Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Taking it one step further

As if I hadn't bonded enough with German doctors this month, I’ve been trying to get that annual dental check-up completed. Just what I need, more reasons to meet and greet the Dusseldorf medical community.

Before I begin, kudos to the Budman are well deserved! He actually took the leap of faith, located a dentist in our neighbourhood (within walking distance) that we really liked and spoke wonderful English. His offices are new and clean, and his technique excellent. He was the guinea pig. So, when it came time for my annual teeth cleaning and check-up, the dentist was already located – excellent!

The annual exam went smoothly enough, but a return visit was required to replace three cracked fillings. Hence, my appointment of yesterday.

One slight aberration in the process of putting in new fillings; German dentists actually “ask” patients if they want a “deadening shot” prior to the commencement of drilling. Heck, yea! "Do not pass 'Go', do not collect 200 dollars". To me, that is simply non-negotiable. Another good reason for dentist and patient to be able to communicate (smile).

So, as the first replacement filling was in place, the dentist began pulling off his gloves, and proceeded to conclude the activity. “But wait, aren’t there 2 more fillings to be replaced?, I asked. My dentist nodded in the affirmative.

Ah, apparently the billing process for dentists works a lot like the billing process for doctors in Germany. Why do all the dental work in one visit when you can spread the work out and be paid for 3 appointments?

I was dreading the first dental appointment anyway, so this means I have 2 more appointments to fret over. Again, excellent.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Visiting the doctor

Recently, I've had a bout of illness. A persistent cold and cough that has bothered me off and on for about 10 weeks now. A couple of weeks ago, I finally broke down and made an appointment with a GP ("General Practioner") to have this thing checked out.

Step #1: I took for granted how simple making the appointment was going to be. Actually it can be quite challenging finding a doctor when you are sick, don't speak the local language too well, and the doctors' numbers you do have are no longer in service. I mean, you just can't open up the phone book and start “dialing for doctors”. Even if you find a doctor in your area with that specialty, then you have to navigate the receptionist that does not speak English.

So far, my self-paced German language tapes have only taught me....Ich bin krank (I am sick) and Mein name ist Hachie Gal (my name is Hachie Gal). I haven't covered the chapter on German vocabulary for symptoms and illnesses.

OK, so I found some British consulate website that had a listing of English speaking German doctors in Dusseldorf and ...yes, with their specialties listed as well. I rang this fellow up and spoke to the doc himself (as the receptionist did not speak English...had I already mentioned that was a problem?). Appointment was made for the next day.

Step #2: I took a cab from the apartment to the doctor's office on the appointed date and time. Now, mapquest noted it was only 4 1/2 miles, but after about 20 minutes of riding through the streets of Dusseldorf, I was convinced I was actually headed to a doctor’s office in Berlin. Eventually, I found the place, and while the doctor was a nice older doctor gentleman from Nigeria (has been practicing medicine in Germany for 44 years), let’s just say I am probably going to be locating a new doctor closer to the house, and one that “I connect” with a bit more. Still, the time to find a doctor in a new city is not when you need one. Besides, how difficult can it be to diagnose a cold and cough?

Step #3: The answer is “apparently, it takes multiple visits”. Visit #1 included the doctor asking the requisite questions, blood pressure check, listening to the chest, etc. I left the office that day with prescriptions in hand, but a request to make a return visit two days later for blood work. Not sure why both of these tasks could not have been completed on the first visit, but again my language skills (or lack thereof) precluded me from getting the real skinny on that one.

Visit #2 allowed the blood to be drawn. Ten minutes later on was back n the road again headed home. My cab fare to/from the doctor’s office cost me more than my doctor’s visit.

Visit #3 was all about getting the results of the blood work (now, why could they not call me with the results?). Upon arrival for the third visit, I had an EKG performed as well (no, not because there was anything suspected to be wrong…just because I had not had one in 2 years…heck, I have never had an EKG). Long story short, I had a cough and cold. Still, I have been recommended to have my thyroid checked at another doctor’s office and then come back for visit #5 to talk about that.

What gives?

I know now, courtesy of some insight from a work colleague. Remember, the German health care system is a national one; apparently, the doc gets paid “per visit by the patient”. Even though I am paying my little nominal fee for every visit, the doctor is getting paid by the health care system every time I come into the office.

