Weeklyish Challengey Thingie: Don’t Die

April 12, 2012

I’m sick, guys.

I don’t mean to be dramatic or anything, but I think China is finally going to kill me this time.

(Okay, so maybe I do mean to be just the teensiest bit dramatic. I mean, have you met me? When am I not trying to be dramatic? Besides, I’m sick. This gives me, like, a total free pass to be as dramatic as I want, okay?)

It all started this past Sunday when I woke up with a headache and a sore throat. I wasn’t that concerned at first. I had gone out the night before with a friend, and we had ended up in a dance club that happened to be blaring Chinese pop music from the sound system and America’s Funniest Home Videos on the huge video screens above the dance floor. So, I mean, that was definitely reason enough for the headache. And the club was really smoky and, okay, maybe I saw fit to sing along a bit even though I don’t really know any Chinese pop music. So, yeah, that explained the sore throat.

But by Monday, I was a phlegmy, woozy, coughy, sneezy mess.

Sure, this may just sound like the common cold to you.

But, I assure you, there is nothing common about getting a cold in China. The past two times I’ve come down with a cold, it’s resulted in a lingering lung infection — the kind of lung infection that afflicts turn of the century orphans and coal miners. You know, the kind that doesn’t go away for two months. And, even then, you suspect it’s not totally gone. It’s just lurking in your body waiting to kill you after a raucous night at the Chinese dance club.

So, yeah, if you don’t hear from me in a week or so, it’s probably because I’ve finally succumbed to Black Lung or the Plague or whatever old timey disease China has been trying to kill me off with for the past year.

In case I do die, I would like you all to remember me like this:

PPF: Pink Pleather Forever. (I'm getting that engraved on my tombstone.)

And not like this:

I know it's going to be hard, but you're going to have to erase this image from your head, okay?

I don’t understand it, really.

I’ve been doing everything I can to stay healthy this year.

I’ve been stuffing myself full of fruit everyday. Okay, so, yeah, most of that fruit has been served on top of pancakes with a side of bacon.

Contains your daily intake of Vitamin C... and pork.

I’ve been working out – like at the gym and everything.

I’ve been drinking tons of fluids. So, okay, a lot of those fluids have been alcohol. But, I think we can all agree, that if your drinks are made out of ingredients you can’t pronounce and look like this, then they’re pretty much the same thing as a smoothie:

Just missing some protein powder, really.

Besides, when I was in Qingdao last week, the Tsingtao Beer Museum informed me that beer is considered a health food.

Drink your beer, people. It's good for you.

And, according to the Qingdao Wine Museum, wine is pretty much the answer to any and all health woes.

I am still waiting for the "weight reducing function" to kick in. How many bottles do I need to drink before that happens?

My little health kick has been working out really well so far. I’m able to run for a full hour without wheezing to death. I noticed some muscles in my upper arm the other day. I’ve been so full of positive energy that a few of my friends have threatened to slap me. And I didn’t get sick once this winter.

And it was a really long, cold winter. If I was going to get sick anytime this year, it would have been this winter.  

This winter was so bad that it made me do a few things I’m not entirely proud of. Like I bought a pair of Ugg-like boots. And wore them. In public. On several occasions.

China, you made me do this.

Mind you, the big problem this winter was not the temperature outside but the temperature inside. You see, I live in a big, drafty concrete building, which does not have any insulation or central heating. It’s been about as cozy as a parking garage in here. Except without the nice toasty exhaust fumes to keep me warm.

It hasn’t helped that my heater has been on the fritz pretty much all winter. I resorted to carrying my own personal heater around with me all the time.

My little pal, Heatie McHeaterstein III

And then a month or so ago, I noticed it was giving off this weird smell like it was melting. Because, well, it was melting. At that point I probably should have stopped using it, but I was cold. Like, really, really cold. Besides, I figured that a little electrical fire in my apartment would really help warm things up nicely.

Mind you, it’s not just my delicate, central-heating-spoiled foreigner self who has suffered this winter. In January, I asked one of my students where he would travel to if he could go anywhere, and he answered Russia. When I asked him why, he responded because they have central heating there. “When you go inside, you feel warm,” he said with such wonder in his voice.

