Culture Shock: The Battle for Antibiotics Posted on February 1st, 2010 by

I have been in Budapest for just over two weeks and there are so many things that I love about this city. I love the yellow tram, I love chicken paprikas and goulash, I love the crazy boots everyone wears, I love the unique character of all the buildings, I love that everything feels drenched in history, and I love that you can buy kiwi for next to nothing. But nothing is ever perfect, and today was definitely a test of how well equipped I am to live so far away from home for over four months. Ever since I arrived in Hungary, I have been sick more than I’ve been well. I think this is mostly because of the stress of such a big change. Either way, this past Saturday morning, I got really sick again out of nowhere. My entire face felt like it was about to explode, my head hurt constantly, and my nose soon became bright red from using kleenex’s faster than I could get them out of the box. I’ve had my fair share of colds, flus, and strep cases, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve been this miserable before. So finally today I couldn’t take it anymore so I talked one of the program coordinators and got referred to an American clinic in Buda. Everyone there spoke English and it felt good to have everything you say completely understood for once. So he confirms what I already know [that I have a sinus infection] and prescribes some antibiotics and nose drops. [Also, for anyone from Gustavus thinking about studying abroad, definitely get the HTH insurance through school.. it paid for 100% of my visit!] When I finally make it back to Blaha Lujza on the yellow tram, I run into the Patika (pharmacy) right across from the tram stop to get my prescription filled. After waiting in line for an excruciating 45 minutes [being inside is a horrible experience for me right now because without the cold outside air, the pain in my face triples], I finally get to the front of the line and hand the lady at the counter my prescription slip. She starts speaking to me in Hungarian, which I expected, and I say “nem tudom,” which means “I don’t understand,” and she continues to speak in very fast Hungarian and pointing to a box on my slip. The only part of the exchange that I understood was when said, “ah, nem magyarul beselsz” (oh, you don’t speak Hungarian). But after that she only seemed to speak faster, jabbing her pen at my paper, and looking at me like I was the dumbest person on earth. Sick, tired, and frustrated, I left the pharmacy, power-walked the few blocks back to my apartment, threw myself onto my bed and cried.

After a few minutes, I realized that I couldn’t just sit there feeling sorry for myself, so I tried to look up the acronym on the box she had been pointing to on the internet. But being reliably unreliable, it decided to completely stop working. After a call to my parents to regain my sanity and a call to the doctor to confirm that the prescription was indeed correct, I formed a new plan: get on the yellow tram and get off at the first stop with a Patika. So I got on the northbound train and after just one stop I spotted a pharmacy right across from the station. Success. With my antibiotics in hand, I went to buy some Kleenex and comfort food [frozen yogurt and Turo Rudi] at the local Kaiser’s and then headed home to surround myself with Kleenex and chocolate and watch American television on my computer.

It has been a crazy, trying day, but I feel like I made it through more or less intact. I realize now that not every day can be a crazy day trip to an awesome Hungarian town or an afternoon spent taking pictures of the Danube. There will be days when the language barrier creates significant roadblocks and there will be days when all I want to do is curl up under my comforter and eat chocolate, but these difficulties are nothing compared to the experience and memories that I hope to create over my next four months here in Budapest. Me: 1, Culture Shock: 0.


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