Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If we had blogs in 1997: In which the student discovers the wonders of socialized medicine

The sun is setting in Washington, DC on a night in mid-June when I write this. I stare out over red brick buildings, surrounded by fireflies, looking out at the garden with our tomato plants and pepper plants and herbs and flowers and all the trees and kind of forget that I'm in the city right now. The journal is on my lap, the one with the old maps on the cover, the one my mom gave me to write about my stay in Luxembourg prior to my departure, now full of the words of a naive 20 year old who was leaving Southwest Ohio for the first real length of time and seeing that those little green and yellow and orange spots on maps were full of real people. The next entry is pretty pathetic, being the unextraordinary lamentations of a kid who had to miss out on things because of lack of money. However, I will stay true to the journal and publish it anyway, because the entries get better. Just look at what happened in Munich when the school paid for a bus to take any student who wanted to go to  Oktoberfest. With apologies to the people who are mentioned in these entries.

17 Sept 1997

Today is the first day I've really felt lonely. I wasn't around many people today since I didn't have class until 6pm, but still, I didn't talk to many people. I didn't feel like going dancing with April & Kate & whoever else, though I probably should have. I just don't want to spend any money. And I didn't want to feel like a dumbass or a tag along. Everyone else is becoming good friends fast, but not me. I feel invisible. Lame! I never have any interesting to say. I don't feel like this is real life and I want to go back to my comfort zone. Am I destined to always feel like this? I have God, but He doesn't talk back. Ha! This is hilarious! I don't feel real.  Lame! I miss Lynn who always takes me for who I am, but here I feel like I need to be somebody else because who I am is not good enough. Lame! Tomorrow may be totally different, but it always returns to a feeling of being invisible. Lame! I hate cliques; I believe they are immature, and maybe that inhibits me. I don't know; I can't figure things out. I'm sick of feeling worthless. Lame!

Everyone seemed to have more money than I did. I had to rake leaves at the chateau to earn money for the work study program, and that was barely $50 a week. I stayed home frequently because I had a budget and couldn't afford to go to many things if I was to travel on the weekends. I blamed the rich kids. I worked in a factory the previous summer manufacturing bus windows while they were going to the beach and I resented them. In the end it didn't matter; I've been able to do a lot in my life, getting to travel and live in four countries outside of the US and work in international development and have an office overlooking the Mediterranean and the entirety of downtown Beirut and all the other stuff I've experienced, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't still harbor some resentment.

27 Sept 1997

Oktoberfest was quite an experience. We left Friday at midnight from Luxville. I had been drinking Mousel Luxembourgish brand of beer at Pub 13 so I had no problem sleeping. We arrived in Munich at 6:45am, and nothing was open yet. So we walked around in the cold for an hour and a half. We went through the Marienplatz district and saw the Glockenspiel (sp?) building. There weren't a lot of old buildings. Most of them were destroyed during the war. I feel this is probably true even though I'm making an uninformed assumption here. Munich as some Americanization to it. I feel this is not true, as the word Americanization is idiotic and I can't believe I ever thought this way! The buildings are pretty modern. I would have liked to go shopping there, but alas, no dinero.

We went to Dachau concentration camp in the morning. It took us 3 trains to get there because we didn't know which exactly to get on. Dachau was depressing and chilling. Usually I try to imagine a place at the time it was in use, like at the castles when I try to picture a bustling place full of dukes and knights and nobility and peasants, but here I didn't want to imagine what it was like. All of the barracks had been torn down but there were two rebuilt to show us what it was like. It made you feel disgust and contempt for human beings and their capacity for evil. We spent an hour there before heading back to Munich. I'm glad I went. I think it's something everyone should have to experience in their lifetimes.

