After partying to hard with my parents I ended up coming down with a pretty bad strep infection. Since getting sick I spent a week at home recovering. Although my sickness put a damper on going out and having fun with my friends I have learned a lot during my time at home.
I got to spend some time in the kitchen with my host mom and I learned how to make some of my favorite Dominican dishes. My mom makes a killer berenjena (eggplant) dish that I have been dying to learn how to make. I diligently followed her around the kitchen taking notes on everything she told me. I love cooking and being an active participant in the kitchen but my host mom insists on doing all the grunt work and chopping. In the end, that was probably better because I was frantically trying to write down all her advice.
She also taught me how to fry plátano maduro (ripe plantain) to perfection. The real skill is to know when your plantain is ripe enough for frying. Once you have that down you simply peal it, slice it, and throw it in the pan with some oil and you have a sweet treat.
Being away from home for Thanksgiving pulled at my heart strings. This was the first year I was away from home for my favorite holiday. My mom and I usually spend days together cooking in the kitchen and catching each other up on all that happened during the past 3 months. But this year I learned how to make things that were not the traditional recipes we make for the holiday in the US. And although we do not have any snow here, the holiday decorations are in full swing, snowmen decorations and all!
Another learning experience I had while I was sick was navigating a new healthcare system. At first I started my treatment by going to the clinic at the university. Seeing as my infection was extremely advanced I eventually had to seek out a specialist.
In the DR there are two types of facilities where you can go for treatment; clinics and hospitals. Generally clinics are much more affordable and are much easier to access. Hospitals on the other hand tend to be much more expensive and for people who can afford to pay for high quality care. I was lucky enough to have insurance and the financial ability to see a specialist.
In order to see a doctor you do not call and make an appointment. Culturally, that just would not make sense. Instead, doctors have visitation hours and your appointments are determines on a first come first serve basis. I was able to get a good spot on the waiting list however the doctor showed up almost 2 hours late. Although staying in a chilly hospital was not ideal for a sick person I did get to observe a lot of things in the waiting room.
First of all, the waiting room in combined with that of many doctors. The room is filled with doors to different doctor’s offices with desks in front for the receptionists. Most of the people waiting were dressed quite nicely. Many people were carrying copies of x-rays and other folders. There was a heartwarming interaction next to me as a young man read a pamphlet and prescription to an older woman who did not have her glasses. Most of the people waiting were adults and were with another person.
When I was called in to see the doctor I walked into a room that was far more elegant than what I have ever seen in any medical facility. Behind a grandiose chestnut desk was my doctor. The whole room was rounded with beautiful dark wooden drawers. I felt like I was in Downton Abbey, medical suite, DR addition. After looking at my throat in the fancy patient’s chair he gave me his diagnosis and a new prescription which included an injection of a steroid to reduce the swelling. To my surprise the injection prescribed is purchased at the pharmacy located downstairs and brought to a nurse to administer in the emergency ward. I navigated my way through the hospital and got everything I needed however it was a learning experience to not have everything simply brought to you as it is in the US.
Thankfully my treatment is working and I am finally getting better. I want to make the best of my last three weeks on the island. I am still in awe at how quickly time has flown by and am so grateful that I get another semester to continue living in this beautiful country!