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Being sick while abroad

It’s true that when you fall ill while away from your home and family, that’s when you start feeling homesick the most. I have recently been struggling with a cold, which is ironic because I caught it from sleeping with the fan on the last few night because it was so hot in my room. Thankfully, it’s already my 10th week in Singapore, so I have made close friends who’ve also been very helpful throughout this ordeal. Although I miss the comfort of my own home, I have been getting by relatively well thanks to them. And getting help from my friends have not only been very comforting, but educational as well.

When I first reached out for help, it was to ask what cold medications I should get. I never bothered to bring one because, well, Singapore is literally just 1.5 degrees from the equator and has an average temperature of over 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. I was aware that popular American products that I’m used to are available here as well, but I figured that they would be more costly and that I’d have to travel further outside to get them. One local friend recommended me a cheap medication, but quickly followed up by saying how that was so American of me. She told me how Americans seem like they need to have a drug for everything. She then prescribed me a hot bowl of chicken soup and jokingly added, “In Asia, you just eat the same thing for all sickness.”

This wasn’t exactly a foreign concept since I also lived in Asia for half my life, and eating foods like chicken noodle soup is a common cold remedy in America. But it’s interesting how reliance on pharmaceutical drugs is such a salient stereotype of Americans. And now that I think about it, even though I never bothered to bring cold medicine, I did bring 7 different pills here, none of which are exactly essential for my survival. And although alternative remedies exist, I tend to default to pills because I somehow find more comfort in something in a capsule neatly packaged and sold at a pharmacy than tried-and-true methods which pass on by word of mouth.

There’s possibly some broader lesson about scientific elitism, validity of traditional knowledge, Orientalist discourse in academia, etc. to be found here, but at the moment I am still feeling quite sick and so while I keep these things in mind I will return to having another bowl of chicken soup.

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