Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Going on vacation, we'd like to think that we're leaving the rest of the world behind. But one thing you can't drop at the bus station is that chest cold you've been nursing for two weeks.
I was sure that I'd be better by the time of the trip but I was still feeling quite sick the morning we had to get on the bus. Hopefully, I thought, the rest of a long bus ride will help me feel better. But 12-hours with air conditioning that could not be turned off only made things much worse. By the time we got to Siem Reap I was a mess, and my health would only get worse as the week went on. Tuesday morning, after our complimentary breakfast of tea and toast, we took a tuk tuk[its a carriage hooked to a motorbike, what passes for a taxi around here] out to the Amelio School where Daphne used to do NGO work with Caring for Cambodia. Looking at the people and state of the country, Cambodia really made Vietnam look like a first world country. Their saving grace would be that those that owned motorbikes kept them very shiny and pristine, unlike in Saigon. But the roads were a terror, people get spine injuries from driving on less.

We helped Kaye, the director of teacher training, with some odd jobs around the school. I taught her how use a new program she had just gotten for making picture books.

At siesta time, we went to the pool that the hotel owned to have ourselves a very long nothing. There were a lot of very long nothings on this trip in fact, because I was too ill and too low on energy to do anything. Plus, my appetite for most foods had gone which made it hard to be talked into meals. I failed horribly that night when I tried to have a burger.
The next day we went back to the school and did a small photography project for Kaye. She gave me a driver and we went out to find examples of littering so that she could make a picture book about it for the kids. All I have to say is that the river is very, very dirty and people burn their trash. But I don't know what else they can really do when there is so much more that they need in their lives than a better public trash utility. We spent another siesta in sloth and then met up that night with Kaye and Fionna, the owner of our hotel, at a tapas bar. I managed to find a couple things I could swallow. When we parted, Daphne and I stopped by The Blue Pumpkin, which makes really good ice cream and desserts and got some green tea ice cream. Not as healthy as a pot of green tea, but still very yum.
We had planned to do the temples on the third day, standard tourist protocol, but Daphne was feeling apprehensive about my health and kept asking if I was sure I wanted to go. Had I looked at my health with some clarity I would've said no, but instead I shone with the arrogance of a drunk who's convinced he can still get behind the wheel. My memory of the temple trip is hazy, but here are some picture that prove I must've been there:

After we had done most of Angkor Thom I threw in the towel. I could barely breath with every step back to the tuk tuk. It was absolutely miserable. When we got back to the hotel we talked about going to the doctor and decided we should. I was already planning on going when we returned to Saigon and had called off of work for the weekend. But then Daphne asked if I would mind being quarantined if it came to that. The issue wasn't one of minding, but of my visa status. My Vietnam visa expired the following Wednesday and I had to get my passport to HR stat. What if I was quarantined passed the visa date? Would I be stuck in Cambodia for two weeks, trying to get a new visa?
We finally decided that the hospital would need to wait until Saigon and we didn't leave the hotel room that night[Daphne left for a bit to get a small, but crucial, road item, a blanket, and some soy milk since I was passed eating solid food] or until our pick-up for the bus the next morning.
At the bus station a little beggar boy was biting at our heels and Daphne gave him our leftover breakfast, which he sits down on the spot to eat. On the bus I manage to circulate a thought through the haze of my fever and ask her, 'Did you just give that boy my half eaten banana chocolate pancake?' She looks back at me with an 'oh shit' look. Luckily, I would find out later that what I have isn't contagious, but it was a worrying thought. Well, not so much for me, I was emotionally cold going on frigid by this time in my illness. The only thing I saw was a stretch of road with the hospital on the finish line and reaper racing me there[bound to feel that way when you spent the morning coughing blood into the toilet seat].
So, twelve hour trip, dropped stuff at the house, and taxi to the hospital. Walking through the doors I was relieved to see that there weren't alot of people to wait for, but was less than thrilled that they made me fill out paperwork. Worst hospital ritual ever. What I can say about the hospital, well, I don't have much experience with hospitals but I definitely think the nursing staff's english and service definitely has some ways to go. But the doctors were generally helpful and their english and knowledge was very good. I spent the next two nights there at the hospital on an IV being pumped with antibiotics and fever reducer. With me I brought a stack of tests that I had to grade and have at the school the next day, but thankfully Daphne took on that grueling task for me.
So... Today. I'm at home, I'm on antibodies, and I'm barely moving a muscle. But I'm eating, I'm breathing and I can even smell things now too. So the reaper will have to wait for a rematch.
Expect to see me out and about very little the next couple weeks, I just spent the better part of the month being sick and acting like I'm not and I'm exhausted. I'll write again after that. Wish me health.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man Sergey, I had the same illness in July. Seriously the worst pain I've ever felt in my life and my throat was swelling uncontrollably... and then to top it all off, the antibiotics they gave me made me throw up for 36 straight hours. So I wasted away for a while but recovered within a week thanks to daily correspondence with a doctor's office. I have no idea how you handled that crap for a whole month! Glad you are better though. Sounds like you're having a real good time when healthy =)