Friday, October 18, 2013

City of Contrasts, Country of Unity

A delegate from Moldova, in a conversation we shared on the bus one evening, used the word contrasts to describe Johannesburg. That word turned out to be, in fact, the most accurate description of the impression I had gotten from Jo’burg as well as an idea that was confirmed again and again as more observations were made about the city. Johannesburg is a city where men with expensive suits and brand new Jaguars, Lamborghinis, and Mercedes drive by beggars and poor children on almost every street. Johannesburg is a city where the downtown Sandton City is as polished and clean as downtown Miami but you drive away from the Sandton Convention Centre in the wrong direction and start to see trash lying around in the fields, houses that look like shacks, people that look homeless, and most despairing of all – children that look abandoned. Speaking to school kids in Johannesburg, I one day listened to horror stories about what’s happening to their classmates that are making horrible choices and are referred to as “devil worshippers”, only to watch other kids running around the fountains and sharing their interests and talents in sports, music, and poetry the next day. But here’s the deal: these are a type of contrasts that to some degree or extent can be seen in every big city. Meanwhile, what struck me most about not only Johannesburg but South Africa in general is how strongly united the people were. I’ve never seen such devotion to one’s country in any other nation. I could be talking to a South African about the weather or their beautiful wildlife and receive a response that would make anybody want to stay in South Africa forever. Yet I could also ask them tough questions about the high rates of violent crime and youth unemployment in South Africa and a representative of the Ministry of the Police Force would take the time out of his busy schedule to be present in person, and not only openly admit those awful numbers but also respond by laying out the essence of the National Development Plan that is currently being brought up for popular discussion, information being spread so that the areas truly in need of help and development are properly reached. In the words, actions, and achievements of some South African youth activists, I’ve seen so much passion, hard work, education and energy that could build a whole new county in the middle of a windy, waterless desert if need be. Seeing this kind of potential, and given their hearts lie in education reform as of right now, we can expect to see even further improvements as a result of South Africa’s battle against unemployment and crime in the near future.

I am immensely inspired by the South African spirit for development and the paths the people are carving for themselves. I have to admit, other nations could learn more from South Africa about unity and passion for change than South Africa could from them. I certainly did.

48 hours vs. Flu

Most of us get a cold at least once a year. Since flu season is in full bloom, I thought I’d share a special routine I implement whenever I start feeling a cold coming. Usually this kind of an infection starts at the throat and slowly spreads through the nasal passages, and might even get further complications such as a fever and a cough. The first 48 hours (starting from the sore throat/stuffy nose stage) are very important because this is the time to help your immune system as much as you can in its fight against the infection. Below is a detailed description of the above-mentioned routine:

-hot tea with honey and lemon to soothe the throat;
-mustard bath or a salt bath (pour some iodized salt or powdered mustard into a small tub of hot water; soak feet in this water for 30 minutes; and remember: slight prickling sensation=okay, burning sensation=second degree burns);
-eat some raw onion – this should temporarily sterilize the throat and the nasal passages of any bacteria (Note: People with stomach problems can replace the onion by rinsing their throat  with warm water with salt);
-crackers and chicken noodle soup;
-drink more hot tea;
-layer up; wrap yourself in blankets and sweat;
-after about 30 minutes of sweating, change into dry clothes, drink more honey tea and sweat some more;
-at night, sleep for at least 10 hours;
-in the morning, take a steaming hot shower (loosens the mucus);
-after the shower, dry up and dress quicker than usual as to not let your body get cold;
-dress comfortably and again, layer up;
-eat a healthy meal (this means it should include protein – low-fat meat such as chicken for example – and vegetables/salad) every 4 hours; snack on fruit in between;
-drink plenty of water;
-always keep your feet dry and warm;
-Optional medicine for a cold without any fever/cough: antibiotics for 5-10 days (will need a prescription);
-Required medicine for complicated cases:
·      If you feel a bad cough developing, take antibiotics for the first 5 days and only then start taking the cough-specific over-the-counter syrups, gel capsules, etc. Taking the cough stuff too early would be useless anyway because, well there’s not much phlegm build yet to have to get rid of. Also, take it easy on the cough suppressants – I personally believe those do more harm than good: I’d rather cough more frequently but for fewer days rather than cough rarely and have to cough for a month.
·      If you have a fever and/or a headache, immediately take something with paracetamol in it and try to sweat as much as you can by resting under lots of blankets and drinking hot liquids in double your daily intake.

At the end of the initial 48 hours against the flu, when my immune system should be fighting with the aftermath of the infection on its own, I find it helpful to take some time to get life back flowing through my body by doing an intense 1-hr workout plus 30 minutes of stretching/yoga.

P.S. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor but am merely sharing my own experiences and research.