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I got a cold. Touch of the flu. Plugged sinuses. Ache all over. The whole bit. How did I get it? I have been spending a lot of time around children, working with five children's hospitals and all. Then I was invited over to Ayuna's for her birthday dinner and her ten-year old daughter was sick. Then I was monitoring my student's final exam, this in room 202 that I doubt was 40 degrees inside (-39 outside). I got a real chill that day. I had to go home and jump in the shower to warm half up. Any and all of those things, combined with me being a tad on the thin side added up and, well there you have it.
Yanzhima first spied the symptoms, gave me the bent eye and said, "You need Baikal Farm's Balsam. It's made from natural herbs from the Sayane Mountains and based on Tibetan medicine. Three teaspoons in each cup of tea the first thing each morning."
She failed to mention that it was 90 proof. Whatever, it halted that flu in its tracks. Can't say it cured it, but there it and I hung, my nose a dead weight in the balance. One good thing is that it fostered sleep, always useful in such circumstances. That and chicken soup, in this case provided by the Khambo Lama. Very tasty. After a couple days of sleeping whenever not in class, I was up and about but breathing was a chore. The nose simply was not functioning.
"Banaya," said Alexsey. "You need to steam those passages open."
We tried that. I ended up clean, pink, relaxed and still clogged.
Meanwhile I was being dragged hither and yon from one holiday party to another, which at this time of year invariably includes champagne, wine, and other things like that that I'm a tad allergic to. Thus the vise on my sinuses was tightening. The double whammy effect. I attempted to loosen the grip with the last on my Nyquil, left to me by Roberto and Justine, Tylenol Super Strong Cold Medicine (new and improved I'm sure) and Rite Aid's Allergy Medication loaded with 25mg of Diphenhydramine all with varying degrees of success.
Olga, our dean of academics at the Academy, took me to a pharmacy and after conferring with the woman behind the counter had me purchase what was recommended as the best nose spray in Ulan Ude. It helped. But made me feel a bit woozy. I met Ayuna at Yanzhima's, who felt my approach was not the right one. Possibly felt a bit responsible as she admitted that her daughter had been down with similar but lesser symptoms and may have passed along a germ or two my way. Next day when returning from class, my floor lady handed me a box of soda and a note from Ayuna telling me to put a teaspoon in a cup of warm (previously boiled) water, pour it into my nose (suggested I try with a teapot), hold it up there for at least four seconds and after flushing whatever out, to use one of two nose drops, also supplied. This put me to mind when Milenko and Kathy tried to spring such an approach on my nose, this out in Issaquah. They even had a special Tibetan pot made just for the purpose. Kathy claimed it was fun and she would occasionally do this for the sheer purification of it. Remembering Peter Reynold's experience of being Rolfed and what they did to his nose, sounding very similar, I declined. Indicating my level of desperation, I tried Ayuna's approach. I admit it did help, but the word pleasant isn't one I'd use. She checked on me the next day and felt that I was not being aggressive enough with the solution and produced what first looked like a huge needle, a plunger really, and demonstrated on me how to power this liquid up my nose.
A lot did come out, but not satisfied with less than total victory she gave me a list of various anti bacteria agents, a bulb like apparatus and several other things to purchase. Six items in all. I shared this with Olga and her husband who felt Ayuna was taking the right approach, but I should be using sea salt, not any sea salt, but ancient salt from a Paleolithic seabed. It had a bluish tint due to added eucalyptus essence. They felt I should use only water that had been frozen and then thawed as Siberians believe freezing water changes its structure to become aligned with the body's liquids and also helps filter the water of any impurities. And to soak my feet in warm water prepared with dried mustard, and to place dried mustard in my socks and sleep with them on. I tried that, except I forgot the socks part.
Can't say it was any great leap forward. Actually I found the soda approach worked better. It also helped that I was out of the party season and wasn't having the added burden of dealing with allergies. Just a nose set in concrete.
Low and behold I woke, and air, faintly, but still moving nonetheless through both channels. Gad. Hope at last. The light at the end of the tunnel. I felt overjoyed and a huge wave of relief washed over me. Giddy even. Later that same morning, over at the History Museum looking for Nicholas to discuss printing photographs, Ayuna, who works there, looked at my nose and listened to the air flinting in and out. "Did you purchase the items on the list I gave you?" she said while holding a mop in her hand.
"Ah, no," I said eyeing her firm grip on the mop handle.
"Why not?" It now seemed to quiver.
"Well, it was working better and I resist using drugs if I don't have to."
"They are not drugs. They are medicine. Better is not good enough. They are not expensive. Don't move. I'm going across to the pharmacy right now." I didn't move.
Clearly I had given the wrong answer and somehow given her the impression that I was a tad frugal. This time she came back with a blue bulb designed specifically for such challenges of hydro-powering liquids up malcontent noses (noses of malcontents?) along with six tiny hourglass-shaped glass capsules filled with a liquid (how it got in there I have no idea), a tiny pie shaped file which she used to sand away at the glass and then snap it open. This anti-bacteria agent went up the nostril, which thirty minutes later shut tighter than a drum and so remained even after an afternoon of hard cross-country skiing with Olga and her husband. (I was attempting the Adirondack sweat it out approach)
That night after dinner, Olga's husband Lanya said, "There is an old Russian saying, that if you attack a cold with medicines, herbs, nose drops and such approaches, you can clear it up in a week, and if you do nothing, it will go away of its own accord in seven days."
As I write this I am in bed, I have re hydro-opened the cavities, put some drops in, air is moving, but as for tomorrow, I pray it will be the seventh day.
2006 North Country Public Radio, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York 13617-1475