ladyfalcon: (Default)
[personal profile] ladyfalcon
So. I am used to being alone. I spend most of my time alone, and I enjoy it that way. Most of the people I know are also in some sense loners.

That being said, there is a particular and very nasty type of loneliness that you feel when you're sitting in a cafe in a foreign country and you start experiencing health problems. And you realize that you can't talk to anyone around you, you don't have anyone to call, and you don't know what to do.

This is what I experienced today, when my heart kept valiantly trying to enter an arrhythmia when all I wanted to do was enjoy a latte. For about a minute, every time I exhaled, I would feel it 'skip a beat'. That's what it feels like in my chest, but if it lasts often enough that I can actually put my hand to my neck and feel my pulse, I can feel that that's also what literally happens - it goes like -beat- -beat- -nothing- -beat- -beat- -beat- -nothing-. It was also totally tied to my breathing; if I altered my breath or tried to keep from exhaling, the skipped beat held off until I did.

So I did the only thing that I could think of and called my boss Tana and asked her if she knew a cardiologist. By this time it was over, but I figured, shit was going down not half a minute ago, this probably calls for some sort of medical attention. Luckily, she said she knew just the person, and she and her husband would be there to pick me up in two minutes. So far, so good. Tana's husband drives like a madman, but that's pretty par for the course in Prague, where everybody seems to think they're in bumper cars. It was irritating to me when Tana wants to spend time talking about a meeting I'm supposed attend next Friday, because at the moment I was concerned with exactly one thing, and that wasn't it. Frankly, she could take her meeting and snort it off a hooker's ass for all I cared right then. But whatever, she's doing me a solid, so I can put up with it.

THEN, oh then, Tana tells me, "This doctor, he is great. Fantastic. He could be the head of a hospital. He would probably be very famous in Europe... Except he has a drinking problem." Just. What? But okay. We're halfway there already, both my boss and her husband took time out of their day. The reason they're taking me to the alcoholic doctor is because I don't have a Visa or Czech insurance yet, and this guy is willing to see me and charge it to Tana's insurance. Fine. Whatever.

We get there, and I'm sure it will surprise you to learn that this is a Ghettofabulous doctor. Like, he takes my temperature with an under-the-tongue thermometer... but has me put it under my arm because those little disposable plastic sleeves that you put on under-tongue thermometers in the states are too expensive. The EKG, when we got to that part, looked a bit like the pain machine in the Princess Bride movie, all suction cups, because the one-use EKG track pads that stick on and peel off (and that I'm always finding in the shower weeks after any EKG), are too expensive.

So. We do the EKG. It seemed short to me, but they always seem short to me, because they never catch what happens to me while it's happening, because it's sporadic and always over by the time I get to the doctor. My frustrations with the EKG process are mounting and have nothing to do with this doctor. Also I had to take my shirt and bra off in front of my boss, but I'm not even going to dwell on that in my own head.

But this doctor. My god. Another thing that's not his fault is that he doesn't speak a word of English ("So-so Czech," said my boss. "Very good Russian.") So everything he says I hear through my boss' translation. He looks at my EKG. "It is normal," he says. I knew this, as I could feel for myself that everything was fine now. "It is probably just because you are young, your hormones are doing things. It will probably stop once you have a few children."

I mean. What. WHAT? I very nearly said to my boss, "Jak se řekne shut the fuck up?" I wasn't even mad, just appalled, frankly. I MEAN WHAT WHO SAYS THAT.

Then he said it could also be an excess of negative emotions and I decided that if he was seriously suggesting that I was hysterical I was going to stab him in the face right there and see how hysterical he found that.

Anyway, I was very quiet about my deeply seething anger. I mean, my boss was there, both she and her husband took time out of their incredibly busy schedules to take me to this man. It would probably be bad form to call him a quack and a chauvanist pig right there in front of them.

