until the doctor had arrived. I have no idea why, because it's not like we were going to try to break into the locked examining rooms, but we shuffled back out to our former seats.

But then a bunch of other people started to arrive. The man who sat next to me reeked of booze, but if I got up, I would upset the whole order of things, so I put my scarf over my nose and mouth and kept reading my book. The receptionist came and unlocked the door again, but this time, the newcomers all decided jointly that we should go into the interior office. It was like mob rule! And I wasn't going to be the one to set them straight, and I didn't want to lose my place, so I followed suit (with a slight admonishment for my hesitation from one of the other patients!) Everyone sat inside the interior waiting room in exactly the order of arrival. And we kept waiting.

Let me describe this waiting room. It's a wood-paneled room about twice the size of a galley kitchen with one row of about ten chairs. You sit facing a wall of doors (the doctors' offices), which are all shut and locked. Every so often someone will go into one of them, then walk briskly out, locking the door with a key behind them. Every time someone leaves the doctor's office, the person in the far right seat gets up and goes in. Then everyone else gets up and shifts over one seat to the right, in unison.

Finally after nearly an hour since I got there, the doctor showed up. But somehow she saw two people before the woman who was ahead of me, per order of the receptionist. No one seemed to have a problem with it, and I didn't really care either, but it was just really confusing to me how there seemed to be such "rules," and then no one cared when they were broken.

When it was my turn, I walked into the office and had a seat at the other side of the doctor's desk. I explained why I was there, and she asked me a couple of questions about the nature of my cough (I'll spare you the details) and then she got up from her desk and came over to me in the chair and listened to my lungs with the stethoscope. Noticing on the computer that I am allergic to penicillin, asked which antibiotics I can take. I said that it's hard to say because I'm actually allergic to *most* antibiotics, and I just write penicillin because the list is so long. "Well, what can you take?" she asked again. I listed three that I know I can take. "So you can take [drug that I didn't list]?" she asked. "Um...I never heard of that one," I said. "Well, I'll need a list of the antibiotics you can take," she said again. I listed the three ones I can take. We went back and forth like this at least one more time until she finally concluded that since my lungs didn't sound so bad, she wasn't going to give me antibiotics anyway. Um. Ok.

So I told her that I needed refills of my inhalers and put them on her desk so she could prescribe me the closest available Irish products. And while I was at it, I also gave her another medicine I needed to refill as well. The process of figuring this out took at least 20 minutes. More than once, I told her that honestly I didn't need those *exact* drugs, but whatever she normally gave her asthmatic patients. These are standard inhalers: one is a bronchodilator and the other is a steroid inhaler. But no she insisted I have *these exact ones* even though I said I didn't think the Pro-Air Albuterol worked very well (which, ironically, is manufactured here in Ireland). At one point, she pulled out her iphone, and I swear to god she was googling it. Seriously? I could have googled it!

During all of this, we were interrupted by at least five phone calls from the receptionist. At one point, in reference to a terminally ill patient who was trying to get into hospice care because she was falling down so much at home, the doctor said, "Well, you know I'm very cross with her because she and her family have been calling me repeatedly..." and she went on essentially about how she wasn't inclined to help this dying woman because she was a pain in the ass!

Finally she was about to usher me out when I reminded her about the conjunctivitis issue, and she was all annoyed because now she had to go back into the computer. I explained that I had bought Brolene drops at the suggestion of the pharmacist, and she was like "Don't take Brolene. Never take Brolene. Rinse your eyes out with Baby Shampoo." I swear to god. I did not tell her that there was no way in hell I was washing my eye balls out with shampoo. I translated that in my head as "rinse with saline solution," and decided she was deranged. I got my prescriptions and got out of there, hoping I wouldn't be mauled by the patients in the waiting room for taking so long.

The hysterical thing is that when I filled the prescription, she had given me not only an antibiotic, but a prescription eye drop, and the pharmacist had no idea what to do with "Albuteral." Apparently the doctor had just given up trying to find it and instead of giving me another bronchodiliator that is available in Ireland, wrote down something she knew they wouldn't have. So she's going to be getting a phone call from them. haha.

