I will be the first to admit that I am hopelessly addicted to and in love with the good old U.S.A. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I believe ‘Merica to be THE best place on earth. It is the land of opportunity and totally understandable that most people want to be a part of it. There are conveniences beyond what’s convenient and choice enough to make you dizzy. Even the infrastructure makes life better there.
In Manaus, a simple trip to the pediatrician involves a call (with lots of “desculpa‘s” and “não entendo‘s”), a (dangerous & confusing) drive, parking (more on that later), remembering all the passports and vaccine cards, paying about the equivalent of $150 to get our name on a list and hoping the Dr. has time to see us before it’s time for a meal or nap. Luckily, this Dr. speaks some English. Medical issues can EASILY be lost in translation. Weight is in kilograms and height is in centimeters. Vaccines and medicines are different here. If a sickness warrants a prescription I have to go to a drogaria and hope they have it there and can read the Dr’s writing. Not to mention I have to figure out the dosing regimen and also determine if I even want to give my kids the medicine. It appears that everyone here takes a certain drug every year as a preventative measure against becoming paralyzed. Is it obvious that I’m missing something on that one? When I was pregnant with M & planning on having her here I was told I needed to get a vaccine that upon further investigation appeared to prevent muscular contractions. Ummm…don’t I need those to have the baby?
Driving is another big source of stress. Let’s start with the roads. Think of a pothole that you and two of your friends could lay down in and still not be at road level. Now drive over or around that while dodging 10 other potholes that M could lay down in as well as other cars and pedestrians. There is no rhyme or reason to the roads either. Some are one way, some are not. Some roads should be one way due to the width, but aren’t and others are four “lanes” all going in the same direction with a divider in the middle. There are many “balls” or roundabouts and almost no left turns. Things change often. Maps don’t help much because street names and directions of streets change all the time, without warning. There are many interesting intersections and almost no lines painted on the roads. Signals are many times placed on the wrong side of the road so if you’re in front of the line you can’t actually see when it turns.
The drivers themselves only add to the chaos. Having my children learn to drive here fills my nightmares. There are rules, but they are not followed. Anything goes, really. Is there nothing happening while you sit at the red light? Go on through…if you don’t, you’ll get honked at. Feel free to drive into oncoming traffic to avoid potholes or go around someone that is too slow as well. My personal motto while driving is “Be aggressive! B-E aggressive!” because if you aren’t, you will be eaten alive.
Once arriving at your destination you will obviously have to find parking: There are three spots at the office we go to. Sometimes they are all full. In that case I can park on the street. Hopefully I get a spot on the same side of the street as the office. If not I have to run while holding at least two children across the street where cars rarely yield to pedestrians and hope nothing happens to the rental.
Needless to say there have a been a few moments of quiet and cathartic cussing in the car.