Archive for the ‘Life and Experiences’ Category

As the season begins to change, germs start to make their way into warm homes, such as our bodies. Since many of our foreign staff are getting sick, I felt the need to share some of my remedies because there is medicine readily available at your local pharmacy and you might not even know it! When we get sick, our first instinct is to turn to our go-to meds and comfort foods. It’s what we know and how we handle things when we are home. However, part of the living abroad experience is to get ourselves out of that comfort zone and try new things. Being sick and how we handle it is definitely part of that too.

The truth is, you will get sick in Beijing. No matter how much you much Vitamin-C you intake or how much Purell you use on your hands, every child is a disease bag and sickness is simply inevitable. For those of you who are the exception and have amazing immune systems, you can stop reading now because none of this applies to you!

As a Hongkie (a person who originated from Hong Kong), I was brought up with a mixture of Chinese and Western medicine. I never truly appreciated my knowledge of Chinese remedies until I came to Beijing. It was such a relief to recognize something amid the many bottles and boxes. However, incoming foreigners are now in luck! Over the three and a half years that I’ve been here, there has been a significant increase of Western goods at local pharmacies and even supermarkets.

Here are some of my tips and Chinese alternatives on staying healthy during this fall and winter season in Beijing.

1) Stay hydrated! – We often forget how much energy we exert when we teach. Beijing is very dry so make sure you’re drinking a lot of fluids.

My favorite drink when I am sick is ginger, lemon, and honey tea. I juice the ginger and lemon; add honey and hot water to produce a tasty Vitamin-C filled mixture to soothe my throat. However, if you are too tired to make anything, you should get yourself some Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. This natural herbal syrup can be added to hot water or taken directly. Make sure to get the one from Hong Kong, which is around 40 kuai because there are now cheaper knock-off brands available. Feel free to try them, but I am a loyal consumer of Nin Jiom due to its delicious taste.

Try not to get too addicted!

2) Vitamin-C is your friend. Go to your local supermarket and stock up on oranges and lemons. The pharmacy also has effervescent pills with Vitamin C. The box usually has both English and Chinese on it because it’s a Western-brand called Redoxon. In Chinese, it’s called 力度伸. There are other brands available, especially at foreign supermarkets such as D-Mart or Spring Market in Wudaokou.

3) Can’t breathe? Get some Tiger Balm. It’s the Chinese version of Vicks. It helps with headaches, breathing, and even mosquito bites! Don’t rub it near your eyes. Use it under your nose, chest, temple, and throat areas only! There are two kinds of Tiger Balm: red (hot) and white (cold). I don’t think there is much of a difference, but I have been using the white one most of my life and it works wonders. Make sure to pack it on your next vacation because they help a TON with mosquito bites. The Chinese for it is 虎标万金油.


The Cure-All

4)In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), when you get a cold, you need to remove the “heat” out of your system. One way to do this is to take some 感冒清热颗粒. One box contains several packs; one pack makes one cup of this “dirt tea.” Mix one bag of the brownish-yellow granules with hot water. You can drink this when you start to feel under the weather and continue to drink it if you get sick. It helps with headache, fever, chills, general aching, runny nose, cough, and dryness of the throat. It’s not as tasty as Pei Pa Koa, but if you’re sick, you probably can’t taste anything anyway. Why not give this a try? I’ve actually grown quite fond of the taste myself.

Maya (veteran teacher): “I call it ‘dirt tea’. Is that off-putting?”

Many of you have asked me about where to find lozenges. I intended to dedicate a portion of this post to antidotes for sore throats, but the Beijinger beat me to it. The foreign magazine did a survey for the tastiest lozenge in Beijing. (not the best remedy, the tastiest.)

The winner? Halls Extra Strong. You can find it at Aushan or at the local supermarket across the street from school. Ask a veteran teacher if you have trouble finding the store. The Chinese for it is 荷氏.