Yes, this winter was that bad.

So bad that you actually entertain the thought of moving to Russia so you can get warm.

But in the past month, spring has finally sprung.

The birds have been singing.

The cherry blossoms have been blossoming and sending tiny white petals all over the sidewalks like confetti.

Wahoo! Spring!

Everyone’s shrugged off the big, puffy, winter parkas they’ve been wearing for months to don their springtime finery – which in China means lots of lace, bows, sparkles and, of course, leopard print. Even for the men.

Nothing says "day at the beach" like leopard print and your favorite man-purse!

And it’s not just the people. The dogs are also decked out in their seasonal best.

On her way to her own personal fashion show, for sure.

I momentarily stopped wearing scarves all the time. Even though I love wearing scarves all the time. I feel nothing fancies up a boring outfit like a nice scarf. Plus, I like to think scarves make me look sophisticated and European-like.

Scarf at the beach. I'm practically French.

I can’t believe I made it through the worst of the winter without so much as a sniffle only to get sick now. I mean, I don’t think I would have minded dying so much back when I couldn’t feel my toes. But now it just seems extra mean of China to try to kill me off when the weather’s been so nice.

But, I’m not going down without a fight, China. You hear me?

I’ve been stuffing myself full of oranges and Vitamin C.

I made a pot of chicken soup the size of Kansas.

I’ve pulled out the hardcore green tea – the kind that looks like twigs. Because, you know, the more your tea looks like nature, the more antioxidants it’s got in it, I’m sure of it.

Mmm... twigs.

Now, just to stock up on some beer and wine. And some margaritas. Because, hey, even if it doesn’t help me kick this cold, at least I’ll die happy.

What’s your secret remedy for battling the common cold?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On April 12, 2012 at 4:06 am Valerie Hamer said:

    You can’t die, how would I get through the week without your charmingly eccentric wit?

    Twig tea looks good, how does it taste?

    • On April 12, 2012 at 4:47 am Sally said:

      Okay, I’ll really try not to die. If only because I feel China has a few more dumplings out there ready for me to taste!
      The twig tea is really good. It’s unexpectedly sweet and tastes so much better than the Lipton tea bags I usually use. I’m a total convert.

  2. On April 12, 2012 at 6:21 am Cherszy said:

    You won’t die Sally. Your powers are way powerful than whatever virus or disease China is inflicting you with. You’ll get out of that sooner than you think you would. Just drown yourself with those teas. And besides, you can’t die. Your unicorns can’t lose their mama. Just imagine what will happen to their sense of direction and their magical rainbow training – it’ll all fall apart and there will be chaos in Unicornland and you’ll be responsible for that. Uh-oh! I know you won’t let that happen, so you’ll have to fight your “disease” for the sake of your baby unicorns and for the sake of keeping your very interesting blog alive. 🙂

    Get well soon, Sally! Virtually sending you lots of hot tea and Chinese herbal medicines.
    Cherszy recently posted..Are You Ready for Season 11′s Top 13?

  3. On April 12, 2012 at 10:48 am Waegook Tom said:

    Are you sure that’s a man in the photo?! Also, the dog definitely pulls off the leopard print better than he/she does. Double also – I want the man/woman’s coat.

    I think your blog must be slipping into my subconscious. I had green tea for the first time in like forever today. No twigs in it, though.
    Waegook Tom recently posted..An Interview with Breakaway Backpacker

    • On April 12, 2012 at 11:22 am Sally said:

      Seriously? Do you think I didn’t stare at the man for 10 minutes trying to figure out if he was a he or she. Gah! Why must you always doubt me? First the Power Ranger now this… really, Tom, what did I ever do to make you think I have such faulty judgment? Wait. Don’t answer that.

  4. On April 12, 2012 at 11:15 am Idun said:

    Of course you should be dramatic, being sick is so much worse if you can’t be properly dramatic about it now and then 😉
    Also, vitamin C is my “cure” for cold as well, and at the moment also a fancy German-tea-like-thingie my flatmate has.
    Idun recently posted..Sunburns in Scotland..in March!

