I’m out of Spark. God help me.
Last time I posted, I mentioned that Lyn and I were going to Mexico City so I could sign my contract with The Anglo. The day consisted of two three-hour bus rides and one almost and hour meeting. All-in-all, fairly uneventful, yet very interesting. I was very glad that Lyn went with me. After all of the horror stories I heard about Mexico City, I really didn’t want to make the trip alone.
Of course, all the talk was just that. the trip went quite smoothly with absolutely no drama.
The bus line we chose was Primera Plus. It’s considered the best line for this type of trip, and now I know why. You wouldn’t believe just how luxurious this bus was!
- The seats reclined considerably.
- The head rests cradled you head so you could easily sleep without that nasty crick you get on airplanes.
- The windows had sunscreens and curtains.
- There were “leg rests” that you could use to support your legs in a comfortable position.
- They gave you complementary food and drinks before you got on the plane.
In addition to the fancy bus, the bus station in both Querétaro and in Mexico City was as fancy as most airports, complete with shops, dining options, cafés, and waiting areas. Not only that, but they took security seriously, with metal detectors and security guards that checked you going out to the buses and before you boarded.
The Anglo Antonio Caso
The Anglo is amazing. The school we visited was in the middle of their summer programs. Lots of kids wandering about. The Antonio Caso branch is also where the administrative offices are located. To get there by taxi took about 10 minutes. The cabs in Mexico City are pink and white. The driver, of course, was amazingly friendly and gave us advice as to what to do once my meeting was over.
Once we got to the school, we were escorted into the administrative offices, where I met with the HR director, Alex. What a sweet young man, and very professional. We had spoken over Skype and by phone, so I knew what he looked like, although he was taller than I expected.
Mostly our meeting involved reviewing documents and signing them. Not much to talk about. We did cover some policies and procedures (code of ethics, professional standards, etc.), and once again he reviewed the very ample salary and benefits.
After the meeting, Lyn and I followed the recommendations of our taxi driver and walked to the Museo de la Revolucion. It occupies a large square surrounded by cafés, restaurants, businesses and stores. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right on the corner opposite the museum, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.
I can’t remember what I ate, but it was yummy. Lyn had a beautiful paella. Really beautiful. The only issue was that the seafood adorning it came complete with heads and bodies — shrimp, crabs, mussels, etc. Lyn couldn’t quite handle it, so he mostly ate the rice. I completely get it; I’m one of those people who can’t look at my food “whole” either. He usually isn’t bothered by that, though. Oh well.
We didn’t have a lot of time to spend, so after lunch we wandered around the square a bit then headed back to the bus station. On that particular day, Bic (the pen company) was hosting an enormous coloring activity on the grounds. People were lined up to get in. I believe it was a promotion for a new line of colored pens.
Since our dogs were left unattended, we decided not to dally too long. We had left the door to the garden open for them, but they get nervous after more than a few hours. We didn’t want to give them a reason to misbehave.
Mexico City has a population over 25 million people. It is HUGE! While we didn’t see very much of it, we did see enough to make us want to return when we have a few days to really explore. It isn’t like NYC with all of the skyscrapers, although we did see some. It is more sprawling. From what we’ve been told, there are many “neighborhoods” where you can live and work and never need to travel beyond them.
Back to my new job…
Technically, I started today, although I had an orientation session on Tuesday. There is a lot to know. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, but overall, I know I made a good decision.
I’ve been working with the Academic Director, Hector, who is delightful. He is kind, organized, patient and professional. He will be my mentor over the next few months.
My first class will start on Saturday, August 25th. It’s an adult group of intermediate students. I now have most of the materials and will be reviewing them (over and over and over) prior to class. Plus, this coming Saturday, I will be sitting in on an existing class. I’m quite nervous, but also sure that I will be just fine. I’m always nervous when I start something new.
Meanwhile, while all this is going on for me, Lyn has also been looking for a different job. He really would like to go back to his roots and teach Math, but those positions aren’t readily available, at least not that we can tell.
He did, however, get a call from a private school in the area, Sun Hills Valley, that has a really big campus just outside of town. When he originally interviewed, they didn’t have an appropriate position. Since then, though, they had an opening for an English teacher and have interviewed him a second time. He’s had to take some psychometric tests, as well.
His one disappointment was the pay. While more than Globoworld, it isn’t much more and the workload is a lot more. It is a formal school where he would teach four 7th grade English classes every week day. The advantages are things like summers and weekends off. But the pay was a stumbling block for him.
