We found out we were going hiking in the woods and would need tick spray only once we got here. And I conveniently forgot sunscreen and my knee brace.
All of this added up to a trip to the pharmacy/apteka/аптека. Pharmacies in Russia/Eastern Europe are different than in the US. In the US everything is out on a shelf for you to look at/maybe go ask the pharmacist about it if you don’t just look it up on your phone. In Russia, everything is behind the counter (and you don’t necessarily need a RX either).
I asked my professor how to ask for a knee brace and she wrote it down for me. Our local contact had told us the word for “ticks” and I had looked up “sunscreen” (and came really close with “the thing that prevents sunburns” that one I knew would be tricky!).
However, I wasn’t expecting what happened to happen. Everything is more difficult in Russia, in part simply because you don’t know the language, and there is a large communication gap. Another part is cultural. And the third part is that US bureaucracy has NOTHING on Russian bureaucracy. NOTHING.
So I walk in and immediately see the sunscreen- SCORE. But the nice seller lady comes over to me and (presumably) asks if I need anything. I attempt to say “tick spray” from memory, but it’s not working. So I pull out my list of words and show it to her. She goes two steps over and pulls out OFF! brand spray and tells me it’s the only thing that works. It’s an itty-bitty can and costs like $10 (knew I should’ve of just brought some with me!). But hey, when you don’t really want to try out the Russian healthcare system, you buy $10 tick spray.
Then I point to the knee brace word. She walks me over to a wall of braces, and pulls like three for me to try on. None are the wrap around kind like I’ve been using post-surgery, but beggars can’t be choosers when they have an 18 km hike in a few days. So I try one on, and it fits and it happened to be the cheapest (like only $25 instead of $30, I mean come on guys, seriously!). But the poor seller lady keeps trying to ask me questions and I just keep smiling and not understanding. But she is persistent and keeps trying. We’re both laughing at this point about our mutual inability to understand each other when she asks if I need anything else (this in words I knew!).
Since I knew where the sunscreen was, but just needed to look at it, I go back over and pick up the SPF 50+. In the US, I usually get SPF 50 or even 80 if I know I will be outside a lot. But this SPF 50 specifically said “for children” which in my head meant it probably was good for movement and sweating. Considering the next highest was an SPF 30, I was planning on getting that one. But the seller lady had other ideas.
She (I assume, didn’t quite know the words) asked me “But don’t you want a tan?” while gesticulating over her stomach and arms. I trid to tell her was was “very white” and get “very red” but she still looked concerned over me picking the “for kids SPF 50” so she dragged me over to another seller lady and that lady said (in English), “but that one is for children.” I said “I know” and got weird looks.
The first seller lady then took me over to a different location and showed me fancy French Woman sunscreen that was SPF 50, but it was like $60 so I said no and that I would take the SPF 30 (mostly to get out of the store and I figured I could just reapply more often.
Still not quite sure why I couldn’t just buy the one for children….
See you around the globe!