After the first month or so here, I kind of got over feeling nauseous or queasy at the sight of a dumpling or mushrooms (it’s not that they taste bad per se, but generally the conditions in which they are cooked cause stomach and digestion worries with foreigners) (I mean, I don’t care for them…but that’s just me). That was until yesterday evening. I got hit bad and I’ll spare you the gory details; Molly had just recovered from this flu when it blessed me with it’s presence. I was up every hour sprinting to the bathroom and spending the rest of the time sweating like crazy (quite impossible because it was snowing that night and they don’t really have heaters in this building…)
Aside: they don’t do bathtubs here. And sometimes when your body is aching at two o’clock in the morning from spasms of upheaval, you just want to relax and be washed over with warm water. there’s no way to contrive of such an action in these showers…
Suffice to say that I did not feel well enough to go to work this morning. Which inspired two problems: 1) Molly and I were unsure the protocol involved into “calling in sick” or telling people that I was too ill to be of any help that day. It seemed to us that it simply wasn’t a common practice. 2) What if they wanted to medicate us? I have Pepto, don’t worry, but that was flushed right back out of my system basically right after I took it.
Mom told us a story about a lady she knows in China who had a stomach illness once, and some friends of hers gave her a back massage and pricked all of the fingers on one of her hands and drained some blood. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be all for the back massage, but I wasn’t sure draining blood would slay a stomach bug.
Well, Molly told people I wasn’t functioning and, lo and behold, the kindergarten’s resident doctor came up to check on me (a translator was with her…as I wouldn’t have been able to answer any of her questions…maybe only do an awkward pantomime). After discerning the problem, she left, only to return with two plastic vials about the size of my thumb filled with a liquid that looked sort of like purple grape juice. They brought a heating pad, a piece of chocolate, and a cup.
It was “Chinese Medicine”. When I asked what was in it, I wasn’t given much of an answer. The vials were unmarked, even in Chinese, with directions or ingredients (although if they had been, I’m sure the translation would have gone the way of many Chinese/English translations we see around here…that is to say: useless and misleading). I was told that it would be very bitter. I would take the contents of one vial, eat a piece of chocolate, wait thirty minutes and then drink hot water. I would rest with the heating pad on my stomach and then take the second vial around lunch time.
Seemed innocent enough. So I took the first one, shot it straight to the back of my throat to be safe. BUT IT BURNED. It burned on the way down, it settled in my stomach, it felt like someone had lubbed a hot brick at my abdomen. Of course, those gathered laughed at my expression, gave me the chocolate, and left me alone. It tasted like ginger and some kind of alcohol. A lot of ginger. And very strong alcohol. And when they came back to make me take the second dose, I can’t say I was feeling much better (there was, regrettably, no chocolate the second time around).
But here I am, eight hours later, still feeling a little shaky. At least my stomach isn’t trying to flood my mouth in endearing intervals. Maybe the medicine worked, maybe it did nothing. Maybe it made me feel so awful that by the time my body adjusted and the effects wore off and I was back to feeling as marginally awful as I was before, I decided that maybe the pain wasn’t so bad afterall. At any rate, I’ll think twice before accepting “Chinese Medicine” again.