It wouldn’t be a trip to a developing country without a post about severe reactions to food.
Though mine isn’t about street food or ingesting soup made with contaminated water.
I’m gluten intolerant. China is showing me just how gluten intolerant I am. Gluten-intolerance or Celiac’s is something that’s not really well-known here, nor is it taken seriously. From what I’ve been able to gather- now that I’ve had another attack even after stopping eating in Peter Hall and showing my “no wheat, soy sauce or MSG” note to restaurants- this is one of the most difficult countries to be gluten-free in. The combination of soy sauce and barley vinegar in everything, low English levels, not taking it seriously, and a face-saving culture that is inclined to assure rather than warn knocked me out again yesterday.
Last Tuesday, I woke up feeling like hell, even though I’d slept about 11 hours. I was utterly exhausted. I knew that the build-up of traces of soy sauce and MSG in the food was getting to me, so I went to see the acupuncturist and get a foot massage to stimulate everything. I wrote a post about it that you can check out here. After leaving there, I felt woozy and weak, so I went and laid down. I resolved to no longer eat in Peter Hall since the chef said he’d lay back on MSG, but not soy sauce or wheat to thicken. The students took me to a restaurant here on campus and we ordered several dishes to go.
My partner’s parents came in town this weekend and we had a wonderful time. I’ll write more about what I learned when I’m feeling better- suffice it to say for the moment that Fu Hao is a monumental badass, (High Priestess AND General?? Whaaa?) my new hero, and you will be hearing more about her.
Yesterday, it hit again. Only much worse than before. The freshman drills had been moved up from 9 to 8:30—apparently per emails that we didn’t get that went out sometime after 9 the evening before. My stomach was not happy, and running to the bathroom was slowing down my morning routine. The crew left without me. Once I was ready to go, I went to the administration building where I’d been hearing since I’d gotten here that all this would took place. Nothing. I climbed all the *%&#$@* stairs to see if they were on the town side. Nope. Walked this direction- nothing. Walked that direction. Nada. They’d said something about a parade, so maybe they’re on the avenue that runs behind European street… nope. So by 9:15 I’m soaking in sweat, my stomach is complaining louder than I am, no one’s answering my calls or returning my texts, and every faculty member I talk to is just as clueless as I am about where it would be. I give up and go back to my room.
Just as well, since I was to go to the bathroom 6 more times before lunch.
I’ve joked with my colleagues here that I don’t know which is worse—that I haven’t had a solid stool since I’ve been here, or the (totally rational) fear I have that my toilet would back up were I to have a well-formed stool. But all that aside, this is a bit much. It’s only the second time that I’ve gone several times in a day, and it’s clear that something is really not okay. I ate white rice with a few peanuts for lunch.
A student picks me up for computer lab. By the time we climb to the 4th floor and walk into the un-airconditioned room, I feel like I’m going to pass out. It’s all I can do to write the assignment on the board. By now, I know that I’m reacting to having eaten gluten, so I try to find articles on being gluten-free in China that may have clues as to what I’m eating that I didn’t even know to look for. I’m not able to get more than 2 sentences in to any article before its re-routed to Baidu, the Chinese google. This is what happens when something is being censored. They’re censoring articles about staying gluten-free in China. Seriously? Seriously.
So I pose to do Ctrl A, Ctrl C faster than Wyatt Earp at noon and get the info into a word document. I’m able to read a couple that way. There is gluten in the flavoring that’s used in stock. There is also a hydrolyzed starch that’s used in a lot of flavorings that has gluten. Crap. There is a note on this blog that says “I will die a horrible death on your restaurant floor if you feed me gluten!”. I think I need to print that one out. The image of my mountain-woman body writhing on their floor may just be strong enough to get them to take me seriously. These cards from Celiac Travel would also be good to have if you’re planning to come to China and need to stay gluten-free.
My patience level with copying and pasting into another document is dropping fast, so I just focus on finding remedies for dealing with symptoms once you’ve been glutenized. Many hail something called Glutenzymes. But that’s not available here, I’m to find out later. If you’re coming, find it and bring it with you. As well as activated charcoal. A student is going to get me some fresh ginger, caraway and fennel seeds, and some digestion tea from an herbalist. Kristine brought me some bananas and yogurt this morning. I feel like I want antacids. I feel like crap. I sent my class over to Kristine’s vision board class last night and thinking I’ll have to cancel the 2 sections I’d planned for today. The Mid-Autumn Festival starts tomorrow, so I was doing a class after Open Forum today to make up for those that would be missing tomorrow. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I feel really weak, and need to save my energy. I’m doing an academy-wide workshop on MBTI tomorrow afternoon, and the day after that we’re going to Dengfeng Pagoda Forest and the Shaolin Temple.
Though the idea of eating nothing other than steamed vegetables and plain rice until I leave makes this spice-lovin’ foodie very sad, I can’t do this again. I’m scared of what’s happening in my body that its reacting so strongly. Its much worse than I’ve ever had happen back home, so I’m worrying about cross-contamination at this point and scared to eat anything cooked in a well-seasoned wok, even. Did those words just leave my finger-tips? Sacriledge! Yet, here I stand. Or rather, here I lay. Crunched over and moaning…