Moral of the story: It is not as simple as just one visit; get all the tests, blood work, and exam done at once. It is more like the equivalent of a 5 course meal….

Monday, January 22, 2007

My internal alarm just goes off

No matter where I am, what time of year it is, my internal alarm clock just seems to remind me when it’s time for THE TV event of year. For those in the US, perhaps it’s the Super Bowl or the Final Four. For folks in Europe, maybe Eurovision?

But the Hachie Gal just seems to know when the OSCAR NOMINATIONS ARE SET TO BE ANNOUNCED. And even though this gal’s viewing of the “to be nominated” films is sure to fall far short of normal expectations (come on, my options are limited for any English language films), I can be certain to be checking out the noms tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, January 23 at 2:30 CET (that’s 7:30 pm for those Texas girlfriends – you know who you are).

Bring ‘em on, bring ‘em on.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Answer to earlier question

A mobile head coach is nothing more than a glorified term for a hairstylist that comes to your home to do your hair (rather than you going into a salon). I guess everything can have a positive spin....

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Come Again?

Reading a local German magazine this weekend, I came across a term that, quite frankly, I can say I have never heard of. Truthfully, I think it is a simple case of the "Emperor's New Clothes". You be the judge...ever heard of a "mobile head coach"? Answer tomorrow....

Monday, January 15, 2007


Believe it or not, I am one of those people who actually sets New Year’s resolutions and many times, actually keep them. Maybe it is my goal orientation, project planning, or sheer determination; if I can put a plan together, then the likelihood of my achieving that resolution increase exponentially.

So, after another bout with the “creeping crud, cold, and cough” (yes, again!), I decided to put some of those resolutions in writing, and document them for purposes of my personal accountability.

Number 1 on the list: German language skills. Given the hectic pace of work (it just never seems to let up), the reality of attending a regularly scheduled language class is…let’s be blunt…just not to going to happen in the foreseeable future. Budman agrees, and feels the same pressures to communicate without sufficient language skills almost on a daily basis. So, we’ve decided to give the “German language tapes at home” a whirl. The plan includes (a) purchase of reputable language tapes (check – purchased during holiday break in the US), (b) set time each morning of 30 minutes before work to study German (check – 6:30 am has been set), and (c) find a study partner to keep me accountable (check – Budman is committed to this, too).

If nothing else, I should learn enough German to make those Saturday mornings of communications with Deutsche Post a little less painful.

Number 2 on the list: Let's run another marathon. The 2006 Paris Marathon was memorable for no other reason than it was Paris, but I was less than pleased with the finish time. So, I am deciding 2007 will be the year of another marathon, most likely in September. Race still TBD but I have my sights on a couple.

Number 3: work-life balance. I’ve decided to become downright guarded in ensuring that a few other areas of my life do not suffer if and when the long-ish work hours cut into personal time (i.e. sleep, diet, exercise). Several strategies being put in place to address that one.

Number 4: continued travel. In 2006, I really did not have trouble fulfilling this resolution last year…looking to visit more of Europe in 2007!

Number 5: Get to know Dusseldorf. Related to #3, I would like to explore a bit more of the city I live in…try out different Dusseldorf restaurants, visit many of the museums I’ve never visited, etc. …just simply learn more of what the city has to offer.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A brief recap

Yes, two weeks in Texas seemed to have gone by in the blink of an eye, but we had a great (if not tiring) 2 weeks. Details to follow but just a few statistics that give you a sense of the "pace" of things during our recent trip home.

* Number of days in Texas - 14
* Number of appointments, get-togethers, lunches, dinners, etc. - 20 +/-
* Total number of different places Budman and Hachie Gal rested their heads during the 2 week foray - 5
* Number of times we ate Tex-Mex food - 6
* Number of times we ate Texas barbecue and/or fried catfish - 1 apiece
* Number of movies seen in theaters - sadly, only 2 (Dreamgirls and The Good German)
* Number of cans of Rotel we brought back - 2, as the suitcases were already weighted down.
* number of additional suitcases we purchased in the US to get all our gear back to Germany - miraculously, only one
* Time it took to fly home to Dallas (10 1/2 hours); time it took to fly back to Dusseldorf (8 1/2, an all-time record for us).
* Number of times we were asked "when are you two coming home to Texas for good?" - we lost count...

All in all, a great time to family and friends...