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Posts Tagged ‘illness’

In India you always have to take the good with the bad. It’s part of the experience. So I suppose it’s only fitting for my parents that one day after seeing the Taj Mahal they’ve come down with a case of Delhi belly.
 

The 'Great Gate' at sunrise

We woke up yesterday at 5:30am to get ready to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It’s a strange feeling anticipating seeing a monument that you can picture so well without ever having laid eyes on it. There’s only a few places in the world like that: the Eiffel Tower. The pyramids of Egypt. The Chrysler Building. And of course the Taj Mahal. Part of the joy of India is that you usually don’t even have a concept of what to expect. But this is an entirely different scenario.

 
We arrived at the ticket counter and hurriedly purchased tickets before taking a trolley-like vehicle up to the South Gate (regular cars aren’t allowed within a certain radius of the Taj because of the pollution). We waited in separate security lines for men and women and my mom and I huddled together to try and minimize the chill from the pre-dawn air. As we stood in line waiting to be searched and prodded I watched as the sun slowly began to rise. I kept expecting to see a glimpse of the Taj every time I stepped forward but it was hiding from the gazes of all the tourists waiting in line.
 

The Taj in the morning fog

When we finally got through the gate we had to go through a magnificent sandstone arch and then… there it was. It wasn’t yet its magnificent white color due to the hazy morning light. It was almost gloomy, towering over us as the sun began to peek out in the distance. And it was beautiful. It seemed almost like a postcard or a mirage – it was so new and yet so incredibly familiar. We took the many requisite photos as we walked closer and closer and as the rising sun made the marble gleam whiter and whiter.

 

All of us in front of the Taj Mahal

Close-up of calligraphy and inlaid stones

When we finally reached the steps the sun was high and we made our way up close. From every angle it was beautiful – immaculate marble everywhere you turned, Arabic carved in delicate black calligraphy four inches deep into the stone, semi-precious stones were inlaid into the marble that fanned out into flowers and vines. We looked from the front, from inside, from the back, from inside the neighboring ‘guest-house’. I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Maybe it was the actual beauty or maybe it was seeing the legend up close, but I certainly was not longer tired from my early wake-up.

Me and the Taj

One common sight driving in India

We let the memory sink in as we drove the long drive to Delhi. The highways of rural Uttar Pradesh are a stream of different Indias. Farmlands of wheat give way to dusty smoggy towns. Huge goods carriers swerve around camels pulling carts loaded with goods. I haven’t minded the drives because there’s always something to look at.

 
But after settling in to Delhi, eating dinner at our hotel, and going to bed I woke up with some bad news – my mom was sick. She hadn’t eaten anything questionable (no roadside food, no salads, no water from a tap) but she had a case of the notorious Delhi belly. One day after India gave her the gift of marveling at its beautiful architecture it had struck her down with its just as renowned stomach problems. My Dad wasn’t feeling great but he was excited to sightsee, so we let my mom sleep and we decided to venture out into Old Delhi
 
My dad has been reading a book called City of Djinns (thank you to Daniel’s parents for giving it!) which is William Dalrymple’s memoir of his year living in and exploring the history of Delhi while trying to find the  remnants of the Moghul and British culture and architecture. My dad really wanted to find some of the places mentioned in the book (not normally on the tourist trail) and we set out to see if we too could spot the old architecture and charm amidst the chaos of the old city.
 

A ride down the street

We haggled a price with a bicycle rickshaw driver and made our way up Chandni Chowk and then turned down a narrow road. It was like stepping back in time- on this road bicycle rickshaws, men pushing large hand-carts, vegetable-wallahs, cows, people carrying goods on horses and pedestrians made their way slowly along the road, past crumbling old shops with dirty retro signs. Monkeys climbed along the balconies. The electricity and telephone wires were a jumbled mess above and even motorcycles were few and far between. It was odd to watch the street-life pass by as we sat in our rickshaw, slowly meandering through the very dense traffic. And it was so different to the India I know in Mumbai.