    • On April 12, 2012 at 11:21 am Sally said:

      What is this fancy German-tea-like-thingie you’re talking about? I think I need it!

      • On April 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm Idun said:

        Exactly what it is is a very good question. I don’t actually know, but it’s this powder you mix with hot water, and then it tastes tea-like, even though it might not actually be tea. According to google translate it’s apparently elderberries in it…whatever it is, it seems to help with cold and it tastes good, so it’s pretty great^^
        Idun recently posted..Sunburns in Scotland..in March!

  5. On April 12, 2012 at 11:49 am Kevin - The Mad Traveler said:

    Have you SEEN Contagion??? Er… never mind.

    So this is great news! Now when you begin coughing up loogies you can just spit them on the sidewalk and/or shoes of passersby. And that completes your Chinese cultural experience, folks. Please leave your Chuggs (Chinese uggs, right?) at the exit along with all your RMB, because what you have is exactly what the fee is to exchange it. Have a nice day.
    Kevin – The Mad Traveler recently posted..Travel Photo of the Week: Semana Santa in Copper Canyon, Mexico

  6. On April 12, 2012 at 11:53 am Sid said:

    I was looking at a menu of a Chinese restaurant in Cape Town. And right under the vegetarian options they listed “minced pork” …

    Anyway, just thought of that when you said, “Okay, so, yeah, most of that fruit has been served on top of pancakes with a side of bacon.”
    Sid recently posted..Rhodes Memorial

  7. On April 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm Carmel said:

    Hmm…I see that wine promotes urination function. That seems true. But the more I drink, the harder it is to lose weight. They couldn’t mean in moderation, could they?? I mean, I want to increase my urination function too. I can’t have both.
    Carmel recently posted..Pancetta and Asparagus Fritatta

  8. On April 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm Brent said:

    My cold remedy is a ginseng extract, but since you’re in China why not go right to the source and pick up some ginseng at your neighborhood herb store? Could be a fun & blogworthy weekly challengey thingie.

    P.S. love your blog and hope you’re feeling better soon.

    • On April 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm Sally said:

      Oh, ginseng. That’s a good idea. Although, frankly, the Chinese herbal stores totally freak me out. I could end up buying anything — powdered deer antlers, dried frog penis, sea cucumbers. Have you seen sea cucumbers? I really don’t want those anywhere near me. But, you do have a good point… it WOULD make for a good blog post.

  9. On April 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm Melanie said:

    “I figured that a little electrical fire in my apartment would really help warm things up nicely.”

    Sally, your posts are like a lightning bolt of inspiration. I have spent all winter freezing my ass of in America (lovely Washington State is like the only place in the USA that HASN’T had record high temps this spring). I think a nice electrical fire would probably help defrost my toes. If it wasn’t so damp I would suggest a forest fire…

    Feel better soon! I bet spiking that twiggy green tea with gin will help get you over the hump.
    Melanie recently posted..my travel inspiration

  10. On April 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly said:

    That’s totally what you get for trying to exercise. Muscles in your upper arm? Really?

    My preferred method of staving off the common cold is to eat everything (especially the fried stuff), don’t exercise, stay up late and slowly back away from anything with twigs. You’ll soon develop an extra layer of fat that is impermeable to the common cold virus.

    Plus, it’ll help keep you warm through all those winter months. Your Chinese student? Adorable. Your melted heater that totally looks like it has its own smiley face (c’mon, look at the picture again, people! It even has Asian eyes…). Even more adorable.

    Take care. If you die, who will insert the pink pleather picture into every blog post?

    j/k. Wishing you a speedy recovery. I hear Black Lung is TOTALLY curable these days…
    James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly recently posted..Home, Sweet, Home Chi Minh City

    • On April 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm Sally said:

      Yes, that must have been what happened. All that working out has hurt my cold-fighting fat shield. How silly I was! And after spending all that time eating dumplings to build it up… stupid, stupid me. I think I should probably go eat more dumplings.
      And my heater was really adorable… until it started to melt. Now it just looks really sad… and kind of lumpy.

