My problem with the modern media of transportation is that they tend to rely heavily on air-conditioning. In principle there’s nothing wrong with it, but in practise I just seem not to adapt too well to it. When I have to travel for a longer time on an air-conditioned plane or train, as often as not I emerge with cute dry cough that inevitably transforms itself into a cold (I know the routine well by now…). The same thing happened on the train from Beijing to Xi’an and by the time I arrived, I knew that trouble was brewing.
For the time being, I just got on with the business of having fun. The day we arrived (me and my flatmate), our CS hostess Susy told us there was another traveller staying at her place that night. We arranged to meet him in one of the highlights of Xi’an nightlife – the Muslim Street. Yes, there is a Muslim Street in Xi’an – there’s a large population of Muslims in that area, sometimes they look Chinese, and sometimes they don’t. But they always make good food. My favourite stuff was the roujiabao, which is basically a kind of kebab/hamburger and very very tasty, and which I consumed with cloves of garlic to ward off the oncoming sickness. It didn’t work. But it tasted good (no pictures due to the fact that I was busy tucking in).
…until finally the Mysterious Traveller arrived and it turned out… he wasn’t that mysterious at all, being our third flatmate’s friend from Hangzhou… (face palm) Of course. And they say China is a big country.
Anyhow, joyful greetings over, we all set out to explore the goodness that is Chinese/Muslim street food:
In the end we chose to have a local speciality, which is a kind of broth with a lot of stuff in it (usually some meat of your choice, but not necessarily), which you eat with a sort of dryish bread that you need to shred into your bowl first. A very filling bowl of goodness…
Sadly, despite all my preventive measures, the evil bacteria were not going to give up and eventually I ended up coughing, with a sore throat and aching head, and all my arsenal of traditional Chinese syrups was simply not working – it wasn’t too bad, but I knew it would be if I was not well by the time I got on the next long-distance train to Chengdu.
This was where Susy stepped in, and blessed may she be for this. She took me to see a doctor who had a tiny little office in an alley right next to her apartment block. The doctor was about 80 years old, though he looked no more than 65, and had studied both Chinese and Western Medicine. He was very disappointed I couldn’t speak Russian (he could!), but also very impressed that I could speak Chinese. He advised me to marry a Chinese man and stay in China forever. When I reverted to my usual excuse – “oh, but my parents would be so unhappy to have me live so far from home!” – he told me to get them to move to China, because it’s a great place for old people. Okay, I kind of agree with him on this one, but I’m not sure if uprooting my folks to Asia would make them very happy (of course not that they would let themselves be uprooted). He then measured my pulse with his hand and looked into my throat and told me to stop taking most of the stuff I had been recommended at the pharmacy, and when I told him about the dreaded train journey, he just said: “not to worry, we’ll have you up and running by tomorrow”. Whereupon he opened a drawer full of little slots and started measuring out my medicine, to be taken three times a day for the next three days. This is what I got:
Fyi, this is just one dose (about 15 pills of about 5 different kinds). He then charged me 100 yuan for the whole visit and the medicines, and just as I was about to leave he slipped a piece of paper into my hand. The paper said: “To Ao Jin, from an old Chinese feller; June, 2012”.
And – I know you’re wondering about it – yes, the medicine did work. I don’t know what those pills were and what they did to my liver or other organs, but by the time I got on the train the next day, I was on the way to being completely healthy. Cool!