Tag: diarrhea


08

Dec 2005

Spitting, Peeing, Snot Rockets, and Me (part 2)

My time in China has exposed me to my fair share of public spitting, peeing, and snot rocketing. Thoughtful fellow that I am, this makes me all introspective. What are the effects of five years of phlegm? How potent is the power that all that pissing poses to me, personally? Let us examine.

PART 2: INDOORS

I hope I’m not disappointing anyone, but I’m not going to tell stories about Chinese people spitting on the floor or peeing in the living room. This is about me. And I don’t pee in the living room. (I don’t know any Chinese people that pee in the living room either, fortunately.)

This is actually about shower behavior.

Spitting

Back home in the States I somehow got in the habit of swallowing a fair amount of water while showering. I’m not sure why I did it, but it seemed like a fine idea at the time.

When I got to China, it was clear that this habit would not work. If I didn’t cut it out, I’d be getting diarrhea from every shower, and that’s not cool! Still, habits are hard to break. As a result, I find that I frequently get water in my mouth while I shower, realize what I’m doing, and then have to spit it out. If I want to get as much water as possible out of mouth, though, I have to be fairly enthusiastic in my spitting.

As a result, I find that I spit in the shower quite a bit in China. There’s no phlegm or anything, though, so I don’t see it as gross in any way.

Peeing

OK, I’ll admit it. I pee in the shower from time to time. Some online research confirms what I suspected: a lot of people pee in the shower. Some people are even of the opinion that everyone does it. Furthermore, if you’re not peeing on the shower curtain or on someone else, I don’t see how it could be considered dirty. You just aim for the drain.

From Wikipedia:

> Although urine is commonly believed to be ‘dirty’ this is not actually the case. In cases of kidney or urinary tract infection (UTI) the urine will contain bacteria, but otherwise urine is virtually sterile and nearly odorless when it leaves the body. However, after that, bacteria that contaminate the urine will convert chemicals in the urine into smelling chemicals that are responsible for the distinctive odor of stale urine; in particular, ammonia is produced from urea.

I can’t be sure, but I suspect I harbored some emotional resistance to the idea of peeing in the shower while back in the States, but I don’t anymore. I still don’t do this regularly, just when necessary. (And I never pee on the shower curtain.)

Snot Rockets

OK, now we’re getting down to the real meat of the entry. This is the question that inspired this whole two-part entry.

Let me give you a scenario. You have a really bad cold. You’re taking a shower. Suddenly your nose starts to run something awful. It seems like sniffling is the only thing you can do, but it doesn’t solve anything and it’s only getting water up your nose. You have to do something.

You have two choices: (1) Stop your shower and dry off a bit to blow your nose, then continue your shower. There is no guarantee that you won’t need to blow your nose again almost immediately. (2) Do a snot rocket into the drain.

Last week I found myself in this desperate situation. I actually remember being in this same situation back in the USA once, and I stopped my shower to blow my nose. I felt there was nothing else I could do. Not this last time, though. I have been influenced by my surroundings. I chose the snot rocket. Everything seemed to get washed down the drain immediately.

Immediately afterward, though, I had to ask myself: was that just completely disgusting? It brought up lots of other questions:

– Do other people do this?
– Will my friends still like me if they know I’ve done snot rockets in my shower?
– Is mucus water soluble? (it’s gotta be, considering it’s mostly water)
– If I had a really nasty infection (which I didn’t), could doing that clog the drain?

OK, I think that’s about all the “introspection” you readers can handle for a little while….


28

Apr 2004

Sickness and Pets

About two weeks ago, I took a walk on a sunny day following some days of rain. I came upon a manhole cover sunken in the sidewalk, holding an inch or two of water. In that little bit of water, I was amazed to discover some 40 to 50 tadpoles swimming sluggishly around. Right on the sidewalk!

I had recently discovered that in China, it’s a common childhood thing to keep some tadpoles as pets and watch them develop. When I was younger, I had had rabbits, mice, dogs, lizards, fish, and even a snake. But never a tadpole.

The water in the manhole depression was slowly but surely evaporating, and there already wasn’t much left. I decided to rescue some of them.

I managed to get about 20 out of the depression using a spoon and a plastic bowl. I bought a little glass fishbowl and some fish food (for 7rmb total). When I fed them, they gobbled up the food greedily. Up to that point, they had been cannibalizing the weak.

Keeping the tadpoles alive proved to be harder than I expected. I’m not sure whether the water got a little too dirty or what, but they were slowly dying off.


Then last Friday I got sick. I woke up early with a case of diarrhea that was completely painless but utterly sincere. I was rushing to the toilet every 5 minutes, it seemed, and I was losing a lot of water. I had to call in sick to work. By evening I had a fever, and my girlfriend insisted I go to the hospital. So I did. It was 10:30pm.

It took forever to get treated because I had taken an anti-diarrheal and thus couldn’t supply the sample they wanted. Eventually they took blood. The Chinese medical solution to virtual any malady seems to be an IV, and this was no exception. It was midnight before I finally had the IV in me, supplying my bloodstream with vitamins and antibiotics.

