Thursday, November 21, 2013

Immunity Tea

Yesterday I felt a flu coming on. I did a search to see if there was anything that could be done about it and came across a recipe for Immunity Tea. The writer claimed if you drink this tea, your symptoms for a cold or flu will be greatly reduced and would be the difference between staying home sick and feeling like hell or going to work with mildly annoying symptoms. I had to try it. With the daycare kids coming over and Bob going to work, I needed to find a way to get through the day. Plus, my great-grandmother was a huge fan of garlic and onions, eating them raw to maintain her immune system. She was never sick apparently. My dad eats tons of fresh garlic and I've only seen him have the flu once in my life.  It was definitely worth a shot.
Ingredients for 2 servings:
  • 1 Garlic Bulb
  • 2 inch piece of Ginger
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 3 cups Chicken (or Vegetable) Broth
  • Honey to taste
After bringing your broth up to a boil, add in the lemon juice. If you have a submersible colander,put your chopped up ginger and garlic in it and place in the boiling water. I didn't have that, but I did have a bunch of tea infusers and those did the job quite well. The recipe said to reduce the pot to a simmer for 15 minutes, but I did not read the recipe properly. I let it go for a full boil for 15 minutes. The end result was 200ml of very potent tea.

I mixed in a tablespoon of Buckwheat Honey and poured out two cups. Bob isn't sick, but I told him he must drink it for preventative measures to see if it actually prevents him from getting sick. It smelled good to me, but Bob didn't agree. It tasted like an Asian stir-fry sauce, very salty, and adding more honey didn't help the flavour. It was kind of like drinking soya sauce or terriyaki sauce. I brought out fresh pineapple and strawberry slices so that we could have a chaser to help us get the tea down. It worked well and actually complimented the tea nicely.

My symptoms before the tea were:
  • Muscle pain in my lower back, shoulders, and neck
  • Sore throat
  • Migraine
  • Nausa
I know my body and things were about to get worse before they got better. I could just feel it. I brushed my teeth and tongue very well after drinking that tea and tried to get some sleep. I was tossing and turning and freezing and sore. I made Bob go into the storage locker beside our apartment and bring out all these extra warm blankets and crank the heat up. I slept for 2.5 hours, waking up at 2am.

I was very, very dehydrated. I could feel the cold water splash down my throat and hit my stomach. I know some people like that feeling, but I do not. It's very uncomfortable for me and I'm not used to that feeling. I ate some more fresh pineapple and strawberries and went to the bathroom. Let's just say my number 2 was more akin to a number 1, but it was a one time deal.

I wasn't sick to my stomach anymore. I felt thirsty and hungry which I think is a sign of being more well than ill. I kept down the fruit and the thought of throwing up never crossed my mind. My back pain and migraine are not extreme as they had been before. Neck pain is still brutal. I drank a large chocolate milk and the dairy did not affect me negatively at all.

I've been awake for almost 3 hours and watching TV for an hour didn't lull me to sleep like I wanted it to; that's why I'm blogging so damn early in the morning. I'm going to try to go back to sleep now and see how the rest of the day goes. Bob bought some "real" flu medication for me to take in the event this tea isn't all it's claimed to be. I may make another batch this afternoon, though, I will reduce the amount of Chicken OXO I add to the water. I found it to be way, way too salty, but I also condensed the hell out of it, so that's probably why it was like that. Live and learn. (Though drinking 100ml is way more manageable than a cup and a half! I don't know if I could drink that much! Maybe I'll just boil the hell out of it again and use less OXO.)

If you feel even the slightest inkling that you're about to get sick, I highly recommend this tea. I didn't think it was as nasty as Bob did, but you be the judge. I'm not totally cured or anything, but I feel like it's safe to open up the daycare and that I'll be able to do my job properly without breaking out into a cold sweat and passing out. This will probably be the shortest flu I've ever had!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What It Means To Be Grateful

Someone posed a question in a forum about daycare food going to waste; If uneaten food goes in the trash, what's the difference if the child had eaten it instead? Isn't eaten food wasted food too?

A bunch of people agreed with the poster for some reason, but I just can't wrap my head around that. Food is fuel for the body. If you filled your car up with exactly enough gas to get somewhere, but found you didn't use it all, would you save it for later, or would you dump it out because "it's gas you would have used anyway"? That's not economical at all!

