One day, out of nowhere, my coworker asked me what I thought of Indian advertising on television. Not sure where she was going with this, I gave a reserved answer and said, "Oh, well, I guess I don't have much to say because many commercials are in Hindi so I don't really know what the message is. Overall, they seem to be simpler than American ads." She nodded her head and agreed, for she had lived in the US for a few years and felt that advertising in the States is more sophisticated than in India.
Her next question is what struck me. "But do you notice what the ads are for in the US compared to India? I remember thinking that there was nothing but commercials for drugs and pharmaceuticals in the US. Every other commercial was for some new medication." And then I thought about it. She's absolutely right; I've never seen a print or television ad for medication here. Accordingly, buying medication, or any sort of health maintenance product for that matter, isn't very easy.
Hole-in-the-wall "chemists" sell individual blister packs of pills and everything is packaged under different names so you really have to know what you need in order to get the right thing. My drug-conscious American self learned the last go-around that it's better to pack your own pharmacy than to seek one out here. Doing so paid dividends this week when I went on a quick jaunt to the Indian countryside (upcoming post) and returned sicker than I've ever been here. I've used every single item below in the last 48 hours.
- Bottled water. If you stray from this, you'll be needing copious amounts of #1.
- Zyrtec. Summer is in full swing right now and the breezes are blowing across the dry landscape. Dust is everywhere and pollen from the flowering trees will assault your nose like no other.
- After Bite. The mosquitoes are out in full force, too. I am quite prone to being eaten alive, even if I slather on #5.
- Off with Deet. Now, the naturalists in the audience may say, "Heck no, Deet is nasty stuff." And you'd be right. But malaria is nastier in my book.
- Ear plugs. During the quick trip to the country I was sharing a hotel room with a coworker. A coworker who snores in a very loud and irregular fashion. If it's not the perpetual car horns blaring out your window then there will be some other noise to disrupt the precious sleep you can capture. Fight back!
- Band-aids and alcohol wipes. I got this nifty little kit during the first week of grad school when companies were throwing their products at you left and right. Yay, marketing! Since then I've kept the case and refilled the bandage stock inside. It works well for keeping these items dry and collected.
- Sunblock for the face and
- Sunblock for the body. This might shock you, but finding high SPF sunblock, or any sunblock for that matter, is next to impossible.
- Purple pill = kids' multivitamin.
- Pink pill = Azithromycin antibiotic. Also known as your knight in shining intestinal armor.
- Brown pill, big = Atovaquone, to prevent malaria.
- Brown pill, small = Ibuprofen, for the hangovers from not so good Indian wine.
- White pill = Melatonin, natural sleep agent. Gives you wild dreams but it really does help with jet lag.
- Red pill = Antihistamine. Used more for countering my reaction to bug bites than allergies.
Comprehensive pharmacy, right? It doesn't stop there, y'all. I have a whole arsenal just for dental hygiene. Before India I'd say I was pretty good about dental care. Brushed twice daily and flossed, um, a few times a week. That all changed during the last few days of the January/February trip. My teeth showed increasing stains to the point that I didn't even want to smile I was so embarrassed by the encroaching brown. I know, ew. During two hour-long cleanings I was told this is pretty normal and that the diet of high acid, lots of spices, and non-fluoridated water all work against you. So when the dentist suggested I make a few changes to the dental routine I marched right in line.
- Regular toothpaste, not the whitening kind. Apparently the whitening kind causes more harm than good as it erodes your enamel to achieve the (temporary) whitening. Due to the acid/spices/water combo above, my enamel is already taking a hit so I should avoid a full-on assault.
- Floss. Especially important for getting all the spice particles out.
- Blue Listerine. Preferred flavor for mouth rinsing.
- Brown Listerine. Picked up in Mumbai for retainer rinsing.
- Electric toothbrush. Mine is a Sonicare travel model. This was the biggest recommendation from the dentist, as the vibrating brush would do a better job at knocking the nasties off the teeth than anything else. So far, no stains.
- Regular toothbrush. Just in case I forget to charge the Sonicare.
Okay, so are we done yet in the bathroom department? NO! As I mentioned during my last trip, the diet here also does a number on your personal smell. Add to that the millions of unidentified particles floating in the air and you will find yourself walking through a thick soup of smells that later show up as grime on your washcloth. Lovely!
- Dove bar of soap and travel case. This might sound funny, but I brought full-sized bars of soap from home because they feel more permanent to me, like I'm taking a regular shower as opposed to a hotel shower. I'm here for almost two months so I may as well feel like I'm taking normal showers and not living off hotel toiletries. So as to not sacrifice full bars each time I move hotels, I learned to bring a travel case along.
- Perfume. I rarely wear perfume at home but here I wear it daily. Fight fire with fire!
- Facial wipes, travel pack. These sit in my purse. Often, we'll go out for a group dinner after a late night at the office and we tend to walk to the restaurant. The facial wipes go a long way in the "freshening up" department.
- Tweezers and
- Nail polish remover pads and
- Nail clippers. I have yet to find a nail care section in any store here. I don't have polished nails or fancy hands. Instead, it's the diet (again!) that necessitates these items. You eat many meals with your hands here and that food will collect underneath your nails and cuticles. The saffron and curry often stain your fingertips. Thus, I'm doing finger clean-up long after the finger bowls have disappeared from the table.
- Make-up brush cleaner. Here too is something I never did before but it stands to reason that if my face is dirty then the brushes used on said face get dirty, as well.
- Q-tips. Yeah, whatever stuff doesn't stick to your face is surely accumulating in your ears.
Phew! That's it. I hope I didn't lose you halfway through this longer-than-expected post. This is a mess o' medications and things to pack but is there anything worse than getting sick and not being able to make it better? I think not.