Sick Exchangeling

It was bound to happen, but we didn’t know when.  As the fall flu season dropped upon us, the flu had to choose its first victim.  For whatever reason, he (it could be a she as well.  I don’t know if sicknesses have a gender, but I am sure most of the female population would enthusiastically refer to germs as “he”) chose to make his first home in the only Korean host available on our street.

We were quite sorry to see her get sick!  It totally kicked her tail!  She slept lots and ate little.  What she did she was…well, you know.  As my wife and I discussed her illness, she was likely a good home to the germs for a few reasons:

  1. No resistance to the US bugs:  If we went to Korea, we might also have the same problem.  Our bugs have some slight funkiness that allows them to more easily attack the bodies w/ little resistance.  He chose well–he totally took her out!
  2. Lack of sleep:  Two months ago, she was on a schedule 14 hours ahead of us.  After having been here two months, she should have it figured out by now.  But, due to the demands of homework (yes, she does attend a private Christian school, but they are making accommodations to help her get past the language problems.)  She seems to insist on going to bed after 11:30.  Since the first two months of school have also been cross country season and accompanied by a 5:00 wake up call, it is hard to sustain yourself very long w/ that little sleep when your brain and body are being pushed every day.
  3. Eats everything:  This theory seems to have fallen apart.  She really likes to eat, and maybe she just ate too much.  I have teased her during a few meals.  She will eat a couple of good servings of one of the side dishes.  She will then have 4 or 5 “micro-servings” of the same side item.  And, after the meal when the leftovers are being put away, she may eat a little more.  Sometimes, while the leftover meal is still cooling, she will grab a few nuts or some other snack (usually healthy) to fill in whatever gaps may have arisen as her stomach’s contents settle..
  4. Having window open:  Our other Asian exchange student thought the problem was their window being kept open to far.  With the cooler nights we have been having, it was her concern the extra coolness may have somehow “possessed” our Korean student.  She was able to refer back to a couple instances in her past where “to much coolness” was able to make a person sick enough to throw up.  I could believe one “bathroom visit”, but she had numerous visits…
  5. Food poisoning or something like that:   Since we had a birthday meal the night before for our other Asian student, she ate a wide variety of items with different spice levels.  She also may have eaten something that was not prepared correctly.  (Her meal was shrimp lo mien.)  The length of her sickness and the fact no one else got sick also makes this theory doubtful…

Once we got past the excessive sleeping and the doting on by the Asian room mate, we needed to try to get her better.  Eastern and western approaches do vary.  They were also the source of some conflict:

  1. Our healthy Asian student wanted to stay home with our Korean student as the rest of us went to church Sunday morning.  My wife quickly trumped her and let her know, “I am the mom.  This is my job.”  I do not think this compromised the quality of care she received, but it did draw the lines early which form of treatment was going to win the “treatment” battle.
  2. Eastern medicine:  I did not witness all of the treatments, but eastern medicine was a small part of her treatment.  Our healthy exchange student did the following for her(I did not witness but was told) :  she rubbed some oils into her body (not sure how or where), she may have also done some “acupuncture-ish” type things to her using her fingers (?), and she made her congee to eat. (She doesn’t call it congee normally, but does it for our benefit.  Congee is a rice gruel we experienced while in China in 2013.  It is made by boiling rice in an excessive amount of water.  The results are similar to oatmeal.  It has minimum flavor.  It is also very low risk for agitating a recovering stomach.)
  3. My wife wanted to give our Korean student some Tylenol to lower her fever.  Although our Korean student did call her mother, I cannot help but think our healthy exchange student was an influence.  She told us NO Tylenol.  Since no eastern medicine was sent along with our exchange students w/ any type of manual of how to treat any and all of their various ailments in an acceptable non-western way, we emailed her mother so we could be granted permission to administer the Tylenol.  Although she did grant us permission, it still seemed like an excessive burden.  Unless we are given specific instructions to the contrary, we should be able to treat the exchange students like our own–in sickness and in health.

She is back at school today.  After missing a day of school, she should have an extra day to do homework.  If she did not spend 3-4 hours a night doing homework already, this might be helpful.  However, the school continues to be grateful for the contributions of the exchangelings. They exposes the school’s students to different cultures and different  ways of thinking.  And, how many times have you heard an American refer to having the flu as “dancing in your belly?” (Hearing the descriptions of a non-native English speaker continues to amaze me.  She uses words in ways I would not have otherwise assembled. )  Having exchange students continues to be a good thing.  We are in for the journey not for the little adjustments along the way!

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