Wasted food makes me sad. Bob worked hard to pay for that food and when something forgotten in the back of the fridge grows mold, or a box of whatever in the cupboard goes stale, that's a waste of money too. That food could have provided me with energy and nutrition, and now I have to go out and get more of it. And when perfectly good food gets thrown out instead of eaten, well that feels worse than chucking something expired. At least with the expired food I had intended to try and eat it.

The kicker is that I don't really like eating leftovers. I do it because I can't afford not to and I see the value in making meals ahead of time, or preparing extra food at supper for lunch the next day. Foods I'm not keen on eating again I give to Bob and Tesla or the daycare kids. And if they don't eat it... well, it's food I would have thrown out anyway, so it doesn't hurt the same way as throwing out food I would have eaten.

We're such a rich country, children (and probably some adults too) living here can't fathom what it means to go without. It's only those who take their excess for granted that waste. (So, pretty much everyone living in the western part of the world.) I think of all those people in the Philippines who have nothing right now, and I do feel a bit guilty for having access to so much, wasting food, wasting water. I can't help but feel removed from the situation, since it's so unlikely that would ever happen to us in Canada.

But I'm not the type of parent that gives the "there are starving children in the Philippines and Africa and China that would love to eat what's on your plate!" speech. So send it to them! I would tell my father when he would yammer on about Africa. I thought it was such a stupid saying growing up and I didn't understand it. I didn't know what it meant to be grateful.

That all changed when I was an adult. Not because I had pay for and prepare my own food, but because of a holocaust survivor's presentation about his life. When I was working at CBC I went to his presentation he was giving to a group of high school students. During the war he and his family had to live under a crawl space and they rarely got to get out. They had nothing to eat but rotten onions for months on end. Every day, raw, rotten onions to eat. He hated onions. He said he would have eaten anything, anything else but an onion if he had the chance. He would go to sleep and dream he could have a tall glass of cool, refreshing water to drink, all for himself. They were all so thirsty and hungry and cramped, just trying to stay alive and fight off illness.

His story was so powerful, it was hard not to cry.  That stupid saying... there are starving children in the world that would love to eat what you have... it finally made sense to me in that moment.

I can't wait until Tesla's old enough to understand that story. Just because we can and do waste food, doesn't mean we should or that it's okay. Remembrance Day combined with the disaster in the Philippines has me thinking extra hard about all the things I'm thankful for. We're all privileged. Let's not forget that.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

Samaritan's Purse has been around the globe many times over trying to convert heathens and shine God's light into the darkness ie. impoverished places with a lack of Christianity. While I don't agree with evangelizing people, especially vulnerable children who then try to convert their parents, I do like the idea of giving a gift to a child far away. (And I think Samaritan's Purse exaggerates how many people they've actually converted. Just because a child takes a free bible study course and signs a piece of paper, doesn't mean they've truly converted their heart and mind and soul. If I was poor and starving, I would say yes to anything that gave me a free gift too.)

Despite being an atheist, I decided to put together some of those famous shoe boxes for 3 lucky girls and 3 lucky boys aged 10-14. I did a lot of research for this project because I wanted the boxes to be of good value. The suggestion list on the Samaritan's Purse website was not very comprehensive and I found a lot of ideas elsewhere. The best ideas came from those who actually helped hand out the boxes to the kids and saw their reactions when they got opened.

It is suggested that I include some hygiene items such as soap, a face cloth, and toothbrush. However, the soap stinks up everything in the box and the children often don't use their soap if the smell is too strong. In many parts of the world, face cloth aren't used, so when children find these in their boxes they think they're rags and don't know what to do with them. Also, sending hygiene supplies sends the message that the way they clean themselves is not good enough and the Western way is superior.

What I included from this category: Mom gave me some hotel soap, a sponge, and some toothbrushes, so I put those in, but not every box got it. Each box got tissues and a First Aid kid and I added reusable sanitary napkins and cloth storage bag for the girls' kits.

It is suggested that I include various school supplies. School supplies are the most popular thing to add to the shoe box. They're in high demand and everyone cherishes them, so I wanted to put in as much as I could. Mom contributed quite a bit for this one working at a school and all.

