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“It seems she has the same prob­lem and at last, she said, a for­eigner has been sen­si­ble to come for ‘good medicine’. Her shout­ing, I asked? It seems she was a tad hard of hear­ing. Sim­ple”

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Contents -

A travel junkie since she was six months old, Drusilla Gillen spent 20 years as a suc­cess­ful gar­den de­signer, mar­ried an Army of­fi­cer and now in­dulges her twin loves of writ­ing and travel

It’s no se­cret, I’m coping with shattered knees and a set of bath­room scales which al­ter­nate be­tween hys­ter­i­cal laugh­ter and scream­ing ‘no, no, please not again’ as I stand on them in the morn­ings. But what came first, my in­or­di­nately large arse or bro­ken down knees?

I broke my legs and var­i­ous other parts a few years ago when still in the mil­i­tary, run­ning around in cam­ou­flage green and ab­seil­ing out of he­li­copters – which was the source of the prob­lem in the first place...a bseil­ing out of he­li­copters works bet­ter if you use ropes.

Pass­ing years, ad­vanc­ing mid­dle age and en­joy­ing life to the fullest haven’t helped. Not aided ei­ther by three years in Texas, eat­ing steak and en­chi­ladas, fol­lowed by three in Italy eat­ing pasta and gelato. Let’s say my knees are deal­ing with the strain.

I’ve just reached the age of fifty, so it’s time for new goals, new res­o­lu­tions and a new half cen­tury. Look­ing at my arse – re­ally, you can’t miss it, English work­men used to sing Queen’s ‘Fat Bot­tomed Girls’ when I walked past – I’ve im­ple­mented a new plan for both the hus­band per­son and my­self: cleared the fridge and cup­boards of ‘bad’ food; put to­gether an eat­ing and fit­ness pro­gramme and en­gaged a tor­turer (aka per­sonal trainer) to help when my will wob­bles – the break­ing strain of a wet Kit-kat, that’s me.

But on pain man­age­ment, well, that’s not so easy. The tor­turer Lisa ad­vises me on mus­cle de­vel­op­ment, the ex­cel­lent John at Phuket Knee ther­apy mas­sages a great deal of the pain away and then it’s down to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. But the gods alone know what the chem­i­cals are do­ing to my in­sides.

Last month, I came across the in­ter­est­ing Cheng Won medicine shop on Camp­bell Street in Ge­orge Town. Could this be the an­swer to pill pop­ping painkillers? It couldn’t hurt and I thought it would be fun to try.

Gently nudg­ing my way to the counter, I shyly ex­plained that I have ad­vanced os­teoarthri­tis and could they help? Alarm­ingly, a lady of (many) ad­vanced years be­side me started shout­ing and ges­tic­u­lat­ing, first at my face and then at my knees. Eye­brows dis­ap­pear­ing rapidly into my hair­line and with a face like a star­tled rab­bit, I looked in des­per­a­tion for a trans­la­tion. Far from “you no right to be in here, you go, out, out!” which is what I thought she was shout­ing, it seems she has the same prob­lem and at last, she said, a for­eigner has been sen­si­ble to come for ‘good medicine’. Her shout­ing, I asked? It seems she was a tad hard of hear­ing. Sim­ple.

Var­i­ous draw­ers and boxes were opened. Uniden­ti­fi­able and in­trigu­ing dried roots, seeds and pods were weighed, mea­sured and care­fully di­vided into pa­per bags. Cook­ing in­struc­tions were trans­lated into English and this happy girl left the shop, clutch­ing 24 days’ sup­ply.

Each day for the past fort­night, I’ve loy­ally fol­lowed the cook­ing in­struc­tions – the pods, seeds and herbs sweat­ing in a gluti­nous ‘soup’ – the fetid smell per­me­at­ing like a pu­trid de­cay­ing fog. As it sim­mers for an hour, the steam oozes its mal­odor­ous scent into the nos­trils and eyes of any fool­hardy enough to ap­proach the kitchen. And as for the taste… do you remember as a child, your mother hold­ing your nose as she poured some nox­ious liq­uid down your throat? Well that is what I have to do. Fast – as the taste vi­ciously stabs at my de­fence­less taste buds.

Has it worked so far? Dar­ingly, I’ve stopped tak­ing pain-killers and haven’t no­ticed any in­crease in pain level…but I’m wor­ried my house­hold won’t sur­vive this al­ter­na­tive medicine. I know my cleaner is con­sid­er­ing chang­ing to the af­ter­noons and my dogs al­ready flee the kitchen when I get ‘ that’ bag out, so...?

(The other side to this jolly delve into al­ter­na­tive medicine – whilst all that I could see in Cheng Won looked veg­etable in ori­gin, much is writ­ten about tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine be­ing a threat to en­dan­gered species, with a dearth of ev­i­dence for its ef­fi­cacy. So I think you’ll have to make your own minds up.) EL

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