Somewhere on the ride back from Batumi, I lost my voice. Maybe it was the late night swim in the Black Sea. Maybe it was the singing heartily well into the morning. It was probably that I had a slight soar throat the day before. Oops.
It is very interesting and often contradictory advice that one can get about a lost voice. My host mother immediately put water in the freezer for me to drink. Then at school in the teacher’s lounge it was agreed that I should only drink warm or hot water. One of the more extreme ideas was a recipe including a teaspoon of soda, a bit of salt and a few spoonfuls of something called jod (which the closest I could understand was hydrogen peroxide). Another folk remedy was something called kvacarakhi, which is tkhemali (a plum sauce), that has been boiled for about 6 hours, is incredibly sour, and is apparently good for you throat and voice. I believe my favorite advice from the teacher’s lounge was to take milk and mix it with bubbly mineral water and either gurgle it or chug it, I am not sure what they meant. Luckily, I did none of these things. What I did endure might have been just as bad.
My host mother’s sister came over and gave me some nice tea. That was pleasant enough. After I was finished with that she gave me a white pill that she told me to chew and swallow without water. I nearly vomited. It was the most bitter, acrid and most vile tasting single thing I have ever put in my mouth. I barely, barely managed that. Once my host mother came back she then wrapped a pen with gauze, dipped the gauze in a brown substance, handed me a mirror and told me to open my mouth and rub the gauze covered pen all around my throat. I did so and gagged horribly. Looking at her for further guidance she continued to point at her throat and make gestures that I should literally stick the pen down my gullet. Not wanting to actually vomit, I politely refused.
Each day at school I would go to the lessons and sit in a chair at the front of the room. If there were answers to be written on the board, I would do that. If homework needed to be corrected, I was more than happy to get out the handy red pen and grade. In the first grade I even attempted to go around half of the room with a book and do verbal work with the students. It is quite amusing and fairly impossible to whisper to a scared, shy, completely out of their element first grader and have them actually say something intelligible back.
After 4 days of this, I woke up one morning with my voice. Despite the advice and valiant efforts of my teachers and host family, I am a firm believer that the 10 plus hours of sleep every night is what really brought my voice back.
Upon returning to school and my 1-5th grade co-teacher hearing me speak, she promptly asked me to sing the ABC song for the students. In all four classes, multiple times. Needless to say, I could not hold a tune and I nearly lost my voice again. Though I must admit it was nice to feel useful again.