Although we ended up having a fabulous time in the US, it's safe to say that America and I did not get off on the right foot this visit. You see, just about the moment we touched down at McCarran International Airport I realised I'd forgotten to pack my trusty pills - the daily ones that help regulate my pesky hormones and stop me getting pregnant. Oops.
If I was in Hong Kong or Thailand I'd just stroll to the nearest pharmacy (and there'd likely be one on the next street corner) and pick up a pack to tide me over. But I was in America, a place where reproductive health is a bit of a touchy topic at the moment (see also 'war on women').
Straight off the plane I did a quick Google to get the lay of the land (so to speak) and it left me fearing poking and prodding and testing. Chats with two different yet equally sceptical/unfriendly/judgemental concierges (both female) didn't make me feel any more comfortable with the whole situation.
After many dead ends I was finally referred to the hotel doctor, who berated me for - among other things - laughing on the phone (he clearly didn't think I was taking my reproductive health seriously enough). Did I mention I'd just gotten off a long haul flight? And hadn't eaten? And was possibly delirious?
Anyway, long story short, there was a knight in shining armour in the end. Or, more accurately, a Walgreens pharmicist in a lab coat. I may have cried. She may have been awesome. No! She WAS awesome. Another Google to find the active ingredients in my usual meds, a search of the shelves to find a match, a quick call to the grumpy doc to get the okay and voila! Crisis over.
The lesson - ladies, when you travel to America don't forget your pill. And, by the way, I noticed our hotel mini bar was well stocked with condoms. I know there are health issues associated with oral contraception so it's a bit more complicated but at the (emotionally fraught) time it did make me think - if you want control over your reproductive health, best not to have lady parts.
[Speaking of lady parts, if you're easily offended by naked lady bits don't try too hard to figure out what is lying on the immaculate Vegas lawn in the photo below...]
The lovely Walgreens pharmacist reaffirmed my faith in America - just when it seemed every man and his dog wanted to have a say in my life, she made me think that maybe it really is a society built around convenience, choice and freedom.
She also reaffirmed my love of Walgreens. I am obsessed with the place. I think I visited almost everyday. I bought five different mascaras, lingered longingly in the snack aisle and stocked up on all kinds of wonderful over-the-counter medication (Nyqil! Robitussin! The pretty blue one that helps me get over jet lag!). I realise this makes me sound like some kind of pill popping freak. I'm not, I promise. It's just that the strongest over-the-counter medicine you can get in Korea is a hangover cure that tastes like bee urine (or so I'm told), and this is after they've relaxed the regulations.
Other American things:
- At one of the Vegas bars where we were having a pre-dinner drink or three, there was a DJ who was Goldmember! Helmet hair, stilted dance moves and all. And he played Gotye. It was pretty great. (On second thoughts, it would have been even greater if he was actually wearing roller skates...)
- There are three main differences between a reasonably priced hotel room in Vegas and an outlandishly priced one: double glazing or lack thereof, the size of the bathroom, and the level of smoke stench. We had a reasonably priced one on this visit.
- Vegas is possibly the best place on earth to be jet lagged. Wide awake at 4 in the morning? Go say hi to the cleaners on the casino floor, grab a vodka and orange juice and maybe tuck into a plate of hotcakes (American breakfasts! Oh my!).
- I have a serious, serious mac 'n' cheese problem. I go weak at the knees anytime I see a bubbling mass of pasta with that gooey, creamy sauce. Y to the um.
- The outer fringes of Orlando suck. It's an un-walkable soulless wasteland with not even one token 'gator napping by the roadside to brighten things up. But the shopping is quite enjoyable. And did I mention the mac 'n' cheese? (Orlandians - please don't send hate mail. I'm sure there are nice bits. Somewhere.)