For this IV treatment I was seated in the emergency room. My girlfriend kept me company for a while, but she had class in the morning, so had to leave. Being right in the emergency room, I saw all kinds of people come in. Most of them ended up with IVs.

One guy was almost catatonic, brought in on one of the cargo tricycles used all over China to transport goods. His family must have been pretty poor, not wanting to resort to hospital treatment unless absolutely necessary. About an hour later, the awful sound of a woman’s wailing came from the back of the hospital. “Someone died,” the people around me whispered.

Another woman was brought in writhing, and laid out on a gurney. She was there on an IV nearly the entire time I was, and never seemed to get much better. Eventually her husband took her away.

One guy was brought in completely unconscious by some friends. Alcohol poisoning. Baijiu, his friends said. The vile white rice wine. I’m not sure what happened to him, but his friends wondered around the room drunkenly for hours.

For a while an old man was seated next to me for his IV. At one point, he had to go to the bathroom, so the people with him unzipped him, stood him up, and had him go into a plastic bag right there.

Around 3am it started to get cold in the room, because inconsiderate people would leave the main door open. Around that time two women arrived with a man. The girls look like the type that sing at karaoke bars. Very pretty. Only one of them had been battered badly across the face. Her face was all black and blue, her eyes swollen shut. Later, hearing her talk to her friend, my suspicions were confirmed — some man had done that to her. Two of the guys in the room tried badly to hide smirks when she came in. Why, I can’t imagine. But I wanted to punch them. The girl got an IV too.

Soon thereafter, more loud sobbing seemed to indicate that someone else had died.

According to the doctor, my IV (2 bottles) was supposed to last 3 hours. They ended up lasting 5. I couldn’t sleep and had nothing to do but watch sick people. I got home at 5am. The hospital bill was 150rmb (under $20). No medications were prescribed.


I had decided to release my remaining tadpoles into the pond in Jing An Park. It seemed like a good day to do it. I waited for my girlfriend to arrive first. When she showed up, she surprised me with a gift of two cute little white rabbits.

It was a nice surprise, but also an impulisve, irresponsible purchase. I was not in the best position to care for rabbits, and I did not want to be responsible for their deaths. The vendors that sell rabbits and other little animals don’t tend to sell them in the healthiest condition to begin with.

Still, she had bought them and given them to me, so they were my responsiblity. The remaining tadpoles (less than 10) were freed. But now I had rabbits.

I was stunned by some of the “advice” I was given by various Chinese people on how to care for rabbits. Some of the things I was told: “Rabbits can’t be given water. It’ll give them diarrhea and they’ll die.” “Don’t give them vegetables, or they’ll get diarrhea and die. Give them bread.” “Don’t let them eat much grass or they’ll get diarrhea and die.”

Exactly how do these people think rabbits live in nature?! Unbelievable. Anyway, under my care, two sluggish little rabbits have become lively. They actually have both solid and liquid waste now, too, which didn’t happen for about two days, owing to their previous diet. The new diet: grass and water.


Yesterday, the evil diarrhea come back at 5am. I couldn’t go to work again. I returned to the hospital, but not the emergency room. This time I went to the part of the hospital “for foreigners.” The hospital has one big building devoted to plastic surgery. One floor deals with ordinary medical cases like mine.

To make a long story short, I was not given any clear explanation as to why I was sick. It wasn’t food poisoning. But the hospital was much cleaner and more orderly. Everyone was friendly and spoke English (until they realized they didn’t have to). I was given an IV again, which took five hours for two bottles again, but this time I was in a bed the whole time. I walked away with 4 different kinds of medication to take. The total bill was 850rmb (over $100).


So I’m feeling better now. And I have rabbits. I wonder how those tadpoles are doing…

Related entry: Verbal Horror


16

Sep 2002

Verbal Horror

Asiafirst‘s recent post on City Weekend reminded me of an interesting topic… diarrhea.

Now, since you’re most likely of the Western tradition, you probably squirmed a little when you saw that word. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. In Asia, they treat diarrhea like a cold — a temporary, uncomfortable condition. Meanwhile, in the United States it’s an unmentionable dark secret. No one wants to hear about your diarrhea, as if just the word in itself is some kind of plot to make us visualize something disgusting.

It took me some time in Japan and China, when I was in a position requiring someone else’s help, to be able to just tell people, “yo, I’ve got diarrhea, help me out here.” In the U.S. we’d be much less direct about that kind of thing. As your hints about your condition zero in on the unspeakable, the listener gets your drift and tactfully pledges assistance and then immediately changes the topic. On the other hand, if you mention it to your Chinese friend while you’re at the store, he just replies matter-of-factly, “Oh, you’ve got diarrhea??” and then, loudly, to the clerk across the store, “hey, my foreign friend here has diarrhea! Where’ s the medicine for that?” You get the picture.

Just one of those little differences…

Oh, and as long as I’m on this taboo topic, a word to the wise: if you come to China, bring some immodium.