Who can resist such a terrible title when I've just had my first Czech check-up.

Following standard procedure, I needed to go to the doctor to get a stamp and signature declaring that I am fit to work.  I successfully avoided going to Czech doctors in the past, but checking out the local medical care is a necessary rite-of-passage in any new environment.  So, knowing only an address and that the doctor spoke some level of English, I walked towards the city square.  Finding the building number, I entered and traversed to the first floor (American 2nd floor).  I walked in and saw a door to the right and the left.

The right area had chairs, Czech radio, and some magazines.  (It was also labeled čekárna, waiting room.)  The left had a desk.  American instinct said, "Find the receptionist and say you're here for the appointment."  Observation said, "Look, there's a waiting area; go wait there!"  So, I did both.  I first went into the waiting area and saw no place to check in, so I went towards the other door.  Opening it a smidge, I saw a large room with a desk before me and a medical bed about 5 meters away.  There sat a man holding out his arm for a blood draw--back to the čekárna I went.

Another woman sat there, and I pulled out some lesson plans to revise while intermittently hearing the radio DJ say, "Poslocháte . . ."  or "You're listening to . . . ."  Various others came in and assumed very Czech distances from one another.  My watch quickened past nine.  At 9:30 a yet unidentified middle-aged Czech woman entered, bearing a short brown haircut and a pink fleece vest.  She asked for the next person and then referred to some list.  The woman who'd arrived before me got up.

What was this list?  I went into the intermediary area between the čekárna and the reception station/whatever it was.  Standing in the doorframe, I looked to the left at a free-standing shelf with a pad of paper undoubtedly advertising some pharmaceutical company.  Scrawled in different hands was a list of surnames.  The ones on top were crossed out.  I was dumbfounded.  This was how you check in for your appointments? I didn't add my name to the list, but hoped natural senses of "first-come, first-serve" or my appointment would mean something.

A little while later the pink-vested someone returned and asked me if I had a health insurance card (in Czech).  I said I didn't and watched, crestfallen as she went to the next person, getting his documents from him and returning to her desk.  The school had made my appointment for me.  I was promised an English-speaking doctor.  Who was this woman and what was happening?  I was told I could pay out-of-pocket.  Were they going to make me wait extra long because of a lack of a card?  A sense of injustice welled up in me, compounded by my knowledge of being "the other" and the clock ticking towards 10 AM when I had a 10:30 class to teach.  After observing those around me, I decided, "It doesn't hurt to ask" and went towards the woman I could see seated behind the desk.

I couldn't see that another patient was seated next to her and was having some interview.  I tried to explain that I was the person from the school and she told me that I had to wait.  I knew I had to wait, I was just trying to clarify the situation.  I returned to my seat feeling awkward and rude.  "Charity, be nice.  They're busy right now.  There's nothing you could do.  You were just trying to make sure everything had been accounted for.  Being upset will not resolve anything.  Why don't you read some Louisa May Alcott to cheer you up?"  And that, I did.  I quite enjoyed the respite in the pages of the light-hearted Rose in Bloom.  And soon, I was summoned in Czech.

I had a short interview with the vested woman.  At one point she asked me my height.  Unfortunately I couldn't answer in centimeters, so I said, "Nevím." Thinking I didn't understand, she repeated the question.  I then (in horrible Czech) told her that I did understand, I just only knew my height in the English system (that was a bit of a literal translation of what I said).  She told me (still in Czech) that the doctor would measure me.  So after a blood pressure check and paying my bill, I went to join the doctor.

After hearing my name, she realized I was English-speaking.  So it will be in English?  She asked for me to spell my name.  (Because Czech is always spelled how it's pronounced, Czechs usually give each other the spelling of foreign words by pronouncing it how it would be pronounced in Czech.)  So I said "Charity" with a Czech pronunciation.  Then she wanted my surname, and I gave it to her.  She saw my middle name and became completely confounded, muttering in Czech about a German last name and a Hebrew middle name.  She asked about my nationality. I gave a short explanation of my origins and we continued.

What do you teach?   Art.  You say a short word and I must write such a long Czech word.  Family medical problems?  Parents?  Brothers or sisters?  3 sisters!  Alkohol?  Rarely--it's a nice short word in Czech. Smoking?  How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?  Blank faced.  What about your chest?  My heart?  No, your . . . gestures to her chest, prsa.   You understand? Your Czech is great.  How long are you here?  You speak well, maybe we should do it in Czech.  A pause while I passively disagree.  Have you had any broken bones? Cutting? Surgery? Birth control?  Do you feel okay to teach?  Now I will pound on your head.  Does it feel the same on both sides?  Take of your shirt.  Listens to my breathing.  Moves stethoscope near my collarbone and listens.  Are you a sportsman?   What do you do?  Running?   Lie down, you can keep your boots on (I was wearing wedges).  More prodding.  You can put your clothes on.  I think you are a young, healthy girl who can teach our children.  Weight?  Height?   I am 168 centimeters, you can stand by me.  Standing, she moves me towards the mirror with herself standing behind me.  175 cm.  (5'9")  Is it possible?  I shrug my shoulders, and it goes in my Czech medical file.


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