Thursday, May 19, 2011

A flu shot, teargas, and Paul McCartney

I've been meaning to update with a few adventures, but I've found myself getting easily distracted and being lazy.  My dad mentioned on the phone that people were asking about my blog, so it was a good incentive to get back on here and update.

Getting a flu shot seems to be a pretty easy thing to do, right?  Just make an appointment at the doctor and get the shot.  I can speak Spanish and know my way around, so I figured how hard can it be?

Anyone who has lived in Chile for a while probably laughed or at least cracked a smile at me being so naive.  So the adventures of getting a flu shot started at the phramacy.  It turns out that you have to go there to get your shot, and there's a discount with my health insurance (CruzBlanca, literally White Cross) and one of the pharmacies (Salcobrand) so I went to get my shot. 

So I paid for my shot, and the phramacist handed me this:

You're looking at 3 things here. 

1. a stylish grey insulated case
2. a small ice pack
3. a small box with the vaccination

When I asked about getting the shot, she explained that I have to take it to a clinica or hospital to get someone to actually give me the shot.  In the meantime I should store it in the freezer so it doesn't go bad.

So I dutifully went home and stored the shot until I could do some research on where I could get it administered a few days later.  With my health insurance there are places you can go to called costo cero (zero cost) centers for routine procedures and things that aren't major, and I found one two blocks from my apartment.  I went there the following morning and got there early to avoid any lines and crowds, not expecting too many problems.  You can start laughing now.

I showed the woman at the desk the shot, and she told me they wouldn't accept it.  I explained to her that I did exactly what they told me with keeping it in the freezer, but it turns out that they wouldn't accept it since I didn't within an hour of then.  She explained that while people may keep it in their freezer, not everyone keeps their freezers at a standardized temperature and they can't guarantee that it's still effective unless if people arrive within an hour of buying it.  She advised me to get the receipt and exchange it for a new one at the pharmacy and to come back.

OK, I can do that.  Start laughing again.

So I went home and got the receipt.  There was a Salcobrand pharmacy inside the costo cero center I was just at, so I brought it there and explained the situation.  The pharmacist kindly explained that they don't sell any flu shots at that location.  This doesn't really seem to make much sense seeing that it's a 15 second walk from the area specifically to get shots, but it's the situation.

I then remembered that there was another Salcobrand about a 10 minute walk from there, and so I decided to exchange it there.  After explaining the situation to a pharmacist she called her boss over, and he told me that he couldn't accept it.  I would have to return it to the exact location in downtown Santiago, which is near my work but about a 20-25 minute bus ride from where I live.  How hard are you laughing now?

So when I went into work I brought the flu shot in with me, and once my classes were over I brought it in and explained the situation.  I was wearing a dress shirt and tie, and I smiled the entire time I talked.  I calmly explained that I did everything the pharmacy told me to do, yet they refused to give me the shot due to the one hour window.  After about 20 minutes of them filling in paperwork and typing away at the computer, I successfully got the shot exchanged for a new one.

The receipt read 3:27 when I stepped out of the pharmacy.  I felt like I was in Run Lola Run minus the amazing soundtrack and a sidekick.  I got to the bus stop in a few minutes, but it was over a 20 minute wait for the bus.  By the time I got off the bus, it was 4:18.  I made my way to the costo cero center, and after speaking with the receptionist I found out a startling fact.  Namely, costo cero (zero cost) does not mean that you will have zero cost for services there.  I did not have any cash on me, and I had 9 minutes before the shot would expire.  You have permission to keep laughing at my expense.

The saving grace in the situation is that I explained that I live a few blocks away and asked if they could keep the flu shot in a freezer until I got back within 20 minutes, and she agreed.  After getting some money at home and coming back, I paid the 3200 pesos (about 7 dollars) waited for about 10 minutes until they called my name and took me into a room.  They got the shot out of the freezer and gave it to me.  I thanked the nurse as well as the receptionist for their help.

And so that's how to get a flu shot in Chile.

If you've been following the news here at all, you've heard about Hidroaysen project.  It's basically a huge project that will build a dam in southern Chile and power lines stretching the length of the entire country that will provide energy to big businesses.  It has been passed in one of the steps of government and needs a few more steps for it to become a reality.  A lot of people are against it becuase it will destroy huge areas of natural beauty as well as wipe out famous Chilean landmarks, and they also don't want to see big business making a profit off of a situation like that.  If you want to read more about it, follow this link:

Naturally, people have been protesting the project, as they feel it does not represent the people and they are against the destruction of the environment.  While these protests have been peaceful for the most part, police have been using teargas and water cannons with the crowds.  Some of my coworkers have gotten caught up in the protests and have been subjected to the teargas, and recently I read that the Chilean government has suspended the use of teargas when protests are peaceful.  It shall certainly be interesting to see how protests will happen after this and how the police will respond to them.

On a happier note, Paul McCartney gave a concert here last week at the Estadio Nacional, and once again I was able to hear it from my apartment.  He played some Beatles classics, including Hello, Goodbye, Get Back, and Yesterday.  Unfortunately I was only able to record one of the songs.  It isn't loading now, but I will try to get it on here sometime soon.

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