My Love/Hate Relationship with Prague

10 Mar

Within the past 48 hours, I have experienced such a dichotomy of intense, yet opposing, emotion that I just had to–what else–write about it. Two very different adventures that have made me feel both the highest of highs & the lowest of lows. How? You ask? Am I bipolar? No. Am I overworked & underslept? Well, yeah maybe, but that’s not the point. Nope I am just a 23-year-old girl living alone in a foreign country! 

But there’s more to it than that! Much, much more…oooh suspense! So now, dear readers, perk up your ears & read on, because the next few paragraphs are meant to transform you into my nosy neighbor gossiping among our adjacent hedge shrubbery. Because do I have A STORY for you!

Part I: Praha, I love you.

One way to get me instantly in a good mood is to simply add animals to the equation. Big animals, small animals, wild animals, or domesticated pets–I do not discriminate. I am an animal lover through & through. What did you want to be when you grew up? A cowboy, an astronaut, or the president? I wanted to be a lion. Just like Simba & Nala. Ever since I saw The Lion King on VHS circa ’93 & bawled my eyes out in the couch cushion when Mufasa died. After this I immediately got a stuffed Nala that I slept with every night & growled at everyone in sight. Such good background material for my E! True Hollywood Story someday, I know!

But seriously, I just LOVE animals. I would draw them constantly & refused to touch a single doll because animals were cool, people were boring. My favs? There’s a ranking system. 

#1- Cats. They are so pretty & sassy. They are number one because I am able to have the closest contact with them. I got my first one, Charlie, for my 5th birthday & now Lexie Pearl has been like my child for the past twelve years. 

#2-Horses. Horses are so majestic & free, even the most domesticated. I began horseback riding at age 3, & took lessons/competed in shows for the next 11 years. Sutton, my hometown, is a great place for horse-lovers. There’s plenty of trails & backroads to ride on & both my neighborhoods on both sides of my house currently own horses. I am still obsessed with the smell of horses. Their fur just has a certain scent to it that is so nostalgic.

#3-Dolphins. One of the smartest & happiest animals in the world. I can remember renting the movies Filpper Zeus & Roxanne more times than I could count from the public library just to see the dolphins. I drew them incessantly & still, to this day, draw them perfectly for my students. I always dreamed of seeing a real life dolphin but sadly never lived near a tropical island. However, Mama G made my dreams come true in 1998 when we went on the Disney Cruise Ship & on our stopover in Nassau, Bahamas, I got to SWIM with dolphins! Best experience ever. My first kiss ever was with a dolphin & I will cherish that forever

Image(Above: Young love with Flash the dolphin in the Bahamas)

Since the early ’00s, my animal obsession has somewhat taken a backseat to other obsessions like Forever 21, Tom Brady or Buzzfeed. However, whenever someone suggests being surrounded by beautiful majestic creatures I jump at the offer! So I was PUMPED when Filip (my now Czech boyfriend 🙂 ) ‘s dad got us free passes to Praha Zoo! 

We crammed into the bus with a bunch of tourists & screaming babies to head out & I could not have been more excited. We spent the next FOUR hours walking around the giant attraction. & I must admit, Prague, I was impressed! Not only was there exotic species from every corner of the globe, but there was all great Czech things like cheap beer & lax safety regulations regarding animals enclosures (legit, just a fence/stonewall/ditch separated you from most of them!) & even some wild Peacocks that roamed freely around the park!

My ankle boots were killing me & the layout of the zoo is on a legit MOUNTAIN HILL, but I didn’t even care because I was in animal lover heaven. Even more so, I really began to appreciate the purpose of zoos. I know some people think they’re cruel & sad or whatever, but let me tell you–these animals were living the good life! Flamingos got massive watering hole replicas, Bushbabies got nocturnal heat lamps & the mountain goats even got an enclosure that simulated an actual cliff face! 

Image

(Above: The Praha Zoo was created in 1891, & with over 4,000 animals, it’s one of the biggest in Europe!)

There was a particular moment though, when the sun was just getting ready to set, the crowds were heading home, & we were at the top of the hill overlooking the entire city of Prague; screeches & howls could be faintly heard in all directions & I just thought: This is awesome. Moral of story: visit the Praha Zoo, it is a truly unforgettable experience.

Part II: Praha, I hate you

One important part of living anywhere, beyond learning the best restaurants, the hottest nightspots & the prettiest parks is dealing with residential things. Sure I have deciphered the bank, experienced numerous headaches via the post office but one thing still remained: the doctor. 