I suggested that he counter the offer, which he did. They are discussing it, and Lyn should have an answer by tomorrow. With his Ph.D. and teaching experience, I feel fairly certain they will do their best to meet his request.
Phew. If all of that comes together, we will actually be making a reasonable amount of money on which to live. My extra students, freelance work and pension will go a long way to keeping us comfortable here, and maybe even let us put some money back into our savings.
I do believe rainy season is here. We’ve been having thunderstorms every night. They are quite frightening! The lightning comes down in streaks just like in those fancy photos of lightning storms. And the thunder is so loud it shakes the buildings. On top of that, it doesn’t just rain — we have a deluge! Some places get hail, which is odd given the climate here. But the rain! I don’t know where the water goes. Near our friends house, the torrents actually blasted a cement sewer cover five feet in the air. The road took a beating, too.
Poor Sophie is really struggling with the storms. She shakes almost uncontrollably at the slightest hint of rain and has taken to hiding as far away from windows and doors as is possible. I think if she could get under the furniture, that’s where she would go. Alas, she’s a bit too big for that.
Izzy could care less.
Hmm. I guess we are all still getting acclimated to our new environment. At least now there is a rainbow in sight!
Last week we celebrated our new “freedom” by driving to Peña de Bernal. It was an easy drive, although we ran into a bit of traffic near the airport. They are building a new bridge and the road is a mess at the intersection where most of the construction is. Being a Sunday, there wasn’t anyone there directing traffic.
Drivers here take every opportunity to push ahead, regardless of what is going on around them. Trying to get across this intersection was challenging, as it involved four lanes of traffic crossing four lanes of traffic. What a mess.
The problems with this intersection created problems for miles. It took nearly 45 minutes to travel about 3 miles as a result.
We didn’t spend very long in Peña de Bernal. There were a lot of people there that day. I think there may have been some kind of tournament or festival going on. We ended up walking up and down the main road, stopping for lunch, and then heading out again. Even though it was brief, we enjoyed getting out of Querétaro for a little while. Oh, the gorditas were delicious! We had carne adobado gorditas, which were made with a blue corn masa. Wonderful. Didn’t drink any beer since I was driving. Next time.
This week, Lyn and I have spent most of our time preparing for our classes. My time at Globoworld is coming to a close, so for me, it has been a bit sad. I’ve been telling my students about my job change and preparing them for their level evaluations. They get so nervous about these things, but they will do fine.
Some of my students want to take me out this week to celebrate both the completion of their class and my new job. I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoy these guys. They are hardworking and fun. It has been a joy to see them improve their English skills.
Change Is Good
So, what’s next on the agenda. Hmm. Lyn and I are traveling to Mexico City on Friday to go to The Anglo-Mexican Foundation HQ where I will sign my contract. We are going to take the bus to the airport and then Uber to the school. The HR manager asked me to bring 4 photos, which, I assume, will be for ID cards and things. Fortunately, I have lots of photos left over from our immigration process.
I am excited about starting a new job, although I am also nervous. Change is always good, even if it stresses me out for a while. I will need to get familiar with new processes and procedures as well as how to use different materials. The school does have an online platform as well as a text book. That will be different.
The materials we use at Globoworld are a bit dated. Recently, in looking around for other materials to use with my private students, I came across the company that created them. There is a new version, which I was surprised to see, looks remarkably similar. I think what I don’t like about these materials is the use of cartoonish drawings. I feel like the drawings are a bit insulting to the adult students. What was really interesting is how common these drawing are in all of the ESL texts I found.
The one set of materials that was different from the rest was from National Geographic Learning. Their texts use TED talks and the gorgeous photography the magazine is known for. I have to say, though, that I found the information presented a little confusing, but I could get used to it! Remember, change is good.
Turns out that the materials in most of the texts I’ve seen follow the same pattern. They teach English while covering a set of general life skills topics. For example, the first level is covers the basics of meeting new people, describing things and places, getting around (transportation), family relationships, urban and suburban living, etc. In this way, they address the proficiency standards set forth in the CEFR (Common European Framework) for learning a second language while developing the necessary vocabulary and grammar structures.
Lyn is making it his mission to recreate much of the materials with newer images. He spends a lot of time working on his classes. He has taken a keen interest in teaching pronunciation. This is a difficult area. He is really enjoying it though.
