Long time no see, dear readers. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me. A few weeks back, I had a cold. Nothing major, I showed some movies in classes, or taught easy lessons. I cancelled just a few of my 9 classes a week, and managed to muddle through the rest. I tend to get sick in the beginning of the semester thanks to all the exposure to my germ-riddled students.
Then we had a week long holiday to celebrate China’s National Day. I started to feel better until midway through the week when my throat started hurting. For me, a sore throat is the first sign of getting sick. But I was just recovering from a cold, there was no way I could be getting another.
And while my runny nose was getting better my sore throat was only getting worse. When the pain woke me up in the middle of the night a few days later, I turned to the “world’s most trusted doctor” (aka Google) and looked up my symptoms. I think I had tonsilitis.
Even in America I avoid doctors, and in China more so. With most things my body can take care of itself with a little tylenol and R&R. But, according to the slew of websites I looked at, I would probably need antibiotics to clear up my throat problem. And I’d need a doctor for that.
So I grabbed a few students and headed to the school doctor. (Visits are free, medicine is half price.) I was expecting the dreaded throat culture exam (I’m a gagger) but instead she asked a few questions, looked in my mouth with a flashlight, and started blabbering to my students. She didn’t even check my swollen glands, or ears, or eyes. So I was kinda thinking I was okay, until one of my students said, “The doctor says it is kind of serious.” Gulp.
I walked away with 3 boxes of medicine, and no clear diagnosis because of translation problems. The two words my students could translate was “tonsils” and “festering.” I showed them the chinese for tonsillitis and asked if it was that. “No, something worse,” they answered. Then they just kept repeating the word “festering.” Lovely.
One box of medicine was bilingual and labeled antibiotic. The other box was clearly lozenges. But the third, in a green box with a shiny gold seal on the front, was a mystery. “What is this?” I asked my students. They thought about it for a minute and said “Kind of like the antibiotic.” I thought it was a little strange that I was taking two antibiotics, but I’m not the doctor.
I quarantined myself for the next 5 days, canceling all classes and refusing all dinner requests. Foreign teachers tend to spread their germs to one another over shared meals, so I stayed far away from them and ate at home. I didn’t want to be patient zero for the Great Festering Tonsil Outbreak of 2012. Then a friend from another city stopped by. He can speak chinese and I showed him my medicine. He looked at the green box and read the ingrediants.
“You know this says water buffalo horn don’t you?” No, no I did not.
While my chinese is improving, medical vocabulary is not anything I know. So I didn’t even try to read the box. Until I realized water buffalo horn was an ingredient.
So, with my poor translation skills I translated the rest of the package. These are the ingredients:
Gall Bladder Acid
Pig Gall Bladder Acid
Water Buffalo Horn
Yellow Phragmites Japonica Glycoside (a flower, I hope)
Gold and Silver Flowers
So what I had been led to believe was “like antibiotics” was actually full blown traditional chinese medicine. I dutifully finished off the box, and by the time that, and my antibiotics were done I was feeling better. Not tip-top, but better. In fact, I think my throat is my achilles heel and I have a feeling it will be sore until I finish the semester.
It’s my first time taking Chinese Traditional Medicine orally, and I survived! Seeing as I’ve been here for more than 3 years, I guess it’s about time.