The Random Writings of Rachel: Expat Life: Getting Sick in China

Expat Life: Getting Sick in China

I spent most of last weekend sick and in bed, feeling quite miserably ill. In the meantime, I got a vivid reminder of what catching a common human ailment in this part of the world entails.

In America, we tend to have a bit of an independent streak when it comes to handling sickness. I've gotten sick and then gotten better in Michigan plenty of times--usually without ever having to inform anyone. Minor colds and fevers and stomach flus are nothing worth alerting the troops about. At this point, it's a long-running joke that every single time that I leave Angel for an extended period of time (usually to visit my family), he manages to get himself quite ill--but he has always survived all by himself, just calling in to get his days off work and then camping out in our little farmhouse, drinking Sprite and eating crackers until he feels better (funnily enough, he never gets sick when we're together...).

There are very thoughtful people in the West who will bring dinner to their sick loved ones and check in on them regularly to make sure they're doing okay. I am not by nature one of those people, so when I hear that the flu is going around at a family member's house, I'm most likely to stay away until the germs are gone. Lots of times, one hears of communities banding together in the face of a tragic diagnosis, and I'm glad to know that the American value of living independently doesn't stretch too far, because in tough situations, the strength of community can be needed much more than total independence.


However, on this side of the world, any minor illness turns itself into a community event. Just ask my parents if they've ever had a sick child over the last decade without at the same time receiving all manner of visitors and gift baskets and remedies and inquiries for health status updates (Answer: No).

I had the bad timing to fall ill on a weekend when we had several events on the calendar--a lunch with friends and a birthday party for a coworker's child. I really wasn't feeling up to going, so I sent Angel alone with my apologies.

On Saturday alone, several friends offered to take me to the hospital (I didn't think I was feeling quite as bad as that!), and I was sent a salad, rice, cabbage, bananas, tomatoes, cake, and buns so that I would have all the nutrition I needed. The mother of the 10 year old birthday boy left her son's party to come to our apartment and check on me to make sure I was okay, and brought a traditional Chinese remedy with her to dose me with. She also made me swear to drink only hot water and not cold or iced water.

My invalid personality is one that prefers to recover in isolation. My cure for any random illness is a day or two of staying in and moaning on the couch, taking whatever over-the-counter medicines seem most appropriate. Usually I feel much better at the end of two days and am back to taking on the world. If I had a choice, I wouldn't ask for or encourage visitors because I don't want to be seen in my frumpy, sickly state.

But, man, how good these people are to us. We've only been here since August. We're totally the new guys. The outsiders. And yet, in a time of what was truly minor discomfort and very temporary helplessness, they show themselves instantly ready to take care of us in a way that to me seems to extend beyond the call of duty.

There's a lot I like about the way communities work in this part of the world. Here--they don't usually consider the option of just leaving someone alone for a couple days to recover from a common ailment. That whole independence, take care of yourself thing? It's a tad overrated. I think there can be a great deal of value in making a point to care for and help people even when, in all honesty, they are still perfectly capable of helping themselves. I was only a little sick, after all.

Next time, I hope I get a chance to at least comb my hair before someone drops by my sickbed, but I must say, it's a pretty cool thing to be loved this way. It's not because of anything that I am or have done, either. It's just that it's who they are.That's a powerful kind of love.

30 comments:

  1. That's pretty awesome!

    http://bobaandpearls.com

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  2. That is pretty cool - I am the same though, I normally like being isolated until I'm better :)

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  3. Aw! That's nice. Imagine how much kinder the world would be if everyone took care of each other so well.

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  4. How sweet. While living in india, I was out running and took a nasty fall and cut my head quite badly. Within seconds I was surrounded by people offering assistance, getting me water, finding antiseptic cream and even one gentleman drove me back home even though I was quite messy. I wondered if I would have got the same help had this happened in the US or the UK (my other home bases) Sadly probably not. It was a very humbling experience.

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  5. That is wonderful. I'm like you, I prefer to suffer alone, but just knowing there are people there willing to help out I'm sure makes you feel comforted.