 

A monkey making his way in Old Delhi

When we came to the end of the road we found what we’d been looking for: Turkman Gate, one of the old major gates to the city walls. It was like crashing out of an old city into a new one- once you stepped past the gate the narrow ancient lane morphed into a modern highway. Next to the gate was the Delhi Stock Exchange. You couldn’t come out of time travel faster if you tried. It was a shock.
 

Where we bought some extra medicine...

But the more difficult shock was that my dad had slowly started to feel bad as well. We headed back to the hotel, disappointed that Delhi belly had claimed another victim.

 
They’re resting now and my fingers are crossed that their illness is the food poisoning it appears to be – usually these things don’t last more than 24 hours. It would be a shame to miss seeing the highlights of Delhi, even is some would argue that the illness might also be an ‘Indian highlight’. We’ll see tomorrow!
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They were four little words you definitely do not want to hear while living in India:

You. Might. Need Surgery.

It’s bad enough to be lying in a fetal position after spending your day taking tests. It’s another to contemplate having your body chopped into while living in a foreign country. I was not a happy camper.

It probably started with me boasting that I hadn’t gotten ‘India sick’ yet. I like to say this to people a lot – to be fair, it’s mostly to try and comfort people who are visiting. Such as, “Oh, you won’t get sick from the food. I’ve lived here six months and I haven’t gotten the notorious ‘Bombay Belly’ yet!’ I think I do better than my friend D who just likes to declare that she has a stomach of steel.

But I think there was a little bit of karma involved when I started to feel ill. It was as though the India gods were saying, “ok, you don’t need to get sick from food. We’ll give you a good-old-fashioned-regular-illness instead.”

I felt a bit ill on Friday but I only started to worry in the evening, when I took my temperature and it was above 100. I called my friend A.

“I have a weird question to ask you,” I began. “I have a fever. And Daniel is out of town. If this was America, I wouldn’t be nervous…”
“But it’s India.” she responded, clearly understanding where I was going.
“Right, so maybe you could spend the night over here in case something happens in the middle of the night?”

She, of course, said yes. You see, there’s an interesting thing that happens to all expats who live here: you get paranoid. And it’s justified. You hear too many tales that begin with, “Oh I thought I had a cold. But really it was dysentery” Or malaria. Or dengue. Everyone has horror stories about eating the wrong food or drinking the wrong juice. And these horror stories are much worse than your average food poisoning tales. So even the smallest hiccup or cough suddenly starts your brain ticking. What did I eat yesterday? Did I see a new mosquito bite on my ankle? Did I really wash that apple enough? You could go crazy worrying about getting sick – which is why most people stop obsessing over the small things after they’ve been here awhile. We start brushing our teeth with tap water and accepting ice from places that say they use mineral water. But it always lives in the back of your mind, the fear that India’s many health scares are coming your way.

I thought about all of this as I tossed and turned throughout the night. I couldn’t get comfortable no matter which position I picked. At 2am I looked at WebMd’s symptom checker. Bad idea. Once you say you’ve travelled to a third world country it starts giving you even more ideas. At 4am I wikipedia’ed dengue. That was comforting – apparently I would have had a rash, so it couldn’t be that. At 6am I took my temperature for the 20th time and was nervous to see it had gone up to its highest point so far. By 8am I woke up A.

“I think it’s time to call a doctor.”

My symptoms sounded bad- pain in the abdominal area on the right side of a female usually means appendix or ovaries, neither of which should be left unchecked. So we headed over to a clinic the doctor had recommended in order to get an ultrasound.

As I waited my turn in the plush waiting room I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad.” It looked nicer than any clinic I’d seen at home. I was able to stretch out on a leather chair while a flat-screen tv showed the day’s cricket match (not my cup of tea, but interesting enough). Even with the nice setting the whole ultrasound only cost 1,200 rupees, or roughly $26. That’s before I even submit it to my insurance. For all the things to complain about the on the potential-diseases-you-could-get spectrum, I also had to be impressed by the low cost of everything. It’s not a low cost relative to the average income in Mumbai (where a large percentage of people only make a few thousand rupees a month), but compared to American health care, it’s a steal.

