Adventures of Life in Beijing

Health Precautions

Staying healthy while living in China is one of my main concerns as we prepare to move. So I logged onto the Center for Disease Control website, clicked on China, and the following helpful information came up:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Eat  and drink safely
  • Keep away from animals
  • Prevent bug bites
  • Avoid sharing bodily fluid.

Ok, I think we can manage this. To tackle the vaccines, we headed to Passport Health in Orlando, rolled up our sleeves and emptied our wallets. One hour, 9 shots, $1,925 and a stop at Chick-fil-A later, the boys and I are sufficiently armed against Japanese Encephalitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis. We decided to pass on the rabies vaccine (I thought those were for dogs?) vowing instead to duck and cover if we are attacked by a swarm of rabid bats (or rats for that matter).

Stocking the pharmacy

With the shots out of the way, I turned my attention to gathering inhalers, Epi-pens, allergy medicine and enough over the counter meds to give CVS or Walgreens a run for their money.

Stocking up on OTCs

Tums, Tylenol, Sudafed, Benadryl, cold medicine and other soothing remedies readily available in the U.S. are hard to come by in China outside of a hospital setting, as no Western-style drug stores exist. I’ll probably throw in some hand-sanitizer and sunscreen for good measure.

Face masks

And then of course there is the infamous air pollution problem. Some studies suggest that living in Beijing on a bad air quality day is the equivalent to smoking 25-40 cigarettes a day. Well, I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life and don’t intend to start now.

So we are bringing our Vogmasks, super comfy, stylish cotton face masks that filter out the harmful particles in the air.

I have this pretty floral one, but I am thinking about ordering a few more. Don’t you think a girl should have a mask for each outfit, kind of like shoes?

Being prepared

While we are prepared enough to make any Boy Scout proud, it’s highly unlikely we will be swarmed by encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes or suffer permanent damage from a few smoggy days. More than likely our biggest risks are painful fingers from Chopstick Overuse Syndrome (COS) common to new expats and Beijing belly (gastric upset from too many stuffed buns)

Try it

Just one more…..I dare you.

Free stuff

You made it this far. Thanks for reading! What’s your go-to home remedy or OTC medicine when you are sick? I’d love to hear so I can bring it along. Comment below or send me a message. Best suggestion wins a prize (pollution mask or Pepto Bismal, your choice.)

Comments (2):

  1. Maggie Sigiani

    March 18, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    I would take EmergenC, normally I prefer natural stuff but with this, not going to lie, it helps me a lot. Many times when someone is getting sick here, this is what helps and prevents us to be in bed for days. I am praying for you all my friend!

    Reply
    • Kirsten Harrington

      March 18, 2019 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks Maggie! Great idea, I have never tried those but I will add them to my list. Thanks for the prayers, that’s what we need the most❤️

      Reply

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Snake Skin

I’m really sorry I let you down. I made promises I just couldn’t deliver.

If you recall in my last post Chinese Medicine I planned to drink a pot of Chinese herbal tea everyday to try and improve my reptilian skin, itchy scalp and overall parched demeanor caused by Beijing’s cold dry winter. I know you were hoping I could share the results of a miracle cure.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine moisturizing tea

 

The concoction, brewed from a collection of beige roots and twigs, smelled a bit like a musty wool blanket that had been stored too long in a closet. It didn’t taste bad but as the holidays approached there was too much competition.

My first-ever  homemade eggnog with a splash of Captain Morgan’s did nothing for my skin, but it uplifted my spirits tremendously in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

 

You can’t buy eggnog in Beijing, but homemade was so easy !

 

Then there was the buttery yellow Chrysanthemum tea given to me by a friend. The color just made me happy, and I’d choose the floral aroma any day over the musky medicinal potion.

 

Chrysanthemum tea

 

And then there was the treasured Cadbury’s hot chocolate mix, which felt like such an indulgence topped with homemade whipped cream.
(Instant hot chocolate is a foreign luxury good, not readily available.)

Peet’s Coffee made its debut in Beijing this winter, and Santa brought me a shiny red mug for Christmas. It just didn’t seem right to fill it with Moisturizing Yam Tea.

 

 

With all of the competing beverages, I just couldn’t face another cup of astralagus root and dried yam tea.

In an effort to soothe my winter-weary skin, I turned to another (this time external) popular Chinese remedy: snake oil.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s what those fly-by-night traveling salesman used to sell at carnivals in the early 1800s, right?

