Grand opening of the brand new strip mall by my house.

Busy, Busy

Wow! What a week!

There’s so much going on that I don’t know where to start.  Including the grand opening of a new strip mall five minutes from my house (above).

Lets’ try this:  My work situation has improved. I still have my contract in California, which I enjoy, and I’m now working with an e-learning company based in Canada which provides educational support to Chinese high school, college and post-graduate students at schools in the US, Canada or Australia. The company hires only experienced teachers and then trains them in how the program and platform work.  I qualified in English and Essay-Writing. 

The students post their questions in a specific discipline and the appropriate teachers receive emails and/or texts.  The teacher then decides if he/she can answer the question and then accepts or not.  The teacher then has 24 hours to answer the question.  What I like about this particular company is that, unlike other online tutors and schools, we do not simply supply a solution to the question.  We ask qualifying questions (when necessary) and then provide an explanation of the solution.  We then do a follow-up in order to ascertain if the student has learned the “how” and can then answer similar questions on his or her own.

I was also invited by Berlitz in Costa Rica to teach for them.  I fear that they are too by-the-book to be able to hire me.  As a pensioner, I don’t have right to work unless it’s done a certain way for a specific need. In this case, the government allows native English speakers to teach American English.  We’ll see if we can do a work-around.

I had another adventure with the medical system here.  I have learned how important it is to be patient; I’m certainly better after almost two years living here.  I have figured out that a bigger problem with the lack of efficiency and the mind-boggling bureaucracy is that it is not customary for people to prepare/warn clients of what is to come.  Here is what happened:

I met with my doctor at the local clinic; she gave me two referrals: one for a biopsy and one for a bone scan.  I knew from past experience that I then needed to go over to reception and get both referrals stamped. There, however, the young lady took my biopsy referral and told me to come back in 10 days. Confused, I went back to the doctor and asked if that was correct.  She told me that it would only take five days because someone higher up needed to sign off on it. So, the doctor knew but failed to tell me.  Sigh. I went on my way and returned in five days and picked up the referral.  The next step was to go to the hospital in San Jose to schedule the procedures.

I arrived at the San Juan de Dios hospital, which is enormous but has a very good reputation.  At the entrance, I was told that I needed to go to two different departments.  I went first to the bone-scan guy, who was pleasant and spoke English.  I explained that I would like to have this and my other appointment scheduled for the same day, and I’d like the bone scan, which is simple and quick, around mid-morning.  He didn’t look up from his computer during my explanation and then handed me an appointment for 8:00 am on the following Monday.  Now, getting into San Jose for an 8:00 appointment would mean an hour or more of travel at Uber’s highest rate; at other times, it’s about 15 – 20 minutes.  When I asked him if he could make it later, he changed it to 10:00 am on the following Friday.  Keep in mind that it is very gringo to negotiate times; most folks just accept what they’re given.

So, pleased with my progress, I went to the other department.  After a couple of wrong turns, I ended up at a service window with a young lady on the other side.  I handed her my paperwork and started to explain that I wanted the appointment a few hours after my bone scan.  She didn’t even pretend to pay attention to me; and after a few minutes handed me my paperwork and spoke to me in incomprehensible Spanish (with lots of technical words).  I told her I understood nothing, but she kept repeating herself.  Finally, she got the hint that I wasn’t going anywhere and took back my referral and wrote “identifición” at the top.  I had my ID with me, but she didn’t want to see it; she pointed down the hall and told me to go to the office which said “identificación.”

I wandered around until I found the office; of course, it was closed (at 1:30 pm).  I peeked around the corner and found a nice gentleman and explained my dilemma.  He took my referral, looked at it, and wrote on a post-it (in Spanish) “Please accept without identification” and told me to go back to the other department.

Upon returning to the previous window, I saw that there were now eight people on line; there had been none 15 minutes before.  I got in line and waited.  When I got to the window, the young woman took my referral and, to my surprise, accepted the post-it.  She then handed me a piece of paper with the date August 20th.  Clearly she hadn’t been paying attention.  I told her I would not be in the country on that date, and she told me to come back any time after that date.  Really?  Any time?  After a very difficult and frustrating conversation, I came to understand that I was not going to get an appointment at this time.  It turns out that this was an appointment to make an appointment.  Their process is to accept the referral and then submit it to the appropriate department, where someone else determines which doctor(s) should do the biopsy; and this takes three weeks.  Then, the referral is returned to the person at the window; when I return, she will then make the appointment for the procedure.

Yep.  I’ve told you that this is a make-work culture.  While they are educated and do embrace technology, there are still too many people to employ, so they have kept the same multi-step process which they’ve been using for years.  Actually, using the technology efficiently would reduce steps and personnel.  All of which I have understood for a while. As for me, I know now to bring a book and be willing to wait. I just wish the doctor had told me about the five days and that the reception person had told me that I would not be able to schedule the biopsy on my first visit to the hospital. 

I guess that the moral of the story is first, to have patience; second, to expect the unexpected; and third, to always remember that service, as we know it, doesn’t exist here. The customer is not always right and one’s personal preferences are irrelevant.  Remember, though, that ticos are consistently ranked as the happiest people on earth.  So they must be doing something right; I’m convinced that they are secret Zen masters masquerading as Catholics. 

Ciao and Pura Vida. .

A Subway and International Bookstore – What more could I want?