Czech Healthcare

During the last few days I have been really sick. Being sick here in the States consists of over-the-counter cold meds, cough drops, and maybe a trip to the doctors office with a $15-30 co-pay. You are fairly quickly seen by a doctor and given a prescription, followed by a trip to Walmart and a $10 bottle if lucky. Then you go home and sleep it off.

This is not the scenario in the Czech Republic. First of all, before I left Nebraska I did some research and found that there is no such thing as over-the-counter medicine in the Czech Republic, everything requires a prescription. Knowing that I tend to get sick often, I packed a few boxes of Tylenol cold and sinus and a large bag of my favorite cough drops.

If you don’t know, the Czech Republic has a compulsory healthcare system. Everyone pays the government a fixed fee and most types of healthcare are covered, with exclusion of acupuncture and cosmetic surgery. See here for more details: http://www.vzp.cz/en/public-health-insurance.php

Fortunately, I only got sick badly enough to need to go to the doctor once while living in the Czech Republic. I used my whole supply of cold meds. Once I knew I wasn’t getting better without an antibiotic, I went to the doctor.

My roommate went with me to the closest hospital. She spoke better Czech and volunteered to be my interpreter if the doctor didn’t speak any English. We went inside and up the elevator to the floor for general practitioners. Their were no waiting rooms or secretaries just a line of offices. I had to fill out a form in Czech and show my insurance card and ID because I was not a resident.

The doctor was very nice, but as I expected, did not speak any English. My roommate and I struggled for words to describe what was wrong with me, using like mucus and Eustachian tubes hoping she would understand. After an exciting game of charades, I left with a prescription and promised myself to learn phrases about being sick when I got home.

The next adventure was across town to the RX store. The pharmacist looked at me sympathetically and went to a shelf to grab my pills. She told me the possible symptoms in rapid-fire Czech and I pretended I understood. I paid a nominal fee and thanked her for the help. Luckily, the pharmacist was not chatty. I tried my best to respond in Czech, and hoped she attributed my silence and nodding to my sickness.

The final trek of our journey was the most dreaded. We had to walk two miles up hill to our dorm in the rain. Upon our return my roommate made me a nice cup of tea; I gobbled up my meds, and fell into a fitful sleep.

What are your experiences with the Czech healthcare system?

Three Saints Day

IMG_0095
Today is the day we celebrate Saint Valentine and love. Not much is known about Valentine except that he was martyred for marrying couples during the second century when men in the army were not allowed to marry. A romantic testament considering the holiday is now all about candy and paper hearts.

You can read more about St. Valentine and the Czech Republic here:
http://www.praguepost.com/166-expats-in-cz/44308-you-can-find-st-valentine-in-vysehrad
And about romance here:
http://praguepost.com/166-expats-in-cz/44321-prague-s-romeo-and-juliet

Coincidently the feast day for Saint Valentine is also shared by Saints Cyril and Methodius. Cyril and Methodius were Greek missionaries from Thessalonica in the 9th century. The brothers were ministering in Russia and did so well that they were asked by King Radislav of Moravia to teach his people about Christianity. The brothers developed an alphabet in Cyrillic (Russian lettering) which became the first written language of the Czech people. They preached to the people in their native tongue and translated the bible for the common people to read.

The idea of allowing the people to read and hear the gospel in the vernacular was unheard of at the time. Latin was the only language sanctioned by the church. Many people of the church were not happy about the situation and soon the brothers were required to preach in Latin first then translate to Slavic. This idea was brought up again in the 14th century with Jan Huss and became the two factions of the church: Catholic and Protestant.

Cyril and Methodius are very important names to the Czech people. Many of our ancestors would not have had the opportunity for religious freedom or the need for it without these two men. So today when you are thinking of those you love, also remember that Moravia gained its written language and Christianity because of the other two Saints we celebrate today.

You can read more on the Brothers here:
http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1291

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=39

Transition to America: Have We Forgotten Where We Came From?