But still, I was pretty stoked. I got my inhalers, an antibiotic (which as it turns out I don't think I need, so I can save it), eye drops, and migraine meds, at no cost to me. However, since I managed to get those things without a proper examination (she never looked at my ears, nose, or throat), I don't think I have much faith in this doctor and I hope and pray I don't become seriously ill while living in Ireland. At least not while I'm on the Medical Card!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saturday Mark and I had a grand old time traipsing around town. I had been inside sick for a week, so when I woke up and I wasn't feeling quite so bad, getting out was my priority. We went to "The Hill" on North Cumberland Street, which is a block that is filled with people selling a bunch of junk, mostly piles of clothes on the ground. But it's still fun to pick through if you're in the mood. We actually ran into Mark's mother there, so we had a nice chat with her and walked her over to O'Connell Street, where she headed to the grocery store and home. It was new to see her outside of her own house and the pub!I bought a novel from the 60's called "The Group," which promises to be a "runaway best-selling story of eight eager, innocent girl graduates starting life in 1933 - pioneering their way from sex and interior decor to cooking and contraception..." Apparently it was made into a movie with Candace Bergen. The book looks like it will be a fun read!

Then we headed over to visit the Civic Museum, where Mark was keen to see Nelson's head from the statue that was knocked down, but as it turns out they closed that museum some time ago! So we hopped on the Luas (a sleek train that goes from one end of town to another), and jeez it was crowded, but we didn't get off until Blackhorse because I wanted to visit The Blackhorse Market, which I'd been reading about for weeks. I had no idea what to expect (of if I'd find it once we got off the Luas), but I was pleased to discover that it is a proper flea market. It's a big warehouse space with tables of vendors inside selling everything but (or maybe including) the kitchen sink. Clothes, jewelry, furniture, books, knick knacks, wall hangings, kitchen gadgets, and all other manner of do-dads. In fact, there's even a Reiki stall! I bought a vintage necklace, an H&M dress, and the cutest vintage top I've ever seen, and managed to spend only 8 euro. So I was feeling rather pleased with myself.

The ride back on the Luas was even more annoying than the ride there, but we happily got off and checked out the Belgian beer festival going on at the Porterhouse. After one pint, we couldn't really hang with the crowd (Dublin has been infected with U2 mania this week), so we took off in search of something a little more low-key. Mark took me into Kennedy's pub, which I absolutely *loved.* It's a little time warp that smells a bit musty when you walk in -- the sensory signal that you are walking into a place unchanged. Even the knick knacks and yellowed posters on the wall have probably been there since the 70s. There was a game on, and it was nice and quiet. A true old man bar, which is always my favorite kind.

We walked home in no particular rush, and paid a quick visit to St. Agatha's Church, which is pretty gigantic inside but there wasn't much of note except the cherry red ceiling. As we got closer to the house, we saw the droves of concert goers headed to the Stadium, and the Garda posted everywhere to keep them in line.

All in all, a fun-filled day with not a drop of rain, topped off by a very pleasant evening at Seomra Spraoi and late night snacks (of course). It did actually pour rain on us during our walk home, at about 2am, but what's 24 hours in Dublin without a bit of rain?
As I've mentioned, I live rather close to Croke Park. Well, U2 has been in town, and we can hear the concerts from our apartment. So on the first night, I took a couple of videos to document the experience (feel free to ignore my commentary in the second one)...

I was sort of dreading the audio assault of U2 in my house, but it was actually kind of cool to hear the show and especially the crowd singing along. How often do you get to eavesdrop on 80,000 people having a fantastic time?
Money money money.

Sometimes it seems like it's all anyone talks about these days. The economy has become an obsession for almost everyone, yet most people have almost zero power to effect any sort of change. And those who do, well, it feels like they can only talk about how "We must all make sacrifices" to justify all the cuts that are about to be made.

Yesterday we created a budget for ourselves using a handy excel spreadsheet that covers our weekly expenses from now until March of next year. By March, if we are to pay our bills -- the minimum essentials -- we need to come up with an additional 6500 euro of income somehow (about 9250 US dollars). It's seriously alarming.