So I decide the heart thing is a loss, so I might as well try to get something out of this visit. I've had swollen lymph nodes for more than a month now. The Very Expensive Private Cardiologist I went to once noticed them, and said that if they were still there by my next appointment, we would look more seriously into them. And then I didn't go back to the VEPC because he was Very Expensive and also they changed my schedule at work. So I figured I would toss that problem at my alcoholic chauvanist doctor and see what he made of it. He looked down my throat with a flashlight, saw nothing, and gave me some medicine to gargle. No matter how many times I suggested he actually touch them, he didn't.

Let me just point out that your lymph nodes are in your neck, not down your throat. They are filled with white blood cells. If they are swollen, it means that your white blood cells are fighting something, that is, that you have an infection. Or cancer! I don't have cancer, but an infection seems likely. I am not exactly sure what gargling solution is going to do about that.

As soon as I got home I made an appointment with the Very Expensive Private Cardiologist. He speaks English, he actually talks to me about what's going on, he has never to date told me that my goddamned emotions are causing my health problems. God. If you only knew how many people have called me 'cold,' 'heartless,' or 'unfeeling' because of my general lack of excessive emotions and the control I keep them under, you would understand why this "diagnosis" is extra-laughable. I mean, I have about the standard factory-issue human set of emotions, and I get what I think is a fairly average amount of use out of them. I really, really don't like when people call me heartless because I'm an atheist or don't want children or whatever. In balance, I would, however, prefer this to being told that I have so many emotions they're causing my heart to momentarily stop beating. I mean, jesus fucking christ. I would have had more confidence in his diagnosis if he'd told me to tie goat's testicles to my forehead by the light of a full moon while chanting.

My boss was no help, either, as she is a believer in and practicioner of homeopathic remedies such as acupuncture and relfexology. "I say," she said, "you can never really trust doctors. You are responsible for your own health." The problem, of course, being that in the case of your own health, in 90% of serious situations, you have no idea what the fuck is going on. For example, I have slightly more knowledge about medicine than the average layperson, and I still cannot test my own blood to see if I have high cholesterol or a sodium-potassium imbalance, or do my own ultrasound to see if my mitral valve prolapse is doing something weird, or run a catheter up my own leg to see if the extra electrical pathway that I got obliterated years ago is somehow starting shit. I have a suspicion that one of these things is involved, but I have no way to prove it or, more importantly, treat it. And there's also a huge chance I could be completely wrong.

And while I'm ranting, let's take a moment to talk about children. I do not want children. Ever. In fact, I don't even LIKE children. I teach about 30 different children every week, from a wide range of ages. There are TWO out of that number that I would not mind having around for something more than an hour a week. The others I am more or less totally indifferent to. There are even a few that I would dearly love to never have to deal with in class again. And no matter how I feel about them, I am always, always happy when I can send them back to the people who HAVE to deal with them. And I never, ever want to be one of those people.

And I won't say that no one in Czech Republic understands this. I had one really good steam-venting conversation on this topic (ironically, with the mother of two of the children I teach, who has a total of FOUR children although she admits that she didn't want any for ages and wouldn't have done it at all if she hadn't had parents to deal with them day-to-day so that she could keep working).

But then there are also people like my school's secretary, who say things like "Never say never," or, "I didn't know anything about anything until I had my Maria," or "EVERY woman should have at least one." I mean, what? EVERY woman? Surely not. For one thing, we'd all be up to our necks in infants. For another, surely everyone can think of at least one woman they know who really should not be a mother, or at least someone they know who clearly had a mother who fucked them up beyond all recognition.

It's enough so that I almost, almost, wish I could just say, "You know, I CAN'T have children." I don't know. Tragic childhood accident, or whatever. I really don't want to co-opt other people's legitimate and probably terrifying and heartbreaking experiences, but just once I wish when someone is extolling the virtues of motherhood I could just be like, "Yeah, well that may be great, but I LITERALLY CAN'T DO IT, so I guess by your measure I'll never be a real woman, or a real human being, or whatever. Now kindly STFU." I'd like to think it would make them feel awkward enough that they'd stop tossing their womb-centric worldview around in public, but the reality is it'd probably lead to huge amounts of unwelcome and uncomfortable womb-centric commisseration.

