It’s been a busy month and I’ve barely had time to sit down, let alone write anything here. To top it all, both my parents have been hospitalized in some manner: my Dad suffered a ruptured bowel and underwent an emergency operation, and my Mum broke her shoulder.
It’s at times like these that you really notice how complicated living in another country can be. Not only do you feel helpless and so very far away, but even trying to find information can be problematic. For example, in calling the hospital about my Dad, I had to prove that I was directly related to him. This is easy to do in person, but how can you do it over the phone? Beyond birth date (which I know for many people), there is little that both myself and the hospital would know.
After convincing the staff that I was a real son, I then discovered that the phones provided to patients are on a premium-rate line anyway. That’s right, to call someone in the hospital you need to pay through the nose.
This quite astounded me as it seems tantamount to blackmail – pay up or we won’t tell you how your relative is. If you don’t care then don’t bother, but if you do then give us your money. Is this what hospitals have come to? An opportunity to outsource and have a money-grabbing company leech off the sick?
As it happens my indignation was irrelevant. You can’t even call premium-rate numbers from outside the country. A genius idea there.
All of this has added to the isolation you can feel living in another country. I’d describe it as living inside a bubble. Your experience of the world is very much reduced, and you are surrounded by a mass of unknown noises that encircle you in a bubble of calm.
This was especially true of the recent hurricane in New Orleans. Not having a TV, or a TV station in a language I can understand, the only news I had available was from the BBC website. While this, in typical BBC fashion, was comprehensive and up-to-date, it also made the event seem very indirect and far away. I didn’t see any news reporters on the scene, I didn’t watch interviews with people on the street or see the event unfold with my own eyes. I read some words and looked at some static pictures, and moved on to the next article.