Up until 9:40am this morning, my track record with foreign medicine was not the greatest. Although I never really went to the doctors while studying 5 months in Paris, I did get roped into the visa scam of an OFII Appointment. Basically I was told my student visa was ‘the new version’ meaning that after it cost $200 & took MONTHS to finally get, I had to go to a little doctor’s physical while in Paris. A physical that cost 80euro. Pshh Europe, man. 

Luckily a lot of my friends had to go to this appointment as well. All I remember is this stuffy room lined with chairs (it looked like the DMV, so right away I had bad vibes). They called names one by one. First I got weighed, measured & had my eyes/ears checked. En francais, bien sur. But the fun wasn’t over–I had to get a chest X-ray. You walk into a changing room, are told to take everything off from the waist up, with no Johnny robe in sight, & then get X-rayed topless in front of like 5 people. Personal privacy is so American. I left feeling violated & scared. It wasn’t as bad as my friend Sam though who, after her X-ray, was denied a stamp because “They found something” in her lung X-ray. Turns out it was pneumonia! Haha poor, Sam.

Image(Above: Myself & my OFII stampless friend Sam in Mont St. Michel, France, on like the LAST DAY of her Pneumonia meds!)

So based on these stories, my impression of European medical techniques was not the most stellar. However, since I have now been here over SEVEN (!) months, I figured it was time to put the $300 Czech health insurance I was forced to buy to good use!

Step one: make appointment. Like most things in my life over here, I anticipated that this would be a super simple task that would suddenly become insanely complicated. I was right! Upon purchasing my health insurance, the representative presented me with a list of ‘English-speaking’ (I’ll get there…) clinics/hospitals/doctors in the city. She also gave me a hotline that would “Call and make appointments for me!” Whoa, sounded great. So I dialed up the number & informed the woman that I wanted to make an appointment. 

“Sure, please just give me your insurance policy number.”

I gave it.

“Um, can you repeat that, please.”

I repeated.

“Uh oh.”

Yup. Apparently the health insurance that I bought in November aka: FOUR MONTHS AGO, & paid $300 in cash up front for, never registered me. Yes, they took my money, gave me a receipt & some inept human being somewhere in the system overlooked the fact that maybe I might actually take them up on either the free Gynecologist or free Dentist appointment they promised me. I shudder at the thought of some freak accident happening over the past few months resulting in me lying in a hospital bed having to cough over thousands because someone didn’t do their job. Thanks, Praha!!!

Step Two: remake appointment. So after going to the headquarters of the insurance with a Mama G no-nonsense attitude to explain their mistake, I tried to actually make the damn doctor’s appointment. This once again didn’t go smoothly. I realized that the hotline just gave me the number of the clinics/hospitals, they didn’t make appointments, no, I had to do that. Okay fine then. 

I called the clinic & after being put on hold by 3 different people who all freaked out at the sound of English, I finally got some woman who had the speaking ability of one of my 5-year-olds. Maybe worse. She asked for my insurance number (this time it worked!!), & then just told me ‘Monday, 9:40am [some super Czech sounding doctor’s name]’, She was mid-hang up when I stopped her because I actually realized what she was saying. Facepalm. I jotted it down & sighed with relief. 

Step Three: Find Clinic. I have become quite good with directions in Prague, & by ‘good’ I mean knowing enough to head out an hour early so I can wander up mismarked streets before surrenduring & miming directions with people. Luckily my saint of a boyfriend came along 🙂 We found the clinic basically right away. However, I knew this was the calm before the storm.

Image

(Above: You are now entering the Twilight Zone aka: my Czech doctor’s office…)

Step Four: Find appointment. Upon walking in the awesomely beautiful/extremely creepy castle-like building, I JUST HAD A HUNCH, this wasn’t going to be easy. I was right. Both receptionists spoke zero English & desperately searched for someone who did. They found this angel of a woman who was so sweet & kind. Thank God. She asked for my insurance card, asked basic info & giggled when I mispronounced my street name (embarrassing). I thought this would actually go smoothly, but oh no, of course not.

She and the secretary scanned the computer together for a few minutes with furrowed brows. She asked things like ‘…Monday right?’, ‘..at 9:40am?’,..’are you sure it’s THIS Monday?’ Yup. That person on the phone never actually scheduled my appointment. I was anticipating them telling me to come back another day, but this wonderful woman said triumphantly she was able to book me with a young female doctor who spoke English right away! 

Step Five: Wait forever, alert everyone of your foreigness. The awesome woman lead me into the castle and to a waiting room. She explained to a nurses assistant my situation and told me to take a seat. Then she said bye. If you have ever traveled anywhere where you’ve felt like an outsider, you know one of the most awful things is watching your lifeline get cut. 

So I just waited. And waited. And waited. In a room full of women. But of course I had to make it clear I was not at all Czech. The nurse came out & said something to me, which I sheepishly had to inform her I didn’t understand. She nodded & every other woman in the room turned to stare at me. Story of my life forever. 

