Nick Fitzhugh and Pete Muller are in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, working on a documentary series about the cultural significance of soccer in the country. They’re blogging about their experiences for us here at Intelligent Travel, and today Muller shares his attempt to try a South African natural remedy. See Fitzhugh’s first post here.
My eyes squint uncontrollably as I bite through the tough skin of a lemon. Its bitter juices flood over my tongue and into my cheeks, causing my mouth to pucker. I fight the urge to gag. The lemon’s fleshy mass is tart but easy to chew, unlike the skin, which feels like leather in my mouth. My lips, chapped from the cold, burn as concentrated citrus attacks each individual crack. I make it through half of the lemon before deciding that I lack the fortitude for this traditional South African remedy.
I’ve been sick since arriving in Johannesburg more than a week ago. I am ill largely due to my own miscalculations. When I left my home in southern Sudan, it was over 100 degrees and had been since I arrived there eight months ago. The seasons in Sudan are defined by the prevalence or absence of rain, not by significant variation in temperature. As I hastily packed a bag for South Africa, I was guided by hunches and suppositions rather than facts. I recalled the temperatures in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania and concluded, quite incorrectly, that the word “cold” is rarely an accurate adjective in Africa. Four linen shirts made it into my bag, one lightweight fleece jacket just in case. “That ought to do it,” I thought.
South Africa is, however, vastly different than any other African country I’ve visited. The bitter winds cut straight through my poorly conceived wardrobe. I blow warm air into my hands in a futile attempt to regain mobility. With stiff fingers, I struggle to make focal adjustments on the game of street soccer that we’ve come to film in Alexandra Township. Steam drifts from the heads of the players and, for a moment, I consider running laps to beat the cold. “Our winter is serious,” a young player remarks when he notices me shivering on the sidelines.
“So I’m learning,” I respond.
Three punishingly cold days send me glassy-eyed into a string of pharmacies. Attendants keep their distance as I hack and sneeze my way through the isles. The clerk at the register takes my money by its edges as though she’s tempted to let me walk out with my Hot Toddy packets rather than touch bills that passed through my germ infested hands. I begin a steady diet of pungent cough syrups, medicinal drinks and menthol cough drops. My sinuses throb, my throat aches and my eyes tear constantly.
As we move through Alexandra Township and the lives of those who will define our series of films, I receive numerous suggestions on how to clear this terrible flu. “You have to eat a whole lemon, the skin and everything,” says Babes Bopape, one of our main subjects. “Sounds terrible,” I retort, imagining the overwhelming tart of raw lemon. “Oh it’s horrible,” he says. “But it won’t be much worse than how you’re feeling now.” As I burst into a fit of uncontrollable hacking, I realize that he’s got a point.
While the experience is far from pleasant, it does have its merits. In addition to the concentrated dose of vitamin C, the raw lemon leaves me feeling cleansed. My nose is less congested and the aching in my throat has subsided. I am not sure, however, if these limited benefits are worth the pain.
- Nat Geo Expeditions