When we arrived in Tainan somehow the news of my knee had spread south at a pace that left our stuck-in-traffic 50 km/hr clip. I have always found that dealing with ailments abroad (or the prevention thereof) is a fascinating experience all on its own. In Iceland, the family answer to bee stings was for me to eat ice cream. In El Salvador, they suggested that after being in the rain I absolutely must wipe my whole body down with alcohol. Every country has some sort of strange sounding advice. The old wives are alive and well, and telling their tales.
You go through stages in dealing with their medical advice. In stage one you wonder if they really believe the advice they are giving you, knowing no one in the modern world could possibly believe such hoodoo. In stage two you try your best to ignore their helpful advances, slightly annoyed that they keep trying to help you despite you clearly not wanting to cover your head in chicken blood to end your malady. Next stage has you accepting their help and doing what they want, mostly so that you’ll have peace and quiet. Finally, wondering why their advice worked, you begin to realize that at home we have some hoodoo-like ideas of our own.
In most of Taiwan, their thoughts regarding medicine are quite modern and sensible, unless one is having a baby, and then I doubt there are enough stages for me to stop calling it hoodoo. This time, I wasn’t assaulted with weird ideas, but I was covered constantly in patches and sprays, and pills shoved down my throat. Saying “no” was not an option to any of this. Not only would it not have been heard, but it would have been rude. So, I became their test dummy. I felt like a rabbit in a medical lab of some pharmaceutical company, a white one.
Their concoctions did help, and my knee started feeling a bit better after a few days. I wasn’t sure whether it was the medicine, or time. Either way, I really appreciated their care. Taiwanese people don’t have the warmth of Italians or Greeks, who smoother you with affection rather quickly, but they do have a quiet consideration. When they take you into their circle, they do little things, things that become huge in your mind. My brother-in-law filling his car stereo with American music so I wouldn’t feel homesick or bored on the long trip, my mother-in-law always filling my cup or offering me something to nibble on, or the entire extended family trying to figure out anything they can do to ease my knee pain. It makes me thankful for a wonderful family. It makes me have such a deeper understanding of how little my corner of the world really is, and that my mind and heart are often much smaller than that corner.