Friday, September 24, 2010

Adventures in Cough Syrup

I've been a bit mopey lately. Maybe it's the gray and rainy weather, maybe it's this cough I can't shake, maybe it's just the first round of homesickness and feeling sorry for myself because I don't have housing, only kind of speak the language, and am feeling a bit isolated. Whatever it is, I've been kind of crabby. Still, though, I have managed to have some bright spots amidst my doom and gloom.

This morning I got up and realized two things: 1) I stink. I've been showering regularly, and while I've got plenty of clean underwear and socks, I've been wearing the same two pairs of jeans and 4 t-shirts for the last week and a half. Everything else is meticulously vacuum-packed in storage bags in the big suitcase, because I thought I'd have housing by now. I could open it up, but then there's an excellent chance that I won't be able to get it closed again. And 2) this cough is annoying the crap out of everyone, especially me, and I need to do something about it. Seriously, I coughed in line at the grocery store today (I covered my mouth as any polite person would), and everyone within earshot turned and looked at me like I was spreading SARS around or something. So I set out in my new rain coat (one of the aforementioned bright spots-- I love this coat) for the pharmacy.

Now, allow me to take a moment to explain that pharmacies in the US are not the same as pharmacies in France. First of all, every "pharmacie" in France has a bright green, Vegas-style flashing sign outside that blinks and swirls and does all kinds of crazy things to get your attention. Strange but true. Second of all, in France, "over the counter" medications are actually sold "over the counter," ie, you don't need a prescription, but you do have to talk to the pharmacist to get them. They are also a lot stronger than OTC meds you can buy in the US, which may be why you have to talk to the pharmacist first. So I walked into the main pharmacy in the center of town and spent a few minutes looking around. Also unlike US pharmacies (I'm thinking like CVS and Walgreens), French pharmacies don't have all that extra crap like hair accessories and makeup and parfume and stuff, which sucks, because in this case I actually wanted that extra crap to be there so I could find some body spray or some Febreeze or something to make myself smell a little better. But, nothing. So I settled for some ylang-ylang essential oil (holistic treatment components are often sold alongside conventional ones), and I think it was actually a better choice because now that's what I smell like, ylang-ylang, instead of half like cheap parfume and half like a 3rd-day t-shirt. So I grabbed that and went in for the scary part: trying to communicate with the pharmacist. It actually wasn't that bad. It went something like this:

Me: Bonjour Monsieur.... uh.... je parle francais assez bien, mais... uhh... (Hello Sir, uh, I speak French kind of ok but, uh...)
Pharmacist: Oui? (Yes?)
Me: Uh... j'ai besoin de quelquechose pour...(I need something for...) and then, not knowing the word for cough, I just gave him the best, phlegm-iest chest cough I could muster.

And it worked. He grabbed a big bottle of cough syrup, told me to take 3 spoonfuls 3 times a day, and I paid and went on my way. So, not as scary as I thought, and taking French cough syrup is actually not quite as torturous as American cough syrup, because it is thinner and goes down much easier. Still have to chase it with some orange juice though.

So that was my morning. The afternoon finds me smelling better, coughing a little less, and looking forward to having dinner with some British assistants and a couple of potential roommates tonight.

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