Did I tell you guys yet about my beautiful and brilliant PhD student who wants to quit being a microbiologist to get married and have kids? Have I told you that her life's work up to this point has been fighting the antibiotic-resistant superbugs that kill tons of people in European hospitals every year? And that she'd rather give that up to make her life's work raising some rugrats? Have I told you this makes me CRY TEARS OF HOPELESS RAGE?.
And then I got home and found out that, because my boss is afraid that Irish Roommate is going to leave and go home, he got a TWO THOUSAND CROWN "traveling bonus" to try to induce him to stay. I was like, OH HI you know what my schedule looks like on Tuesdays alone? I go from our house in Vltavska all the way down to Flora, then all the way over to Kacerov, then all the way out to fucking Hloubetin in the ass-end of nowhere, then ALL THE WAY BACK TO BUDOVICKA. ALL IN ONE DAY. And YOU are the one who gets the $100 extra dollars? How about a nice punch in the face to round out my day? Seriously, I want everybody reading this to pull up a Prague subway map, track my hellish schedule. I spend literally 70% of my life on the goddamned metro, and that's not even counting the 45-minute-one-way trip to Dobris I make three times a week.

ADVISE ME: Should I call my boss out on giving perks to my undeserving roommate, or what? Keep quiet (she gave it to him in confidence, I don't want to get him in trouble, etc.) I don't want to beg for handouts, but on the other hand I pay all my own expenses and he gets rent money from home so he can drink his paycheck every weekend. This is the reader-input portion of the journal: WHAT DO I DO?

Okay. I'm done. Enough ranting for today. God knows I might become hysterical and just, like, die or something.


Date: 2009-05-12 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh my goodness!

Well you know what my mother's brilliant Korean friend said to me once? My face was breaking out because I had just moved from dry as all hell Colorado to humid and disgusting Maryland. So yes, my face was not in top form.

She told me that when I get a boyfriend and start having sex, that it would go away.


Firstly, do you know a thing about my sex life? Secondly, are you serious?

So everyone who has sex has clear skin? Soooooooo dumb.

I would leave the Irish roommate thing alone. Seethe, but leave it alone.

Date: 2009-05-13 07:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Haha. As far as I've noticed, my sex life has little to no bearing on the state of my skin. I routinely annoy people who make such claims by asking, "Has there been a study done on that?" because you know there never has been.

Not to mention that I don't put a lot of stock in studies generally speaking. Like when that one came out recently about chewing gum being good for you, and I was like UM HELLO YES THEY WERE SPONSORED BY WRIGLEYS.

On the other hand, if you needed an excuse to have more sex...

Also I probably will leave the Roommate thing be. Once I get my visa, I'm going to try to push for my 45-minute trips to Dobris to be paid as for a 45-minute class, which will make me feel much better about it. I just feel taken advantage of, because everybody knows I'm wild to stay in Prague, so they think they can just do whatever with me and never throw me a bone, since I don't want to leave anyway.

So. Leaving it alone. But seething also, oh yes.

Date: 2009-05-12 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh dear - I don't like it when people have hearts that don't beat, or doctors who don't seem to know much about doctoring, or roommates who are stupid and not committed to their own lives.

I do have some sympathy for the idea of having a child being a life-changing experience, but that's hardly the same as saying that everyone should have one, even if they don't want to. That's just crazy.

Date: 2009-05-13 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh. Irish Roommate isn't stupid, most of the time, and it's not his fault he got the bonus, but yeah. I still believe in meritocracy, and by any measure I am more money-deserving than he is.

I also am happy enough to admit that child-rearing is life-changing, but then again, so is almost everything. Moving to Prague has been life-changing for me, but I still wouldn't suggest it to everyone.

Date: 2009-05-13 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
good point.

Date: 2009-05-12 11:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
These will be great stories in a years time. Close your eyes, breathe, and look forward to the day when you can be so detached from such rage inducing events as to be able to laugh and say "ahh... Prague."