Tomorrow we are going to Santa Rosa with our friends Tom and Tiffany. Santa Rosa is a a little town just over the hill from here. They live closer to it than we do and have gone there on many occasions to eat and shop. The town is not known for being friendly to strangers, so it will be interesting to see it with people who are known there.
I have driven through the town many times as it is between our house and several of the companies where I have been teaching.
I am also continuing to make new friends here. Just today I met a couple — Yvonne & Roberto — who work for Proctor & Gamble/Gillette. The lived in Boston for four years and their English is perfect. Naturally, we met because of the dogs. I had Sophie and Izzy out playing and they were also there with their two dogs, Molly and Nina. Molly is a pug and Nina is a French bulldog. The four of them got along famously, as did we humans.
Last week, I was giving a private lesson to someone who lives in El Refugio. We typically sit by the pool where it is a little cooler for our lessons. This past week, we were working on “sometimes/anytime/no time, etc” with our toes in the water when a family joined us. The pool isn’t very big, so of course they could hear everything. One of the children, a girl around 8 years old maybe, started showing off her English for us. After our lesson was gone, the parents asked me if I gave English classes and how much I charged. They also asked me about teaching children, which I am not keen on. The kids here are a bit wild and I don’t have the energy to be their domesticater.
Also, while I am flattered by the interest, scheduling private classes is difficult when my work schedule is so irregular. I will have to see how it goes after I start my new job.
Not a day later, I got a text from the husband of a former student. They also live in Refugio and want me to give them private lessons. We are going to meet next weekend to discuss how we might make that work.
I asked Lyn if he was interested in taking on some private students, but he isn’t. At least for right now. I totally get it. Unfortunately, I feel like I have to take on as much as possible so we have enough money to live. I’m okay with that for now. And I really love my students. I figure if they are willing to take time out of their busy lives to study English and pay out-of-pocket, they are truly motivated and will do what it takes to succeed.
Speaking of money, it will be interesting to have a bigger income. I am curious to see how it will change things. I’m also still working on getting my Circuit City pension. I called the other day and was told that I should be receiving it by the latest October. Dang bureaucracy! Oh well. Better late than never.
OMG, it has been a hell of a few weeks, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
First, I am excited to say that I have been offered a new teaching position at The Anglo Mexican Foundation. I am very excited to be starting there in the near future. I don’t have an official start date yet, but I’m expecting it to be sometime around the 20th of August.
Of course, everything here is a process. While we are permanent residents of Mexico, questions about whether we need additional work visas was a questions. Turns out, we don’t. Phew. I was really dreading having to go back to Immigration!
However, I did need to go online and register with more government agencies and get the Mexican equivalent of a Social Security Number.
The new job is very similar to my current position. That is, it will have a split schedule, as the students are primarily working adults that can only attend classes early in the morning or after school or work. I will also be working Saturdays, as I am now. That’s okay too.
The real benefit is the dramatically increased salary, paid vacations and holidays, savings plans, life and health insurance, a month’s vacation each year, and a paid round-trip ticket (up to $750) anywhere I want to go at the end of the contract year.
The Anglo has been around for 75 years. They have 8 schools in 4 cities. The school in Querétaro is brand new. It has 20 classrooms well equipped with monitors, white boards, and materials. They have a rooftop cafe and a bookstore on the lower floor. They have both an academic director and administrative director, as well as staff to handle the day-to-day operations.
I am so excited to get this opportunity!
Second, this week I successfully obtained license plates (placas) for our car. I am very excited about this, especially since it means that we can now take trips around the region and explore. This weekend, we may go to Peña de Bernal. I understand the monument is interesting and the town is quite charming. They have a reputation for good gorditas and beer. I’ll let you know!
Last week was a bit problematic. Not only did Lyn lose his phone, but I had a terrible experience with a student. This week, I lost my car keys. Aargh. This won’t come as a big surprise to those of you who know me. I can’t keep track of anything when I’m feeling rattled. Fortunately, we have two keys, and another one can be obtained from the Honda dealer.
I also learned this week from a cab driver that Mexico offers discounts to people over 60 through their Instituto National Por Adultos Mayores (INPAM). I believe it was going to get this discount card that I lost my keys. I did get the card, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use it toward the fees on my license plates because it did not have my full name on it. Here, everything has to match.
