Medicine – It’s all Chinese to me!
My first hurdle: navigating the local pharmacy for what I need to take care of myself.
Within a week of our arrival, I developed an ear infection with flu-like symptoms. Fortunately, pharmacies abound in Xinyang. The local brands are Watsons and Meirui. Accompanied with my wife and an ex-pat friend who works here as a ESL teacher and armed with my iPhone 5 and her iPad and Pleco (an amazing Chinese dictionary app) and no working knowledge of Mandarin, we played charades, gesticulating widely with exaggeration to give context for the situation and then point to the Pleco translation. I was able to find ibuprofen, whose Chinese equivalent is buluofen. That sounded like a cognate and the picture on the box illustrated pain centers. Ear Ache is ertong. (There are proper tones, which if not correctly pronounced will change the meaning of the word, but we did get the point across). Ear Wax was trickier and we decided not to attempt it, because the Chinese character has several meanings: stool, feces, ear wax, or nasal mucus. We just did not want any misunderstanding. Getting an antibiotic was a little more challenging, but the Pleco translation delivered kangshengsu or kangjunsu, (sorry for no tones) which fortunately the pharmacists recognized. I was even able to get ear drops! A day later when we were able to meet up with a Chinese friends whose English is good, we compared notes. He was worried that we had purchased the top middle, which was Chinese medicine, to rid the body of toxins and restore natural balance. I had taken a couple of tablets desperate for relief, which also worried him then me and taught me an important lesson: always check with your doctor before you take any medication. I am taking some rest days to recover before we go out to explore the city. This time will give me opportunity to learn some spoken Chinese.