Friday, November 27, 2009

Another Month Gone By...

Do you know why it's been almost a month since I've posted? It's because I freaking hate it here and I'm sick to death of everything. I want to leave and I have nothing good to say about Turkey, my husband, or my shit ass life. Clearly this is my problem and not Turkey's problem so it doesn't seem fair to bitch about Turkey.

Oh, and the other reason I haven't posted is because we've been a house of sickness. First LE woke in the middle of the night quietly sobbing "Ear hurt!" so we took him to the doctor where he was pointedly diagnosed with a bacterial infection, complete with the ears and the white shit on the back of his throat, poor fellow. I say 'pointedly' because the doctor was making it very clear it wasn't pig flu. Currently every asshole in Turkey with a sniffle thinks he has pig flu. Every child with the slightest sign of malaise has pig flu. I say 'asshole' because all these assholes are crowding into the doctors with their healthy selves and healthy kids making it so people who are actually ill have to wait. My poor cleaner nearly came to blows with some assholes in a state hospital who wouldn't let her cut the line with her baby who was passing out from fever while their children played happily on the floor.

While LE was sick, I got sick. Just a cold which promptly turned into a sinus infection. I never got sinus infections until I came to Turkey-- not all the time anyway-- which leads me to believe my body freaking hates it here too and is rebelling. I kind of liked the doctor we took LE to for his ear infection, and he was an ENT, and LE needed a checkup anyway so we scheduled our appointments for the same time. I just wanted a goddamned sinus infection diagnosis and a prescription for antibiotics because the pain in my face and head had kept me from sleeping properly for almost a week.

A word about appointments in Turkey. What a fucking waste of time. You make an appointment and wait an hour or more because every asshole who turns up an hour late for his own appointment gets to go ahead of you. And there seems to be an endemic inability to tell time here, which means stupid Westerners who take the trouble to show up on time for an appointment just get to sit there feeling stupid.

And now, the fucking doctor. First, the fucking doctor, who I'd mistakenly thought was an okay guy, started going on about LE's adenoids and chronic ear infections and deafness. He wanted to do some sort of test that cost 53 YTL. I didn't want the test. I insisted the ear infections weren't chronic because the last time LE has one was a year and half ago. The fucking doctor said that may be so, but LE could at this very moment be getting permanent damage to his ears which will make him go deaf. He reassured us that this damage would be painless and we wouldn't know until it was too late. BE caved and accepted the test. LE's ears were fine. The fucking doctor warned us that we'll have to have the test every month to make sure, and if there was any problem, surgery would be the only solution.

On to me. He got his fucking endoscopic booger cam and shoved it up my nose and started going on about my (slightly) deviated septum which has never caused me the slightest problem. I googled "deviated septum" later and found out that 80% of the human population has a deviated septum and it doesn't cause any problem. Nevertheless, the fucking doctor warned that I might need to have surgery on my deviated septum.

Then, failing to see my sinus infection with the 6 inch piece of metal he was poking around the inside of my face with, this brilliant fucking doctor said I needed to have a head X-ray before he was comfortable diagnosing me. The cost of this necessary test? 450YTL

Bravo. Bravo, Dr. Kunt, if that really is your name (it really is his name). In 20 minutes, you managed not only to order 500YTL of unnecessary tests, you managed to find the need for two unnecessary surgeries.

And that's Medicana Hospital now added my list of hospitals I will never go to again. That's another reason I have to leave Turkey. There aren't any more hospitals left that I will go to because they've all either terrified me with their filth, crowds, and squeaky gurneys out of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," or they've pissed me off with their fucking unnecessary tests and mercenary medical practices and "Your baby will die unless you have this induction which causes you to start and finish labor in 2 hours, the fact that it's Friday and I don't want my weekend interrupted has nothing to do with it" fucking doctors.

It must be another stupid Western notion that doctors are supposed to help people, and that you shouldn't need a medical license in order to know if they're just trying to fuck you out of more money.

The day after our visit with Dr. Kunt (no, really, it is his name-- I couldn't make shit like this up), I got sick for real. The flu, this time. I got all excited that I'd managed to pick up pig flu, the historic Crisis! flu of the famous pandemic we've all been hearing about, that I'd surely live to tell my children and grandchildren about. When we went to the hospital for a flu test (also I had a 104.3 fever that wouldn't go down with just ibuprofen), they told us that the government has declared all flu is pig flu so they're not doing tests anymore.

