Monday, January 30, 2012

Gettin' My "Boot-On"

                                                            “Booting”- Phase I:

Yesterday I was struck with what must have been one of the worst cases of food poisoning in recorded history, or so it seemed to me. I don’t know what I could have done to offend the Gods so profoundly, but the scourge and wrath brought upon my body indicated that I must have done something atrocious. My friend and fellow teachers Sarah and Tim also got hit and were thus able to share in the festivities that followed…

The rest of the group went hiking up to Buddha Point, a beautiful outlook with an enormous, golden Buddha (obviously), then shopped, bar hopped, and/or cavorted around merrily as I was crawling- literally crawling- from my bed, to the bathroom, and back. All day. I have absolutely never been in such excruciating pain.  My new pal Dave even came in my room, played the guitar and sang to me in an attempt to try to make it better (probably the kindest, most helpful thing that could have been done), but I was beyond relief.

After about 12 hours of this, my sweet roommate, Sabrina, and others thought it best to take matters into their own hands and insisted that I go to the hospital- with much reluctance on my part. 1.) I don’t like hospitals in general. 2.) I was embarrassed and didn’t want to be even noticed in this state, let along babied. 3.) I wasn’t sure I could even walk to the elevator and get in a car. But my caring friends Tara, Ashley, Sabrina, and our helper Neema helped me outside where the lovely hotel staff and owner were waiting to rush Sarah, Tim, and myself to get checked out. What happened at the hospital will make me forever grateful for Westernized healthcare. The following account is not meant to alarm anyone or to berate the Bhutanese medical system in any way, but I do believe writing is best done earnestly, so I will explain what happened, from my perspective.
Thumbs up for Bhutan belly!

The emergency room was a desolate lobby scattered with rickety old metal stools. To one side there was a little room with a lady taking patients’ blood pressure and symptoms. In the opposite corner of the ER there was a small booth, which was the pharmacy, and doors opening into a hallway that lead into two examining rooms. The lady who took my blood pressure listened to my account and wrote me some prescriptions based on my descriptions. She was not a doctor or nurse. She noted and was concerned that I had high blood pressure, but was not equipped with a thermometer or any other testing devices, so I was ushered into the examining room.

This is where the real fun began. It was shocking. There were cots lined up with people laying all over- people coughing, bleeding, kinds scampering around, no single stalls, no containment of patients (more importantly, their symptoms) or privacy. There were big blood splatters on the walls and the sheets were visibly soiled- footprints and smears of who-knows-what. The doctor, who I learned studied commerce, was impatient and curt when we asked him the name of the injection he wanted to give me. “Why would you even ask, you won’t know what it is, so why should it make a difference to you?”
A picture is worth a thousand words

“Then, no, sir, thank you. I prefer not to have any injections.”
“Fine. Up to you.”

I did not escape being stuck in the fingers twice, though, due to a failed attempt at testing my blood sugar levels the first time. Even this made me nervous as the nurse dropped the bloody test strip and put it in backwards. Poor Sarah did not fare as well as she had to have two I.V.’s and was there for most of the night. Since I refused injections or an I.V., I was free to leave. By this time the pain had begun to subside and I was on the mend. Whew!

All this being said, my fellow teachers, already dear friends, were amazingly helpful, concerned, and advocated for me the whole time, as was the hotel and BCF staff. My visit was swift, relatively painless, and absolutely free, which cannot be said of doctor/hospital visits back home. This experience has opened my eyes to the disparity in medical care between developed and underdeveloped places and it makes me grateful for the Bhutanese way of taking care of its citizens in a free and efficient manor, and Western technology and hygiene! All is well that ends well, though, and by the time I got back to the hotel I felt much better and was able to get some sleep; which leads me to the other “boot”…
Ashley got my prescriptions for me and kept spirits high!

                        “Booting”- Phase II:

Having had such a miserable time the day before, I was hell bent on making it out of my room and joining the group on a hike up to Tiger’s Nest, the oldest, most well-known Dzong (monastery) in Bhutan- the legendary birthplace of Buddhism.

"His Majesty" seemed to be quite taken with me despite my fanny pack!
I felt much better and attacked the mountain with verve, having a newly-gained appreciation for my health and body. Thanks, mom and dad for the great hiking boots! They really are fantastic! On the way up, I met Jangtrul Y Rinpoche, a Lama, who was referred to as “His Majesty”- very famous here. I told him I was a teacher and where I was going and he said that is where he was from. He wanted my number, but since I had just gotten a cell phone the day before and could not remember my number, so he gave me his.  I have to admit that this made me feel pretty darn special until I later found out that he told Sabrina he was from where she was going and gave her his number too! Ha! We’d been played like fiddles! Amazing…
Well said!

Tiger's Nest from afar
Almost there!

The rest of the hike was incredibly beautiful and the Dzong itself, miraculous. I have not felt such spiritual reverence as I did there. Once we came back down, I was feeling hungry for the first time in quite a while and had a renewed sense of vitality from the day’s adventures. I ate a good meal, and upon returning to Thimphu was even able to get some shopping done for supplies I will need at my posting. What a weekend- one of many extremes. Only in Bhutan, or should I say, “Boot-On”!

Warmest Wishes,

Just spectacular!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you're feeling better Reidi! Getting to Takseng it a real accomplishment...even when you're not sick!