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Culture Shock: How I proved I was no medical threat

The first Slovak I ever met handed me a sample jar with the instructions, "put in it your excrement... you understand me? tomorrow you will have medical".
I didn't mind, but how was I going to explain to the nurses that during the 24-hour London to Bratislava coach journey I'd eaten nothing but muesli style crunch bars, and so whatever I could produce would be in no way representative of my general standard of stool?
This charming lady was the boss of the language school that had lured me to this far away country of which I knew nothing. We were outside the Dom Odborov, on Bratislava's Trnavské Myto, sitting amongst our luggage where I was able to begin compiling entries for my list of top 5, all time, brutal architectural crimes. A list which currently stands as:


Kramáre Hospital in Bratislava. Foreigners freshly arrived in the country are often surprised by the medical examinations given by Slovak doctors.
photo: Ján Svrček

The first Slovak I ever met handed me a sample jar with the instructions, "put in it your excrement... you understand me? tomorrow you will have medical".

I didn't mind, but how was I going to explain to the nurses that during the 24-hour London to Bratislava coach journey I'd eaten nothing but muesli style crunch bars, and so whatever I could produce would be in no way representative of my general standard of stool?

This charming lady was the boss of the language school that had lured me to this far away country of which I knew nothing. We were outside the Dom Odborov, on Bratislava's Trnavské Myto, sitting amongst our luggage where I was able to begin compiling entries for my list of top 5, all time, brutal architectural crimes. A list which currently stands as:

1. Nový Most in Bratislava - old town clefting, Jewish quarter obliterating, Star Trek traffic monster.

2. Poprad train station - I used to have a friend who couldn't let mention of Poprad pass without nodding knowingly and sagely declaring it "Gateway to the High Tatras". But what a gateway, ouch. Still, it must have given rival Olympic delegations from Lillehammer to Nagano much pleasure.

3. Petržalka - This model socialist suburb has its fans, I know, but try getting up there on a rain lashed Tuesday morning, dodging dog droppings on the way to the bus stop, fighting for a place, and then still feeling good about the world. Heroically grim.

4. Trnava - Just for trying to get away with that "Slovak Rome" tag.

5. Trnavské Myto - Another truly anti-human space.

But there we were, Elena, the jar, and me not more than 3 hours in the country. I must have looked unsure. "You fill with faeces, understand?" she clarified. Edita runs an English language school branch in Bratislava. Her colleague, Mrs. Víglašská from the Žiar nad Hronom branch (near Banská Bystrica), must have liked the look of me, as she claimed me for her school, whisked me off into the evening and before long I was gratefully tucking in to my first Slovak meal of fried cheese and beer.

Late that Sunday I was dropped off at my new flat in Žiar and decided it was time to check out my locale and see how drunk I could get with my 200 crowns ($4). With a pint costing just 10 crowns, I was delighted to find I had comfortably more money than I could want to drink the night away before a medical examination. The volume I consumed also helped me squeeze something out for the sample jar the next morning as we set off for Martin Hospital.

The nurse came into the waiting room and began speaking to Mrs. Víglašská. I was able to make out the odd word such as "anglicky", before she approached me offering a vaguely medical looking lollipop stick. I gave a quizzical look.

"You wipe your buttock", she explained. 'Here we go again', I thought, 'these people are really obsessed with the contents of my arse'. She showed me to a toilet cubicle where an illustration helpfully showed a body, legs akimbo with an arrow from a stick to a 'rectum'. Clearly I should do more than merely 'wipe buttock', but I was unenthusiastic about the chore at hand, so I settled for a gentle tickle of the area.

After that fun, followed by blood tests and x-rays, I was declared to be no biological threat to the Slovak nation. The only puzzling thing was why anyone hadn't asked for my stool jar? Trying to get rid of it before the drive back to Žiar I found the Gents, which was engaged. "Moment" shouted the occupant as I tried the door. "OK, no hurry, I'll leave it here", and I left it by the door, which I suppose must have struck him as odd when he left.

David Keys is a 31 year-old Englishman who has been living in Slovakia since 1995. He currently works at the British Council in Bratislava as an English teacher.

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