At the time I got it, I was so consumed with checking the spelling of my middle name (Porretto, aka my maiden name) that I forgot to look to see that my last name (Geisler) was there! Oh well.
Sunrise over Querétaro
The sunrise this morning was fabulous. See the photo above as well.
Come visit me, peeps! Miss you all.
Well, you might say it’s about time. I’m just glad the process is over.
What process, you say? The visa process. It’s official:
Lyn and I are officially permanent residents of Mexico.
After a very frustrating week, the good news came on Friday. We had been patiently waiting for notification via the INM (Mexican Immigration) website, but it never arrived. So, we did what most other impatient types might do — we went down there and asked about it. Lo, and behold! They had the cards there.
Of course, that was Friday. Earlier in the week was quite tumultuous.
My neighbor, Victor, has been more than kind to us. Besides being our personal driver most of the time, he and his wife are my students and, more importantly, my friends.
We had been talking for months now about how to get license plates for our car. Victor graciously took us down to the motor vehicles office to find out what we needed and acted as our interpreter and advocate. Turns out, for the license plates (here, “placas”) you need an official government ID, for which a Mexico driver’s license qualifies. In addition, you have to pay a tax and provide proof of residence through a recognized bill, like a utility bill.
Needless to say, our passports did not qualify us, so we decided to try getting a Mexico driver’s license.
Off we go to yet another location. After driving for 20 minutes to find a parking spot and walking about a mile back, we were told that, in order to get a Mexico driver’s license, we needed to have our permanent visa cards.
So, in frustration, we walked back to the car. I offered to buy Victor lunch at an empanada stand that he told us was “muy rico” and near where we had parked the car. That done, we headed home, determined that we were going to get our visas!
Unfortunately, when we went to pay for the food, Lyn set his phone down. Someone else picked it up. Aargh!
The nice thing about Apple products
Unfortunately, we did not notice it was missing for several hours. But, fortunately, our accounts are linked, and I was able to use the “Find My Phone” app to locate the phone. We chased it around Querétaro for about an hour, until it landed at a house not far from where we lived.
This housing development was in a lower socio-economic area behind some retail stores. Being the trusting soul that I am, I just started knocking on doors. Despite the fact that I could see the phone clearly in the app, no one admitted having it. Shortly afterward, they turned it off so I couldn’t track it anymore.
I have to say that this was the first negative experience we’ve had here. Thus far, everyone has been more than kind, honest and generous. However, losing that phone was a bit devastating. Here, you have to have a phone just to get around. And, since Lyn and I are frequently in different locations, it is important for us to have a way to stay in contact, you know, in case of emergencies.
That night, I was called to sub for an advanced English class at a company about 30 minutes from town, as the teacher was sick. Of course, I agreed, actually excited to work with an advanced class. The coursework in these classes is more conversational. The topic for the evening was Stem Cell Research.
What a disaster! There was one student in the class who just dominated everything, refused to engage on an intellectual level, and made it impossible for the other students to do so as well. I left feeling quite frustrated, which added to my building depression.
On the following day, still a bit depressed about the events of the prior one, Lyn and I went to the local iShop and bought a new phone. Of course, here, because of the tariffs on Chinese goods, the same phone (an iPhone 7) cost $15,000 pesos. That’s roughly $750 US. On the ride home, I programmed it for him, downloaded all of his information from the cloud, and that was that… for a while.
Both of us were still feeling down, but the worst was behind us. Tuesdays are busy days, with classes in the early morning and till about 9 at night. Once we had completed our shopping trip, we opted for a quick nap before heading back to work.
Once again, Wednesday, I was asked to go back to the advanced class. Despite having such a bad experience on Monday, I decided to do it. I figured that maybe, if I was better prepared, things would go more smoothly. So, I spent several hours researching the debate about stem cell research, the issues regarding embryonic stem cells versus adult stem cells, and even found a news article from that day about a couple fighting over their embryos as part of a divorce.
Surely, armed with videos, news articles and a variety of perspectives, the class would be better.
At first, only two of the students showed up. They were watching the video when the third, difficult student arrived. Once again, he took over, refusing to cooperate and enter into a thoughtful discussion about the issues. Nothing I did could get him back on track. And, to make matters worse, he even admitted he was being difficult. I asked him if he was the same with his other teacher, to which he replied, “No, he knows how to control me.”
I was so angry, that I told the HR person at Globoworld not to send me there again. I told him that the guy was a f*cking @sshole and didn’t deserve to be in the class. Never mind that he was preventing others from actually learning something.
