Today is a day at sea – one of two between Singapore and Thailand. And I’m sick. Like, snotty, hacking, coughing up phlegm sick. I started the day with room service breakfast – oatmeal and lots of orange juice. I made a pot of tea in the new teapot and drank it, then made another. I had to carefully consider how much tea I was going to drink, because the water from the taps here is nasty, and the drinking water comes in 1-liter bottles, of which we get 2 a day when they make up our room. Except that they haven’t had a chance to make up our room since yesterday morning, because I’ve been ill.
It made me think about the kind of packing I used to do for my 10-day residencies at grad school. I’d take plastic wine glasses and a corkscrew, dishes, sharp knives and scissors, a tiny cutting board, a fruit bowl, laundry detergent and fabric softener, all kinds of over the counter meds (Excedrin, Sudafed, Mucinex, antacids), a power strip, a sewing kit, a small electric kettle, a teapot, tea, first aid supplies. This all went into a big plastic box, because I drove to residency and had the room for it. We also took all this stuff on trips for piping competitions, which were normally only two or three days. And these trips were in cities, where I’d be near grocery stores, etc.
All that stuff, packed for less than two weeks, and yet, I didn’t pack most of those things for a four-month trip where I would have very limited access to stores! Here are some things I regret not bringing:
- Command hooks (there are just never enough hooks, and they’re not where you want them)
- Normal scissors (I brought hair scissors, but you can’t use those on anything else)
- Sudafed and Mucinex (why did I think we wouldn’t get sick on a four-month trip?)
- Powdered hummus (they never have enough vegan protein options, and hummus is always a nice snack)
Having not brought that stuff, here are some things I learned from shopping abroad:
- Other countries have unexpected restrictions on pharmaceuticals (for instance, in the UK, you can’t get more than 32 pills of the over-the-counter painkiller paracetamol – in the US, you can get Tylenol in Kentucky Fried Chicken-sized buckets)
- Speaking of pharmaceuticals, other countries don’t call stuff the same thing we do, or use different drugs for the same effect, so you have to do some decoding (we couldn’t find guaifenesin, an expectorant, but we could find this other stuff that works even better and doesn’t taste like burnt hair)
- In Asian countries, people are expected to be smaller than they are here (if a piece of clothing says “one size,” it’s a good bet it’s at most an American size medium)
- Hummus is mysteriously elusive – we haven’t been able to find it in Dubai, Malaysia or Singapore, and I feel like we’re just not looking in the right place – either it’s sold in a can or jar, or it’s sold as a powdered mix. However they sell it (if they, indeed, sell it), we haven’t been able to find it.
Hopefully, I’ll be over this creeping crud in time for Thailand.
All the days at sea are eerily the same. But I got a lot of work done today.