In all my time in China I could never understand just why so many Chinese spat on the streets. There were two things I wondered about…1.Why it is that they had no regard for public hygiene? and 2. Why on earth did they have nasty goo in their lungs to cough up all the time anyway, don’t you only get that when you’re sick, are the Chinese just always sick?
And then after living in China for nearly two years I finally understood…
It was China they were coughing up on the street, it was all the nasty pollution that we breath in everyday that was presenting itself as a loud hawk that I can hear 6 stories up in my apartment and those big dirty globs of nasty yellow goo that I have to dance around like I’m walking through a phlegmy mine field.
It wasn’t until I myself finally had the urge to cough up China right onto the road that I could forgive them for the disgusting habit, for now I too had been struck down with a case of the China cough.
For 18 months I managed to avoid coming down with a very real medical condition affectionately known as the “China Cough” but really I was being naive if I ever thought I could escape its clutches forever.
It started off as just another head cold, no big deal. That was until I decided to go camping in Inner Mongolia in -4 temperatures still sick and even worse, now breathing in the thick dusty Inner Mongolian air. From then on it all went downhill.
The entire time I was in Inner Mongolia my lungs were heaving, violently coughing out the Chinese air that was lining my lungs. My attempts at spitting into a tissue were failing as it always managed to end up dripping out the sides and onto the footpath leading people to give me that look that said “So why do you think your too good to spit on the street, even when you’re trying not to you still do!”
For all I tried not to spit in public It’s not like I had much of a choice, it wasn’t staying down and looking at the almost fluorescent colouring of the nasty goo, that was not something I wanted to keep in my body. Every time I could feel a violent coughing fit coming on and far too polite to openly hawk one up on the side walk I’d casually stride up to a bush, lean over as if I was very interested in the shape of the leaves, quickly glance around to make sure no one was in close proximity and then coughed for my life! It felt like my lungs were bouncing out through my mouth.
Maybe, just maybe if I had spent the last couple of years wearing a face mask then maybe my lungs would never have gotten to the goo filled point they were at! But what was the point of dwelling on what I should’ve done, now was the time to get medicated!
I tried it all, western cough medicine, strong cough medicine you can only get prescribed from a pharmacist in Thailand. I even tried the remedy the Chinese use but that clearly fails at curing the China cough (considering how many people are sill coughing), a nasty thick brown herbal syrup called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. Now really if I thought a bit of liquorish, honey and maltose were going to make me better I would have just spent the past couple of months eating candy!
Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa: Ingredients
Tendrilleaf Fritallary Bulb, Snakegourd Seed, Loquat Leaf ,Thinleaf Milkwort Root, Fourleaf Ladybell Root, Bitter Apricot Seed, Indian Bread, Fresh Ginger, Pummelo Peel, Liquorish Root, Platycodon Root, Almond Exract, Prepared Pinellia Tuber Menthol, Chinese Magnoliavine Fruit, Maltose, Honey, Syrup.
Back in Shanghai and after practicing the Chinese hawking up technique but still not able to master it like Chinese old men do I find myself getting glances on the street and on the metro like I’ve got the plague every time I loudly cough. The plus side is no one wants to be near me, I guess that’s one way to avoid the crowds, have an invisible coughing buffer surrounding you!
For over 2 months this cough has refused to pack up its bags and head off on its way, clearly it’s having too much fun taunting me, draining me, making me far too tired to do anything. Apparently I most likely have China induced bronchitis, bad news for me because there’s not a lot that can be done to cure it, for some people it goes away naturally after a few weeks but for others it often won’t go away until you get yourself out of the polluted environment that’s causing it.
So I guess that means whilst I’m still living in China the China cough is just something I’m going to have to accept as part of my everyday life just like almost getting run over by a scooter every time I cross the road.
Category: Health & Safety