So we will have to bite the bullet and ask our landlord for a rent reduction, and I think we'll have to apply for rent allowance as well. But with the cuts that may happen, our income may go down even more. All of this takes a toll on the ole ego. Each week I apply to jobs only to get a rejection email a few days later. Back home I had a career doing a job I really enjoyed, and I felt as though I had options. Here, I can't seem to get jobs that are on my resume from years ago when I was just starting out.

But still, I really like it here. Dublin is a lot of fun, and I am still loving exploring the city. We are committed to staying for a long, long time. I just wish someone would cut us a break!

In other news, I called up and got my Medical Card number, finally! So I made an appointment to see the doctor about this awful chest cold that I can't seem to shake.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In yet another move to screw the poor, the Irish government is talking about lowering the minimum wage. This would probably translate to lower payments in social welfare, and could cause some of those pesky immigrants to leave.

I have been applying to jobs that are basically minimum wage as it is. So that's not exactly good news, on a personal level.

It's just so bizarre here. And anyone who criticizes this move is vilified in the media, which is so complicit in whatever the government does. Yes, Ireland's minimum wage is higher than most. But it's also incredibly expensive to live here.

No wonder people of Irish descent populate the globe. They are constantly having to escape in search of a better life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Things I have been informed by my husband that I have been saying incorrectly:

Tolka. I say it like TOLL-ka, or like you would pronounce the word "folk." Well apparently it's TULL-ka. The TALL-ka River. TALL-ka Park. TALL-ka Park Stadium.

Croke Park. How would YOU say that? I say it like it looks, as in the word "croke" aka about to kick the bucket. Well, this pronunciation is in a k-hole. You DON'T PRONOUNCE THE K. It's like Crow. Crow Park.

D'Olier Street. This is clearly a french word, right? And since I took 8 years of french, I thought this was an easy one. Obviously, if we were in France, you'd say it like DOH-lee-AY. But I figured since we're in Ireland, I say it like DOH-lee-ER. Mark just flat out guffawed at me when I said it this way. And in fact the pronunciation that Dubliners have given this word is so messed up that I can't remember it and therefore can't even share at the moment. I just keep saying it my way.

Irish as a language is almost unpronounceable for an outsider without being instructed, but these aren't even complicated Irish words! It just goes to show you never know when you're going to fall into a foreigner's trap!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I like my apartment here in Dublin. It's in a quiet building, everything is brand new, and it has a nice little balcony with a table and chairs (which I look at longingly every time it rains, which is, did I mention, daily), and well, I love it for what it represents, which is my first apartment in Dublin. Mark did a great job finding it, given that he was in the middle of finishing classes and he had to do it all on his own.

However, since we rented it in December 2008 (with a one-year lease), rents have gone down A LOT. And at 975 euros (almost 1400 USD!!) for a small one-bedroom, this place is not cheap by any stretch. In fact, our dole money doesn't cover our living expenses, let alone our bills. Looking at, there are many many places we could get that are much bigger (with a garden, even) in the 700 to 800 range, in more convenient locations as well.

So now we're pondering our lease and wondering exactly what would happen if we broke it. Probably we are too chicken to do anything like that, but man is it tempting!
While I was in Florida last month, in a quest to control some back pain I was having, I went to an acupuncturist for the first time. I figured that while I was at it, I may as well use it as a opportunity to go off the medication I was taking for the prevention of migraines that was a)very expensive, b)causing me memory loss, and c)causing my hair to fall out (!!!). It's sad to say that "c" bothered me more than both "a" and "b" put together. Vain, I know. I thought that I could use the benefits of acupuncture to taper off this medicine and hopefully not get the dreaded auras and floaters that can become a daily occurrence without it.

For the most part, I think it helped, though by the time I got back to Dublin I was over a week without the acupuncture and got a migraine 4 days in a row. If you know what this is like, you feel sorry for me. If you don't, well, you should. So I looked on the Acupuncture Foundation's website and found someone close to me. I made the appointment for last Friday.