Date: 2009-05-13 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's true, when my boss told me about the doctor being an alcoholic, 50% of me was like WHAT NO BAD and the other 50% was like OMG I CAN'T WAIT TO BLOG ABOUT THIS. And while day-to-day has its ups and downs, for the most part I'm still so WOO PRAGUE that things don't really phase me long-term.

Date: 2009-05-13 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Your first hand bloggering, and my "omg, what am I going to do with my liffffeeee???" moments have made me look into the CELTA. I actually looked into shitty online TEFL certificates first, but my snobbery (and checking out some ads for teachers) made me reconsider.

What level of knowlege do you need to start out with? I have almost no formal training in grammar or sentence structure, and the application form made me worry.

Date: 2009-05-15 09:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I took an on-location TEFL course here in Prague, and it was great. I, too, have no training in grammar, and it wasn't expected that you be able to pull out the definition of the past simple or whatever. While the program was intense and difficult, the basic idea was that what they teach you is how to be engaging and how to think about student's needs so that you can plan lessons that are effective. The actual stuff you're teaching such as vocab and grammar, you learn before you plan, it doesn't matter if you've known how to diagram a sentence since you were 8 or not.

CELTA as I understand it is the top-notch ESL certificate, and so I would definitely suggest you go for that, although as I said my TEFL course was really good and well-respected within Prague.

Date: 2009-05-15 12:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For some reason I had it clearly in my head you had done the CELTA! Perhaps I just made it up because of the parallels between the course guides I'm reading and what I remember of your journal. The whole uber intense, month long course where you do lots and lots of teaching practice sounded very familiar.

Thank you for the insight, it has reassured me somewhat. I downloaded a CELTA application form and almost started hyperventilating. Asking me to conjugate and identify passiveness and fuction on the app, combined with the information that no refunds would be given for stress related health reasons make me freak!

Date: 2009-05-15 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, if you're interested in a course that, while intensive, you don't have to do any prep for, and you'd like to kick it Prague-style, you can always check out my school at

It's very good even though the director guy is a bit of a jerk. Jerk, yes, but also a fucking amazing teacher, and I trust the education I got from him implicitly even while I doubt his good-person status.

Date: 2009-05-16 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will definitely check out the site in terms of comparison shopping, but my wanderlust is thinking Vietnam...

Date: 2009-05-17 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you want to make more money than it takes to keep yourself alive in your host country, then definitely do Asia. They give amazing salaries, and often other nice perks, like airfare to the host country or free housing. One guy on my TEFL course is in South Korea now, and he's saving something like $2,000 a month. Of course, he's also alone in a small village near the border with North Korea, but hey. Also I hear Vietnam is A Mazing.

Date: 2009-05-13 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, that doctor sounds amazing. I am soooooo glad you booked another doctor appt. What ended up being wrong?

I find it interesting when people say someone is heartless or cold just because they don't outwardly emote. I get something similar but it's "tough." "You are so tough," "I am sensitive, but not you," "you are strong as nails," "this would break me, but you'll never bend," "she's a lamb, not like you." It sounds like a nice character assessment I guess, but the implication is that I am somehow not sensitive or am hardened, which I really don't like. I think I am sensitive DAMN IT, she says. I think I am just capable and have good coping mechanisms to not appear weak when in a compromising situation. I also don't give people the satisfaction of seeing me cry in public, so I give the appearance of being steeled or something.


I also find myself not wanting children. I actually REALLY love kids and always wanted a family until recently though. Mostly, I am no where even remotely close to the life I would like to have, why on earth do I want to start someone else's while I am so miserable? I know children don't close doors, but I also can't go: "I am taking a year off to write" because a child means they come first and I can't risk not being able to support them like I can with myself. I don't know, career to me is really important. I really need to be proud of that before anything else is even a blip on the radar. I want more kittens and put a "think about it over the next 10 years" on the chillens.
Oh, just be careful when you are ranting and upset talking about that PhD person you know. If her life goal is to have children, it's her choice and no different from people like you and I going: "having kids is not my life's goal" or whatever. As long as she isn't pushing her view on anyone else, we're all entitled to our life goals without people telling us how dumb we're being.

