Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pills and Chewing

I have to apologize for not posting this week.   It is because I am sick.  The ugly old Strep bug swooped down and took me out, wrecking gleeful havoc on my tonsils.  During the lowest days, as I lay shivering and sweating in my darkened room, I decided that this was worse than even malaria.  It was can't-do-anything-but-cry sick.  It was I-just-want-my-mommy-even-though-I'm-grown sick.

I am now on the upside, thanks to blessed antibiotics and lots of honeyed tea, but am still in recovery.  So, today I'm hosting a guest post by my sister, Anna.  She writes (fittingly!) about taking chloroquine tablets, which are anti-malaria pills.

(that's Anna in the forefront, me in the back)

Pills and Chewing
By Anna Gentry

I remember in the early days mom and dad tried many things to make chloroquine more palatable.  There was the first attempt: sprinkle a crushed pill on dinner.  This only succeeded in turning a rare treat of mac & cheese into bitterness incarnate.  

They continued the crush  and mix method with a variety of things with identical results.  The one I most clearly remember is honey.  A brimming spoonful of honey.  At first it looked great, it wasn't often that my mom would let me have that much sugar at one time.  I put the spoon into my mouth and pulled it out again through my closed lips.  The small pile of powder hiding under the honey deposited itself right one the center of my tongue.  Swallowing did no good.  Have you ever tried to swallow a spoon full of honey?  Sticky bitterness clung to every corner of my mouth.  The cups and cups of water which washed the honey away did nothing to erase the now infamous chloroquine aftertaste.  It was 10 years before I could eat honey without the taste of chloroquine along for the ride. 

In the end, it seemed that the best method was to throw a pill as far back in your throat as you could get it and chase it with great gulps of water. The trick was to swallow the pill and any contaminated water while minimizing contact with your taste buds. This practice became forever entwined with, as we called it, Gum Day.  

The weekly pills were handed out on Sundays.  The incentive to take the pill was the gum you received afterwards. I am not talking about those little pellets that were sold masquerading as gum under the name Juicy Fruit.  This was real American gum that came in foil wrapped sticks.  It was gum that you could really chew and sometimes even blow bubbles with. Though this was an ever so cool skill that eluded me well into high school. 

In one aspect alone was this treasure inferior to the locally obtainable varieties of gum.  Its Achilles was its  sensitivity to heat and we had plenty of that on a tropical island where air conditioning was a distant fantasy. The glorious sticks of heaven would melt in the tropic heat and humidity.  If I kept it too long it would get damp and sticky.  I usually did, keep it to long that is.  To me, having gum I could chew anytime I wanted, real American gum, was often better than actually chewing it.  For one you could savor the idea much longer than the taste.  For another, if I held out longer than my siblings (this was not hard when it came to Matthew, my younger brother with a sweet tooth) I could have the added pleasure of holding it over them that I had gum, real American gum to chew, any time i wanted to.   

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I remember those pills well. I remember when we were deep in language learning and we were learning the word for "bitter." When we asked what was the thing that was the most "bitter," these pills were named.

    Some years later we discovered that if you paid a little extra you could get the same pills with a wax coating so you couldn't taste them.