Interestingly, Globoworld had a workshop on classroom management scheduled for Friday, which I planned to attend for the sole purpose of addressing this issue.
After all of this, Thursday came as a relief. I was beginning to think we were being cosmically punished for something we had unknowingly done. But Thursday… ahhhh.
Lyn and I headed down to immigration immediately after my early class, and, to our delight, were given our visas! Yay!
Originally, I planned to do absolutely nothing on Friday. However, after the week I had had, I decided to go to the workshop. Excuse me for saying it, but it was a waste of time.
The course was really about the complaints that the Quality people get from the students and how to address them. I brought my issue up, and what was said really didn’t apply to me. First of all, I found out that this class had been through six (6) other teachers because of this same person! The current teacher said his strategy was to intimidate him. This was seconded by other teachers as well. Well, maybe they can do that. They are big, burly men. Me, not so much. Five feet tall and 120 pounds.
It also turns out that this guy is the manager of the department where the other students work. Ah. Well, they’re not going to go against him. That might endanger their jobs. While I understand this, it isn’t our role as English teachers to enable this type of behavior. Learning this made me even more angry.
I definitely pitched a b*tch about it,too, and directly asked that they address the problem.
Everyone seems to be aware of this particular person and his issues, but no one wants to address it. I feel that is a disservice to both the other students and to the teachers. We will see if anything happens.
Now that the week was behind us, Lyn and I decided to celebrate our new visa status. We had a lovely dinner downtown and a walk around the city. Let’s hope this coming week is better.
I can’t believe I haven’t written anything here for weeks! Of course, when I was sick, I didn’t have much to say. However, a lot has happened since then. Let’s see if I can remember it all.
First, I’m still not entirely better. Now I think it is just allergies. While I tested positive for cats, dogs and dust, I also know by experience that I am allergic to molds and mildew. I know this because every rainy season, my allergies go into overdrive. When I lived in Virginia, I was alway sick at Thanksgiving (November), because that was when all the leaves had fallen and were decomposing everywhere. In California, it was in the spring, when it rained the most. Here, I’m not exactly sure about the seasonal conditions, but I know it has been raining a lot, mostly at night, when it’s cooler. The mornings are lovely, but a bit damp, and I think this may be the cause of my continued snottiness and congestion. I still get that pain in my cheekbones and scratchy throat, although now it is probably due to postnasal drip. Nevertheless, it is quite annoying.
For a little while, I was able to function quite well without having to take allergy meds. Now I’m back to it, every day. Sinus wash, allegra, nasal steroids. Life with allergies. I guess it is better than the constant feeling that I’m getting sick.
We knew there was a rainy season here in Querétaro, although no one could really say exactly when that was. When it first started raining every night, we were told that it wasn’t rainy season, just storms from the Pacific. We had a few rainy days, but typically, the days are bright and sunny, just like back in Boise.
Querétaro reminds me so much of Boise. Just bigger. The main exception is that you don’t see as many people out riding bikes and running, and there are no paths through the hills for hikers and their dogs. I miss that. Still, people here are creative about how they exercise.
Yesterday, I saw some women in the park working out with soda bottles as weights. There was a group of them working out together. Cheaper than the gym, right? I am still hopeful that I will be able to join a tennis club at some point. I just need a little more money!
Back to rainy season.
When it rains, it pours. Literally. I’ve never seen so much rain collect on the streets! Drainage here is problematic, although they have these enormous ditches everywhere, which I assume are to help. Still, the water comes so hard and fast, that the roads become rivers. The manhole covers can’t handle all the rain and turn into veritable fountains! If this isn’t rainy season, I’m a little worried…
Speaking of which, I finally received the application I needed in order to receive my pension from Circuit City. This was the one thing I got out of my too many years of marriage to my first husband, and I’m determined to collect it. Of course, since Circuit City bellied-up years ago, the pension is being managed by the government. Can you say “red tape”?
The agency in charge — PBGC — Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp — actually contacted me in January, before we left for Mexico. They asked me to fill out a form online in order to determine my monthly benefit. After that, I never heard anything.
When I called, they told me I needed now to apply for the benefits, and that could be done online. So, I looked. I couldn’t find anything. Of course, during this time, I was leaving for Mexico to take the TEFL course, preparing our house for sale, and doing all of the things necessary for our upcoming adventure. Needless to say, I ran out of time.
