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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

When a Sick World Jars, It's Time to Enjoy a Cure

Ah. What a great time of year. For one thing, the possibilities for columns are endless. You don't even have to waste any time dreaming up a lead-in sentence. You start with "Well, it's wet and cold outside, so that must mean...," and then you move on to any number of fascinating topics. Because this is the season when the local quirk factor hits its peak. Fighting the wiles of winter puts everyone on edge. People bare their souls even as they bundle up. The next six months are going to be interesting indeed.

Well, it's wet and cold outside, so that must mean that Moscow is undergoing its first sick wave of the season. People are dropping like flies, and for the few remaining healthy ones among us, it's really just a matter of time. Illnesses soak through households and workplaces with amazing speed -- it's not always clear why, since Russian theories of contagion often have more to do with the bench you sit on or the temperature of your drink than with any germs and bacteria someone might have left lying around. In any case, no matter how careful you are, chances are you're probably going to succumb sometime this winter.

Being ill in Russia is depressing, just as it is anywhere in the world. Foreigners used to well-stocked drug stores may take it especially hard. But as long as you're not in total agony, there truly is entertainment to be found in a Russian illness. Those hyper-effective Western elixirs leave you plenty of time to putter around and feel sorry for yourself. But healing yourself here is a full-time occupation -- there's not a moment to spare for emotional collapse.

There's all that gargling, for one thing. Every half hour, if you're at all determined to get better. Then the onion chopping. A little juice up the nose will do wonders for congestion, but the effects don't last forever, you know. There's a lot of tea to be drunk as well, which means almost constant brewing. If your throat hurts, a facial-yoga workout is a must. Open your mouth as wide as you can and touch your tongue to your chin, once an hour at least. A wet cough can be alleviated by suctioning small jars to your back -- they suck the impurities out of your lungs. This only has to be done once an illness, but the process itself can be time-consuming.

But the main thing is, you've got to sweat. Complete overheating is the goal. At least three major sweats during the day are advised, and if you can throw in an extra one overnight you'll be that much better off. And sweating is hard work. In addition to preparing all the blankets and boiling beverages that are involved, there's a lot of laundry to be done. You can't sit around in sweaty clothes, after all. It's almost enough to make you relieved to get back to work.