That's right. All the million billion variations of the flu virus are, by edict in Turkey, pig flu. Mind you, these are the same people who declared a Let's Sanitize the Schools holiday.

But that's just the doctors. Doctors are only one reason I hate it here. The other reasons are personal and boring and I think it's kind of tacky to describe one's shitty marriage or asshole husband on a blog, so there you go.

I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home.


Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Ah I see you have a lot to be thankful for. Happy belated TG. Hope you feel better soon.

seamus said...

how did you get thankful from that post-31

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

You're asking me? I figured perhaps that'd make her smile. As opposed to, say, something like "how horrible." Perhaps it didn't work.

She's right about some (many?) of the MDs here, BTW. Once one notices that, things become very uncomfortable. (FWIW, decent MDs complain about that too. Because, I am told, patients who've had the experiences Stranger had do start to think of them as con artists and it hurts the implicit trust relationship).

renai said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I've had nothing but illness this year from swine flu to degenerative disc disease. I believe this place is affecting my health, and it's not the first time Ive heard a foreigner say this! I did the whole swine flu routine at the hospital recently and was told that anyone with a flu has swine flu, but advised against the test, go figure. When I hurt my back I got roped into paying something ridiculous like TL375 to see a "professor doctor" when all he did was tell me what i already knew and then have an x-ray, MRI etc etc to the tune of hundreds of lira. My only saving grace was the company paid health insurance or i would have been out of pocket more than TL2000.
Any trips home planned?? I'm headed in 2 weeks and just the thought of going is enough to lift the spirits!

Stranger said...

Thanks, Bülent. You made me smile a little.

At the moment I'm thankful my son didn't get the same flu. A fever like that for me is fine. For a small boy, such a thing would be terrifying. And it's pretty hard to stop the little fellow from wanting to kiss all the time.

And yeah, I got very, very homesick for this Thanksgiving. I usually don't care about TG, but this year was sad. :(

There is one good thing to be said about Dr. Kunt, which is that he didn't immediately throw antibiotics at the problem. It's just his way of doing it that sucked.

Renai, I've done the back thing here too. A thousand lira for an x-ray and MRI to be told I had a herniating (not quite herniated) disc. The x-ray came back first and he made his diagnosis from that before the 600YTL MRI had come back. By the time it arrived, he didn't even look at it because we were on our way out the door. The doctor had a presentation all ready in his computer about the expensive surgery I would need need should the disc actually herniate. Sometimes I think having insurance is worse-- they see that, and you suddenly need a lot more tests. But honestly, I've run into doctors in the US who are guilty of the same thing. The gravity of your illness decreases greatly when they find out you're uninsured.

And, yes, I going home in a few weeks. Things always seem to fall apart right before I go home.

rebecca said...

One thing I have learned here is that you can shop around for tests. I saw a doctor in a private hospital as I had some specific worries about my health. I requested a particular test, he said he couldn't do that test until he had basically eliminated everything else. He then ordered a blood test. I went to reception where they said it would cost 400 TL. I decided not to pay it.

We took the form to our local friendly clinic where they quoted less, and then my husband negotiated the price down from that. I paid about 200 TL (still too much but hey) for the test, then took the results back to the posh doctor for his analysis.

I find in Turkey in general that they assume Western people are rolling in dosh and adjust the price accordingly.

Sorry you are feeling so glum, I know as a fellow ex-pat married to a Turk that it is not always a bed of roses. Hope you have a good trip home.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Stranger, if it is any consolation, I get a little homesick for the US around TG and and Christmas time even though I grew up here in Turkey. Some of the (American) folks whose company I deeply miss in these 'yabanci'-to-me festive days are no longer alive, so if you want to play the count your blessings game that might come in handy. (I never felt 'yabanci' in your country BTW. The good folks there never gave me any reason to. That said, I will relay what my late dad told me when I told him life in the US was good for me: "you don't know enough about life to infer that you can easily handle being in a foreign land for good." I dunno if he was right, but I think we both know that all these international moves and involvements are fraught with many perils we don't and, indeed, cannot know about at the time we decide about them. So we get to learn at a high personal/psychic cost for the tuition. Hang in there, this is supposed to be good for you.)

Anonymous said...

"I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go home."

A Yankee wants to go home. Something is wrong with this.

Jordi said...

Hope you're feeling better. I missed your blog!

Stranger said...

