I have returned, (mostly) triumphant from my stint in Penang, Malaysia and brief visit to Singapore. And it seems that I may be Chinese after all. I have been using Hokkien colloquilisms, been describing food as 'heaty' or 'cooling', gotten over my squeamishness about crab guts and have become violently obsessive about hygiene.
The good part about it is that I've been cooking like a bee-yatch, and consuming leftovers with gusto. Leftovers and I were not good friends before my trip. Hell, food and I weren't even really on speaking terms. I was chronically unwell with a nasty case of hives, overworked and homicidal. Food, let alone the qualities, properties and nutritional value of food, was not high on my list of Stuff To Think About.
And that's how I wound up landing at Penang International Airport looking like an overcooked Doctor Zoidberg. My face was bright red and burning hot. I itched like a mother******. Not a good way to present yourself to your most beloved cousin and aunt after ten years apart!
I knew it was bad when I found myself showing pictures of me with The Boyfriend on Facebook and exclaiming, 'See, that's what I REALLY look like!'.
So the next day, The Aunt (who will now be referred to as 'Aunty Battleaxe') conned me into driving... yes, driving. In Asia. Without an international license, on the first day of arrival. Anyway... Aunty Battleaxe conned me into driving into Pulau Tikus to visit the doctor and the herbalist. She thoughts the hives were due to a terrific case of nerves, and we also stopped by the pharmacy where she tried to swindle them into selling her some Valium ('I was on Valium for three years after Fred died') but to no avail.
The visit to the doctor was a real revalation. He confirmed that the hives weren't a nerves thing ('If it were eczema maybe, but this is not...') and he proceded to ask about my diet.
Now, NO Australian doc has ever asked me about my eating habits, not in the last decade at least. I have a regular doctor here in Melbourne whom I'm fairly loyal to, but he couldn't give a rat's ass whether or not I'd had rat's ass for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The consultations involve him complaining about his horrible children ('My wife wanted them *despair*') whilst typing on his computer.
So, the Penang doc asked me about my eating habits, then told me to drink alot of water, poop daily ('must, must get rid of the toxins'), eat tomatoes and bananas ('they have potassium, which is what you need') and drink even more water. He then gave me a schedule of pills to take, which was the same meds as I was prescribed here. But there was no hauling my ass down to the pharmacy to procure some random bottle of god-knows-what, taken-three-times-a-day-with-food. Oh no. This was different.
At the clinic, and in every clinic I ever went to as a child growing up in Malaysia, there is a dispensiary.
The doc had a quick chat with the dispensiary nurse, and outlined to me exactly how the pills should be taken and when. At the dispensiary, the nurse proceeded to fill four little bags with the exact quantities of pills, and on the bags themselves were instructions as to when/how they should be taken, in gradually reducing quantities. Hell, she even rounded off the sharp corners with a tiny pair of scissors so I wouldn't get jabbed by the foil edges.
Exhausted, lobster-faced and weary, I nearly cried with gratitude.
And when we got back to Aunt Battleaxe's flat (by way of the curtainmakers and the mooncake shop) I proceeded to drink LOTS and lots of water...