Step six: ACTUALLY SEE DOCTOR?! I swear after all the hurdles & obstacles I had to overcome in order to hear my name completely butchered by that Czech voice, I felt like I was Dorothy finally seeing the Wizard of Oz. I walked inside & was instantly pinned with her coldness. Which I was actually pretty bummed out about. Normally I feel like I can confide in doctors & trust them–but I could just tell this woman was not tryna be my BFF. 

First off–her English was NOT GOOD. I understand being bilingual is a tough thing, but you are in a profession where it will most likely be needed! Or at least don’t direct English speakers to insurance agencies who direct them to such doctors! It’s scary & overwhelming. She said medical terminology in Czech & used GOOGLE TRANSLATE. I am not sure how creditable this woman was, but I basically felt sooo uncomfortable. I wanted the nice lady who helped me at the reception desk back!

Needless to say the whole experience just made me want to go home. Where I can ask personal medical questions/concerns to people who actually understand them. Where Johnny robes are used, privacy is respected, & doctors appointments are actually scheduled. 

Sorry Praha, but today, you definitely lost a few points.

So there is my constant cycle of love/hate with this city. It’s crazy. One second I feel so happy & serene, the next I feel like such an outsider. But then I am walking home & the sun is shining, dogs are playing fetch, kids are riding bikes & everything is peaceful again. I can’t really explain it other than–this is how I always wanted to feel about the place I live.

Too much love, like I have with Paris, is sickening. All you want to do is indulge. You want to spend money & live in a permanent state of vacation. However, the opposite end of the spectrum isn’t healthy either when you are stuck living in a place you absolutely hate. So for now, I will accept you for who you are Prague; it may be a ‘love/hate’ relationship, but know that it always comes back to love.

-JG 🙂 

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9 Responses to “My Love/Hate Relationship with Prague”

  1. Ron March 11, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    As bad as it sounds. you still got your exam. Don’t forget those people were under communist rule just a few years ago. Old habits are hard to change.

  2. Angelica March 11, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    Love these posts, Jessi! Keep ’em coming 🙂

  3. Maureen Graves March 11, 2014 at 3:49 am #

    Wow….I could picture the visit…good writing. Makes you miss Dr. Ramsaron, Dr, Morris and your new Dr. in Auburn that you like. You got through it..glad Filip went with you.

    Love Mom

  4. Maureen Graves March 11, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    JESSIE GREAT WRITING ITS ALWAYS AN ADVENTURE LOVE HEARING YOUR STORIES MISS YOU HOPE EVERYTHING IS WELL FROM ONE CROOKED TOE TO ANOTHER LOVE DAD

  5. Vrastislava April 27, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    The world doesn’t owe you a living.
    I am sure your Czech is akin to a 5 year old’s so why should you expect someone of CZECH NATIONALITY in CZECH REPUBLIC to be fluent. I am sure not 1% of American doctors can speak Czech so why should it be the opposite in Prague.
    And I’m also sure that administrative errors are not confined to just Czech people… it’s unfortunate that it happened twice to you but I doubt it’s anything other than a coincidence.
    Finally, personal privacy? An American thing? I think Edward Snowden would disagree.

    You make me want to cry. Not tears of joy, but tears of utter sadness and desperation.
    You rank animals. You RANK animals. Why would you tell us about this? …
    Oh and please, DO tell us about your relationship with your awesome new boyfriend, the love of your life, Filip. We are all dying to know.
    Mismarked streets? I have travelled quite a bit and PraHA, as you put it, is one of the best marked streets I’ve been to. I don’t know, maybe like, open your eyes next time? Not sure. Just trying to help.
    And like, oh my god, like, seriously? You have to, like, make your OWN appointments? Oh dear lord, what is going on in this world?!

    • jgravesss April 28, 2014 at 6:42 am #

      Wow, well I really appreciate that you read every single word of this (relatively long) blog post & then took precious time out of your important day to craft such a passionate post!

      If you have read any other blog post (which I’m assuming you haven’t) you would find that they, as well as my own narrative voice, are a lot more worldly than you so sarcastically summed up.

      But I mean I guess at least one random person out of my 5,277 viewers from 33 countries HAD to disagree with me.

      So thank you for this wonderful constructive criticism you consider as ‘help’. Please, keep helping me by reading other awful posts full of my terrible writing. The CzechItOut Blog appreciates your internet hits.

      Sincerely,
      JG

    • jgravesss April 28, 2014 at 6:44 am #

      PS: LOVE you blog! Coward.

  6. Ron June 8, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Whoa that person really played into you. Cant please everyone all the time I thought the blog was great

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