Rebecca, you're right. When LE bashed his head the hospital wanted to do an expensive MRI, but BE talked them down to a cheaper x-ray. BE tried to talk Dr. Kunt out of the head x-ray for me, and the doctor just blew him off and told him to go get the x-ray done at a cheaper place and bring it to him.

And Bülent, you're right too. I think your father might think you're getting wiser. You have that unique position I don't envy at all, of thinking of two places as home, which kind of means you're homesick no matter where you are.

Some of the problems I predicted about living in a foreign country were right, like missing food or how hard it would be to have a child without my family nearby. But then there are all those other things you don't predict, like how seriously isolating it is to be a mother of a small child in a foreign country, or what it would feel like to have such a downgrade in "status" from being the wife of a Turk. I went from normal, 100% free person to somewhere between "child" and "teenage boy." And then you add to that, that Turkish people (husband included) just don't freaking get it what a Western woman has to give up to be here.

Anonymous, you're learning about irony. Well done.

And Jordi, thanks!

Yaramaz said...

Great big sympathetic vibes heading your way!

Stranger said...

Thanks, Yaramaz! :)

Barbara said...

Ah, dear, I hear you. I have been where you are, am indeed where you are right now, and will be again, of that I am sure. It seems to be cyclical, doesn't it, this love-hate relationship with the country that we call home? Sometimes I am furious with this place, I can't stand it, I want everyone to change, to Westernize, to fucking GET IT TOGETHER ALREADY, and other times, oh, other times I am so in love I can't stand it. It would be like this anywhere, you know, that's what I always tell myself when I down about Turkey. It really would be like this anywhere, even "home", wherever that may be.

siobhan said...

Right, no really, I had a ranty blogpost about the kids' doctor all written in my head. You beat me to it, might still write it though. And even wierder, today (don't ask me why) I was wondering if you knew 31 that used to (or perhaps still does) post on Dave's. Bulent's not 31 is he? Or is it Seamus? Or have I totally lost it?

Sorry you're feeling so shit. Get on the metrobus and get over here.

As for wanting to go home, have you got any red shiny shoes?

Stranger said...

Heh! I was thinking about the red shiny shoes the other day. That would be SO much nicer than the 24 hour plane trip! And I'm so sorry you're dealing with doctor crap too. I hope it wasn't your idea to say fuck so many times in your post. Trips to the bank and the doctor leave me saying fuck a lot.

I really have to sort out this Metrobus thingy. It was built when Ender was tiny and I just haven't done much public transport since he was born. Isn't that stupid? Totally my own fault. I think the boy would really dig a public transport trip to Asia.

I've not met 31 IRL (yes, formerly on Dave's, now on David's, appeared here as Anonymous, Seamus, and maybe another name but he always signs 31), though there are some plans afoot next time he returns to Turkey-- he lives out by me and also has a little boy.

Bülent is someone else entirely-- a very nice person who appeared out of nowhere (meaning I've never met him IRL) to add useful information and background on posts that really needed it. He has a point of view plus interesting information that's sorely lacking in my life.

Barbara, I'm having that love affair with Turkey less and less (though your photos often remind me what it felt like). I sometimes think getting married spoiled it for me, because I was suddenly expected to participate in the culture as an insider (who would never really be let in). Before I got married, I could engage or not engage with Turkey however I wanted, and it was so much more fun then. And wonderful and good and I never wanted to leave.

But you're right. Bad spells can happen anywhere. A bad spell in a foreign country just means you automatically have something to blame it on. And to be honest, "home" isn't really home for me anymore, at least not outside of my parents' house, which means I'm fantasizing about an ideal that doesn't exist. I bitch about doctors here, but at least we can go to one. In America, I'm uninsured which means what, don't get sick or line up at the free clinic with the junkies? I used to just not go to the doctor when I last lived in the US, but with a kid that's not so easy. So who knows?

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Hmm, now that I seemto have acquired a reputation as someone who has information, let me try to live up to it by pointing out that it would be rather odd for a Turkish guy to use the pseudonym '31' on the net. '31' stands for (male) masturbation in Turkish slang. Apparently (ie don't quote me on this) the term is derived from the ebced number assigned to the Turkish word for 'hand' ('el').

Bill said...

Oooh, Oscar couldn't have done better.

Stranger said...

LE can't get his around Oscar living in a garbage can.

31 isn't Turkish. He knows the meaning too. I hated it the year I was 31 and I often lied about my age. It's like 69 in English-- you have to be judicious when someone will snicker. I don't know if the seniors are snickering at their 69 year old compatriots.