In February, after we returned from the course and during the 10-days between that and closing and moving back to Mexico (yikes), I tried to call again and was told I had to go online. Still, I was unable to find anywhere where I could actually apply for the benefits.
Hence, we moved. Once again I went online, only to get no information. On the website it said that I could apply by phone, so I called again. We are in April at this point. The woman I spoke with told me that I could not apply on line because there were forms to sign and documents that needed to be provided. They would send me the application by mail.
If you’ve been following this saga along, you know that mail here is complicated. The last thing I had FedExed to me took two weeks, and the mail can take months. After this explanation, they suggested I change my address to a US address (a friend’s, etc.) and they could then fax or email me the documents. (However, the agency could not. Huh?) So that’s what I did.
My friend, Mary, back in Boise, did receive a notice of the change of address for me. She has been patiently waiting every since for the actual application, which, by the way, arrived here on Tuesday, July 10th. The letter inside was dated May 11, and the previous letter that had been returned to PBGC was dated March 10.
Holy cannolies Batman! Needless to say, Mary never received the application. Fortunately, we did. I still don’t understand what the issue was. All that needed to be attached was proof of my birthdate, via copy of my passport. There was one place that needed to be signed and dated. Other than that, which I could have done with my PDF app, there was nothing of real consequence. Just stupid bureaucracy!
I had the application completed and ready to mail back to them within 10 minutes. There is a FedEx office across the street from our neighborhood. So, in less than two days, the application was completed and returned. Will someone please tell me why this had to take more than six months? I just don’t get it.
That said, I should be getting a nice sum of money shortly (whatever that means), as they owe me retroactively to last April (2017).
Now I need to get my body back in tennis-playing shape, so once it arrives, I can join a club and get started! Gosh, I miss it!
The other new thing for me is that I found someone to go out with. Laurie is a fellow teacher at Globoworld. She is a few years younger than I am, but a lot closer than the other teachers there. Last week, she and I went out on a Friday night to one of the plazas near where she lives in El Centro. We drank a bottle of wine and ate a local version of french fries. Delish!
We had so much fun we are doing it again tonight. I’m not sure how good an idea it is to go out on Friday the 13th, especially with a supermoon expected, but what the heck. A girl needs a little girl time and wine! I haven’t been drinking a lot of wine lately. It is too expensive on our budget to keep a bottle in the fridge. Now it is a special treat when I’m out with friends or for dinner with Lyn, not that that happens too often.
Last Saturday night, our friends Tom and Tiffany (www.epicureanexpats.com) joined us for dinner at La Truckeria, a food truck place right near our house. We also invited our neighbors, Victor and Guiliana, to join us. It was a lot of fun.
These food truck places are very interesting. Both of the ones we’ve visited have been similar — they are largely outdoors although within a gated area closed off from the street. In the center, there is a bar, and around the outside of the courtyard, there are food trucks and small buildings where people prepare food. There is a waiter that brings the various menus and you select what you want to eat and drink, and they bring it to you.
The tables are set around the bar and everything is outside. At La Truckeria, there was a small swing set and slide for kids. This came in handy, as Victor and Guiliana brought their two children, one of whom is about 4 years old. The adults took turns taking him to “the park” and swinging him.
The food was good and plentiful. I ordered ribs, envisioning ribs like they serve at Applebees. I was mistaken, though. They were HUGE and quite meaty. We also had shrimp tacos with cheese, which we grew to love when we lived in Puerto Vallarta. We ate them everyday there! The kids had pizza and pasta, and Tom and Tiffany ordered something that currently wasn’t available, so I think Tiffany had a shrimp taco and Tom just had a margarita. Now that’s my kind of meal!
Those who know me, know I don’t get sick often. When I do, I am a whiney b*tch, which is why I work really hard to stay well.
Unfortunately, I can’t always keep the bugs away. Last Saturday, they caught up with me. Whether it is my schedule, my poor eating habits down here, lack of exercise, or the stormy weather conditions that have settled in, my immune system just wasn’t up to fighting off La Gripe.
Once I recognized I was getting sick, I went straight into defensive action — lots of sleep, lots of fluids, and lots more sleep. The first few days I suffered were largely fatigue, fever and a sore throat. On day five, my symptoms morphed into the upper respiratory range, with a hacking cough, tremendous headaches, facial pain and more. Although by afternoon I would start to feel better, every morning I would feel worse.