  11. On April 13, 2012 at 2:40 am Ruth said:

    I’ve been reading your blog for, ohhhhh, a while now and it takes me back…to 1999-2000 in Changsha(the left armpit of China) and 2000-2001 in Kunming (why is it every person has to tell me that it’s The Sprng City???) then 2002-2006 in Guangzhou(or Canton as many folks insist)

    Thank you for making it all so effing funny…I know there are times when you just want to run away from home, but I’m glad you’re there!

    Hope you start tomfeel better soon. Resist the traditional Chinese meds…they are incredibly nasty tasting. My sickie remedies start with chicken soup and loads of garlic. Getting more rest, vitamin C and zinc supplements work well, too. And good old hot water, lemon juice, lots of honey and a hefty shot of whiskey in there will help you to sleep, soothe your sore throat, give you vitamin C and fluids all in one!

    The website above are my husband’s photos. Feel free to browse

    • On April 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm Sally said:

      Oh, they plied me with traditional meds at the health clinic on campus the first time I got sick. They gave me some kind of little pellets I had to swallow to control my “hot wind.” And then there was this cough syrup (which tasted good but didn’t do anything). The worst was this brick of brown stuff which was supposed to be some kind of throat lozenge. It was so foul tasting I wanted to rip out my tongue. Gah! After a couple days of that stuff, I went back to the clinic and demanded they hook me up with some good old fashioned penicillin!
      Thanks for reading the blog! Glad you’re enjoying it… and hope it’s bringing back only happy memories of China. 🙂

  12. On April 13, 2012 at 5:44 am Andrea said:

    I love your writing! You are so funny…this line is my favorite:

    “This winter was so bad that it made me do a few things I’m not entirely proud of. Like I bought a pair of Ugg-like boots. And wore them. In public. On several occasions.”

    I’m in Korea, and I did the same thing. Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone in your fashion faux-pas! It’s just too freaking cold here…I guess I’m lucky that my fashion sense is the only thing that died in those arctic winds.
    Andrea recently posted..My Love Affair with Roma

    • On April 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm Sally said:

      One great thing about China is that no one really cares what you wear! I was really tempted this winter to walk around in the big padded pajamas like all the locals — they looked so comfy and warm! And I’m sure they would have matched my Uggs perfectly!

      • On April 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm Mira @ NingboNights said:

        My toes wouldn’t have survived the winter without Uggs! And taping up draughty windows with duct tape.
        I wanted to buy His n Hers padded PJs for my boyfriend and I for Xmas, unfortunately he does not share our enthusiasm for them, weird.
        Mira @ NingboNights recently posted..I Heart the Internet.

        • On April 14, 2012 at 6:36 am Sally said:

          I was super happy I had those Uggs when I was in Harbin (and I almost didn’t have them — by chance I found them in Carrefour right before my trip). I don’t think I’d still have feet if I hadn’t had them with me. My friends were wearing much more fashiony boots and they were dying. But, lucky for me, my feet were the only things NOT frozen that weekend!

  13. On April 13, 2012 at 10:26 am Ayngelina said:

    The most important question – what is bacon like in China?
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: My first meal in Maui

    • On April 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm Sally said:

      Wow. I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to ask that! 🙂 You can get all kinds of bacon here — ranging from your crispy American-style bacon to more hammy Canadian-style bacon. You can even get something called “Value Bacon” (I haven’t tried it… I feel bacon is worth the splurge). I usually go with Hormel which is pretty similar to the stuff back home. In other words, it’s GOOD. If there’s one thing China does well — it’s pork!

  14. On April 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm Daisy said:

    I’m so sorry to hear that you are sick! I hope by the time you see this comment, you are feeling a little bit better despite the lack of central heating.

    My favorite thing when I’m sick (which sounds odd to say since I would most obviously prefer not to be sick) is actually that Chinese Herbal Soup made with Black Chickens. When I was a kid, I thought it was so gross, but like coffee and hard liquor, I have come to really appreciate it.

