In Sickness and In Health (in Macedonia)

I’m currently recovering from my second major cold in Macedonia. The first was right after we got to Vatasha and it wasn’t too terrible, but this one had me home from school and miserable. Being that I’m 28, it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone actively care for me when I’ve got the sniffles.

Enter Baba.

Let me set the record straight first – I love Baba. She cares a lot about me and Kyle, calls us her children, makes sure we are always well fed and looked after, and gives me a hug every morning before sending me off to school (in plenty of jackets). But when you’re not used to being cared for so intensely, it can seem overwhelming. I’ll start with a list of things that, according to Baba, will make you sick:

  1. Being too cold
  2. Being too warm
  3. Not wearing socks
  4. Not wearing slippers with your socks
  5. Having wet hair
  6. Sitting on the floor*
  7. Drafts, known here as промаја**
  8. Not wearing enough jackets
  9. Not wearing a hat/scarf
  10. Not eating enough, or eating particular things (like raw potatoes) or combinations of things (like grapes and beer)

*I made the mistake of sitting on the ground when we first got here when I was trying to help pack grapes, and was promptly told to get up so that I wouldn’t get a sore throat/kill my ovaries.

**Promaya (промаја) happens whenever there is a draft, or when there is more than one window open in a room/car at any given time. It is very dangerous and will kill you.

And I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting. Basically, the world is a dangerous place with illness around every turn. When you catch a cold, it is literally because you’ve allowed yourself to get too cold. Yesterday when I decided to stay home from school (because I couldn’t talk and was a walking snot factory and my sinuses were going to fall out of my face) Baba made sure I was well tucked into bed with a blanket around my shoulders and my sleeping bag pulled up to my chin and brought me some tea. When I went out later and explained that I wanted to make some warm salt water to gargle, she said she had never heard of it before (which seemed strange to me, since she is usually the first to suggest some home remedy I’ve never heard of for just about everything, and I thought salt water was a pretty universal thing to help sore throats). Anyway, not one to turn away from natural remedies, she helped me get it all ready (while telling me quite pointedly in Macedonian that she DOES NOT like when her children are sick). She then offered me something out of a tiny bottle in the fridge that I later found out was some kind of herbal thing, but only because I had to call the Peace Corps doctor and ask him to translate what the heck the stuff was and if I should take it or not. Then I got promptly tucked back into bed and took a nap, only to wake up to Baba checking my temperature on my forehead (which I’m sure felt hot, because ALL THE BLANKETS, even though I didn’t have a fever).

Anyway, I’m now not allowed to hang out in our room during the day because it’s too cold, and I should really be in the kitchen next to the fire so I don’t get sick again. And I should probably be wearing more than one pair of socks, just in case. But it’s ok, because in the kitchen I’m the closest to the best medicine – all that Baba love.

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