What I included from this category: Each box got a handful of pens, pencils, package of pencil crayons, an eraser, pencil sharpener, notepad, scribblers, stickers, crayons, markers, and a pencil case. Not too shabby.

It is suggested that I include something soft for the child to immediately hug like a doll or stuffed animal. Toys are not the most popular things in the shoe boxes. Most children just don't know what to do with a stuffed animal or doll. Days are spent trying to find food and taking care of younger siblings, not playing make-believe and hugging stuff. Plus, I feel like most dolls sold in N.A. are not appropriate at all. Blonde hair and blue eyes with ivory skin, sexy outfits, make-up... not very relate-able.

What I included from this category: My shoe boxes were for older kids so I included 2 or 3 things like, travel magnet games like checkers, wooden dominos with animals instead of dots, Jenga, jump ropes, hacky sack, Sudoka puzzles, and connect the dot colouring books. I figured the missionaries could teach the kids how to play if they were interested, or maybe they'd figure it out for themselves, and if not, they could always sell or trade the toys to someone for food.

It is suggested that I include clothes, candy, and a photograph of my family and a short note. A lot of people add full outfits, pajamas, shoes, and socks. You're really taking a gamble adding these things because you don't know where your box is going or what size to get. (Apparently God makes sure the right box gets to the right child.) I don't believe that, so I chose not to include those things and just get something more universal.

What I included from this category: I added Cooler-style tote bags, (apparently sometimes the boxes get damaged and at least the child will have a way to carry all of their stuff home,) a large variety of hard candy, water bottles, and work gloves. For the girls' I added hair barrettes and head bands, wooden beads, assortment of embroidery thread, bamboo spoons and spatulas, bamboo skewers, and some necklaces I never wear. For the boys' I added twine and a solar powered flashlight.

I also wrote a short note that says: We hope you enjoy your gift! It was fun putting it together for you. Have a great year and best wishes to you and your family. Much love. And then I used Google Translate to translate the message into the 9 different languages of the countries these boxes could go to. (I read some missionaries have an overwhelmingly amount of translating to do, so I thought I'd make it simple for my boxes.) Some people send an international stamp and stationary so the child can write them back and thank them, but that would cost me another $12, so I doubt I'll do that. (Though I do love mail and pen pals!)

I wanted my gift to be practical. Everything could be sold or traded if it couldn't be used by them and that's what was really important to me. I wanted it all to be useful somehow and not some trinkety junky shit. A lot of people add kids meal toys, and random toys from the dollar store, but those aren't made to last and a lot of it isn't even culturally appropriate. (Kids have been known to eat Play-dough and Silly Putty for example since they don't know what it is or what it's for.) And I don't know why, but a lot of people think it's okay to include battery operated toys with an extra set of batteries. Once the batteries are dead, that toy is useless. There are no batteries to buy where these kids live. With Tesla's toys, her batteries are dead within months. It seems like a waste of a gift to me.

Each box cost me $21.67 to fill. The suggested minimum donation of $7.00 per box to help cover the cost of shipping would mean I'd have to pay $42 to the ministry. I'd get a tax receipt for it, but because this is optional and I'm atheist I don't want to the give the ministry anything. I'm already giving to the children. I bought the supplies and put it in the box. What they do with it from there is up to them I guess. (Or God?)

What these poor communities really need is money. I was willing to spend $130 on stuff for complete strangers who don't live in my country, yet I won't give $40 cash. That $130 would go so much further there compared to the things I bought here with it. That's just how we Westerners roll though. The way I see it, 100% of my gift is going to a child, where as only a percentage of my cash donation would actually go to the child and the rest would go to administration type stuff.

Samaritan's Purse's number one objective is to spread the gospel. That's what they use their money for and it's listed clearly on their website. Helping impoverished people get access to clean water, livestock, ect is just a by-product of their true goals. They give gifts as a way of accessing communities to convert others. Here's a goat, it's a gift from above, now listen to my sermon.

There is an "optional" 12 week bible study course the kids can take. It's a big deal with a graduation ceremony afterwards, including cap, gown, and certificate. Apparently 9 out of 10 kids are coerced into doing it. I guess I'm hoping that my 6 boxes will go to the kids that are in that 10% that choose not to go. Either way, I won't ever be making shoe boxes for Samaritan's Purse again. It was fun putting the boxes together, but there are better ways to give and make a difference and definitely better charities as well.