On illness abroad

… or why “I want mom” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Of course, at twenty-five, I’m far from a child. I’ve also survived many an illness and pain alone and have soldiered on through it admirably.

I apparently like to bring it up in later blog posts and feel important.

It shouldn’t be surprising that in a new, changed environment, even a cold can be a bit of a challenge. You can’t go home and crawl into bed at inconveniences, can’t count on your mom’s soft heart to make you your favourite cup of tea, and you’ll have to make those medicine runs on your own now. Sick or not, if you need it, you should go get it. Your bed isn’t warmed by loving pets anymore.

Still, I say that all of that as someone with a beautifully pillared support system. I can only hope I can be that support right back at my friends when they need it, long-distance or not.


Ever since I’ve arrived, something hasn’t been feeling right with my nose. It felt stuffed, yet I couldn’t blow it; but when I did, with the help of water, all there seemed to be was … blood? I couldn’t place this strangeness until Roomie brought it up: “the air up here is so dry, my nose keeps bleeding.”

I conducted a good old fashioned google search for the particular nose bleed — high altitudes correlation, and this is what I discovered: “ Generally, such high-altitude nosebleeds are caused by the combination of the elevation, cold weather and low humidity. The lack of moisture causes the membranes in your nose to dry out, crack and bleed.”

Of course. Then it was suddenly obvious. 6512 feet or 2000 meters above sea level, my new home is … well. 2000 meters above where I have lived for twenty-five years. In fact, once I began a more specific search, it turned out everybody and their mother knows of that problem — even the boys at the front desk would nod understandingly and say “yeah, the altitude. That can get ya.”

The number one medicine suggested for altitude illness is “getting lower.”

Since that isn’t an actual option, I’m holding on to the next best thing: hydration, hydration, hydration.

Hydration. This one was easy — while tap water generally seems to taste of one chemical or another, my brain automatically offered up an image of a watermelon. $5 later, I’m equipped with a juicy, sweet red-pink bowl of it, forcing it down my throat obediently even as it’s looking out of my ears. There’s also grapes (similarly overpriced), waiting on their turn. I gotta say, paying a little extra for a fruit haul is a sacrifice I like making. Admittedly, I also liked making a sacrifice for a customised Papa John’s and their garlic sauce today, but that’s another story.

This all helps with the next problem on the list …

Sore throat

Awesome stuff.

This one was almost a given, really. After three days and settling in, the long-term stress and its suitcases came after me as well, and the body just had to react. Thankfully we’re only talking a sore throat and a lot of sneezing (dusting rooms and thin air does that) on its own, but it’s a pretty big inconvenience when it happens on your second day of work.

A loving friend compiled a list of American essentials in case of a cold and flu emergency, and I took it to the heart. Roomie and I collected ourselves and headed to the supermarket in 88° degrees, and while she poured over the sections with Lose weight! shelves, I headed for the pharmacy corner.

I stood at the shelves looking like a studious professor, refusing to contact a professional about it. If the outside surroundings itself are weird and unfamiliar, the grocery stores and shelves in particular are double that and then some. The brands are all wrong, the ingredients suspicious, prices ill-fitting, and most of the times I caught myself wondering if this is even legal at all and if a careless overdose is a plausible course of action. It’s just unreal, grocery shopping for medication. I couldn’t even get a mug inside that same shop, for God’s sake, but a sleep-pills like cough syrup to put you out like a light? No problem. Second aisle to your left, miss.

I’ll say this on NyQuil, though: someone hit me over the head with a hammer and it took me eight hours to get to consciousness. The sore throat was still there, but a little better all the same.

But to wrap it all up …


The good ol’ aunt from Mt. Blood, as we sometimes call it back home, and a whole lotta cramps. It happened in the middle of day two at work, doubling me over like a sucker punch to the gut. Obviously I completely forgot about it until this cruel first reminder; with everything on my plate, how did I have time to add that to the list of counting my days?

Alas, the one course of nature you can’t stop but have to run with has its own medication techniques. It’s thoroughly weird, though, standing under my frenemy the fixed shower head, awkwardly thrusting and adjusting hips to catch the splash of hot water and have it work soothingly. With thinking ahead, I made sure I brought my trusted prescription painkillers along, and the arsenal was completed.

When I finally settle under the sheets, sipping the last of my Sleepytime, it almost feels a little familiar.

Like what you read? Give Rusalka a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.