May 26, 2012: French Healthcare and Zurich

Dominica got me up at seven this morning after less than three hours of sleep to get me up and moving since we had so much to do today. At first my job was only to watch Luciana who had woken up and was not feeling well so that Dominica could continue getting everything else ready for us to depart Bartenheim. We are attempting to hit the local post office this morning as we have a rather large shipment of stuff that we either no longer need or have realized that we never needed to ship back to dad to keep us from having to lug it all over Europe with us.

At this point my back is really killing me. At first I thought that it was muscle pain but now I am convinced that from either a chair that I have been working from or from the Ergo baby carrier’s strap that I have bruised by spine. One way or another, my back really hurts.

Our goal this morning is to make the nine thirty train to Zurich. We will be taking the same local run on the TER Alsace to Basel but then taking the Zurich line rather than the Bern line. Even getting up at seven in the morning it will be quite a challenge to make it to the nine thirty train. It is never as simple as you would imagine.

Dominica took Luciana’s temperature this morning and it had climbed to one hundred and one. That is too high. She has to see a doctor. She could wait until Zurich for a doctor but we don’t know how medicine works in either Switzerland or France so to be sure that we can’t just get her an antibiotic on our own Dominica decided to go out and investigate the pharmacy situation.

Dominica was gone for a while and when she returned she had quite the story to tell. She had been at the pharmacy across the street. Of course, no one there speaks English. Europeans might universally speak English more than any other tertiary language but almost no one really speaks it. It is never heard in conversation and anytime that you find someone who speaks it you are amazed.

At the pharmacy a local who was a customer there helped everyone to translate. Dominica learned that a prescription written by a doctor would be necessary to get the antibiotic. That is not surprising but it would have been foolish not to check. The woman who was at the pharmacy with Dominica then took Dominica and made her husband drive them all to the local doctor because she realized that Dominica would not be able to find the doctor if forced to work from an address and since she was on foot they knew that she didn’t have time to go looking for them. This is something that would never happen in America. Someone translating in a store? Possible. Someone giving directions? Definitely. Someone driving you to the doctor’s to make sure that you can find it? Um, no, not going to happen.

Even more amazing, the doctor’s office said that they would see Luciana immediately. So Dominica speed walked all the way back to the Lion Rouge and got me. We left the luggage in the room and we took the girls and walked the half kilometer, if I were to guess, back to the doctor’s office.

The doctor was wonderful. No one in the office spoke English but we all made do with a couple of words on either side. Everyone has been so friendly this morning. The pharmacist, the doctor, the people in town. We are so impressed with Bartenheim.

The doctor agreed that Luciana has an infection. I impressed Dominica with my ability to make fever references in Celsius on the fly. Luciana was at 38 and we, and the doctor, expect that if untreated she would hit 39 tonight. She has sinusitis, not an ear infection, but her one ear, and maybe both, are inflamed because of it. But the real issue is her sinuses, no surprise given that she is my daughter, and it is rapidly turning into bronchitis. So he prescribed an antibiotic and a thrice daily nasal wash which she is not going to enjoy. She said that if we were not traveling they would not do the antibiotic at this stage but instead would only do the cleansing and bed rest but as we are traveling and going to Zurich today the antibiotic was necessary. That is nice, in the US it would have been straight to the medicine every time.

We were very impressed with the doctor. Then we went to pay and he said “No, you are on holiday! There is no need.” I can’t believe it. Great, fast, friend healthcare and the French healthcare system is picking up the tab as well! We are so impressed with France right now I cannot even describe. I’ve heard that France is a world leader in healthcare and I kept saying that if Luciana was going to be sick that this was the place for it to happen but never did I imagine that their healthcare was this good. Nor would we have guessed that the kindness of strangers would be so great.

We walked quickly back to town and straight to the pharmacy. Unlike an American pharmacy with a twenty minute to two hour wait on any order, it took no more than two minutes for them to fulfill our order. And, even being foreigners paying full price for everything, the antibiotic (the same one that we get in the US) plus the two nasal products, the one a wash and the other a medicine, came to just thirteen euros or less than twenty dollars.

Let me get this across… the full price for medicine in France is less than the copay amount for the same medicine in the US. The implications should be beyond obvious.

So our takeaway is that we are impressed beyond belief in France and its people and its healthcare. The Lord really watched over us to make sure that we had all of this happen here. Had this been a different country, or in a large city or any number of different factors this could have been really bad. Instead, it was dramatically better in efficiency and in cost than having the same thing happen in the US with health insurance and a car and established relationships with the doctors and pharmacy! France did better under the worst conditions than the US does under the best.

We raced back across the street to the hotel and got checked out. I keep being amazed by how low our bills are even when our food is added on to the hotel bill.

Then it was off to the post office to see it we could ship out that package, but it was obvious that they did not have the facilities there that we needed so we didn’t bother to try and instead raced on to the train station hoping to make at least the ten thirty train as we had missed the nine thirty.

We got to the train station in enough time for the train that Dominica thought was going to be there. It turned out that she had read the train schedule incorrectly and the next train would be at eleven thirty, not ten thirty. So we had an hour to kill.

We were not going to go anywhere as it was just too hot and the walk is too long. So Dominica kept the girls at the train station and I walked over to the grocery store that was not all that far away and picked up some local fruit and some baked goods for breakfast and brought them back to the train station so that we could eat them while waiting on the train.