I have recently been re-reading Madeleine Albright’s book: Prague Winter. In my previous posts I have highlighted Albright’s life and the hard choices people make. As I read more about Albright researching her ancestry I am encouraged to learn more and write of my family history for the generations to come. I want my children and grandchildren to know about their past.

I often think about why the different branches of my family left their country. The dates I have are inexact or unauthenticated and they span the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s. I have a good idea why they chose Nebraska; there was land for the taking here and many more possibilities than at home. They were persecuted for their religion, their status, and often because they were Czech. Because they belonged to a small nation in Central Europe, other coveted their land, and tried to conquer it. For most of its history, the Czech Republic was ruled by another country or nation.

What made a concentrated group of Czechs, proud and nationalistic, so complacent about keeping their traditions and language alive? To some extent I believe that the desire to be American, act American, and sound American was a strong pull and many parents wanted their children to fit in. The heritage hasn’t died. It lives in gatherings and festivals, costumes, and pivo; yet heavily Americanized. Why did our ancestors stop telling the stories of centuries past? Why did they stop celebrating their rituals and traditions? Why did they stop speaking the language and corresponding with their relatives abroad?

I know these questions aren’t true of all Nebraska Czechs. Many are so integrated into American society through intermarriage and time that it seems it no longer exists to be an issue. This is definitely true of my family. They lived here for decades and preserved their homeland until recent generations have all but wiped away the past. There are no written recollections, few photos, and less collective memories to be shared with a generation that is beginning to ask questions about where they came from.

I am currently working on a resource page to help Czech-American’s research their past. What resources have you used or found to be useful?

Gratification or How Do We Choose?

“What fascinates me – and what serves as a central theme of this book – is why we make the choices we do? What separates us from the world we have and the kind of ethical universe envisioned by someone like Havel? What prompts one person to act so boldly in a moment of crisis and a second to seek shelter in the crowd? Why do some people become stronger in the face of adversity while other quickly lose heart? What separates the bully from the protector? Is it education, spiritual belief, our parents, our friends, the circumstances of our birth, traumatic events, or more likely some combination that spells the difference? More succinctly, do our hopes for the future hinge on a desirable unfolding of external events or some mysterious process within?”

from Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright

I often think about the questions Albright poses. What makes us who we are? How much do our decisions change our path? Would we still come to the same place if we had made different decisions? Have my past choices altered my life indefinitely? Do I really have complete control over the path my life takes? Or do I just control what directly affects me now on a small scale, such as the place I live or the job I have?

For most of my life I have tried desperately to control my circumstances. With much effort I achieved good grades, participated in everything, and pursued a career that I thought would be the best option economically and for my future family. I struggled to be the best, but never made the mark. We are taught that if we wait today, our gratification later will be so much more. I made every choice by this rule. I sacrificed friendships, fun, and sleep for a better life later. Now that I have finished college, I wonder when or if that gratification will come.

I do not regret how hard I worked in high school, yet none of my friendships lasted. I wonder if I should’ve tried harder to stay in touch or if they were ever more than schoolmates and acquaintances. I wonder at how different my life would’ve been if I didn’t transfer home my sophomore year and stayed in Chicago. I probably would’ve joined ROTC and studied psychology or elementary education. I didn’t feel that I had a lot of encouragement in music at Olivet.

If I had started college in Nebraska at UNL or NWU, it would’ve been easier to keep my friendships because most of my friends stayed in Lincoln, but would I have been any happier? In all honesty, I think if I knew then what I know now I would’ve taken as many classes at the community college as I could. I might not have even gone to college knowing how much debt I would be in. Then again, I may have never gotten involved in the Czech community or studied abroad.

It is amazing how one choice can change everything. I followed the yellow brick road and reached the end to find out the Emerald City was not actually as grand or as green as I was told. I could not wear the glasses and continue living in ignorance. Now, I face tough choices that could transform my life, that I am unprepared for, and do not know what or how to decide. Do you think society prepared you?