Saturday, March 14, 2015

Is Fearr An Tsláinte Ná Na Táinte

"Health is better than wealth," according to the Irish Gaelic proverb; having both health AND wealth is, of course, even better. My stock is a bit low in both areas right now, though as this is only the first day after leaving the hospital after my cholecystectomy (or kolecisztektómiát, as they would say at the Szent György Kórház in Székesfehérvár where I spent the better part of the week) I suppose the fatigue and low-level discomfort and general feeling of "bleagh" will go away soon. Or at least I hope so. My stay in the hospital was uneventful, for the most part, though I remember a few things vividly.

I remember being so nervous the first night, after Noémi went home and I was left without anyone around who could speak English, that I hardly slept. I hardly slept the second night, because another woman was installed in the bed next to me that day, and she snored all night long. Loudly. That night the wind had picked up, and came whistling and howling through the window frame to my other side, and I couldn't block out either noise. It was like being in a hospital on a jet airplane. Actually, since the room was at the end of the corridor, by the door out to the small enclosed balcony where the staff took their smoke breaks, it was like being on the plane in the last row of the "non-smoking" section of that airplane, back when people could still light up while up in the air.
I remember being wheeled into the surgery waiting area, the rush and bustle and multiple conversations going on that I couldn't understand, thinking that while I used to watch "M.A.S.H." and identify with the people playing the doctors and nurses, I now knew what their Korean patients felt like, with menacingly kindly faces looming overhead, speaking a babble of sound that was intended to be reassuring. It's not. Of course, sometimes the English reassurances weren't very reassuring either; when the surgeon came by yesterday morning to take the drain out of my side, he smiled and said, "Relax, you won't feel anything but pain." He was right, too.
I remember looking apprehensively at the nurse coming at me with the syringe, unable to ask her what the hell she was playing at and why she wanted to shoot some unknown concoction into me. Fortunately there was another nurse with a bit of English-sounding medical terminology at her disposal, and hearing "anti-trombose" was enough to calm me down. I have a box of "anti-trombose" syringes of my own now, that I have to inject into my stomach once a day for the next week and a half.
And I remember shattering anyone's impression of Americans being stoic in the face of pain, since I came out of the anesthesia yelling. "Why do I hurt so much? Make it stop! It hurts, it hurts!" - a litany that continued all the way from the recovery room through the halls, up the elevator, through more halls, and into the room, until they got the painkiller I.V. going and it started to take effect.

As a result, that's not my typical "happy feet" photo, I'll grant you, but I'll add it to my collection of similar photos from Devon and Hawai'i and Breitenbush and the Pyrénées and the Somme, and my collection of experiences and adventures around the world. Those feet have been so many places, and I hope to walk (and lounge) in still more countries and visit even more continents before I'm done. Shortly after I arrived here in Gyúró, Dia and I were talking about Hungary and Oregon, and their relative sizes. ("Talking" here means gestures and the use of an atlas, supplemented by Noémi's translation, which has been how many of the conversations have gone over the last six weeks. Six weeks! It seems as if I just arrived, and in another week I'll be packing my bags and heading off again.) Anyway, we were comparing the size of the two regions; Hungary is approximately 37% the size of Oregon, but Oregon is only about 40 miles wider, and I demonstrated that you'd have to line up Hungary 8 times in a row to even get near New York City (the Shangri-La of Dia's dreams) from Portland. Then I showed her where I'd lived in France and in England, where I visited Bea in Norway and skimmed the border in Spain, and where I had lived and traveled in Japan and Thailand and Sri Lanka in my early 20s, plus all of the places I'd lived in the United States: Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, in alphabetical if not chronological order. I'll be adding two more countries to my list soon, Serbia and Italy - to date I've spent less than 48 hours in Italy, and a quarter of it was inside an airplane on my way from Colombo to Paris, so I'm not counting that one yet. I'd like to end up back in Oregon for a while; a year, at least.

(Note to self: That cheese-centric resumé you've spent all that time putting together? It isn't doing you any good sitting in your computer files - send it out already! You need to get a job lined up for when you get back!)

Yes, I need a job, and one with insurance. Though I think I can apply for insurance when I get back through the new ACA program, I'm not sure how long I'll have to wait to put in my application, as I have missed the enrollment deadline for this year. However, since I can't apply from overseas, maybe that qualifies as one of their "special exemptions" and I'll be able to start the process as soon as I get back. On the other hand, since it's tied to state residency, and it will be another month before I get back to Oregon (and unfortunately there is no guarantee that I will be able to stay in Oregon, without a job), I think I need to plan on not setting up as a full-time freelancer right away.

The bill for the 3+ days in the hospital and the colonoscopy and the surgery and all the medications and incidentals came to slightly less than $1,800 USD (though the massive pile of 10,000-forint bills below might give another impression) and that's something I can't afford again - and needed a loan to cover even now, because they wanted all of that colorful cash before they'd let me out of the hospital, and that essentially wiped out my bank account and the funds I'd saved to travel for the next three months. Travel insurance would probably have reimbursed me eventually, but I would have still needed the up-front payment. And buying travel insurance now won't help with any complications from this surgery (AND THERE WILL BE NO COMPLICATIONS), though I might get a month's worth of insurance for June when I get back to the States and won't be able to afford anything that the US medical system charges. Just in case.

