Friday, October 30, 2009

Russia and the H1N1

I was cold in class.

It’s so hard to figure out how to dress nowadays. The metro is unbearable if you have too many layers on.

So on this particular day I had left my warmer sweater at home and was cold. As soon as we had a break, I jumped up and grabbed my coat, which I had thankfully not left in the cloakroom.

In the middle of class, the grammar teacher stopped and looked at me.

“Are you cold? Why are you cold?”

I shrugged, burrowing deeper into my coat.

“I KNOW why you’re cold! You don’t eat meat! That’s it!” continue/-

Well, I suppose I don’t eat a huge amount of meat daily, but I doubt that I would have a substantial layer of body fat even if I did.

“You have to eat meat! Sausages, cheese, yogurt, sour cream…fatty foods! Then you won’t be cold.”

She went over the window, promising to open it just a crack. Then she began to speak again.


I stared down at my desk in the awkward silence that followed.

“I went to buy myself a mask, and can you imagine? They said in the pharmacy that every morning, people come and buy all the masks! They can’t keep them in stock. You should ALL have masks! Right, Elizabeth?”

I squirmed in my seat, recalling an article I had read recently on a U.S. news site, proclaiming the futility of wearing a mask.

“People, you need to be drinking tea with lemon. What you do is take a knife, cut the lemon in half, and share it with your roommate! If you don’t like eating the lemon with sugar, then you can squeeze it into your tea.”

I tried to be serious, but I could hear the corners of my mouth twitching. I didn’t dare look at anyone else.

She told us of the different stages of Swine flu and all the symptoms. Then we were back to grammar, and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

But I remembered that a small child at church has a lung infection, and I realized it isn’t so funny.


  1. We sure do get a lot of health advise!

  2. Now you know why every winter the Russians think I'm going to die any day since I'm a vegetarian ;) But I think I'm actually much healthier than the avarege Russian, despite the fact that I don't eat that much fatty foods... After all, sickness in Russia is caused by "drafts" and I'm always very careful not to open any windows...

  3. I love reading your stories, Liz, and I'm glad you post them on Facebook. Really sorry about the child at your church, though -- will be remembering him or her in prayer.

  4. It is really fascinating to be able to see a few glimpses of how this flu is being "handled" from country to country. I found it interesting (coincidental?) that my Moscow e-friend's daughter's school was closed due to flu the same day my children's East Lansing, MI school was closed. And, in Korea - which I begin to believe out-fusses Russia, the teachers in his school are required to wear a mask WHEN THEY ARE NOT IN CLASS. I have to wonder - what good does THAT do, then?

  5. Thanks for your comment, Philip!

    Josefina, you sure are brave for sticking with the vegetarianism. :) You don't eat fish, do you? That would make it a lot easier.

    I find the subject of hygiene across cultures to be fascinating in general. I don't think I have encountered a culture which, upon close inspection, was not concerned with cleanliness in their own way.


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