However my initial optimism soured a bit with the results of my ultrasound. I had “edematous gall ballder walls with sludge’ and ‘enlarged lymph nodes with fatty hila’. How was I to know what that meant? Sludge certainly didn’t sound good. Most annoyingly, they unfortunately they couldn’t get a close enough shot of my appendix to tell if it was bursting. So it was off to a CT (which, just as an FYI, cost around $120).

I’ve never had a CT before, but I can assure you that it is all the more unpleasant when 5 out of 6 techs in the room do not speak your language. They didn’t really understand that I was in a lot of pain, and therefore was having difficulty lying in one position. I couldn’t explain that my elevated fever was giving me the chills, which was also making it hard for me to not shake a bit. Finally a woman came in who spoke English and put a few blankets on me. I thought she might be my savior until she informed me that I would need an IV that would pump warm contrast into my veins as well as a tube going into another area (which I won’t go into depth describing here, since this blog aims to remain family friendly!). Needless to say, by the end of the CT I was feeling worse for wear.

That didn’t compare to my doctor’s visit after it all, where the idea of surgery was finally raised. As I lay curled up, exhausted from tests and fever and an unflinching pain, I listened to what the doctor had to say. You see, my appendix was fine. But that darn gallbladder was indeed inflamed and it would either need to respond to multiple medications or it would have to come out. A surgeon was lined up and at the ready in case I needed him. I suppose that was supposed to be comforting. We would just have to wait and see whether the inflammation and infection could go down before surgery became necessary.

Luckily the combination of the largest antibiotics I’ve ever seen, anti-inflammatories, pain medication, and an anti-nasuea medication normally reserved for chemo patients (the antibiotics apparently can be too strong to handle without some other medication) has made me start to feel like a new person (and all the medications together cost around $5). Within a day my fever went from almost 103 to almost normal. I’m certainly not at my best (those antibiotics are really not making it too easy on me), but at least it’s looking like I can keep my gallbladder.

So what have I taken from my few days of true illness in India? Well, firstly I will never make the silly claim of not having been ‘India sick’ again (although technically, lets be honest, 6 months of no food poisoning is pretty amazing in here. Knock on wood). I’ll also appreciate the cost of medicine here; it’s really something we Americans forget when we have insurance and something we decry when we don’t. If India can do it this cheaply why on earth can’t we even lower our costs a bit? I alternately appreciate being able to see a reliable doctor here and having the means to pay for it. I couldn’t help thinking of all the women I’ve met in Dharavi who clearly can’t afford to even get the kinds of tests I was able to get. It’s scary to think of how much pain I was in and the idea that someone couldn’t get the right diagnosis to lead them to the proper medication. It’s certainly something to be reminded of.

Mostly though, I’ll just appreciate (almost) having my health back. I’ve been lying around thinking of writing and being sad that I have no stories to tell other than the woes of a nauseous person with an enlarged gallbladder. It’s time for me to get better and back to everything I enjoy about living in India. Other than, of course, its predisposition for making us foreigners ill.

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Rain Be Gone

My extraordinary salad

It was a very weird, unsettling milestone: we ate a salad at home.

This might seem bizarre as a momentous occasion, but as India newbies amidst a monsoon we had steered clear of the most likely route to sickness – raw vegetables. Every vegetable was meticulously cleaned and then cooked. Every fruit was peeled. Hands were washed before eating anything we were about to touch.

Yet in the past few weeks a drastic change has settled into the Mumbai we’ve come to know and love. The rain has steadily stopped. It started with a few days of clouds peeking through the storms. Then longer periods without precipitation. Then full days of the sun declaring its presence. And now, just like that, there’s no more rain. The monsoon has taken its bow and retreated until June rolls around again.

