Monday, June 30, 2008

"Donde Esta La Farmacia?" By: Chris Wehkamp

We've been planning a trip to the nearby town of Samara ever since we heard that Sunday was a busy day in town for the locals. The prospect of mingling with the Ticos in their natural state intrigued us. 

And the pharmacy, too. 

We've been planning this trip to the pharmacy since before we were married, since before we were engaged. Sarah will tell anyone within earshot about her fantastic adventures with the Spanish farmacias, and I like cheap drugs and stories about cheap drugs. 

An hour of bumpy "roads" later, and we plopped out onto the main street of Samara. 

Samara was busy by CR standards; locals whizzed past on their dirtbikes and scooters. But we still have yet to encounter a stoplight. 

We feigned interest in shopping at the many tourist shops lining the road, but after ten minutes we were headed to the pharmacy, buzzing excitedly about the bounty that awaited us. 

The shop was small and shyly tended by an equally small Tico woman named Maura. Sarah began to reel off in confident Spanish our desired elixers. I waited expectantly for cheap drugs to magically summon forth. 

But Maura was onto us. First she pretended not to know what hydrocodone was, then she offered us the equivalent of extra strength Ibuprofen instead. When I balked, she offered to get us an appointment with the local doctor so that we could be issued the required prescription. 


"Listen, Maura was it?" I wanted to say with sly smile, "We both know what's going on here, don't we? We're the excited gringos who want to exploit your health care system and you're the clerk who's going to pretend like you don't know the deal." 

Instead, we retreated like the determined scholars we are to the internet cafe, the better to learn the name for Costa Rican hydrocodone. 

But when we returned to Maura minutes later, she didn't have the Costa Rican name for hydrocodone either. Then she called the doctor and handed me the phone.

"Um, hello?"

"What drugs do you need?" he asked me in perfect English.

"Well, just some basics really. Hydrocodone, valium, xanax."

"And what are these drugs for?" The very worst question he could have possibly asked. And in such a skeptical tone. 

"Oh, they're for me. I'd like to purchase these cheap drugs and then eat them some Saturday night so that I might feel funny," didn't sound like the right thing to say, even though it was the truth. 

So instead I said, "For pain." It was as ambiguous a response as 
I could muster at the moment. 

The good doctor thought for a moment and then offered that naproxen was available without a prescription and it would work just as well. I eagerly thanked him and asked Maura to ring us up a box of naproxen. 

Of course, after we checked naproxen online a few moments later, we learned that it goes by another name in the states; Aleve. 

Our third visit to the pharmacy was just pathetic. Maura took back the box of naproxen, but would only give us store credit. Sarah bought another six months of cheap birth control pills and with the remaining money purchased three rolls of fruit mentos and a melted chocolate bar. 

It was a debacle, if ever there was one. But I consoled myself with a fantastic lunch of casado con pollo at a local restaurant and we made the trip back to the resort.

Sunday evening was much the same as Saturday evening, but more so. We saw the heaviest rains yet and shuttered ourselves away cocoon-like in our cabana for the night. 

Hey, pizza and a movie in paradise is still pretty okay. Even without cheap drugs.          




  1. The error was asking for hydro. Not for Hispanics. Go for the other stuff. Another good deal is Soma (Somacid--I believe that's the Spanish spelling) Muscle relaxant.