The taste of my own (Chinese) medicine.

Chinese medicine. We were looking forward to trying it. The pharmacist couldn’t speak English. No one spoke English. But someone emerged from the back of the store with a handheld translator. So what was it that I needed so bad from the pharmacy? A thousand things. Jet lag (even though this time it wasn’t too bad, miraculously); some anti-aging miracle? an energizer? a remedy against the common cold or the flu? The pharmacist was getting impatient. What on earth did I want? “Feel good”, that is what I managed to ask, a bit doubtful of how that would translate in her language. To my surprise, she opened a smile of recognition and repeated excitedly “feel good, feel good”, she didn’t need a translator for that. I was thrilled with our sudden successful communication and managed to understand, with the help of embarrassing gestures, that  I was supposed to take three little pills of the mysterious composition in the morning and four at night. According to the pharmacist, in order to experience optimal feel-goodness I should buy a minimum of three boxes. I bought two and, whenever I remember, I take two pills, attributing my well being to Chinese medicine and to a triumphant linguistic exchange. Encouraged by the success of the feel-good pills, I also bought some killer jet lag vials that I should take before bed time. Whatever it is made of, it is good stuff. I slept like a baby in China.

At the end of the trip, returning to Beijing from Xiang airport, I succumb to my Western ways and decide to buy some melatonin for our long distance flight back home. “It costs 200 yuans”, the Chinese saleswoman says. But at this stage I was a seasoned shopper in China: I offered 100 yuans. She disdains. I disdain more. She capitulates and I buy my melatonin, victoriously.


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