Ex-soviet healthcare

Day 14 – 13th August – Osh (0km)

Two days after the accident, I finally got to see a doctor. I was lucky enough to have a health center right across the street from hostel, so that was teh first place I went to.

As expected, nobody spoke any English, but they pointed me to the door of a doctor’s office who invited me in without any queues or appointment. With a combination of gestures and Google Translate I explained what happened, and he made me take off my shirt and examined my back.

He then pointed at an X-ray he had on his table, and I understood that he wanted me to get one. The nurse was kind enough to write down the name and address of the main city hospital in a piece of paper, as well as the word for ‘X-ray’, and I got a taxi to take me there.

The hospital was a sprawling comlex with several buildings, but thanks to the piece of paper I had I now knew how to say X-ray in Russian, so it did not take long to find the right place. The entrance was a ramp that led one floor underground and from there and through corridors and stairways that looked more appropriate to missile launching facility in the middle of Siberia than a hospital, I found the X-ray section.

I did my mimics routine again and they immediately made me go in and took an X-ray of my left shoulder, which apparently revealed that nothing was broken or cracked. They gave me the X-ray and a medical report written in Russian and told me ‘kacca’ which is like ‘checkout’ or ‘till’, so I understood that’s where I had to pay.

I found the place on the first floor, showed them the X-ray and report and tried to make them understand that I wanted to pay for that. They seemed to discuss the situation for a while and then told me to just go without charging anything for it, so great service! If I had had the accident in the US they would have charged me 20,000$ or not even admitted me into hospital because language teachers are lowlives who don’t make enough money to pay for treatment.

Back at the clinic, the doctor was happy with the X-ray and the report, and through Google Translate again told me that I did not need to immobilise the arm or anything, he just prescribed some antiinflamatory pills and two injections in the butt, the old-fashioned way, and some rest. I had at least four more days until Marc got here, so that was perfect. There was a pharmacy right there in the clinic, the nurse helped me buy what I needed and then another nurse gave me the first injection. I was told to go back tomorrow for the second one. They would have just let me go like that, but I insisted on whether I had to pay something to the doctor, and in the end they charged me 200 soms, which is about two and half euros. By the way, that was the same amount the taxi to the hospital and back cost.

I spent the rest of the afternoon resting in my room and at night I went out to a very nice restaurant near the hostel and treated myself to a huge pizza to celebrate.

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I am from Barcelona

It’s well past two in the morning halfway round the world and for the last four hours I have been glued to the screen of my phone following the news. Barely an hour before hearing about the terrorist attack in my city I was chatting with a Japanese I had just met and he mentioned the ISIS attacks in Europe. I told him Barcelona had been spared so far. So far.

I am deeply saddened by this meaningless act of violence but proud to see the solidarity that the people of Barcelona have shown in these hard moments, and I am even prouder to see messages of support coming in from all over the world. I have yet to visit a place where the mention of the name of my city did not elicit a friendly smile. That spirit will not be broken. The world is welcome at Barcelona and Barcelona is welcome in the world.

A communist UFO

Day 26 – Tuesday 23th August – From Idilevo to Buzludzha and back (162km)

The night before a storm had started while we were having the barbecue and had raged all night while I comfortably slept tucked under a duvet hearing the rain pelting against the window and the roof. The following morning the sky was still covered in clouds and there was a forecast of rain at some time during the day, so I could not plan on venturing into the mountains and find some trails, everything was muddy and a few days ago one of the British girls who spent the summer in the village had had a fall while offroading and hurt her shoulder.

I decided to pop into the Sevlievo, the nearest big town, to get some oil for the chain oiler and do some housekeeping on the bike. Once that was done the weather seemed to improve a bit, so I decided to go and visit Buzludzha, which was about 60km away by paved roads and it was something I really wanted to visit.

Buzludzha is not a town, but a mountain peak, and the reason I wanted to go there was not to do some hiking, but to visit the monument that is located at its top, more than 1400m above sea level. This is no ordinary monument, but a concrete monster built in 1981 to commemorate the founding of the Bulgarian Communist Party in a secret meeting that had taken place there a hundred years before.

20160823070612The building is an enormous round concrete structure that resembles a flying saucer with a high tower behind it, and it housed an arena intended for state functions and celebrations. Not proud of its communist past, the Bulgarian government let the building fall into disrepair and now it sits slowly falling to pieces in the middle of nowhere.

20160823070800After riding up the Shipka pass, another amazing road to add to my list, I took a smaller road that led to the monument. This one was in quite bad conditions, possibly also forgotten by the government, as it only leads to the building.

20160823064016It was a rather heavy morning, and after some tight corners I reached a col from where the imposing structure first came into view. At the col there was another monumental construction, two hands holding torches, from where a footpath led up the mountain to the building. The road continued, though, so I went on until I reached the end of it at the foot of huge stairs that raised to the entrance.

20160823065516Up to no long ago, the building had been open, but in recent years the roof had deteriorated considerably, so the government had decided to weld the doors shut. Even so, people had managed to break through some window panes into the staircases, and from then on a kind of battle had been taking place – someone cut open the iron bars blocking access and a few days later the authorities would go and weld some new bars on. Being able to see the inside of the building was a matter of being lucky with your timing and going there at the right window of time.

DCIM123GOPROAt the Motocamp, the latest info going round was that it had just been closed again, and sure enough, when I got there I could find no way of accessing the interior despite going round the building several times. I was very disappointed, but I have to admit that it was still very impressive from the outside.

DCIM123GOPROI escaped the rain on the way back made it to the camp dry, where I spent the rest of the day catching up on my writing and chatting to the people there.