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It’s a Girl!

38 years and two months ago (okay and one day) my mother-in-law went to the hospital in labor with Nacho. Obviously way back when she had no idea if Nacho was going to be Nacho or Natalie, but with one daughter already and an extremely similar pregnancy, both she and my father-in-law were convinced another girl was on the way. It was customary back then for a girl’s ears to be pierced at birth, so before saying goodbye to his wife at the door of the delivery room, my father-in-law handed a pair of earrings to the nurse. Not too much later the doctor appeared in the waiting room looking for my father-in-law.

“If you want, you can put these on his balls, but I’m certainly not going to.”

And so, Nacho it was.

Times have changed, but not too much. Although hospitals no longer do ear piercing, neighborhood pharmacies do and many (though not all) new parents choose to have their daughters’ ears pierced as babies. I chose not to do so (I’m pretty sure Nacho would’ve gone along with whatever I wanted), mostly because it seems like something that should be a special celebration of “big girl” status as it was for me, but also because I could not imagine adding more work to those early days of caring for a newborn. I admit, however, that sometimes I wish I had. Turns out that 90% of the Spanish population looks for those earrings as an indicator of gender. Since Sofi doesn’t have them, 90% of the Spanish strangers who talk to Sofi assume she’s a boy. It doesn’t matter that she’s covered with a PINK blanket embroidered with her name. No earrings? Boy. It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. No earrings? Boy. Seriously. She can be dressed like this…

…and people STILL refer to her as a boy.

If I weren’t certain she’d end up eating them I’d be investing in stick-on earrings by the bulk.

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The Waiting Game

Silly me. I should have known that as frustrating as that appointment turned out to be, it couldn’t even be THAT easy. What I thought was an appointment to actually get a test run turned out to be an initial consult with an allergist. Now SHE’S ordered the test in question, but I can’t make an appointment to get it done until I get a notice by mail. Yes, I am serious. I feel my patience running out. Next stop: private allergist, I think.

I believe in public health care. And Spain actually has a pretty damn good system in comparison to many other countries in the world; in fact the WHO ranks it 7th in the world (admittedly this study is flawed in many ways, but it’s generally considered fairly accurate for the 1st world countries included). Like I said, I am all for public healthcare and I hope that someday it is a reality in the States, but I’m not sure the Spanish model is the one to follow.

Just a few random bits of data taken either from my own experience or from recent government studies*:

  • Maximum number of patients per General Practitioner*: 1500
  • Average wait for the GP: 1.5 hours
  • Likelihood of getting a same-day appointment with GP: 30% (you can always see the pediatrician same-day, even without an appointment, but you have to wait until everyone else has been seen)
  • Maximum number of patients per pediatrician*: 1200
  • Average wait for the pediatrician: 45 minutes (we always try for the very earliest appointment available)
  • Average time spent by pediatricians with their patients*: 9.3 minutes
  • Average wait to get an appointment with a specialist*: 2 months (all specialist appointments are referred through the GP)
  • Average wait for a specialist once at your appointment: 2 hours
  • Average waitlist for non-urgent surgery (gallbladder removal, for example)*: 4 months

As you can see, things are not perfect with the Spanish healthcare system. You may have to wait hours, weeks, months, but, and this is a big but, you WILL be treated. And you won’t be left with a huge medical bill. I’d say that makes the waiting quite a bit more bearable.


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(Don’t) Wish You Were Here

Real time blogging here, folks.

This morning I have an appointment for some allergy testing due to a reaction I had to an antibiotic earlier this year. Given the fact that the original prescribing doctor and the emergency doctor who saw me over the weekend are through the public system, I went ahead and planned to go through the same for the testing.

The real question is will my sanity give out before the testing is carried out?



International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to honoring the working woman and to highlight the sexist disparities that exist.

It’s no secret that sexism still runs fairly rampant in Spanish society. Sure, the modern Spaniard might do his fair share of housework and many women are valued resources in their companies, but the fact remains that, in general, women are underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts and that, in general, the majority of household tasks fall to the woman.

A little anecdote from our daily lives that illustrates this sexism:

First, a bit of background: Nacho works in the center of town. I do not. Given that Sofi’s daycare is about a 5 minute walk from Nacho’s office we’ve worked things out so that he drops her off in the morning and I pick her up in the early afternoon.

