Last week started slowly. And by slowly, I mean “So Boringly That I Basically Wrote a Blog Post About Tennis Balls“. [Which you should go read, by the way. There’s quality stuff in there, I tell ya.]
On Monday, I worked (and rolled a tennis ball around on my foot – *ahem* go read the tennis ball post already! *ahem*), and took a day off from serious exercise. I thought KMN would be at work through dinner, so I cooked up a 1.5-person-sized amount of pastina to enjoy all for myself. [Someday soon, I will write a pastina post. I was a late-in-life convert to pastina, but there’s no going back. Stick around for that post. You won’t regret it, I promise.] When KMN surprised me by arriving home just as I was about to sit down to eat, I realized I wouldn’t be gorging myself on the whole pot-full, and instead, we each enjoyed 75% of a portion, along with a nice big salad. Thanks for encouraging responsible eating, honey.
On Tuesday, KMN coaxed me out for a later afternoon trail run at MacRitchie. I generally don’t prefer to run in the evenings, but it’s a rare day when he’s free by 6 PM, so I ditched my gym plans and off we went. The run was actually quite lovely – there was a cool breeze, and the trails were much quieter than they are in the morning. I enjoyed this rare chance to chat and catch up with each other while there was still daylight in the sky. When we got back, and I pulled an “I’m too overheated to think about food, let’s just have leftovers (you) and fruit (me) for dinner”. This happens to me occasionally, and as long as it’s only once in awhile, I excuse myself from consuming a perfect post-workout protein/carb mix, and just make sure I have a well-rounded breakfast the next day. Don’t tell the Refueling Police, OK?
Wednesday….well, Wednesday was made more exciting by several “expat moments”. By now, I’m generally pretty comfortable in Singapore on a day-to-day basis. But there are still things that are confusing, scary, or intimidating – sometimes expected, sometimes totally unexpected. And sometimes, something that seems difficult or “scary” actually turns out to be nothing at all. Wednesday was a great example of both of these situations.
Expectation: Simple. Reality: Frustrating.
I was at the local supermarket, picking up some ingredients for dinner, when I remembered that I wanted to purchase some kind of anti-itch cream. I’m either having an allergic reaction to something my knee touches regularly, or else we have a very industrious knee-loving bitey-thing in our apartment, because my knee is covered with big, red, itchy bumps that I’ve been scratching open in my sleep. So I went to the topical medications section, then stared for about 3 minutes:
There were a few items I recognized, others that were local (but labeled in English), and some that were labeled mostly/exclusively in Chinese. I wasn’t set on using a product that I knew from the US – but I couldn’t even find one of those. Or anything local that said “Stops itch!”. And obviously, I wasn’t gambling on anything that lacked any English labeling.
I found plenty of bug repellent, but nothing anti-itch (subliminal message about the importance of prevention?). This is a tropical country! How could they not have anti-itchy cream?!?! I suppose that I could have asked for assistance, but I didn’t. I payed for my groceries and took my itchy knee home, figuring that ice cubes would have to do for the time being. On the plus side, they’re free. And totally natural.
As I was walking home, I realized that I should have stopped at Watsons, a local HBA specialty store that is sort of like CVS or Walgreens, but without a pharmacy. These stores often have a more comprehensive collection of products than the supermarkets do, and I might have been able to find something there. There is one literally next door to the supermarket I was shopping in. *sigh*
Don’t get me wrong, this entire situation was a really small deal – and my knee is still attached. But I am trying to share the flavor (good and bad) of expat living with those who’ve never lived in another country. And sometimes you have these momehts: Just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, some little exchange reminds you still have a lot to learn…
Expectation: Frustrating. Reality: SIMPLE.
I also had a small medical thing I wanted checked out (not itchy knee syndrome). I was feeling reluctant to tackle the “health care in a foreign country” issue, but it had to be done eventually – and better for a small, non-urgent matter than in an emergency situation. [Stop panicking, Mom and Dad. Everything is fine. Remember, this was all the way back on Wednesday, and we just talked last night.]
Although I was dragging my feet (I don’t like to go to the doctor, period – never mind a totally new medical system/doctor), I should say that compared to some foreign postings, ours is actually awesome for medical care. Singapore is probably the premier place to go in Southeast Asia for modern medical care. In fact, the system is so well-organized and reasonably priced, it is, in many ways, probably superior to that in US.
Let’s examine this in relation to my situation: I could have walked into any of a dozen medical clinics, either government-run or private, within 2 kilometers of our apartment. For Singaporeans, using a government-run clinic is often cheaper – but for us, the price is the same. Clinics provide diagnosis and treatment for minor medical conditions, and some also provide continuing care for chronic conditions, vaccinations, physicals, etc. Generally, they operate on a walk-in basis.
After some research, and consultation with our insurance plan, I decided to try a private clinic that is just a short bus ride from our apartment. It is also associated with a hospital and other medical and dental offices/facilities that we could use for basically all of our health-care needs. I was still a bit anxious about the “walk-in” concept, especially since it was now after 5 PM (I feared it would be quite busy at the end of the workday), so I decided to do a walk-by. I entered the hospital (where the clinic is housed) at 5:25 PM. I inadvertently did a “walk-through”, since the clinic waiting area was also a pass-through for other areas of the hospital. But there was no one waiting. No one. And there were three nurses at the check-in counter. What the heck? I went for it.
After providing my ID card, address, and allergies, I explained my problem to the nurse. This was all done in a semi-public area, so I guess if you’re embarrassed, this wouldn’t be ideal – not that there was anyone else around, anyway… I was given a number (deli-counter style), and in about 5 minutes was in a room with the doctor. He asked a few questions [Including “Are you running a fever?” I laughed…dude, this is Singapore, and I’ve only lived here for 4 months. I. Am. Always. Hot.] and checked my vitals.
We discussed the issue briefly, and he gave me a few options: he’d prescribe antibiotics, which I could start taking immediately if I wanted. But since my situation wasn’t serious, I could try a few other remedies for a day or two first, then take the antibiotics if things didn’t improve. I was pleased with his brief but comprehensive analysis, patient education, and multiple treatment options. I waited for the drugs (issued at the doctor’s office, not a pharmacy) and settled my bill. Visit + Antibiotics + Alternative treatment + Lab test = $80. WOW.
Also? I walked out at 6:10 PM. Ladies and gentlemen, that is a grand total of 45 minutes. Sweet!
I was done in time to hit the gym (I wasn’t contagious, don’t worry) for a spin class, followed by a round of Yin Yoga with my favorite instructor in the Fitness First system. KMN met me at the gym, and spun while I yoga-d, then we headed home together. I crossed my fingers, hoping that my crockpot dinner wouldn’t be a charred mess. It wasn’t. 🙂 This post is already too long and photo-less, but stay tuned for some foodie details – because that meal was the best thing I’ve yet to make in the crockpot.
Those of you living outside your home country: Any memorable “simple thing turns out to be complicated” stories?
Easy home remedies for itchy bug bites? Singaporeans: Any anti-itch product suggestions?
[I tried ice, and carrots, with varied success.]