We have ridden this train line yesterday so we know how everything works (even if we don’t know the times) and the ride into Basel and the transfer in Basel were super easy. The train from Basel to Zurich was pretty quick and easy. I napped a bit of the way. The scenery along the path was quite similar to the scenery that we saw going from Basel to Bern but a little less hilly. Still very beautiful.

We arrived in Zurich and it was a beautiful day. The main train station in Zurich is massive. This is certainly one of the main European rail aggregation points. Getting around the Zurich train station is rather a challenge due to the size, the volume of people and that things are poorly labeled. Lifts, for example, have no signs. You simply have to know where they are.

Once we were in Zurich the challenge was figuring out how to get from there to our hotel. Our hotel in Zurich is not near the train station but is in the suburb of Regensdorf which is several miles from downtown. We spent quite a while trying to get directions on how to get to Regensdorf. Seriously nothing is labeled.

We finally figured out that we could take the S-Bahn S6 line towards Baden that several stops up was Regensdorf. Getting to the S6 turned out to be a challenge as tracks 41-44 are hidden away in a basement and after looking around for as long as we could for a lift we finally had to give up, along with some other people having the same issue, and take the girls and all of our luggage down the escalators as our train was just about to pull up.

Riding the S6 wasn’t too bad but it was full and with all of our luggage it was a struggle. Fortunately the S-Bahn system has nice screens in the passenger cars that tell you where you are, the list of upcoming stops and how long until you reach each one. This makes it far less stressful to be able to get to where you are going and to be able to relax between the stops as you can constantly get an idea of how much longer you have.

We got off at the Regensdorf train station, which is very small, and from there had to figure out how to get to the zentrum. We had hoped that they would be at more or less the same spot but they were not. We checked the map and we had less than a mile to go, so we hoofed it the rest of the way.

The sun was bright and exposed so we got very hot very quickly. We were way too hot by the time that we got to the hotel, the Movenpick Regensdorf. I was completely covered in sweat by the time that we got there.

The Movenpick is awesome. This is our only luxury hotel of our entire month and a half trip. This is a four star hotel. The room was very nice and comfortable. We were so glad to get to a nice, comfortable hotel room without any questions and a twenty-four hour concierge desk and all of that. This is our “downtime” weekend, in theory, so this is perfect.

Our plans today are to do nothing. Nothing at all. Luciana especially needs as much of a day off as we can muster. So we prepared to camp out in the hotel room for a little while and I set up my laptop. The one downside, and this is a pretty big one, to this hotel is that we do not have Internet access while we are here outside of emergencies because we would have to pay ~$20 per day for it and we just are not willing to spend that much now that we are no longer working to have me do my homework and check in with the office. If the office needs me they will reach me through some other means and we will turn the Internet access on at that point.

So my job for today was to write a lot of SGL updates but not to post them until we get Internet access again. So I wrote nearly eleven thousand words this evening that you, my audience, will be reading sometime later. I got almost caught up completely today. That was my goal. That is the only form of “work” that I need to do for the next three weeks and that I can handle.

Once we had relaxed for a little bit we decided to go to the shopping center right next door to the hotel for some supplies. We hit the grocery store there, this is getting to be a normal thing for us, and stocked up on ready-made food (pret a manger) that we will eat tonight rather than going out to a restaurant or whatever. Although I’m not convinced that eating at the grocery store saves any money.

We also did some general shopping and just checked out the shopping center. I am interested in getting some new shoes because mine are killing the ball and toe of my foot when we do long walks and I need something that will cushion them a little bit better. Apparently, though, my feet are enormous by European standards as my size is not carried and the nearest size, which is very close to mine, is available but only in a horribly small selection. So we gave up there. Maybe I will try some insoles to see if they do anything for me.

We came back to the hotel room and ate our dinner and found some television for Liesl to watch. We have things like Nickelodean and Cartoon Network on our television here so Liesl is pretty happy about that. Most of the programming is actually in English but bits are German. She settled in to watch that all evening.

I stayed in with the girls while Dominica went out on her own to do some shopping. Actually she just wanted to get away from all of us. So she shopped for a while, Liesl watched her shows and Luciana and I napped for a while.

Dominica got back and we hung out in the hotel room for just a little bit and then the girls all went to bed. Liesl was the last one down but all three of them were asleep pretty early. I was awake for a few hours longer, until one in the morning or so, working on the SGL updates. I have been so far behind this past week that I really wanted to take the time to get caught up knowing that I would feel even more relaxed tomorrow if I was not worried about the updates not being written. This is a very important trip and if I get behind not only do the folks back home not know what is going on but we risk forgetting what has happened. So I am doing my best to be really, really diligent about it, especially from here on out now that we are in to the “vacation” portion of the trip.

Tomorrow we have to play things by ear. Luciana still has a fever this evening but there is every hope that she will not have it tomorrow. If she still has a fever tomorrow then the plan is to just stay in the hotel all day and do pretty much nothing. But if Luciana is doing okay we will consider going out and seeing Zurich or possibly making a trip out to the south to Luzern to see that town instead. Luzern is Dominica’s number one city to see in Switzerland and possibly in all of Europe (competing with Brugge) at least from before the start of the trip – with only our information from America before leaving. If we don’t see Luzern tomorrow then we don’t get to see it so it would be really sad if Dominica ended up missing that while we are so close.

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