Sometimes if we’re running late Nacho and I take a cab into work. It’s not the most economical of solutions, but after a night of multiple baby wakings comfort trumps expense. Our modus operandi is sharing a cab that first drops Nacho and Sofi off and then continues on to my office. At least three times in the past month or so the taxista has assumed that Nacho, and Nacho alone, will be leaving us at the first stop. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the MAN might be taking the baby on his own. Today the cabbie almost drove away as Nacho was trying to unload the stroller, but the guy from earlier this week (yeah, it’s been a week of bad nights) really takes the cake. After dropping Nacho and Sofi off and after Nacho had to get the stroller out of the taxi trunk (in other words calling attention to the fact that the baby was going with him), when I was finally getting out at my office, the taxista actually said, “Don’t forget the midget.”




That’s right, I’m back and I’m going to see if I can get back into blogging on a more regular basis. A regular basis? Hah! Let’s see if I can start blogging again at all, especially considering it’s been a year and a half since I last wrote and even way back in 2010 my posting had dropped off significantly. I’m a blog reader, for sure, and I enjoy writing posts as well. It’s just hard sometimes to find the motivation and inspiration, but I’m determined to give it another go.

First things first, an update as life has changed pretty drastically since last I wrote:

Nacho and I are still living in Madrid (and don’t worry, even after 8ish years of expat life things still never cease to surprise me…), but it’s no longer just the two of us. We were lucky enough to have our first child, Sofia Ruth, last summer, and if I thought being an expat could be hard at times I had no idea what I was getting into as an expat mother. It’s no surprise that certain ideas and expectations are deeply ingrained in all of us, and, as an expat, I’m frequently confronted with the need to adjust those expectations a bit in order to maintain my sanity. I thought I had that pretty well assimilated, but it turns out that it’s one thing to change things for yourself but it’s something else entirely to see how those expectations and subsequent “adjustments” impact your child raising. I hope to write more about that side of being an expat in the coming months (no worries, I promise that any look-at-how-awesome-my-baby-is posts will remain over on my family blog) as well as just get back into writing about all the idiosyncracies that come with living abroad.

Let’s call this return to blogging my Spring Resolution.

Oh, yeah, and obviously I moved to wordpress. It’s much nicer here. I hope you stick around.

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Breath of Fresh Air

Air. Glorious air. Glorious cold air.

Who, in their right mind, lives in a house without air conditioning in a city where it frequently hits 100º in the summer? Well, we do. Scratch that. We did. The icey breath of salvation finally reached our apartment this week. Or at least half of it…

You’d think that with the high summer temps in Madrid everyone would have air condition. Otherwise you simply melt. But the truth of the matter is that air conditioning is definitely not a foregone conclusion in Madrid apartments and in fact, in probably 90% of the Madrid apartments, AC is not really even needed but for a few weeks out of each year. The northern exposure for half the city, the insulating factor of other apartments above and on either side of you and the cooler night temps mean that it’s not all that unbearable to live in Madrid, in the summer, without AC.

What IS unbearable is living in an 8th floor attic apartment with a big terrace and larger-than-average interior patios on each side. That makes for no “neighbor insulation” on 2.5 sides of the apartment and no cover from the direct sun hitting the roof. In other words, our apartment gets hot in the summer. Despite that, we actually managed to survive in a solid state for over a year. But this summer is a hot one. Temps are high – pushing past the 100º mark on multiple occasions so far – and night temps are not dropping as they should. So we begged our landlord to put in AC. We pleaded with him. We threatened to leave permanent sweat stains on his nice hard-wood floors. But he was a born negotiator and was un-phased by our plight.

Eventually we agreed to pay a portion of the installation. Two days ago we got half of the installation in – our bedroom is now a nice cool sanctuary and our TV watching has dropped dramatically. If they don’t come to install the living room unit soon I expect Nacho will be dragging our TV into the bedroom by the weekend. Would we sell our souls for air conditioning? Probably not. But we’d sell just about anything else!


The Onion 1; El Mundo 0

April Fool’s Day isn’t for another month. And the Holy Innocents was back in December. So it looks like El Mundo, one of the biggest Spanish newspapers, has absolutely no excuse for not checking their facts and sources a tad bit more…

Yep, they’ve written a short story about how Obama uses playback on his speeches. They’ve taken the Onion video as fact. And it’s being passed around Spain. As fact. And people are already up in arms criticizing Obama for “getting too big.” Comments on the El Mundo web site include categorizing Obama as “pathetic” and a “hipocritical puppet” as well as stating, “this is how Hugo Chavez got started.” It’s clear that plenty of people are sitting back just waiting for the chinks in Obama’s armor to appear.

Real time update. The newspaper has since taken down the video. And surely fired the intern responsible for putting it there in the first place. This will unquestionably be on the news tonight…