Holy moly was she great! I liked the acupuncturist I saw in Florida, but in all honesty, this new acupuncturist here in Dublin blew her out of the water. First, she spent well over an hour asking me about my history and symptoms. Then she gave me the needle treatment (which didn't hurt a bit), and then when it was done she put these little seed things on my ears to press on to keep headaches at bay. And not only that, but when I mentioned that I was out of work, she knocked a few euro off her rates. And guess what? I haven't had a migraine since. I'm going back tomorrow for maintenance, and I am so thankful that I found someone this good.

So if any of my Dublin readers are considering acupuncture, I recommend Stephanie at Fairview Acupuncture.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Even after months, I still can't believe this ad whenever I see it:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

According to this report today in the Irish Times, "TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen urged people to face the future with 'renewed fortitude and courage', saying Ireland needs a 'major national effort' to get through the recession. Speaking in Co Offaly yesterday, Mr Cowen said 'every recession provides the opportunity for a restructuring of our economy and that is what we have to do today'. This would involve painful decisions in the short term, he said. 'The purpose of all that is, of course, to adapt to the new circumstances. As business has to do, so must public administration, and in doing that we will provide the most effective response we can for the hard-pressed taxpayer, but also, of course, to prepare ourselves and put ourselves in the position to forge ahead again as we will when this recessions lifts,' said Mr Cowen."

Here's the thing. The recession isn't a head cold. It's not just going to magically "lift" like some random affliction that has inexplicably happened to the country. I don't understand how they expect all this cutting of budgets is going to help "taxpayers," (their word for residents -- seemingly the only residents of the country who matter to them) have more money. Why is there no investing in the economy, job creation instead of job cutting, and well, stimulus to the economy? I don't get it. I keep trying to figure it out and I don't understand it still. I do have American friends who are being laid off, of course -- it isn't all roses in the US -- but there is hope, and there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Here, it's just doom and gloom everywhere you look, day after day.
Here's an update for those concerned about Mark's uncle. We were all up in a tizzy about whether he was getting good care on his medical card (he has private insurance but isn't using it). We considered trying to get him to move to a private hospital.

For my non-Irish readers, I have to explain something that may seem strange. (And I hope I get this right.) So here you've got people with "Medical Cards," in which you get more or less free health care from doctors who have contracts with the Health Service Executive, or HSE and what they call "public" hospitals. Then you have people who've got private health insurance, who can see doctors that basically only deal with out of pocket patients and patients with private health insurance. Those people also have varying degrees of coverage for "private" hospitals. In other words, people who don't have a lot of money or who have low private hospital coverage on their health insurance go to public hospitals, and rich people or those with good health insurance go to private hospitals. So you can imagine how this plays out -- the public hospitals are overloaded and the care to the poor is compromised while the rich sit nestled in their private rooms.

So we returned to the hospital armed with loads of questions for the medical team about our uncle's various conditions (some caused from being hit by the taxi door, and others not), which include six fractured ribs, a torn ligament in the leg, upwards of five stomach ulcers, diabetes, and blood clots in his lungs. The poor man is in rough shape! I had everything written down on paper so I wouldn't forget. The doctor seemed a bit defensive, and it was a little stressful, but she answered all of our questions and at the end we felt satisfied that they were on top of the situation. Still, sharing a room with five other guys is pretty grody. The air is completely stagnant in his end of the ward, and it isn't helped by some of the patients not being able to get up to use the toilet. But the good news is that he's becoming a bit more mobile, and seems to be getting decent care, which will hopefully lead to his return home very soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On my plane ride home from the US, I sat next to a young guy from Texas who wanted to know if there was bad talk radio in Ireland like we have in the States. I said enthusiastically that there was PLENTY of bad talk radio! "Really?" He asked, "Like Rush Limbaugh kind of guys?" Well, no. No one can compete with Rush in terms of being total crap, I clarified. But it seems like no matter what time of the day, you can find talk radio shows where they go on and on and on. Particularly people arguing and interrupting each other.

For some reason my husband loves to listen to the Pat Kenny radio show. Why? I don't know, because every time I listen to Pat Kenny, it ends with me yelling at the radio until finally I can't listen to his bullshit for another second, and I put the headphones of my ipod on, muttering, "I can't! I can't!"