Actually, it turns out that snake oil has a long history of popularity in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Made from the oil of water snakes, this omega-3 fatty acid rich substance has been used to soothe skin, cure dandruff, relieve split ends and reduce arthritis.

A quick visit to Wal-Mart and I strike gold: there’s snake oil cream right next to snail slime extract. Maybe these cold-blooded creatures can help.

 

 

Online shopping offers more choices, from Snake Oil exfoliating gel to Snake Oil hair removers and whitening creams.

 

I’ve ordered a moisturizer and a scrub. I passed on the snail slime. I’ll check in again in a few weeks and let you know things are coming along.

 

 

Pick up Sticks

Who Says You’re too Old to Play with Your food?

From meaty, cumin-scented lamb skewers to sweet, candied hawthorns, Beijing is filled with food on a stick. These fork-free dishes are perfect for strolling, sharing, dipping or indulging. If you’ve ever cooked over a campfire or savored a popsicle, then you remember that hand-held food is fun for all ages.

Local Flavors

Head to Qianmen or Nanluoguxiang to start, and grab some lamb skewers, “whirlwind” potatoes, squid or sausages on a stick.

 

Cumin-rubbed lamb skewers are a must try.

 

Called “whirlwind” or “cyclone” potatoes, think of them like fresh potato chips on a stick, seasoned with salt and pepper.

 

Choose your squid and have it cooked to order.

 

For the truly adventurous, there are scorpions, silkworm larvae and tarantulas, perhaps best left for capturing with your camera and not your taste buds.

 

They’re mostly a gimmick, but you’ll find scorpions and tarantulas too. See the starfish in the back?

 

For an experience that’s a little more off the beaten path, head to Xinmin market (subway stop Guloudajie) and spend the morning exploring the produce, spices and wet market. When hunger strikes, look for the ma la tang stand selling a variety of skewers including mushroom bundles, quail eggs, meatballs, broccoli, lettuce, noodles and much more. Don’t worry – there’s no menu to decipher; just point to a skewer that looks good and give it a try. For just a few kuai a skewer, it’s a fun, affordable outing.

 

Tofu, potatoes and broccoli are my favorites. Choose “spicy” or ”non-spicy.”


Travel the Globe

Don’t limit yourself to Chinese food. Beijing has a whole world of flavors just waiting for you to try. Grab a map and start checking off your destinations. At Athena Greek restaurant the Chicken Souvlaki comes on a suspended skewer.

Nearby Alameen offers a platter of mixed Lebanese kebabs, and a taste of Turkey is just a hop, skip and a jump away at Turkish Feast.

Branch out from curries at your favorite Indian restaurant with a skewer of cheese-like paneer or head to NomNom in Haidian District for Indonesian mutton or beef Satay with a side of Sambal Kecap, sweet soy sauce mixed with chilies and shallots. And of course, don’t forget to stop in Thailand for some peanut-y Chicken Satay.

If you’d rather take cooking into your own hands, Café Zarah offers Cheese Fondue every evening after 6pm. Each bowl of melted cheese-y goodness comes with crunchy cubes of bread, vegetables, cornichons and a bowl of pineapple.

 

A cozy evening at Cafe Zarah.

 

Cheese fondue.


Sweet Endings

Winter is the season for tanghulu, those shiny, sugary fruit sticks decorating the city like ornaments.

Round red hawthorns are the most popular, but you’ll also find grapes, kiwi slices and Chinese yams. There are even some Santa-themed ones with marshmallows and strawberries.

 

Freshly dipped in molten sugar water gives fruit a crackly, sweet finish.

 

Santa-themed fruit skewers.

Keep an eye out for purple sticky rice dipped in sugar or waffles on a stick that spell “I Love Beijing” in Chinese characters.

 

Warm glutinous rice dipped in sugar makes a filling snack.

 

Waffles on a stick make it easy to snack and stroll.

 

Find your zodiac sign fashioned in sugar candy or grab a stick full of sweet-and-sour shan zha (dried Hawthorn).

 

Floral scented gui hua cake drizzled with syrup beckons with its golden yellow hue, derived from Osmanthus flowers.

 

 

For a more interactive experience, head to Qianmen Kitchen restaurant  to make some S’mores. Roast American marshmallows over your own charcoal brazier, add some Lindt Chocolate and sandwich it all between Biscoff cookies and digestive biscuits.

 

Lastly, don’t rule out ice cream just because it’s winter. Beautiful rose-shaped ice cream and vibrant fruity popsicles (at Nanluoguxiang) will make you forget how cold it is outside, even if just for a moment.