Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sick in America

Let me begin this post by declaring this: it is a universal injustice that people who dutifully get their flu shot end up with the flu. I know, there are different strains of the flu virus, blah, blah, blah. Still.

Being sick in America is a bit different than being sick in Italy. Here are some of the major differences:

1. In Italy, doctors still make house calls. Granted, you need to be pretty sick for this to happen. Either that, or have an insistent mother-in-law. Which pretty much covers a good chunk of the population.

Once I had (what turned out to be) strep throat with a fever of about 102. My mother-in-law had brought lunch over and insisted I take my temperature. She then insisted I call the doctor and tell him to come over right away, since it was a blustery January day. He asked what my symptoms were, and then said something like: "Can't you just come in yourself?" to which I answered, "Sure, I can come in." That's when my mother-in-law took over, berating the doctor for not coming over when I'd asked, and making it sound like I was on my death bed.

Long story short (er), he showed up on his motor scooter about 30 minutes later. Under the eagle eye of my mother-in-law, he examined my throat, felt my forehead, and did that awful throat culture thing that makes you gag. When my mother-in-law was out of ear shot, he whispered, "You could have come in, you know." I gave a subtle nod toward my mother-in-law and whispered back, "Yes, I know." He did one of those peripheral glances her way and nodded, as if to say, "I know. I have one of those at home, too."

2. Speaking of throat cultures, the thing the doctor sticks down your throat is called a tampone in Italian. Last month my 9-year-old daughter asked the pediatrician if she had to have a tampone when she had strep throat. Nice. Bless him, he didn't even raise an eyebrow. I taught her the term "throat culture" right there on the spot.

3. Another major difference between being sick in America and ammalata in'Italia is that no one from work stopped by my house to see if I was really sick. In Italy, many employers do this, making it hard to play hooky from work. Hard, but not impossible. They do have the courtesy of telling you when they'll be stopping by--they usually give you a 2-hour window.

4. Lastly, one of the things I appreciate most about being sick in America is prescriptions. In Italy, the directions aren't printed for you on the label. I discovered this the hard way. As the doctor was telling me what the dosage was, I nodded and said, "Si, si, va bene," which translates to: "Okay, okay, just give me the paper so I can get to the pharmacy and put myself out of this misery."

Well, I should have listened. There was no label, and I had to slog through the enclosed pamphlet in Italian and figure out the dosage by weight (in kilos, of course).

But the best part about being sick in America? I have 3 (or is it 5?) words for you:

24-hour drive-thru pharmacy

God Bless America

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Feeling Thankful

This Fall season has flown by. I can't believe Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is only 3 weeks away. Here are a few things we've been thankful for this Fall...

1. Trick-or-Treating in a land of trick-or-treat experts.
For the past 5 years, we had to create our own Halloween in Italy. Sure, the shops were festooned with jack-o-lanterns and witches, but that's where all the orange and bl
ack fun ended. No one actually carves pumpkins or goes trick-or-treating. All the costume fun comes later, during Carnivale.

We started a trick-or-treating tradition with our neighbors, but we had to buy the candy ahead of time, put it into small bags and tie the bags to their doorknobs. That way our kids would get candy even if the neighbors weren't home. And most weren't, because why should they be at 7:30pm, when most people are just getting off work? This year, it was so nice to go door to door and get free candy. For the kids, or all went to the kids.

2. Fall leaves
The most common kind of trees in Trieste seemed to be pine trees. There were other kinds whose names escape me, but very few turned color in the fall. Those who did were beautiful, but their hues were mild, understated. The fall colors here on the east coast of the U.S. took my breath away.

3. Thanksgiving

My Italian relatives have all seen the traditional Turkey-Day dinner in American movies, of course, so they were all excited when the end of November rolled around. This meant that Natalie had to prepare the turkey and all the fixin's herself. Everyone worked on Thanksgiving, so they all showed up right before dinner was served. Italian table manners dictate that you must dive in as soon as the food is set before you (a sign of respect for the food and the cook, because who wants to eat cold food?). No matter how much I planned, I was always slow on the gravy uptake, and my in-laws would inevitably finish the dinner while I was out in the kitchen stirring up the gravy. This meant more gravy for me, however, so it wasn't all bad.

This year we went to my parents' house, and my mom was in charge of the dinner. She would tell my sister and I when to stir this, how much butter we needed to add to that, which we dutifully did while the three of us chatted away. I loved it.

Hope everyone had a peaceful, happy Thanksgiving!