I have no idea with the roommate. Is there anyway to ask your boss if it is an option for you to receive a bonus because you need the assistance without getting the roommate in trouble?

Long reply is long.

I also really think I have to recommend another one of my LJ friends to you, you remind me so much of each other, I think it would be nice if you could chat together! I will tell her to come find you. (And I have fine friend taste, you, Trimalynn up there, yep!).

Date: 2009-05-13 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dear suckling jesus, could that comment be more huge.

Date: 2009-05-13 07:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My next cardio appointment is next Monday, I will certainly blog about whatever happens. I am weirdly hopeful that I get some blood drawn, I find it very comforting to know exactly what is going on with my body.

The best 'heartless' comment I got was in high school from Walt the Socialist Housemate. I don't think we were LJ friends at the time, but for like six years this friend of my mother's who had moved his family to Arizona but kept his job in Maryland would come stay in our guest room for months at a time so he could work. And once, I told him I didn't want kids, and I didn't want dogs (at the time I was living with my mother's FOUR ill-trained and bad-tempered ones), and I didn't really want to get married or have some lifelong romantic relationship. And he said I was heartless because I only wanted to take care of myself. And I was like, oh, sorry, the meaning of life is carrying other people and things around like so much dead weight? Missed that memo, forgive me. It was infuriating.

I totally empathize with your desire to have kids but only in the best possible circumstances. I'm pretty sure the world would be 80% better if more people just gave it that much thought, not I want children nownownow, but am I realistically in a place where I can do the best I can for my child?

I also realize that it's hypocritical to judge my PhD student for wanting kids more than science. I don't understand it, but I should be supportive. I think I can just about reach 'accepting' if I stretch. Still, science > babies, and I don't think I'll be changing my mind about that.

I also have no idea with the roommate. I'm thinking once I've gone a week or two without needing the boss to drop everything and help me, I might bring up the topic of getting paid for my 45-minute bus trips as though they were 45-minute lessons (200 Kc apiece, or about $10). It would be a more permanent solution than random bonuses. That being said, I feel taken advantage of right now because Irish Roommate got the money to get him to stay till September (not going to happen), and I get no bonuses and extra work piled on me because everyone knows I'm wild to stay in Prague, so they don't have to give me treats and can pretty much do whatever.

Long reply to long reply is long.

Date: 2009-05-15 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know you had a sucky time, but your blog post about it was hella awesome, so at least it had a redeeming value, right?

Date: 2009-05-15 10:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It wasn't actually that bad of a time - I mean, when I was sitting in the cafe feeling my heart go haywire for longer than it ever has before, I was scared and lonely and confused. Once that was over, though, I was okay. And I was more irritated by everything else, and also a huge part of me was thinking 'people on LJ are not going to believe this. Whenever irritating things happen I'm always 90% looking forward to people's reactions when I tell them about it.

Date: 2009-05-15 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ditto here, man. I usually start writing tragic/enraging entries on the spot.

Date: 2009-05-15 10:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also you should tell me what to do about Irish Roommate and the money situation. You're my LJ friend with the most experience in the working world, and I trust your judgment on things.

Date: 2009-05-15 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wouldn't betray your roommate, especially if you agreed to keep your knowledge of his raise a secret. But you're certainly entitled to ask for a review and reconsideration of your wages. Perhaps you could use the opportunity to explain that you're traveling quite a bit more than you anticipated (if applicable), and you'd like to have at least some compensation for all those extra hours.

That's the safest way to go. If you're very confident that bluffing won't give them an excuse to lay you off, you could offer a situation identical to Irish roommate by casually mentioning that you're thinking of going back home (your desire to see an American doctor/be home when you're ill would be a stellar excuse). It's a riskier proposition, but might be more effective, given the circumstances Irish roommate earned his.


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October 2011


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