For most who live here its a blessing and a curse. The rains are over but now they settle in for a hot month before it cools down again in November. However for us, its just unfamiliar territory. I am so used to carrying around my small umbrella and stepping out in my waterproof shoes. I am so accustomed to knowing that no matter what the sky looks like, it will absolutely rain today. I am in the habit of not solidifying plans until I can tell whether or not we’ll get a full dose of monsoon or whether there will just be a drizzle.

I had never lived in a world where it rained every single day. And now I must oddly accustom myself to a world where I will not see a drop of rain again for nine months (unless we have one or two surprise rains left to break this spell).

Which brings me back to salad: I (knock on wood) have not had any food-related illness since I have been in India. This is obviously a trend I hope to continue (although now that I’ve put it in writing I’m sure I’m doomed). I think part of it is luck, but part of it has been having a very conditioned approach to food – I avoid anything suspicious, even if I really really want to eat it.

But the rains (and the dirt and disease that comes with the rains) are over and so vegetables are less of a danger. Nisha suggested to me the other day that it was safe to eat a salad.

“I know you are missing salad, so I will clean it really well and make one.”
“Are you sure that I won’t get sick?”
“Ha,” (yes) she said, “I promise you will not get sick. Monsoon is over, lettuce is not bad anymore”

I wanted a salad, so I decided to go for it. That night, I sat down at the table and stared at the freshness in front of me. Cherry tomatoes. Lettuce. Onions. All former enemies now claiming to come in peace. I stuck my fork in. It was so delicious – it felt like the antithesis to every heavy curry spicy meal I’d eaten over the last three months. And I didn’t get sick.

It may be unsettling. But rains, I’m glad you are gone.

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I started missing Western hospitals right around the moment that I was standing in a thin hospital gown with my face against an X-ray machine while a small man steadied my head so that my nose was touching the right spot on the panel.

This adventure had begun about an hour and a half earlier. My ‘birthday’ sickness hadn’t gone away, and a full week later I had started to wonder whether it was time to finally let a professional have a look. I’m usually a wait-and-see kind of person – if it sounds like a cold and feels like a cold, I usually assume it’s just a cold. But I’d had a low-grade fever every day for 8 days and my coughing was starting to scare small children, so I ventured out to a hospital.

We were lucky that a colleague of Daniel’s had recommended a doctor at Lilavati Hospital, one of the supposedly better hospitals here in Bandra.  We made an appointment for today (shocking) by talking to the actual doctor (also shocking) and we were on our way.

All my payment paperwork

Right off the bat we learned that the most interesting difference between an American hospital and an Indian hospital is that in India (or, at least, at Lilavati hospital) you pay up front.  There’s no “We’ll bill you later” and there’s certainly no chance to see the doctor and then pay.  You go to a desk, tell them what you’re there for, they give you a plastic card that’s wired with your information, and then ask for your credit card.  It’s also shocking that to see the doctor only costs about $17.

We waited for about half an hour. I sat and watched the crowd as everyone sat there patiently. There were men and women of all ages – some were dressed in modern clothes like button down shirts and jeans and others in full-length saris.  But the one commonality was that everyone turned their heads sharply to stare at me every time I coughed.

When we went in to see the doctor he went through the basic procedures – although the light to look at my throat was an actual flashlight. He had a desk that he sat in when he wasn’t examining me. There was nothing on the walls and no windows – it was an odd room to spend your entire day in with people coughing and sick all around you.

When he was done looking he immediately diagnosed me with a chest infection – the doctor said it’s been going around in the monsoon and he’s seen a lot of people with it. Apparently it mostly just manifests itself as the bad cough and cold I’d been experiencing. He assured me that some antibiotics should do the trick, but he also wanted me to get some blood drawn and take a chest x-ray just to be safe.

I had to go back to the front to pay for my new procedures before I could continue. It was 840 rupee combined for my x-ray and my blood tests (Divvied up that meant my blood test cost about $5 and each of my two x-rays would be about $6). I took my payment slips and walked over to the blood lab – it was in and out, very efficient. It certainly seemed like this private hospital had found a good system for getting everyone from one treatment to the next.

