This time of year, it seems that no matter where you are, people are talking about it. Hoarse voices from San Francisco to Moscow bemoan sleepless nights and aching joints. Waiting rooms in doctor’s offices from Nairobi to Buenos Aires swell with sniffling noses and scratchy throats. Just like your cities, Taipei was not able to escape it. It is… the crud. In some demented way, it is slightly comforting to know that we are all in the same boat suffering in the same way across the ocean. Chris’ tuberculosis-style hacking this morning confirmed that we are well on our way through round two of this nasty affliction. You see, working in a small school that houses children ages five to eighteen with their snotty noses and unwashed hands for eight hours in a day turns our work environment into some sort of ill-fated science experiment.
For round one, we were able to watch as kids and teachers fell victim to this illness and waited in quiet apprehension for our turn to come, and it did. It started with the coughing and then came the fever and chills. Having easy access to healthcare, I decided to drop in to the doctor’s office to see what he could tell me. All of the teachers go to the same doctor because he is a parent of one of our students. From the teddy bears and coloring books around the waiting room, I was able to deduce that he is, in fact, a pediatrician. So, feeling a bit like Gulliver in Lilliput, I waited my turn to see the good doctor. After a short time of poking, prodding, and measuring, it was proclaimed that I had an “injected and inframed throat” that were symptoms of the flu and tonsillitis. I went to check out when the person whom I had previously thought was the receptionist handed me an entire pharmacy worth of pills. I literally had six pills that I had to take three times a day. What were the pills that they gave me, you ask? I have no idea. They put them into handy little daily packets thus removing them from the original packaging and rendering them utterly unrecognizable to the untrained eye. Don’t worry, though, I was given an instruction sheet about my medication, but it was entirely in Chinese. I had an emergency pack of pills that I can only assume were horse tranquilizers that I was instructed to take if the first slough of drugs didn’t quite do the trick. And, here’s the kicker. Everything from start to finish including all the pharmaceuticals set us back all of three dollars. Not too shabby, I must say.
Having been healed from the first attack of sickness, we watched in fearful resignation as the horrible virus mutated into a form that was unrecognizable to our antibodies and the wave started again. So, here we find ourselves once again, though Chris is the one debating a visit to the doctor this time. To their credit, the Taiwanese do everything that they can to keep disease from spreading in the crowded city of Taipei. Doctor’s offices being numerous and inexpensive make it easy to get the medication you need, when you need it, keeping people like me from coming into work while hideously contagious. It is accepted practice to wear a medical mask when you are sick to help keep from breathing germ-infected air onto innocent bystanders. In fact, if you are on a bus, elevator, or subway and you cough without wearing such a mask, be prepared to get several stink-eyes shot at you from around the area. In addition to all of my drugs, the doctor instructed me to go to the local 7-eleven to purchase a medical mask as to not infect my co-workers and students. I can officially report, however, that Americans are not ready for the medical mask (though it makes a lot of sense) for when I followed doctor’s orders, I was teased relentlessly by my fellow teachers. To such taunts, I responded with a simple cough in their lunch and went on my way.
In conclusion, if I come home and wear a medical mask, be nice to me or else I might contaminate you with my injected and inframed throat.