Ah, the ebced is a new one! I'd heard 31 was the, uh, hand position and hand contents. But then I never got why it wasn't 41.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...


It doesn't make sense for it to be the hand position and contents because, AFAIK, men do not derive pleasure from hitting their genitals with their fist. Kidding aside, the expression is old and even though the the symbols we use in English and Turkish (after 1928) are called 'Arabic numerals' they are not the same as those used in the Ottoman (mostly Arabic) script. You are right, though, about 41 being more appropriate in that case. Here's why.

The ebced explanation does make some sense. See this table. Adding "elif" and "lâm" does produce 31.

People might snicker about the age 31 but usually don't snicker when the full term is used for the number of days in certain months. Here are some examples.

Y said...

Hi Stranger,

Sorry you're having such a bad month and hate to tell you this, but I live in a state bordering the Atlantic, and ALL flu is the pig flu here too!! :))

Also, I once too mysteriously began suffering from recurrent sinus infections when I moved to the southeast (which I hated with all my being, which made me more miserable than I had a right to be). After having double pneumonia as a result and being put on countless medications with diagnosis of asthma (whaaa? never have I wheezed when healthy) or allergies to unknown flora and fuana, I found a simple solution.

I noticed I had a lot of sinus pressure headaches--i.e., sinuses were swollen shut, so they could not drain, hence becoming a petri dish for assorted viri and bacteria. When I took aspirin, the swelling went away, and then no sinus pain and no subsequent sinus infection.

Taking triple doses of flax seed oil has the same affect as aspirin, but is of course easier on the tummy and omega 3 oils are good for us.

I've been sinus infection free for the past four years due to the flax seed oil. Perhaps it might help you too?

Take care and hope your days get better!

Stranger said...

Y, I'll try anything. We don't have aspirin in the house anymore-- I quit using it when I was pg-- and all ibuprofen does is bring down the pain a bit, but not much.

I've had limited success with eating more yoghurt (as much as I can stand because I don't like it very much) and acidophilus tablets (Dr. Google's idea). I've had more success with a neti pot-- it doesn't help the pain much in the short term, but it sure clears out the nose sinuses. Not so much the head ones though. Then I got the clever idea of putting couple drops of tea tree oil into the neti pot and that worked even better.

I'll pick up some flax seed oil. I think they even have it here-- keten maybe?

Thanks for the tip!

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Stranger, yes. Both the seeds themselves and flaxseed oil are available. I don't use the oil, but I do grind up flaxseeds and add them to my yogurt/walnuts/raisins/dut kurusu etc. concoction. I don't really notice whatever they do for me other than the nutty smell that I like and the effects of the extra fiber.

Carrefour online has them at about 9TL/kg. They are probably cheaper elsewhere but I like ordering groceries online. I use a cheap coffee grinder (Sinbo, 20TL, I think. I forgot where I got it from. Either online or from Sirkeci/Eminonu area.) to grind them up in weekly or so batches. Whole seeds do keep well in a bag in the fridge.

NIH has an OK site about all these 'natural' remedies, BTW. Here's the relevant info. If you'll step out of regular science, you might want to go to Misir Carsisi and ask. I'm sure they'll sell you a zillion weird and wonderful 'natural' things that'll cure you many times over.

Y said...

Hi Stranger,

Yes, keten yag or ground up seeds is what you'd be looking for.

Flax seed, like aspirin, is an anti-inflammitant so that's why it works, or works for me I should say. I should stress, I took a lot lot lot of it when I first started. I took four 1300mg capsules twice a day (on waking and before bed). After about a year, I was able to drop it down to 4 capsules a day.

As an added bonus, a few months after I started taking it, one of my co-workers came into my office and demanded to know what I was doing because I seemed to be getting younger and younger. Whaa? She claimed my skin somehow just seemed to have "de-aged" in the last several months. I didn't make the connection until later, but several other people began saying similar things to me about 3-4 months after I began taking the flax seed oil.

I wouldn't recommend trying the aspirin. I ended up having to take 2 aspirin every 4 hours to get constant relief and that's just way too much acid in the stomache for me.

I'm a little skeptical about the yogurt cure. I mean, I've always heard that milk products increase mucus production and if sinuses are swollen, one wouldn't want that. But who can know? In our culture, garlic yogurt cures EVERYTHING!! (aha! see, garlic is also an anti-inflammitory--but much stinkier than flax seed).

PS - If you opt for seeds, you will have to grind them because the shells are so tough our digestive system just passes them right through without breaking them open.