Ah, I said to myself. My first sinus infection in more than 10 years, and it has to be in Mexico.
Once again, I loaded up on symptom relievers — cold tablets, cough syrup, Vick’s VapoRub, cough drops, and more tea than they fought over in Boston. In the US, I would have added in lots of hot baths, but bathtubs down here are nearly nonexistent. Hot showers had to do.
I missed an entire week of work, everyday thinking that I would be better soon. However, when Saturday rolled around again (today, that is), I felt even worse. The congestion was spreading. I hadn’t been able to sleep for days, and when I did finally get a few winks, I woke up to a pain that felt like someone was using my ear drum as a gong.
After checking with my dear friend, Karen — the best doctor in the world — I headed to the pharmacy to see what relief they could offer. Some of the over the counter remedies I like most are just not available here. So, on Karen’s recommendation, I asked about how to get an antibiotic. Turns out, your US doc can’t just phone it in. You have to see someone here.
A little background
A few months back, my husband, Lyn had been looking for some medical advice. I can’t even remember what was wrong with him, but it was something relatively minor. He went to a pharmacy just outside of our community, called Pharmacia Bienavides. They have a medical consultation office right there. For 65 pesos (about $3.50 US), you can see a doctor right away.
This morning, after being turned away with a few more over-the-counter meds from the first pharmacy we went to, we headed over for a consult. I have to admit, I was not really excited about doing it. I have a long-standing fear of doctors and dentists that extends while and deep. I won’t even go to an ophthalmologist without having Lyn check it out first to be sure I won’t freak out. You can imagine how I get about someone who may have to see me naked!
That’s why, when I find someone I like, I keep them close. Thank you, Karen! I only wish I could have brought you down here with us. Of course, it was only the other day you reminded me that it was me who left you. I’m so sorry.
Anyway, I paid my 65-pesos and Lyn accompanied me in to see the doctor. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. He was a very nice young man with radiant skin and beautiful piano hands. He also spoke English, which was a real plus.
I shared with him my symptoms and Karen’s recommendations. After he checked a few things — throat, lungs, neck, blood pressure and temp — he informed me I had an infection and needed antibiotics. He prescribed exactly what Karen had recommended, plus a cough syrup and something to break up the phlegm.
Being the chatty Kathy that I am, I had to ask him annoying questions, like, “are you really a doctor?” I thought maybe he was an EMT or PA, but no, he is a real doctor. He looked to be about 13, but was probably closer to 30.
Within a few minutes, we were on our way. The medications were the most expensive part of the visit — 650-pesos, or about $30 US. Because of our visit, we can go to any of the medical consultarios within the pharmacy chain and our medical record will be there. So for a total of less than $35, I saw a doctor and got prescriptions filled. There is no insurance to file, and no additional medical bills forthcoming. Wow.
A system the US should adopt
While I was sitting there, I realized that this system of having a physician work out of a pharmacy is brilliant. It avoids all of those unwanted emergency room visits by people who have no insurance, and provides an affordable alternative in a community setting.
Imagine what being able to see a doctor on a moment’s notice would do? Even more so, to be able to see a doctor for under $100. Of course, in the US, it would be more expensive, but then again, it couldn’t possibly by as much as it is now. With insurance, you typically have a co-pay of anywhere from $25 to $50. The cost of lab work is insane. Here I spent $28 US for a thyroid blood panel. I just walked into the hospital and they did it right then and sent the results to Karen later that afternoon.
Insurance companies would still have opportunities to sell insurance to those who prefer our private physicians, although it would ultimate cut into their control over the medical field, but so what! People would be healthier. The pharmaceutical companies would still make money, and doctors would also make money and not have to be so crazy about how many patients they handle a day. They would have more employment options than private practice or hospital, and would actually be serving the people that need the service most.
I think its brilliant.
An interesting side story
Last Saturday, as I was getting sick, one of my students had come back following a medical emergency. Apparently, he had appendicitis and had to have surgery, after which he had some complications and took a month’s leave.
When he started not feeling well, he, too, went to one of the pharmacy medical consultorios. When they told him he needed surgery, he left, thinking they must be wrong. He went to another doctor, who confirmed the first one’s diagnosis. Still not wanting to believe it, he left again. Only this time, the pain was so severe, he drove himself to the hospital, where he did indeed have surgery to remove his appendix.