Contrary to my recent feelings of affection for St. Petersburg, yesterday was definitely an “I hate Russia” sort of a day. For one thing, it’s been cold and rainy for a week now. I mean, it’s June, and kids are wearing snowsuits, and even I’ve been wearing sweaters and knee socks.

For another, I’ve been home sick for several days with a sore throat. I was convinced this was strep throat, and that I just needed to see some kind of doctor so s/he could tell me which antibiotic to buy, since antibiotics are sold over the counter here. I usually go to an expensive private clinic called EuroMed, but it’s in my old neighbourhood and not convenient to get to via metro, and it also seemed silly to shell out thousands of rubles and then file all the claim forms to get partial reimbursement from my international health insurance when I already knew what was wrong and what I needed.

Because my work at the kindergarten is actually pretty much legal (rare for foreigners in the English-teaching field) I have work-sponsored medical insurance as well, which enables me to go to state clinics and hospitals for free – in the neighbourhood in which I am registered to live. For reasons too annoying to get into here, I am registered in a neighbourhood on the complete opposite side of the city. So I decided that in my weakened state, I didn’t want to go to seek out some scary unfamiliar clinic in a sleeping district even grimmer than mine.

I asked Kostia to call his doctor friend Yuri and see if he knew any GPs who make private house calls. He said he didn’t, but that we could come to his hospital and someone could take a look at me for a small unofficial “fee”. So, we took two marshrutkas across town to a scary unfamiliar hospital in a sleeping district even grimmer than mine, where we were greeted by Yuri and a homely but kind young nurse. We waited for a few minutes in an emergency room with several passed-out drunks, then got invited to wait in the staff lounge.

After a bit I got to see the doctor, whose bad enunciation made it even more difficult to understand the unfamiliar medical vocabulary he was using. As I sat down, I noticed a tray of rusty medical instruments, which he proceeded to use to poke around in my mouth. He even “sterilized” one by holding it next to a light bulb.

His determination: not strep throat. He recommended buying some sprays and vitamins that were pretty similar to the ones I’d already been using for several days with no improvement. Then he asked the nurse if I was hard of hearing. She said, “No, she’s American.” “Oh, that’s why she talks like that.”

Outside the hospital, in terrible pain, with a fever, and feeling that I’d been misdiagnosed by an idiot with dirty instruments and was no closer to getting the antibiotics I clearly needed even after this whole ordeal, I broke down crying. Kostia has no patience for this sort of irrational weeping, so it was all very very bad. I just wished for death to come and take me on the spot.

We flagged down a car and went home. To our apartment without any hot water. See, water is centrally heated in each municipality in Russia, and during the summer in big cities they shut the hot water off for several weeks at a time for what they claim is maintenance of the system, though it’s probably just to save money. (In smaller cities they just shut off the water for the whole summer.) And then this morning, we didn’t have ANY water, hot or cold, though the cold water came back on by midday.

Anyway, I do feel better this afternoon, so the doctor was right. Nonetheless, from now on I will ALWAYS go to a private clinic. Period. Even if I have to go broke for the most minor of illnesses. And I look forward to Swedish medical care.