    I had a serious accident in Portugal years ago and the people were amazing. Just incredible. I will never forget it.

    Glad you are feeling better now.

    bisous
    Suzanne

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  6. Thanks for sharing! I had no idea that this was a norm in China - haha but from the American view, I would feel very awkward about this at first. So cool, though!

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  7. That is so sweet! I would love neighbors like this.

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  8. This is so very sweet and thoughtful; you've got great friends!

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  9. I love it! It makes me feel guilty now, though. I'm gonna be more sensitive to my sick friends and make sure to check on them!

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  10. What a beautiful post Rachel! Getting sick is so humbling... especially when people pour love on us and we look and feel terrible. Makes for a great story to share though!

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  11. I wonder what makes the difference in the people? In my community, we are aware if people are having a surgery and need meals, but not too often if we have a cold do multiple people come and take care of you, check to make sure you have what you need, provide meals and medicine. It would be wonderful if that was the normal thing to do. Are we just too wrapped up in our own lives? I'm not sure, but reading this makes me want to be one of those wonderful people that you live near who open their hearts to others. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you are cared about.

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  12. Wow!! They are really nice! I can't believe the mother left her child's birthday party to check on you! That is a really sweet person:) Hope you're feeling better!

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  13. That's wonderful. I especially love that the birthday boy's mom came to check on you. :)

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  14. Wow, that's really fascinating. There is a lot to learn from different cultures! I'm glad you are feeling better. :-)

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  15. Wow! That is completely different than it is here--and I love it! There have been times when I've gotten sick and still had to watch my daughter, and I would've done ANYTHING for someone to bring by some soup or watch her for even an hour. What an amazing community!

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  16. That is the coolest thing I have ever heard. I am definitely Americanized. I don't want anyone seeing me while I'm sick! Stay back! My friends and family are normally happy to oblige haha. I didn't even want people coming over after I had my babies until they were like 3 weeks old. Hermit Jen, at your service! I think it is so undeniably sweet, however, that the culture there promotes such a sense of community. I know you weren't talking about pregnancies or babies or anything, but I think the whole "takes a village to raise a child" thing is seriously lacking over here. Sounds like they would be jumping at the chance to help with a new baby and man, I really could've used the help of unasked, undirected people in my life with both my kids. I would've been a much happier new mom, let me tell you! Hope you are feeling better soon!!! :)

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  17. that is just cool...love hearing about your life and what a community! :)

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  18. How wonderful. [Love your last few lines].

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  19. That's really very sweet! I'm with you though. I rarely get sick and when I do, I'm faintly ashamed that my overactive immune system has let me down. And yes, I don't particularly want visitors, but I think it's very kind of them to be so concerned about you. I wonder what the thing is about drinking hot water vs. cold water? Probably some ancient Chinese secret or something. #SITSSharefest

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  20. That is really interesting! I never have thought about how other cultures deal with colds, etc. it makes sense since we are so "independent" and not community focused. Very sweet.

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  21. How sweet is that!! Interesting to read about a different kind of "normal" in another country. I had never even thought about that!

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  22. That's really sweet! Love the sense of community! Hope you're feeling better!

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  23. I mean, cake makes everything better...

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  24. Bummer that you were sick but how sweet that you got such special treatment!

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  25. It's so great to see what community looks like in other parts of the world! The clash between cultures is a tough one to navigate but I am glad for you to have people around you who will take care of you when you need it! Blessings!

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  26. This is so cool. I'm always interested in differences in culture. This is a pretty fantastic difference they have from us over in the US, if you ask me!

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  27. That's so sweet! I love all the love! But I like to recover the same way as you...alone. I barely even like Cass being around when I don't feel well. He's allowed to sleep next to me and bring me food. That's it. Just leave me alone.

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  28. It takes a whole village... to get over a cold.

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  29. I'm so glad you had so many people to care for you :) although I agree sometimes it's nice to be sick in peace, that kind of generosity is awesome.

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  30. Simply amazing! Love their hearts and I don't even know them!

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