Stranger said...

For sinuses, I'm happy to go outside of conventional medicine because there seems to be only 2 ways to deal with it: 1) antibiotics, and 2)live with it. Stuff like avoiding coffee and orange juice isn't going to happen, and I don't eat much dairy anyway.

The yoghurt cure is based on the Dr. Google theory that recurrent sinus infections might be a result of candida. So garlic and yoghurt can't hurt. Anyway, salty yoghurt with garlic is the only way I can stand to eat a lot of yoghurt.

As long as we're on the topic of finding things here, is there anywhere besides a baharatçı that I can find distilled white vinegar (beyaz sirke or sirke ruhu)? You can buy cheap gallon bottles of the stuff in the US, but no one here seems to know what it is. I found one mention of it on a women's forum, but none of them knew where to find it either. And the only baharatçı I know of nearby (still a 30 minute hike from home) claimed they usually carry it, but didn't have any at that moment. Usually this means they will keep telling you that till you give up.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, sorry to read you had such a crap time and I hope it gets all better.
Funny enought, I can't wait to get out of the US back to Istanbul. When I read your blog nowadays it often makes me laugh, cause I could write exactly the same about living in the States.
Hope you're feeling better, keep on writing and keep looking forward to your trip home!

Stranger said...

Thanks, dagi. I didn't realize you were back in the US.

I think I would often feel the same way there too-- reverse culture shock is extra weird because it's supposed to be home!

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...


I don't know where you can find distilled white vinegar, but I've gotten hard-to-find stuff from before, and I am happy with them. They don't have vinegar but they do have concentrated acetic acid (which what the ingredient you are after likely is) in 1L bottles here (they also have larger sizes). You could dilute and use that. Remember always add acid to water when diluting.

Stranger said...

Thanks, Bülent-- that sounds pretty close to what I need. It has to be better than apple cider vinegar in any case, and way cheaper. Somehow I suspected you might have some ideas...

Happy New Year!

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Happy new your to you too. Here's a bit of news that might make it better than the last one for you: Şarapta ÖTV sıfırlandı.

Gulay said...

When I was living in Turkey I used the German Hospital and found a doctor who did not charge me too much more than the locals. Luckily my Turkish wife knew him....probably the reason for the reasonable cost. As for unnecessary tests I have had far more of them since I moved to the US than I ever had in the UK, Denmark, Hong Kong or Turkey. I am currently about to go for a med check to decide whether my asthma inhalers need changing even though I had the same ones for the last 30 years and never had any problems....waste of insurance money methinks but the doc will not renew the prescription for my ventolin without this. In turkey I would just buy the inhalers at the local pharmacy, no prescription necessary. As for homesickness I decided to treat where I am currently living as home or it would just do my head in....having lived in over 50 different hotels, apartments etc. in the last 26 years since I left the UK any other policy would seem foolish. Likewise I learned to accept and use what was available rather than crave what was not available, case in point in the US being proper UK style back bacon, the bacon in the US being almost as bad as the stuff sold in Champion in Istanbul...When i go to the UK i eat it otherwise I do without, same as warm beer

the Husband

Stranger said...

Bülent, it's very good news indeed. Brings a tear to my eye, and (dare I say?) a modicum of optimism. In any case, if nothing else works out, I can still get drunk on a higher class of wine.

Husband, how about Canadian bacon? It's not as good as British but it's closer to the greasy, thin-sliced variety. Lucky for me, I love both types equally.

I bitch about individual doctors I've come across here, though I've tried to say good things about the few excellent docs I've come across. Really, one problem I see with Turkey's medical system is that it's too much like the American system, but with a Turkish twist. It's the twist that sometimes does my head in (plus the antibiotics) but I'd be kidding myself if I thought I could do much better with docs in the US, especially keeping in mind that, before coming to Turkey, I didn't have health insurance for about 8 years and relied entirely on Planned Parenthood (free birth control and yearly exams for low income women) and university health clinics (available for students) during that time. And I prefer the pharmacy thing in Turkey (as do some of my friends in the US who like/need things like muscle relaxants)-- every 2 years I have a to pay a dermatologist around $300 for a 10 minute visit so I can continue being prescribed a face cream for rosacea.

So it's not like I think the American health system is great. It's more that the American and Turkish systems are crap in different ways.

Anonymous said...

S, Your blog makes me LFOL.... oh my God! Ditto to everything you said and more. You are a talented storyteller. Luv reading it. Keep writing luv.