A jarring sign...

I went and waited for my x-ray. I sat next to a woman in a burqa on one side and an entire family surrounding one seemingly sick person on the other. It was two microcosms of India in one waiting area.

I looked around at the signs on the wall to occupy myself while I waited. One stuck out to me: “Determination of the Sex of the foetus is not permitted in this hospital. It is legally prohibited.” Apparently there’s been a problem with sex-selective abortions in India, and this is the only way to curb it. People told me later that it got to be such a huge problem here that they just outlawed allowing people to know. It’s signs and notices like that that sometimes jar me into remembering how stark the cultural differences can be here. While I was sitting around marveling at how modern and Western-seeming the hospital is, that sign was a poke in the arm telling me not to get too comfortable.

But as I was getting lost in that thought, the x-ray technician beckoned me in. I changed into a hospital gown and he led me over to the standing x-ray. He carefully pushed my face up against the machine, seeming very concerned that my nose press up against an X in the middle. When the x-rays had been taken he handed me over my very own copy. Apparently I’m as entitled to one here as my doctor.

I picked up my prescriptions and went home – the whole ordeal had taken less than 2 hours and cost me only a bit more than $30.

Many many medications

Of course the funniest part came when I realized quite how many prescriptions I’d been given. Maybe my new doctor believed in the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, or maybe he just wanted to be extra cautious with the white people, but I walked away as the proud new owner of a large stash of medications. He’d given me two separate antibiotics (why?), a pro-biotic prescription supplement, an anti-inflammatory normally reserved for ulcers, an antiseptic ‘germicide gargle’ (basically just iodine and alcohol with mint flavoring), and a cough suppressant with codeine.

At least he wasn’t taking any chances?  I decided to self-diagnose that I wouldn’t need both antibiotics and that the anti-inflammatory and codeine-ridden cough suppressant could be put aside.   I was going to get better and I was going to take my new Indian doctor’s advice, but I was still keeping a bit of my American sensibilities.

I’m still sort of proud that I haven’t gotten sick from food (knock on wood), and experienced the true ‘India’ sickness. But now I’ve at least been initiated into monsoon sickness and had my first dose of Indian health care – as well as my new ‘germicide gargle.’

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It’s hard to face a birthday in a foreign country where you have few friends and most of your loved ones are thousands of miles (and many hours time difference) away from you.

It’s even harder when you wake up with a severe cold.

I’ve been really lucky since I’ve been here. Other than one night of feeling a bit off, I have not been ‘India’ sick at all (aka food poisoning). All the horror stories of inevitable sickness in the first few weeks had scared me into being very careful – and so far (knock on wood) it’s paid off.

But the monsoon also attracts another, more basic, illness: the common cold. It’s been going around like wildfire here. Friends have had it. Nisha had it. Then Daniel had it. I was doomed to get it. No amount of safe drinking water and properly cooked food could help me avoid the sickness lingering in the air.

I just really didn’t want it on this day.

I’m usually pretty into birthdays (anyone who knows me is laughing at this point, since this is an understatement). I love anyone’s birthday – who can say no to celebrations, cake and giving/receiving fun gifts and cards? But I’d been thinking that this year I would avoid my birthday a bit – how could I celebrate when most of the people I love are far away? I guess my low-key birthday plan had evolved, unbeknownst to me, to include the extra joy of a fever and cold.

When I woke up, it was still the previous day in the US – so no messages were waiting and I couldn’t expect any phone calls for a few hours. Instead I took my temperature – 99.8. I took some Tylenol Cold to try and get back to normal and then I opened some birthday cards my parents and a friend had sent. I figured that would make me feel better, and it did for a moment (they were hilarious). But when I picked up the phone to call and thank everyone, I realized I couldn’t. It was too late on the east coast.

