Sometimes I look back on my day and think, “Did that really happen?” This has been a recurring phenomenon ever since I packed up my bags and moved overseas, and is something that definitely occurred today.
I woke up this morning in my Morumbi apartment to the unpleasant realization that my eye was swollen, itchy, and watery. “Oh no,” I thought, “the dreaded pink eye…”
This isn’t the first time this has happened this month, in fact, it is the third time. The first time it occurred, I went to work and asked about our insurance coverage and which eye specialist I should visit. Well, I was thrilled to find out that eye care is not covered under our insurance plan and that I needed to pay for it out of pocket. Great. The school nurse recommended an eye doctor in nearby Cidade Dutra who only charged 60 R$ per visit, and with my income I figured that was the place I should go. Upon arriving there, I found out it is a place frequented by the many favela dwellers in the neighborhood, so basically I wasn’t getting the best eye care around. For those of you who know me, you know that I have my American eye doctor on speed dial and Dr. Amazing has been there to help me through ALL of my eye emergencies, which are wide ranging. I was not pleased to be experimenting with other physicians, but what choice did I have? I’m in Brazil with no eye care coverage. I had to go in and let this woman look at my eyes.
Needless to say, I was not surprised with her diagnosis. Pink eye. Of course. The easiest and most explainable cause, right? Well, after about a week of antibiotic drops, my eyes were better, but the previous symptoms returned shortly thereafter. I decided it was time to go back to the favela doctor. Visit two. Diagnosis: allergies. Treatment: patanol. So, I used this remedy for a week, and surprise, surprise, it went away, but today it was back.
I decided I was not going back to that favela doctor and I needed to see a specialist that wasn’t running some sketchy operation using old school filing cards—not even a computer! No one at work seemed to be of much help until I talked to the Colombian librarian about substitute teaching plans (I figured I couldn’t work, I needed to get this eye situation squared away!) Of course a Spanish speaker would be there to help me! She told me about an eye place in Santo Amaro, which isn’t too far away, but in this chaotic city it would be difficult to arrive without a car. I then started planning my route, and was a little uneasy after my conversation on the ride to work about frequent assaults and robberies here, but I had no choice, I had to venture out and find this doctor! On googlemaps.com I found that I could take a public bus, then transfer in a semi rough area, and then get on another bus and find my way to this doctor. There it was. I had my Colombian substitute ready for my students and a way to get to the doctor. I was set!
…Or so I thought. Upon telling my Brazilian boss, who I will name Dona Jefa, that I would be leaving for the afternoon to go to the doctor she told me that she was not comfortable with me, uma menina (Portuguese for little girl), riding around this city alone on a bus in a rough area. “None of the other American teachers do this!” she explained. She called the front office to the superintendant’s secretary and demanded that I have a driver escort me to the doctor. Feeling a little embarrassed, I told Dona Jefa that it wasn’t necessary; I could manage on my own. “I know, I know,” she said, “But if anything happens to you it is my responsibility…” So, it was decided that Cicero, the head security guard, would drive me to Santo Amaro. YES! It definitely pays off to be in the Brazilian department and have them be on my side, thus receiving the perks of the American workers and Brazilian workers. O jeitinho brasileiro…(the Brazilian way).
Well, after a thirty-minute car ride making small talk about his security devices used at school, Cicero and I made it to the eye doctor. At last, it was time to see a specialist, Doctora Andrea, who found a bunch of eyelashes stuck in my eye which apparently caused this infection. Gross, yes, but finally an answer! (or so I hope, maybe we’ll discover another problem in a week…)
Days like today make me wish I could be at home in my small, Virginia town with Dr. Amazing and my car. Normally going to an eye doctor is an easy thing, just a simple annoyance maybe, but here in Brazil with no car and safety issues it is a whole new ballgame. I am thankful though, for the help of my boss and for Cicero for driving me. Additionally, I am proud, because doing all of these things such as explaining my symptoms to the doctor, telling my boss I can’t work, talking with Cicero, etc., make me realize that I am learning Portuguese, and also, I am surviving in this concrete jungle.
Difficult or not, I am getting by, and that is something that makes me smile.
Just another day in Sao Paulo….