Monday, October 13, 2014


This September, I experienced the most challenging month of teaching of my teaching career.  On September 1st, I returned to school and by September 3rd, I lost my voice.  After a month of doctor’s appointments, imported antibiotics, medical masks, Chinese medicines, teas, soups, and the support of my local and expat friends I finally got my full voice back on our October holiday in Thailand. 

Unfortunately, colds seem to stick with me for a long time over here.  Like many teachers over here, I only get two days of paid sick leave per semester so I’m in a position where I have to teach with no voice.   Fortunately, I learned some tricks from some of my local friends that helped me get through the month without taking a sick day.

Be proactive by getting the tools that will help you when you get sick while you are well.

As an edutainer, I have to sing on a daily basis.  If you are in a similar position, I would invest in a portable mic and speaker pack.  I bought it my first year of teaching, and now use it on a daily basis.  It has made it MUCH easier for kids to hear me.

The mic pack is a must have for all teachers.  You can find them at local fake markets for around 200RMB. 

Shanghai air quality is horrible, especially during the winter.  We finally went out and bought an air purifier for our bedroom. It has worked wonders!

We found our purifier at Carrefour.  I'd buy this purifier before the pollution and the price of the purifiers goes insane during the winter months.
Stock up on drugs before you leave your home country.

If you have a favorite western cold remedy stock up before you come over here.  I am a huge fan of Claritin-D, however I can’t find it in China.  It is a pain to get a large quantity of  pills in the US thanks to some meth cookers, but it is possible to get a year’s supply with a prescription from your doctor.  Fortunately, I was able to stock up at a pharmacy in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Most expats will appreciate that this is the best vacation souvenir ever!!
Don’t forget to stock up on stomach meds too.

Listen to the locals.  They have been through these super colds and know what works.

I am so incredibly blessed to have amazing colleagues who have given me so many different teas, OTC drugs, lozenges, and other goodies to help me feel better.  I was feeling so miserable that I actually explored the world of Chinese medicine for help.  Here are some of the things I tried.

Many of these remedies can be found in Chinese pharmacies.  To locate a pharmacy, look for the green cross.
Chinese throat lozenges taste horrible, but they work!!!  These can be found at any local Family Mart.

Some friends gave me very interesting looking teas.

One colleague gave me some dried bitter citrus fruit.  Apparently the bitterness causes a natural saliva overdrive.  Hypothetically if you put one of these under your tongue they work.  I tried one, thanked her, then excused myself.  It burned my mouth! 
This Thai nasal inhaler was a teacher appreciation gift from a kiddo whose mom is a teacher. It is is AMAZING!  If you are looking for a non addictive Afrin substitute, here is your drug.
One of my German friends recommended these lozenges.  When he said they tasted like mildew but cleared his laryngitis in two days I had to try them.
The pink pills tasted like a combination of mildew and watermelon, but they had a Chloraseptic like effect on the vocal cords.  I will never be without these magic pills in Shanghai. 
The magic pills also come in a magic spray form, but it tastes horrible!  This spray powder tastes like the love child of mold and chalk.  I do thank my Chinese teacher, Sophie, for thinking of me however.   
Chu, my manicurist/ aesthetician suggested these little round black balls. They did nothing for me, but by the time I tried them I had full blown tonsillitis. 

I received the strangest remedy from the PE teachers in my office,  They bought me a Chinese medicine/ chickpea/ mystery ingredient snow-cone.  Yum.

Drink your tea…and soup.

I always made fun of my Chinese colleagues who told me, “Drink some hot water.  Have a rest.” as a remedy for any ailment. They were right.  During this bug, hot tea, toddies, soup, and hot water helped lessen the pain. 

Twinnings Lemon Tea, Chris' spiced orange infused burbon, Equal and honey make an incredible hot toddy.  However, I do not encourage drinking too many of these unless you would like a vacation in the Betty.
I did keep a thermos/ glass of hot water with me.  It didn't cure the problem, but it lessened the symptoms.
I found these Chicken soup pouches made amazing lunches.

If you don’t feel better in 2-3 days go to the doctor.

If you are sick in China, you have a few options for getting medical attention.  If you would like to go the Eastern medicine route, many local hospitals have international wings with English Speaking doctors.  Since we have health insurance as part of our international package, Chris and I usually go to Parkway Health.  The doctors I visited speak English, and really listen to your needs.  Many of them have been trained or practiced medicine abroad so they understand what I am experiencing as an expat.  The best thing about Parkway is they have a pharmacy so you go in, get examined, get your meds, and go home.  I trust them with my health.

Get some rest.

My voice did finally come back during our October holiday in Thailand.  I hate to admit it, but I may have gotten better faster if I would’ve taken my two sick days to heal. (I insist on hoarding these days for times when uncontrollable liquids may spurt from my body.)  Oh, and fool’s advice, don’t go out on weekends.  Go to the local DVD store, stock up on shows, and hit the couch. 

In other words…drink some hot water, have a rest.