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Friday, April 11th "Spanish Bureaucracy"

ad an opportunity to learn a little about the police (no, I wasn't in jail) and hospital (no, I wasn't hurt) today during the morning and evening. I'm trying to figure out a way to stay here, at least legally. Arrived at the police station, where you must go when trying to get any type of visa here. Arrived at 9:15, just 15 minutes after they opened to get my number and wait in line. 15 minutes appears to have been 15 minutes too late - all numbers were taken by 9am, so we inquired next door at the information booth. Seems beginning in April they extended office hours here. They used to close at 2:30, but now they close at 5pm. We were informed that not many people know this yet, so if we return around 2:30 there will be no line - we won't even need a number! Upon leaving I notice a sign which says after 2pm they will not see you if you don't have a number...which is correct? Who knows. As in the U.S., if you are trying to stay in this country be prepared to wait, to be told the wrong thing...the list goes on and on. You must have patience. So with Semana Santa coming tomorrow I decided I will wait until the following week to go back and see what can be done.

Next stop the hospital around 8pm to accompany a friend who is not feeling well. Socialized medicine is great - you don't pay anything except hours in your life. First we were told only one person can accompany our friend and we're given one pass. Knowing the way things go here we decide to try and both enter so our friend is not waiting alone. We are stopped at the door and of course told only one person can enter. So I wait while my sister goes in to find out what's happening. Meanwhile I see various people pass without permission from the guard, some of whom have no pass or only one pass. Every once in a while he gives the ok to 2 or more people to enter, while others he doesn't even question as they walk by. I stand by looking at him, wondering what the hell is going on. Seems this is a "partial rule" - some people (ie: most Spanish people) can enter without permission.

5 minutes later my sister appears, gives me the pass and I start to enter to wait with our friend. My sister wisely asks the guard if she can enter for 1 minute to show me where our friend is, and we get the ok. Upon meeting our friend, I notice that almost everyone is here with 2 or more people, and some have as many as 4-5 people with them. Again, so much for the "rule" of one person. From then on we decide that only one person will leave at a time to call home for our friend, so they can take the pass and get back in. Much later our friend's sister (a spaniard) enters and gets in without a pass (or a problem).

After a few tests and an X-ray we are in the waiting room for 2 1/2 hours with no contact from anyone. You simply wait for them to call your name on a loudspeaker and then proceed to a room where you finally see a doctor. We learn the results, and get a list of prescriptions, but they will not take out the I.V. my friend has stuck in her arm. Instead we are told to go to the nurse's station to get this removed, and that we won't have to wait in line. So we head down the hall where we are informed we will have to wait in line, and chased out of a room by a nurse. 15 minutes later, after having one person who just arrived push there way in front of us in line, we are able to get the I.V. removed in 30 seconds. So much for efficiency. Upon returning to our neighborhood we must locate the all-night pharmacy - a half-mile away - to get the drugs needed for treatment.

The good of all this: the visit doesn't cost a penny. The bad: you pay in hours lost in your life, and having to fight through other people, the "rules", the lines and general disorganization of the hospital all while you feel like crap or are worried about the person you are there with isn't much fun.

Links for today:

"I'll tell you where: someplace warm, a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano." Lloyd Christmas