Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.
-Flowers on the Wall by Statler Brothers
No, I really have nothing to do. And recently it has been driving me a little insane. For much of January, I’ve been ill. The kids have been ill. Jeff’s been ill. It’s been really cold. I’m tired of wearing five layers. I’m homesick. I’m thinking ahead to swimsuit season. So a month ago, I would have combated my loneliness by going for a run or walking the castle stairs or most definitely indulging in a giant chocolate bar dipped in peanut butter. This month, I feel trapped in the house and the less I do in a day the worse I feel. I’ve been finding myself wasting time on the internet, daydreaming of life when we return. I’ll look up houses for rent or jobs available or what’s new at the Science Center or what activities the girls could be enrolled in. Since I have been here, I have gone on a few coffee dates with other moms wanting to practice their English but unfortunately, this month it’s been more missed dates than made ones. I do have some ladies I can go running with…if I weren’t sick. I take tennis lessons on Saturday mornings but we’ve either been gone or I’ve been sick. I’m really looking forward to not being ill and the weather getting a little warmer.
And in reality, there isn’t much here for me to do even when I’m not ill. It’s a small town and I don’t have a car to travel to a bigger one. I do a lot of household chores; which are never ending and mind-numbing. We have five plates and a dishwasher that doesn’t really work; even when I use the correct soap. I make breakfast and walk the girls to school, go pick up groceries for the day, wash the dishes, write a blog (maybe), practice my Spanish online (maybe), do some laundry and then it’s time to go pick up the girls again for their two-hour lunch break. Some days I’ll go to the post office, the bank or pharmacy. I’ll make lunch for the girls and we’ll do a small amount of American schoolwork. I’ll walk to the girls back to school for the second part of their day; which is also when all the shops close down for Siesta. When it’s warmer this is when I had been going for a run or a hike or walk the castle stairs and taking a shower.
I try to stay motivated and busy. I make to-do lists. I’ve been trying to keep up on blog writing. I’ve been trying to keep up on organizing my photo’s. I’ll plan our vacations. I might watch a Netflix documentary. I had planned to start the Julian Micheals 30 day SHRED via youtube but I’ve been sick and I can’t walk to school without getting out of breath and coughing so Julian will have to wait. I’ve read a few books. I check face book about a hundred times a day. I’m just downloaded the history book we would have read this year and will be reading it both as a read aloud to the kids and to myself. It is a part of our homeschool curriculum that I have missed. I learned to crochet and am working on an infinity scarf. Shouldn’t I be entertaining myself with TED talks and learning some part of history that I’ve missed? I could take some of the online Girl Scout modules so I’m ready to volunteer when I return! I could be learning via podcasts! With so much time, shouldn’t I be fluent in Spanish by now?
The kids have had several mild illnesses. An odd fever here, frequent running noses, Impetigo, vomit, some headaches but now Lavender has a full-body rash. The internet is quite valuable. Especially when you are in this odd void for health insurance (the kids & Jeff have it through BlueCross but the nearest clinic where we can use our insurance is a two-hour bus ride away). There is the standard health clinic in our town (I can see it from our house) but it is also the Spanish-run healthcare clinic and not a private clinic. And since we are not actually employed in Spain – another odd void – the availability to use the clinic is vague. They’ll definitely treat the kids and definitely treat the adults in a true emergency but it was very unclear if we’d get a bill or be asked to pay on the spot. We were told maybe they will charge you, maybe not. Okay. Coming from the U.S. where a simple doctor’s visit without insurance (hell, even with insurance) can be quite costly, especially a walk-in urgent care visit I decided to use the internet to fill the void of a doctor. Not always the best but who doesn’t diagnose themselves first? I diagnosed the Imeptigo that Scarlett got at the beginning of November. I even managed to get an antibiotic cream from the pharmacy. And with vigilant treatment, Scarlett’s impetigo went away in three days. So when Lavender started showing signs of impetigo (which is essentially the same bacteria as strep throat but as a crusty, blistering rash near the moth & nose) I was on it. She got a very small rash; unlike her sister Scarlett. The impetigo went away but unfortunately she then developed a fever and broke out in a rash over her entire torso. Which I of course noticed only after she came home from school. I swear, I don’t purposely send my kids to school with contagious illnesses.
I searched on the internet. I read up on rashes. I compared pictures. And I diagnosed it as Scarlet Fever. (Scarlet fever most often follows strep-throat but it can also follow impetigo – since it’s the same bacteria). And try as I might, I found not one reliable source (Hello! WebMD & Mayo Clinic) that said I could treat it with at home remedies. Not one. Antibiotics were the answer. Oral. The kind I had already tried to buy over the counter but couldn’t. We waited one night to make sure it wasn’t just an allergic reaction to new laundry detergent. Her fever returned and her rash looked angrier the next morning. Do we take her by bus to an in-network provider or do we walk 3 minutes to the health clinic and take our chances with both the cost and the language barrier? I figured the health clinic in town couldn’t possibly charge more than our own deductible we’d have to meet back in Washington for a similar visit. So off to the clinic I went.
I could almost here the staff’s (a doctor/nurse and the assistant) exasperation when they realized how very little Spanish I spoke. I had taken the care to use google translate and write down all of her symptoms – in Spanish and in chronological order before heading off. But, I couldn’t answer many of their questions. I immediately went to my ‘ol standby “Mi casa en Buitrago. Mi esposo a Gredos. La nina quatro anos.” They just shook their heads when I pointed to my “Americano trajeta” when they asked to see my spanish health care card. They wrote down Lavender’s name in a ledger. They examined her. They felt the rash. They took her temperature. They weighed her when I couldn’t tell them how much she weighed. They wrote up a summary while we sat across from the doctors desk. They also started speaking English near the end when they realized I wasn’t faking my horrible understanding of the Spanish language. I managed to ask “Lunes? Casa o Escolar?” So in broken spanish that’s: Monday? Home? or School? Home was the answer. Actually I was told to visit her doctor on Monday for a recheck of her rash. Hhmm?? Her doctor? I pointed upstairs and questionedly shrugged. (The urgent care clinic was downstairs and the regular office upstairs). I may or may not return for a recheck. At one point, Lavender leaned over and said “This isn’t like the doctor’s in Washington.” No, it was not. We sat in more of an office type room. They never took down my name. Or our address. Or our phone number. Or my passport number (which by the way is needed for everything! Even to sign up for gymnastics!). But we got the visit summary which included the prescription for oral antibiotics. Yeah! And the cost of the antibiotics? 2.30 euros. However, it was also a glass bottle with powdered antibiotics that came with instructions in Spanish on how to prepare our own drugs. Jeff used the internet to google the instructions. Thank you internet, again!