I've gotten used to using Hungarian currency (though I still have no idea what the words for the numbers are, and have to look at the cash register every time I buy something) but sometimes I still feel as if I'm using Monopoly money, both because the exchange rate is good right now and because of the difference in the number of zeroes used on the forint. Right now there are 291 HUF to 1 USD, but it changes quickly, and it's on an upward curve; yesterday when I used the ATM I was getting 285 to 1, and when I arrived at the airport in Budapest at the beginning of February it was 250 to 1. Today the exchange rate is about 113 Serbian dinar to 1 dollar, and I'll have to keep that in mind when handling the also-zero-rich bills there. A 10,000-dinar bill will be a third of the buying power of a 10,000-forint bill, but as I have no idea what the prices of things are in Serbia, I don't know if I'll need more money, or less, or approximately the same amount. I've got my lodging covered with the work I did this month, but I'll need to get more work in order to buy groceries.

Fortunately - or at least this is how I am attempting to look at it - my post-surgery diet is quite restricted, according to the piece of paper the hospital dietitian handed me a few days ago. The general consensus on the English-language medical sites I visited yesterday were fairly unanimous in saying "eat whatever you want, but don't be stupid when it comes to fatty and spicy foods, and if anything is obviously causing a problem, stop eating it," but the Hungarian advice is a bit more stringent. Nothing spicy, nothing fatty, nothing cooked in fat; no eggs (at least not by themselves), no pickles, no nuts, no coffee or chocolate. No vegetables that are too acid or "gassy" (cabbage, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cauliflower) and no fruits, unless they're cooked. Boiled chicken and potatoes and rice are fine, by themselves or made into soup, so I suppose that's what I'll be eating for the next six weeks. Right now I have bowl of thin soup next to me, made of frozen peas and fresh lettuce cooked together in water, then blended and mixed with some of the plain mashed potatoes I just made. It's actually pretty good, though Dia gave it a very dubious look when I was ladling it out. In any event, if all I'm eating is potatoes and rice and chicken and carrots and such, I won't be spending too much money on food in Serbia.

Speaking of soup, my Google translation of part of the dietitian's list tells me that I can also make "diet Fried soup (flour shit on pyrite and oil hidengen Stir and so add water)" but I think I'll skip that particular recipe.

When Noémi and I were rummaging around the attic a few weeks ago, looking for things that might be useful in the cheeseroom (unused exercise-machine weights are now being put to good use as cheese presses) I noticed a few bills on the floor, and picked one up. "You can have that, if you want," said Noémi. "It's old money." And it's real-life Monopoly money, too. When these bills were first issued in 1927, 100 Hungarian pengő was worth about $19 USD (at the exchange rate of the time, that is). According to the online research I did, hyperinflation after World War II sent the value of the currency plummeting so far and so fast you'd be hard-pressed to illustrate it on a graph. By the end of July 1946, when the forint was established as the new currency, 100 pengő was the equivalent of $2 x 10-28 USD. On eBay you can buy one for anywhere between $2 to $30 - the rate has gotten much better over the last 70 years.

I noticed that while the front of the bill is all in Hungarian (with a portrait of Good King Matthias, the last of the Árpád line) the back has translations of the amount into other languages, so I assume that the note was valid outside the borders. On the right, Bosnian, Serbian, and Romanian; on the left, Hungarian, German, and what I believe to be Rusyn (or Ruthene), a language without a country, whose native speakers are still found in Hungary, but mostly along the border between Slovakia and Ukraine. In 1930, the area (also known as Subcarpathian Rus′) was part of Czechoslovakia, but before World War I, this was a province that made up part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There was no Bosnia in 1930 either, nor a Serbia, as both were part of Yugoslavia; German is and was the main language of Austria; and that accounts for all of the countries surrounding Hungary in 1930 where people might reasonably have been expected to spend pengő of whatever value. I'm sending this particular piece of paper ephemera to a person who will value it in the present day, Michael of Infinite Art Tournament fame; he likes this sort of thing.

I meant to work today as well as blog. I have been typing off and on since before 10am, getting up to do a few dishes and move around (an anti-trombose technique) before sitting down again. I even went to the store down the street this morning, to buy fruit juice and potatoes and band-aids (apologies to the cashier, to whom I had to reveal my not-so-pretty post-op stomach to illustrate what I needed). That was six hours ago, and I think that six hours is about my limit for this first day of being vertical. Time to go get horizontal for a while, and worry about work tomorrow. I can do it in the morning when I'm still fresh, after a cup of tea instead of coffee (damn!) and something innocuous for breakfast, like ... let's see ... how about mashed potatoes, or rice? Sounds good.

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