Hungary Makes Me Sick

A Hungarian pharmacy.It took less than a week before my health declined.  Because of this, it took less than a week for me to make major scientific advances in the field of medicine.  Or maybe the field of torture, I’m still not sure.

In the heat and long daylight hours of August, I emerged from a plane in Budapest.  My body was tired, but my mind was too excited to care – this was the start of another great adventure.  Sleep wasn’t yet a priority, but it would inevitably win the battle sooner or later.

One interesting fact about me is that I sleep a lot.  A second interesting fact is that I get sick sometimes.  I mention these two together because the second tends to come about when I ignore the first.  In other words, no sleep equals Alex with a cold.

Before I flew to Budapest those seven months ago, I had just begun to win the battle with a cold.  I was pretty excited because trans-Atlantic air travel is miserable enough when you’re healthy.  No one wants to do it sick.  I could still feel the remnants of my illness, but it was mostly gone.  It was obvious that I just needed to rest, eat healthy foods, and not expose myself to any hardships.


A long flight to a time zone that’s 8 hours different doesn’t help the sleep patterns.  Nor does being in an exciting city with the thrill of end-of-the-summer nightlife raging.

As far as the foods, I didn’t know any Hungarian yet.  I was pretty lucky to get any food, much less something with high nutritional value.

I don’t even need to explain the hardships.  It was the start of an adventure.

To make a long story short, I got sick and was miserable.  The communist built dormitory in which I was staying didn’t have a working air conditioner.  It was like a sauna.  I had to sit through classes on how to teach, Hungarian language, and Hungarian culture – all in classrooms that were even hotter than where I was sleeping.

But the worst part was the tissues.

Let me explain my cold in very scientific terms - my head was clogged up.  I had to blow my nose every five seconds, but I still couldn’t breathe through it at all.  I couldn’t smell anything.

And then I bought the tissues.

Have you ever had perfumed tissues?  They can be nice because you get a fresh smell that makes you feel cleaner while your blowing out all of the sickness.  Once you regain the ability to smell, that is.

These tissues were different, however.  I’m fairly certain that these are the instructions the employees get at the factory where they’re made:

  1. The torture tissues.Fill a bathtub with the most horrendous, old-lady smelling perfume that you can find.
  2. Put 3 tissues into the gallons and gallons of the fluid.
  3. Leave them in there until they soak all of it up.
  4. Place them in an airtight package and sell to sick people.

They smelled so strongly of this horrible scent that it made me not want to blow my nose.  It was the only thing I was able to smell for the week that I had the cold.  No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t able to find any that didn’t smell.  A few times I thought I had, but the packaging was just too thick to smell until I opened it.  I’ve had nightmares about them ever since.

It was really quite disappointing, because the tissues that are sold in individual packets in Europe tend to be way stronger and more durable than the flimsy little ones we get in America.  I used to enjoy getting sick over here.  A little.

Why do I bring all of this up now?

Because it’s that time of year.  All week, the school was full of sneezes and miserable looking people.  Red noses and blurry eyes would look at me while teaching.  Other teachers sat around sneezing on the papers they were grading.  And the horrible little packs of tissues were on every desk.

I knew it was coming and I was scared.  Sure enough, it caught me a few days ago and I haven’t felt very well since.

This story has a happy ending, though.  I’ve figured out how to buy tissues that don’t stink.  They’re not as thick and durable, but they don’t make me want to kill myself every time I use them.

However, in my weakened state I accidentally bought some of the smelly ones.  They were a blast from the past.  Kind of like having your wisdom teeth pulled out a second time.


Hungarian word of the day:


Pronounced Oooy.  It means “new”.  I notice it on my package of non-smelly “Hárs CLASSIC 3 Rétegű Papírzsebkendő” (which is my big tissue package).  I truly hope that the “new” part isn’t referring to the lack of smell.  Hopefully people didn’t have to suffer that torture every time they were sick until just recently.  That would just be cruel.