El albergue

El albergue

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to be sick in a foreign country

Gather round, everyone, and listen closely, because I am about to tell you exactly the best way in which you could be sick in a foreign country. 

First, steep yourself well in the atmosphere of an elementary school, taking care to breath in the delightful germs sprayed forth by miniature sneezes and coughs and to hold every sticky little hand that seeks to insinuate itself into your palm.  All those strains of disease foreign to your immune system are sure to quickly find the cracks in your defenses, their force magnified by the fact that they come at you in a unified front from their breeding grounds, the classroom.

Second, ignore the signs your body sends you that it is getting sick and go out at night.  Enjoy the fun of a late night tango class here, and drink with friends there. 

Now that the illness has already placed a fairly firm hold on your body, staking its claim with occasional feverishness, a soar throat, tiredness, and the like, go to the pharmacy and buy yourself some Frenadol.  What is Frenadol?  It’s a magic powder with a rather acrid flavor that comes in envelopes half the size of a post card that you dissolve into a glass of water and drink, or gag down in the case of my roommate.  Unfortunately for you, you have waited too long, and the formidable force that is Frenadol, although you do feel mildly better after the first dosage, does not prevail against the disease.

So you sort of give in for a day or two, vainly attempting with occasional bouts of violent coughing to rid yourself of that darn tickle at the back of your throat and helplessly surrendering your voice as a victim of war.  Then, all of a sudden, the motherly portera in your building (she’s the one who takes care of the building) realizes how poorly you are faring in this one-sided battle, and she comes to the rescue.  She rushes to prop up your limping immune system with some brisk orders – “Go to the doctor!”  She even helps you look up the closest place available through your insurance, ensuring that you will follow through with her command.

And so you go to the doctor, dragging along your friend so that they can sit with you in the waiting room, probably ensuring that they too will eventually become ill from the general aura of sickliness that prevails in the room.  Finally, you here your name called and can go in to see the doctor, a friendly man who patiently searches for as many synonyms as he can of words that you don’t quite understand so that you know what he’s asking you.  Then, with a diagnosis of laryngitis and a prescription for an antibiotic and heavy-duty ibuprofen in hand, you walk out the door, much better equipped than before for the battle ahead.

“Sickness, you are going down!”

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