There is no better way to diminish the excitement of a new place than to get sick. Suddenly, the desire to try new foods, learn bits of the new language and meet new people disappears and all the comforts of home you were willing to live without for the sake of adventure become blatantly lacking. The sudden need for a comfortable bed, familiar brands of cold/flu relief, comfort foods, and a Western-style toilet is enough to induce homesickness in the strongest traveler.
And yet… getting sick can be a great opportunity to learn about the culture in your host country. (Admittedly, the enthusiasm for this is usually only felt, however, after good health has been restored and life goes back to normal.) Getting sick is a great time to learn of local remedies, such as the plant pictured below that several of Ligeia’s colleagues recommended for handling a sore throat. It was conveniently growing right in front of her work building! Ligeia chewed up some of the leaves (she was told you can also make this into a tea and drink it) and it was the MOST bitter, nasty-tasting thing she has ever eaten – but it did help cure the sore throat. Had we not gotten sick in Thailand we probably would have never learned of this.
This is also a good time to learn bits of the host language. Thanks to being sick we now know how to say “I am sick” and “I have a cold” in Thai, for example. In Germany, we discovered that you don’t ask for medicine for an ailment, you ask for medicine against it (kind of makes more sense to be honest). Ligeia also learned the word for urinary tract infection in German along with cranberry juice.
Thanks to getting sick we now know that in Germany you treat a UTI with “bladder tea”, in China you treat a cold with warm unseasoned rice and in other parts of Asia ginger is common in treating a cold, motion sickness and a slew of other things.
Other things such as the way a culture views illness in general take more time than the average cold lasts and requires lots of conversations. And so, if you can somehow get past the yucky feeling of being sick and see beyond the dark cloud that seems to accompany you for that period of time, there is an amazing world of opportunity. And this being said, should we welcome a cold or flu…you know for the sake of gaining knowledge? No, thanks!
Lots of love and stay tuned,
Mindy and Ligeia :):)