Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pill Popping in Beijing

Oh, how the tides have turned. Somehow, halfway through my China travels, I picked up a nasty bug that had me writhing in pain with a 101 degree fever, body aches, and stomach pains. I'm still unsure whether it was eating that $1.50 lunch in a dive on the street with no electricity and the flies buzzing, or the intense heat exposure in Zhongdian at 9,000 feet above sea level, or just bad luck. Shepherd ate and journeyed everywhere I did and is fine, but then again, he did live here for most of his life.

Luckily, after losing a day to (miserable) air travel, and another day and a half to pure rest and eating nothing but crackers, water, Tums, and Ibuprofen, all of the symptoms are gone except the intense stomach pains and unsightly related stomach symptoms. This morning, we stopped by a drug store to buy some medicine, and after Shepherd explained the symptoms, they gave me some drug they claimed everyone in China takes and is best. Unfortunately, after a day of dosing, things didn't seem to be getting any better. I looked online (which, by the way, is getting quite trying with Wikipedia banned in China), and found the drug, Berberine Hydrochloride, to apparently be rather useless.

So, after 2 and a half days of unsuccessfully sleeping it off, I went back to the drug store tonight armed with a list of possible Western medications I found on the Internet -- the active ingredients in Immodium AD and Pepto Bismol, and three different antibiotics that could be used to kill whatever's in my system.

At this point, Shepherd was out getting dinner with a friend, so I went it alone... and when I got to the drug store the lights were off and they were closing up. I ran in and showed them my paper list and pleaded with them to help, at which point 20 minutes of me searching for English drug names on Chinese boxes and 4 women yelling in Chinese pursued. They'd drag me over to the Chinese medicine area, and I'd pull them back to the Western medicine. Finally, I found a box of Norfloxacin, and gave up on the rest of the list. The antibiotics cost me less than $1.50 US.

So alas, my trip to Beijing thus far has been less than stellar. Hopefully, I'll kick this tomorrow and venture out to Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City, and then the Great Wall Thursday.

On a lighter note, the trip from Lijiang to Zhongdian (before we flew to Beijing) was pretty sweet. We hitched a ride with a tour bus (all Chinese tourists) and made friends with a bunch of fun people. When we stopped to eat after visiting the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a few of them invited us to eat lunch with them, and then insisted on buying -- telling me "Welcome to China!" as we left the restaurant. It was a quite welcoming gesture. As for the geek in me, I noticed one girl on the bus had a Dopod (HTC) Chinese Windows Mobile phone which looked pretty slick, and when we exchanged contact information, they asked for my "MSN" (now "Windows Live") Messenger, and for my MySpace! That said, they said MSN is losing mindshare to QQ -- apparently a better service here. I googled for it and wanna read that first damn Wikipedia article, but alas, no Wikipedia for me!

Zhongdian itself was a bit lackluster. We visited an amazing Tibetan Buddhist template, but the commercialization of it dissapointed me. Outside the temple you get offered to take a picture on a sad-looking Chinese cow. After you buy your ticket and enter the wall around the template area, you're then offered to take pictures with brightly clothed kids and their pet dogs and lambs as you climb steeps stairs at 9,000 feet. Then, perhaps most annoyingly, when inside moving between rooms, you're told you must buy additional tickets. The truth of the matter is that I'm happy to donate the cost of all the tickets and additional donations (maybe $10 US total) or more to their temple, which I assume serves the community quite well, but being milked for money by kids who should instead be in school wasn't cool.

Anyhow, time to call it quits for the evening.

"Wan an" :-)

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