I groggily sat up with my headache pounding. So this was it, huh? Daniel was at work (to be fair, he had arranged for me to get a massage in the afternoon and had planned a great dinner, so Daniel gets bonus birthday points) so I was just in my house alone with a minor fever, a major cough and some birthday cards from people too far away to share the joy with. I must have looked pretty pathetic.

And it figured – the previous day Nisha had explained that my birthday was cursed anyway. To Mumbaikers, July 26 is a very bad day. On July 26 2005 Mumbai saw some if it’s heaviest flooding ever – over a thousand people died, countless lost homes and many people were without power and transportation for days or even weeks.

Nisha explained, “When you say ’26 July’ to someone, it is understood you’re talking about that very bad day. I personally couldn’t get home for 3 days. When I finally made it back, my whole house was flooded and all our gas cylinders were burst”

So who was I to complain about anything mildly bad that happened to me on the 26th of July?

I was determined to turn my day around – a cold was no reason to let the day get ruined. And then, as if right on cue, Nisha came in the door with a huge bag.

Birthday flowers in a bundle!

“What is that?” I asked.
“Birthday present!” she said, pulling out a dozen pink roses. But then there were more. Like multi-colored performers jumping out of a clown car, she pulled one bouquet after another out of the bag until the whole counter was covered.

“You didn’t have to do this!” I said, shocked at the amount of flowers taking over my apartment. I had never received so many flowers in one moment in all my life.

“Oh, I got a good deal,” she shrugged, “And my sons told me I wasn’t buying enough! I figured this would work though.”

I smiled. It definitely would work. It brightened my whole morning. It shook me out of my silly funk and reminded me that I was here, in India. I had chosen to come here; I had known I would be far away. And I was trading the comforts of home for one year so that I could have new experiences and meet new people.

flowers in vases

And I was reminded of that again as Daniel and I were coming back from dinner – I had spent most of the day trying to ignore my sickness, enjoy my flowers and enjoy a day of relaxing. I’d dressed up to go out to dinner so that even if I felt gross on the inside I could fake it ’till I made it on the outside. However, I was tired, and the day had been my first real cold reminder of how far away I was from my regular life.

My amaaazing birthday cake

But, as that thought was sinking in, I got a phone call – two of my new friends here had baked me a cake and wanted to know if I was well enough for them to bring it over. I said of course (sickness never trumps cake).

I soon answered the door and was handed an incredible vanilla cake with a pear/mango/deliciousness filling. I made some lemongrass tea and we sat around and talked for a few hours. I didn’t feel sick and I certainly didn’t feel alone.

I’d made it past my first real day of feeling actual-sick and homesick, and I’d made it past pretty well. This July 26th wasn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think it’ll be a very good year.

P.S. If that cake looks good to you (and it should, because it was awesome) the recipe for it will be posted tomorrow on http://bobosbakery.wordpress.com. Not only do I have a new friend who bakes, she also shares her recipes. How great is that?

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My stomach churned and it stopped me in my tracks. No! I’m not ready to get sick, I thought. I’d avoided feeling ill for my entire time here so far. I’d heard everyone tell me that it was inevitable, but I wasn’t buying. Yet here I was with my stomach doing somersaults and I was armed with only Pepto Bismol.

I felt the thick pink liquid going down my throat like troops on their way to fight the war in my stomach. I ignored the jolting momentary pangs of pains and instead I got dressed and went outside with Daniel to go to a bar to watch the World Cup. My stomach is just a minor hiccup, I told myself.  I hadn’t even eaten anything questionable that I could think of.  I rationalized and justified the situation, thinking that my mind could ignore the true matters in front of me.

But as we drove along the bumpy Bandra roads I had to concede defeat. The somersaults had turned into full-on routines. It was official. My first night in the grips of India’s notorious stomachaches had begun. I told Daniel to stay out while I slinked home, disappointed that just the mere will to stay healthy hadn’t cured me.

