Up until now most of what I have have described has been related to starting and setting up a new life in Bordeaux. Among other various topics, I have talked about banking, shopping, purchasing a cell phone and working. But this past week, we had the most normal and routine of life experiences. All three of us got a little cold. It started about a week ago with my son. He is usually full of energy and he just kind of sat around lethargically with vacant eyes. He slept very fitfully that night and I could hear him talking in his sleep all night long. When he woke up the next day, he complained of a dry scratchy throat. Two days later my husband had a pretty painful sore throat and four days later, so did I. Of course by the time the adults were sick, my son was fine and bopping around the house again.
Getting sick in France is not new to me. The first time I visited back in 1995, I landed in Paris with the most incredibly painful earache. My ear actually popped with excruciating pain during the descent and a disgusting fluid began to drain out of it. Ear and sinus infections were routine for me as a kid. Ask my parents, I once had to miss a trip to Boblo Island (a former adventure park outside of Detroit) because I didn’t get an ear infection treated and it turned into a massive sinus infection. The worse part was we were having our house fumigated while we were supposed to be on that exciting trip so we had to sit in the garage and wait for hours to enter the house. The whole time, my sister was having and a blast at Boblo Island. Talk about a lasting childhood memory.
But back to 1995, I let my French teacher know about the pain in my ear. My parents weren't there because I was on a trip with the high school French Club. I was tired, sick, and terrified because the memory of Boblo Island was seared into my brain and I thought I would miss out on the fun in France. But my teacher seemed unfazed and said we would go to the Pharmacie (pharmacy) as soon as we got into town. Because I had more than my fair share of teenage angst, I became very sullen. Didn’t she know I needed a doctor to write a prescription for antibiotics? Didn’t she know if I didn’t get it treated, I would have a sinus infection too? It was easy for her to think it was no big deal, I was going to miss out on the biggest trip of my life.
As soon as we checked into the hotel, she took me to a store with a brightly lit neon green cross. It was right next to our hotel. That is not very surprising because there are pharmacies on nearly every block in any city in France, not just Paris. Unlike our pharmacies in the US that are branded with their own individual logos, in France all pharmacies have that common green cross making them easy to spot. Once inside, she met with the pharmacist to explain my troubles. The pharmacist looked in my ear, asked a couple of questions (in French), and gave me drops, cotton balls, and petroleum jelly. She told me to put the drops in my ear 4 times per day and to cover the cotton ball in petroleum jelly and place it over the ear to seal in the drops. I was so tired and in pain that I took the supplies and ignored my desire to argue with this person who clearly did not know how to treat ear infections. Where were my pills?
Like many things I knew for certain in my teenage years, I was wrong. Within 2 days, I the congestion and pain were nearly gone. I never had any trouble with that ear for the rest of the trip. I even saved the left over drops and used them throughout my Freshman year of college when I felt an ear infection attempting to take hold. I don’t know what the drops were (I was too tired to ask) to this day but they worked. Within 1.5 hours of landing in France, my minor health issue had been handled. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I didn’t understand why it had to be so complicated in the US. Why did I need to call a doctor, wait for the next available appointment, and then go to the pharmacy to wait for a bottle of antibiotics that didn't work as well as the miracle drops?
So here we are in 2018, the three of us battling some infection. Although I doubt we will need to go to a doctor or a pharmacy, there is that moment when sickness first strikes in a foreign country where you wonder what you are gong to do. What if this is a major illness like flu or pneumonia (neither of which have I ever had so why would they start now)? Where should I go? Where will I take my son? It is my natural first response to have 150 (mostly irrational) thoughts race across my brain before I have taken 10 breaths. Luckily rational thought usually is the dominant thought and I know where to start if this round of colds needs treatment. I’ll head on down to the Pharmacie with the green cross to see what the pharmacist recommends. However, this time, most likely the stockpile of vitamins C and D I brought will do the trick.