Then we went to the Munich Olympic Park. The Olympics were held there in 1972. It was the year when the Israeli athletes were killed. I saw no memorial for them. This isn't true. Here is a picture of the memorial. In fact-checking this claim, I read the wiki entry for the Munich massacre. I was reminded that Mossad tracked down most of the surviving murderers and killed them in a vengeance-laden name Operation Wrath of God. One of the perpetrators was named Mohammed Safady from Lebanon, the same name of the Economy Minister for whose NGO I worked (who is generally a good guy.) Sometimes my love affair with Beirut makes me forget how involved Lebanon was in international terrorism. It still is, mostly through Hezbollah, which is more like a state within a state or an Iranian proxy organization. The Park was strange. The architecture was amazing. Only pictures can describe what it looked like, no words. We went up the tower and could see the whole city of Munchen. Except we couldn't find Oktoberfest up there. The BMW building is cool. After the Olympic Park, we went to Marienplatz again. This time is was bustling with people. The Glockenspiel dancers were out. We walked for awhile and then went to Oktoberfest. Outside the beer halls, it seems just like a fair, except they had rollercoasters, and most of the rides there are illegal in the U.S. Said with no proof whatsoever. We walked around and got bratwurst. I had kraut on mine. It was the best kraut I've ever had. April and Valerie both got pretzels at least a foot across. I had to help them eat it. We ran into Justina and Liza or whatever her name is. I think she is quiet girl from the train to Cinque Terre. I wonder what she's doing now. I bet she's a doctor or a research scientist or something. I was glad when they chose not to go with us around. What an awful comment! Then we went to Hofbrauhaus. We peeked in at the Lowenbrauhaus earlier. It was cool. The Germans were dressed up in their Oktoberfest outfits and drinking huge steins of Lowenbrau. The waitresses carried out a dozen of those steins at a time. It was amazing. One is difficult enough, but those women also had to fight the crowds. We went to Hofbrauhaus and had the best beer I have had. I got beer dumped on my head. Dusty and Katie and Grant and Klont drank piss. It was hilarious. Then they toasted and crashed their glasses together and I had to get stitches and was at the hospital for about four hours and the day was ruined.

We did go back about 9:00pm and rode the ferris wheel, bought souvenirs, and went back to Hofbrauhaus to find les Americains de Miami. I bought a t-shirt to cover my blood stained shirt that's kind of ugly but oh well.  I wonder what happened to that Hofbrau shirt. I still have all the others that I bought that year. Must have gotten rid of it in one of my purges of possessions. We then walked back to the train station, got something to drink and walked back to the buses at 12am and didn't leave till 1:15am. I couldn't sleep because I was so uncomfortable. Shawn was obnoxious and I got mad at him. I hope he doesn't remember. I don't remember who he is. He passed out in the stairwell. We got home about 8am and I slept until almost 1pm and then Mme Dupays fixed us spaghetti for lunch. Oktoberfest was a good experience despite the accident and I'm glad I went.

I don't know why I skipped the part about the hospital. I waited four hours in the emergency room, which looked like a war zone. Drunken idiots were coming in with all sorts of injuries, including one guy whose head was split open. April was great - she came with me to the hospital and missed her Oktoberfest, too. I still have the scar on my left breast, but it has faded with age. I remember how gross it was to see the inside of my boob. The cost of the trip to the emergency room and the stitches was $50. Yes, $50. Because of my experiences with it, I am perplexed that certain Americans have an aversion to socialized medicine. Why would you choose to spend $1000 over $50? It just doesn't make any sense. In a way, I'm glad I had this experience because I saw an alternative way of health care, one that makes much more sense than to what us Americans subject ourselves. It cost $25 to get the stitches removed a couple of weeks later. On a related note, I received weekly allergy injections as a kid that continued through college. I brought my serum to Luxembourg and a clinic gave me the injections free of charge. I didn't even have to pay for the syringes. 

Maga, our housing coordinator, made Grant and Dusty pay me for the accident when we got back to Luxembourg and she found out about it. (I didn't tell her - she always knew everything that was going on.) I was embarrassed to take their money; it was, after all, an accident, but I needed every bit of it. They didn't know I had gone to the hospital - instead of touring Munich, they went straight to the beer tents and were already drunk by 2pm when the accident happened. I had the best story of anyone on that trip.

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