While in Europe, Stay Healthy!

Europe would remember 2018 as the worst year, weather wise. As we’re approaching spring time, it’s still snowing in many parts and the temperatures are still below zero in others. Malaga is no better. Since I arrived here 2 weeks back, it’s been like a menu of two choices: rain, cold weather and freezing wind OR sun, cold weather and freezing wind. The screens on bus stops keep changing their minds about the current temperature. One minute it’s 16 and the next it’s 13. People are still in their winter gear, while shops are displaying their primavera collection.
Due to these extreme conditions, many people are falling ill with a weird virus that starts as a normal flu and ends with a strong cough and loss of voice. My Hungarian flatmate, Sophie, had the same three weeks back. It worsened after participating in an excursion to Ronda — an hour away from Malaga.
In Ronda the weather was foul, torrential rain and wind. She came back soaking wet and with no voice. When her fever broke the following day, our flatmates suggested that I accompany her to a medical centre that is close by (she speaks very little Spanish). But Sophie had one little problem: she had forgotten her European Union card back home, which meant that she couldn’t get a free treatment.
Nevertheless, she took her passport with her as an evidence of being a European citizen. We both entered the health centre smiling and were met with a frowning receptionist. Sophie waved her passport and spoke in English while I translated, insisting that she was European citizen (the passport cover was in Hungarian, which didn’t help at all).
The lady replied coolly: no EU card, no treatment. Better try your luck in public ER. I called the school administration who didn’t encourage the idea of going there. The emergency is for serious cases like car accidents. Sophie could pay for an insurance from the school that costs 35 euros (RO 16.5) and wait for 3 days till it gets processed.
On the meantime, she could take a couple of paracetamols and sleep it off. Sophie didn’t like the suggestion, having already paid a travelling insurance that should cover everything. But she took the paracetamols, thank you very much.
The next day, Sophie decided to try her luck heading to one of the private, English speaking hospitals here. Alas, I couldn’t go with her as I had a class at that time. Instead, Timmy — the other Hungarian flatmate — decided to accompany her, in case she needed an interpreter.
Upon returning from school, I knocked on Sophie’s door to ask about what happened. Sophie broke into a fit of laughter. She said that when she arrived to the private hospital with Timmy, the receptionist suggested in clear English that Sophie heads to the emergency room at once. Sophie stood for a moment to ask about the cost. The lady answered: 300 euros (RO 142). The girls were baffled. Timmy asked again — in Spanish this time — about the cost, in case they’d heard it wrong in English. It was the same price. The girls exchanged looks and left the place at once.
Sophie decided to call her doctor aunt back home for a free consultation. I gave her a small pouch of frankincense and told her to add it to water for a few hours before drinking. Sophie is better now and I learned a valuable lesson: Never complain about our private hospitals or the Molotov cocktail of medicines I get for the flu: anti acidity pills, followed by antibiotics and antihistamine.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of:
The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com