Here's Pat in action. If this were on American television, he probably wouldn't have a job right now:

So maybe Mr. Kenny isn't as bad as Rush Limbaugh, but man, he incenses me! How can a person be such a prick? I wonder if he is on the payroll of the causes he seems to support, like Shell.

And that's all I'll say about that.

Pat Kenny, gigantic blowhard.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I went to my first ever GAA football game! What is that, you ask? Well, GAA stands for "Gaelic Athletic Association," started in 1844 as "the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of National Pastimes." In other words, specifically Irish games, which include Football, Hurling, and Camogie (for women), among other activities. We live within walking distance of Croke Park Stadium, so it was pretty cool to walk down and catch the game dressed in the Dublin colors (light blue, dark blue, and white).

Initially I was a little apprehensive when Mark told me we'd be in a standing-room-only section of the park because I've been having back trouble lately, but the game is not very long from start to finish, so I was actually glad to be with what I felt were more enthusiastic fans. Here are a couple of photos of the marching band and the teams coming out onto the field:

The most striking thing about Gaelic football as opposed to soccer is the fact that the players can use their hands. It's full of easy-to-follow action, and it's a very exciting game! The other striking thing is the singing that happens continually throughout the game. It reminded me of summer camp. The fans were so enthusiastic, and cheered so heartily that it was difficult not to get swept up in the emotion. This particular match seemed like it would be one-sided at the start, but then very quickly became a close one. But Dublin won against Kildare in the end, so everyone in our stand was happy! What I didn't expect was how when the match was over, the fans ran out onto the field! So how could we not join them? I took some photos of people running onto the field, and then from my vantage point on the field:

It was raining (of course -- it rains every day here) by the time the game was ending, but it didn't take away from the pleasure of the experience! Those who know me know that I'm not generally a "sports person," but I can appreciate sports when it's in order!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Well, I am back in Dublin! I had such a wonderful time with my Dad, and already miss him terribly. I was blessed with a kind, generous, and thoughtful father who also happens to be a really good companion. But now my life is no longer "on hold" and here I am, ready to carry on! And I will try not to think of the 90+ degree (about 35+ degrees celsius) weather I left behind as I put on my scarf, sweater, and jacket to go out here.

Since I've been back I went to my first Irish hospital (as a visitor, not a patient!). Mark's uncle was "car doored" a couple of weeks ago while he was riding his bike, sustaining six fractured ribs and torn ligaments in his leg, which have caused other complications. He is 76 years old, so we've all been pretty worried about him! But luckily he has been making some strides in recovery. The first thing I noticed upon entering the Hospital was all the anti-bacterial spray machines they have *everywhere*. And there are all these signs that say how important it is to wash your hands. I have never seen that in a hospital or doctor's office before, and I have volunteered and worked at my fair share of them in the US. Inside we found Mark's uncle in a room with 5 other beds (all men). This also was uncustomary to me, as in the US there is usually only 2 beds per room. However, aside from that, the place itself seemed ok and like any other hospital you might go to in the States.

But here's what alarmed me. Our unfortunate patient has not only blood clots in his leg and his lungs, but also ulcers in his stomach. So while they need to treat the clots with blood thinners, they can't until the ulcers are sorted out, which makes sense. Now, for those who don't know, ulcers used to be thought to be caused by stress. But, as many *do* know, "It wasn't too long ago that lifestyle factors, such as a love of spicy foods or a stressful job, were thought to be at the root of most peptic ulcers. Doctors now know that a bacterial infection or some medications — not stress or diet — cause most peptic ulcers." ( Any doctor should know this. Yet, when Mark's uncle asked the doctor point blank, "What might have caused my stomach ulcers?" The doctor replied, "Stress" and didn't even mention anything about bacteria at all. I thought Mark and I were going to get into it with him right there, it was so unbelievable to us! However, instead of arguing, we simply made sure that he was going to get a test for H.Pylori (the bacteria that causes ulcers), which the physician's assistant assured us he would. But even if the doctor does know that stress doesn't cause ulcers, why would he misinform the patient like that? Something so simple -- it really made us wary of the care he's getting there.

So the jury is out on whether the horror stories I've heard about Irish hospitals is true!