“It tastes like antiseptic applied to the tongue.” – a taste tester from the Beijinger

For those of you who are curious, the other competing brands included: Wang Lao Ji (王老吉), Ricola (elderflower flavor), Golden Throat Lozenge (mulberry and chrysanthemum flavor), Vicks VapoDrops (cherry flavor), Vivil (black currant flavor), and Pan Gaoshou (loquat flavor). For more insight, check out the November issue of the Beijinger.

Hopefully your process of searching for medicine will be painless and will merely involve some pantomiming. For those with little to no Chinese under their belts, I highly recommend bringing pictures with you.

These are some of the signs you will see when you are looking for a pharmacy.

Hope you all stay warm and healthy in these upcoming months!



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           Sitting here thinking about what topics all the teachers can write about, I started to think about the past. Wow, I can’t believe I have been in Beijing for 4 years of my life. I still remember the day I decided to quit my job, and randomly try out teaching English overseas for a year. Finding a job teaching English was somewhat hard due to my Asian appearance. I applied to many places, but each school required a photo of yourself. Many of the schools in China give preference to those with more “western” features, even if you are qualified for the position. Finally, I got an interview and ended up at the same school I have been working at until now.

           In early August 2008 I left on a plane to Beijing from JFK and landed around 5AM. I was met by the driver for our school holding a small sign with the word “Carden” on it. I figured that was for me and met up with him and the CEO of our school, Ms.Wang. I followed them to her car and we set off to my new apartment. Luckily, she was there to answer all my questions about the upcoming position and helped me buy a few things I needed for the apartment. I was expecting a not so wonderful apartment because of things I read about on ESL forums and the housing some teachers received for free. To my surprise, the apartment was actually nice and fully furnished.

           After unpacking all my bags, I decided to venture outside of my neighborhood for a little exploration. I walked for awhile and found a big French supermarket called Auchan. The number of people in the supermarket shocked me. I have never seen that many people in a supermarket ever in my life. The concept of personal space in China is a little different than America. I was looking at something in the aisle, when someone stood right in front of me to look at stuff too. He was literally 1 inch away from me which made me step back. The stuff I read online did say things would be different lol. After buying some things for the week I went to a KFC that was located in the building. That day I learned the hard way that in the area I lived in, English wasn’t spoken. After some pointing and hand gestures I finally got some food and headed home. On the way home, I was a little worried about how I was going to get food from the local restaurants. If getting food from KFC was hard, how would I get by?

           The next day I took my Chinese Manadarin language books out and wrote down some vocabulary to help me order some food. At this point in time I didn’t know how to properly pronounce Pinyin. So, I was going by the book’s given pronunciation using words from the English language. I went to a restaurant that had a lot of people, and luckily, a picture menu. Right as I tried to order, the waitress was very confused as to why I couldn’t speak Chinese. Of course, I had no way to explain to her that I am American and not 100% Chinese. I tried to order some dumplings but didn’t know that they were sold in 8’s, so I just showed them the number 20 on my phone. 20 dumplings sounded good for lunch to me but in reality I just ordered 160 dumplings. After saying the word “to go” 20 times because I couldn’t pronounce the word correctly, they finally understood my meaning. I waited around 35 minutes and wondered why it was taking so long. I saw them packing up food in boxes and then they came out with 4 huge bags of food. I sighed, knew I messed something up, and paid for my food and left. At least I had some food to eat for a few days.

           A few days later, I met up with 2 of my new coworkers who lived in the same apartment complex and they took me around the city. Luckily they were so nice and patient with me because I was like their lost child. They taught me some basic Mandarin phrases and wrote down characters for me to help order food and get around the city. With their help, I was able to adjust to my new life and surroundings. I also got a tutor to learn conversational Chinese because it would be too hard to get by without being able to speak at least a little Chinese. Fast forward 4 years, and here I am, still in Beijing. Working at this job has enabled me to travel all over Asia for over 2 months every year. I think this is why I keep coming back, for the opportunity to save money and travel. When I leave I will really miss the people and the culture here. Being here for so long I kind of consider it my 2nd home.


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