I can't believe how emo/hipster that title sounds. Maybe it's the pumpkin spice latte I'm drinking (first in 3 years!) or the autumn playlist I'm streaming that's filled with City and Colour and the Paper Kites (no offence to either of those bands, they're fantastic) but it's what I'm feeling. I like to keep it real. So allow me to indulge for a paragraph (or two).
I've been sick for the past few days. I never get sick. Except for a week in Mongolia (maybe I need another hike up a sand dune to break my fever). As I woke up the other day, still sick with no desire to do the work I needed to do, I thought of what I needed to heal. What are the home remedies, the hot bowl of mom's chicken noodle soup that cures all? What I did in Korea was walk across the street to the mart, get a cup of Shin Ramyeon (spicy ramen noodles), a Vitamin C drink and some of those Vita-C tablets and perhaps head to a little herbalist pharmacy, always so close by or around the corner from where I worked or lived. And mmm, persimmon tea. Or perhaps just a hot matcha latte from one of my many favourite kopi rangs (coffee shops). Sophia's Kale Smoothie from Jack and the Beanstalk.
All those things used to help me. I found them and they worked and all I needed to do was walk across the street and fork over a few thousand wons (a few dollars) of my teacher's salary to do so. I didn't go and order anything from international herbal shops like iHerb and try to replicate exactly what I would eat at home (it didn't work, anyway). It's way too complicated in Korea to go hunting for North American foods without a Costco card, so because I was broke I just went local. After a while of being away for the first, second and third time I started to learn about the other over the counter medicines around the world that worked for me. ENO for a sore stomach. Ginseng. All kinds of things. They were effective and I never remember whining much about how things were so "weird" and that I just needed some comfort food from home. I found my own comfort, and now that I'm back "home" (for a little bit) my comfort for my cold can't be found, and I think this little flu will be lingering for a while. On top of waking up a little sick, I also woke up feeling a little powerless. Staying at my parents in the suburbs I was a drive away from a pharmacy or about a 15 minute walk to one. And it's a pharmacy with meds where even though I can actually read the label, I have little idea of what they will do to me. Then it's another 20 minute walk to get any sort of food. I didn't feel like doing that in the fall breeze. And that's not even thinking about the health food shop that's miles away. I like being self-sufficient, and there's something defeating when you're 32 and you have to ask, "Daddy, can you go to the store and get me some Cold FX?"
So with the phlegm growing and the slight fever relentless, I've decided, after much investigation and study (a.k.a travel/living abroad/working hard in other countries/life) that I'm allergic to cold air, and not immune to Canadian germs. Maybe it's because I was too protected as a kid. I used to have constant colds all winter (and sometimes summer) when growing up and throughout University. I just thought I was lazy and weak. It was probably my diet. It was probably a lot of things. "Maybe you need a steak", they said. "You need to go to the doctor", they said. While health care is free(ish) for people who reside here with a medicare card, they have to wait hours and hours in emergency or walk-in clinics to get seen by a doctor if they don't have the privilege of having a private physician. You hear me, my middle-class Canadian peeps?
Then, like magic, I started to travel. It started with a few weeks there, a few months somewhere else. Then a year, or two. People talk about travellers clinics and getting vaccinated when going to these "foreign lands" and all this diarrhea you'll inevitably get the moment your feet touch down to paradise. I was always fine. I'm always fine. Two summer ago I spent over three months in South East Asia and I've never eaten so well and digest so fully (especially the week I spent at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, where we were served a vegan buffet three meals a day). Don't get me started on how full your hair gets when it breathes that incomparable South East Asia balmy air.
Even if it's for a short weekend away when I lived in Busan. I spent about three years overall in the (dynamic) city of Busan in South Korea. I worked at three different schools overall, and it was a way for me to learn more about myself, meet people I never would have met, discover that I was a teacher, learn how to deal in any type of quirky work environment. The list goes on. And I've never taken a sick day. Maybe once or twice a year I'd have a horrible day with a stomach bug, but it would swiftly pass with the help of my sweet students who'd keep their calm and distance for a class or two, while Jennifer Teacher tried not to pass out on the floor.
I usually stayed put while living in Busan and saved my money for travel after I finished a teaching contract, but sometimes I'd escape for a weekend or two; to China, Jeju, or Taipei. Cuisines and air would change, but I adapted quick. I moved to Beijing and started life full-on. Getting jobs, apartments, fighting the traffic with a mix of the decades old Beijing buses and sleek subway cars for 2 kuai a piece (25 cents). I was tired, but fine.
Last night, in my fevered daze, I wrote a little blurb that was supposed to be this blog post and mainly on the topic of re-patriation. I'll have a better and clearer article on the pains of re-patriation in another post.
Here's the thing: Many of you people who've spent significant time somewhere else know that it is sometimes harder to "return" than to "leave". Sounds weird, right? Should we begin opening clinics for those people coming home after a brief or not-so brief stint away? Do we all need to be quarantined? Or do we just need some spicy chillies, hot ramen noodle soup and a breath of exotic air?