I’m hardly the type of person who gets sick (I’m talking like maybe once per year), but lucky me had the flu for two weeks while living abroad and all I wanted was my mommy. The weather was super gloomy the first couple of weeks in Siena, that and all of the traveling it took me to get from Hawaii to Siena could have done it. Of course my host-mother, Luciana, would tell you that it was because I didn’t blow dry my hair after showering. Here are some of the things I went through during my time on what felt like my death bed in Siena:
Freezing my butt off.
I know that bacteria is what causes illness, and that being sick from cold weather is just a “silly rumor,” but who knows? Maybe I got extremely sick from being so cold. Before moving to Siena, I was told that the weather would be between 40-50 degrees at first, and then gradually warm up. Whoever told me that was a liar. Half of my time in Siena was spent in 20-30 degree weather and the local Sienese were so surprised when it snowed. This didn’t help the fact that the apartment complex that I lived in, turned off their heat at night. I literally went to bed in long underwear, socks, sweatpants, a long sleeved shirt, and a hoodie. I still remember the sound of my teeth chattering putting me to sleep.
My crazy host-mom.
The first time I sneezed at the dinner table, my host-mom started babbling away in Italian that was too quick for me to understand, about not blow drying my hair. She told me that since I towel dry my hair, I’m going to get very sick. She also scolded me for not wearing a scarf every single day. The first time I coughed at the dinner table, she brought me a scarf and instructed me to wear it 24/7.
Finally admitting that I needed medicine.
I’m the type of person who will deny, deny, deny being sick. After taking Dayquil or Airborne, I’m usually fine. But I got to the point where I was miserable. I didn’t have a fever. But I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, my throat was in unbearable pain, I had headaches, and I was hardly getting any sleep because I was up shivering all night. I spoke to one of the administrators at my school and he called a doctor for me, but this doctor only did house calls.
My doctor’s house visit.
As soon as I got home, I told my host-dad, Roberto, that a doctor would be coming to see me that night. Roberto felt my forehead, and told me that I was being silly because I didn’t have a fever. My doctor visited me and we conversed in Italian – I mostly gestured by pointing to my nose and throat because I didn’t know how to say it in Italian yet. Luciana came into the room and dramatically explained that I was feeling like absolute crap because I walk around the house with wet hair and don’t wear a scarf every second of every day.
I wouldn’t advise taking medicine you’ve never heard of, or medicine in which you can’t read the label. But I trusted my school instructors and host-parents who all said that it was fine for me to take. I was prescribed this weird liquid that was to be dropped into my water. It was supposed to help my throat feel better. It eventually worked, but drinking that three times per day was awful because it tasted like nail polish remover.
Being sick sucks. It sucks even more when you’re in a foreign country and your mom is 12 hours behind so you can’t call her at all hours of the day. My advice to any traveler who has a long-term trip abroad coming up, would be to pack a first aid kit with all of the medicines you usually take when you are sick. I let my attitude of “I never get sick, I don’t need medicine,” get in the way of doing the smart thing. Do any of you have stories of getting sick while being abroad? I’d love to hear them!