    I would not recommend you try to heal yourself through most Chinese herbal remedies (as my father would say, “You seriously think you are going to get over that whooping cough by drinking steeped donkey skin and kumquats?! Just take an antibiotic for crissake!”), but the soup feels good.
    Daisy recently posted..Young, Green Garlic Knots with Parmesan and Marinara Sauce

    • On April 14, 2012 at 6:35 am Sally said:

      I’ve seen the black chicken but not this herbal soup you’re talking about. I think I need to investigate! The last time I had chicken soup in China there were big feet floating in it so I haven’t been super eager to try it again… but I have always wanted to try the black chicken.

  15. On April 14, 2012 at 3:45 am Priya said:

    Listen you Pink-Pleather-Forever-Ugg-Wearing-Foreigner, you can’t let China win! you must fight the power sister!
    Priya recently posted..What I’ve Been Doing With My Life Since My Last Blog Post/ Almost Getting Evicted

  16. On April 15, 2012 at 11:32 am Laura said:

    I lived in China for 2 years and hated being sick there. In Germany I never get a cough, but in china they just wouldn´t go away! It is the smog, so don´t blame yourself;) Here a few things I´ve learnt: drink ginger tea instead of green tea (that´s cooling,ginger is warming); don´t eat “cool food” (every chinese person can tell you a melon has cooling quality, while a mango has not…:)); and being sick is a good opportunity to do nice and affordable (cause in china) treatments like foot massage (there is a cold-acupressure point for sure), or jade-stone massage etc… get well soon!

    • On April 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm Sally said:

      Thanks for the tip on ginger tea. I love ginger & sometimes just put chunks of it in my regular tea, but I didn’t know that it helped with colds. That whole “warming” versus “cooling” foods thing is so mystifying to me.

  17. On April 16, 2012 at 4:24 am choi kum fook said:

    You have been struck by it (cool)almost once every year.It should be common cool due to the sudden changing of weather, as I think from experience,not fully confident because I am not a Doctor. Ha.Ha. Try to drink some ginger water and take a rest at the moment. Avoid beer and wine for time being, sleep a bit early at night. At last, you may consult a Chinese physician for the solution if it doesn’t improve. Miss Sally, You shouldn’t die, I still want to read your blog and give you full support! Take care of Yourself! Miss Sally! Good luck!

  18. On April 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    OMG go see an Chinese Medicine Doctor!!!!!! You’re surrounded by the best of the best. You’ll be better with some acupuncture and herbs in no time dear.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..My Wedding & Honeymoon: Day 21

    • On April 17, 2012 at 2:22 am Sally said:

      I’ve taken Chinese medicine before but haven’t had very good results (or really ANY results). I think I would need someone like you around to explain everything to me!

  19. On April 17, 2012 at 4:23 am Spencer said:

    My cold remedy is hot, lemon, honey, ginger and cardamon pods. Bring to the boil, strain and drink. It is amazing how much better you soon feel.
    Spencer recently posted..Ten Top Hotels in Copenhagen

  20. On April 20, 2012 at 4:04 am Ceri said:

    Awwwww, hunni. Hope you feel better soon.

    I do have to say that I know exactly how you feel, though. I used to not really care if I caught a cold or not but since I moved to Mexico City, I live in fear of catching so much as a cough because it takes about FIVE times longer to recover as normal because the air here’s so ridiculously crap. 😛 Also, explaining to my students what central heating is was an interesting lesson. Winter here was that cold too because all the buildings here are reaaaallllly old and freezing all the time. 😛
    Ceri recently posted..Why Americans Never Leave the States

    • On April 20, 2012 at 4:40 am Sally said:

      Wow, I never would have thought Mexico would be that cold in the winter, but I guess that makes sense. Even though it’s not that cold outside here in the winter (at least not compared to where I grew up in the States), it’s freezing inside because of the building structures. It’s usually much colder inside than out.

  21. On April 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm Nicole Delacroix said:

    My cold remedy is to take a hot shower. Sometimes it’s the last thing you feel like doing but I always feel better after.

    • On April 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm Sally said:

      I’ll keep that in mind next time! I’ve heard you can some kind of mentholated thing that you can throw in the shower & it mixes with the steam & clears all your sinuses. Have you ever heard of that?

  22. On April 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm Mumun said:

    I ‘like’ it. *for the sake of unicorns getting wings :))


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