It was lucky though – in the annals of illness history this one wouldn’t go down as painfully memorable. Instead it was a warning shot. Just know what we can do to you, India was telling me. Don’t let yourself forget that you’ll always be on guard here. It’s not truly your home. I curled up with Phoebe, willing myself to sleep.

And I did. I woke up the next morning and the sound of a jumping stomach had been replaced by pounding rain outside. The monsoon was back – India’s second reminder in 24 hours that it could make trouble for us whenever we got too comfortable.  And the trouble remained all day.

Monsoon soaked happy Phoebe

Just as I had tried to tell my stomach no, I thought I could say no to my fear of the rain. I could model myself after all the Mumbaikers I saw wandering the streets while they got instantly soaked. I took Phoebe out for a walk on our new street umbrella in hand (can’t throw TOO much caution to the wind). But India once again laughed at me. The elevated pavement did nothing to shield us from the soaking power of passing cars. Phoebe looked up at me like I was a traitor in the ranks. She kept trying to pull me back to our apartment building. Why are you doing this to me, her eyes pleaded. She was soaked completely after just a minute. Indians in rickshaws slowed down as they drove by to watch the crazy white lady walking her tiny dog in the morning’s downpour.

But the sun came out in the form of that tiny dog. Phoebe was the strong one in the face of the chaos. The same dog who had curled up next to me the night before in solidarity came inside from the rains, shook herself off and seemed utterly unfazed. She was happy – she ran across the floor, sliding in the water coming off her own body, completely happy just to be back inside even if she was soaked head to paw. If Phoebe can let the rain roll off her back, figuratively and metaphorically, then so can I.

Bolstered, Daniel and I took to our errands in the rain. We drove a few blocks that had only taken 2 minutes the day before, but now it took 10. The streets were crowded, flooded, and the traffic knew no rules. Everyone was trying to get somewhere and the urgency only crowded and slowed the streets more. We stepped out of the car to go into a store. A car immediately splashed us. We took off our shoes and went inside, soaked. On the way out I went to put my shoes back on only to see that a long worm had coiled its way through my waterproof shoes.

Illness. Rain. India had thrown it all at me today trying to see if I would crack. But I haven’t.  Because today, I stood in my still mostly empty apartment and unloaded groceries that Daniel and Nisha had gone to buy and it started to feel a bit more like home. And Phoebe kept smiling at me.  Bit by bit I’m saying to my new city, “Bring it on”. I just hope that that audacity doesn’t earn me another case of illness.

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Monsoon, monsoon, monsoon. It’s something we’re going to have to get used to over the next few months and yet I’m still in awe of it. The heavy rains supposedly don’t even come until July, yet the rain woke me up this morning at varying intervals. Sometimes the rain is so heavy you can’t see the trees through the sheet of water.

Phoebe got her first monsoon walk this morning and it was a lesson in grooming – While I may be able to survive with a big umbrella, Phoebe really can’t avoid getting soaked. She tiptoed across cobbled pavements searching for some respite. Phoebe has quickly learned that she also can’t avoid the rains. But, as a result, on a day of errands we decided the first must be for Phoebe to get a haircut. We took a grooming recommendation and dropped Phoebe off in some seemingly very capable hands.

We spent the rest of the day running errands while dodging the monsoon. We stopped at Daniel’s office. Bought a new filter for his camera. ATTEMPTED to get my iPhone unlocked so that I could continue to use it abroad, but sadly, I was without luck. Despite going to a grey market that our broker had recommended I found that I was punished for newness – my iPhone had been recently replaced recently and the newest version is currently impervious to unlocking. So there’s one comfort of home I’ll have to go without – or at least, as the salesmen said, “wait two months and we’ll have it figured out”.
We picked up Phoebe and she looked ready to go! She’d had a cut and even some bows put in her hair (Daniel IMMEDIATELY took them out). I was heartened to see when I got home I had an email from the groomers with a photo of phoebe, with some interesting borders and design below.

On a different note, there’s something else that has been a struggle for me here that is a daily reality check: we all know that old habits are hard to break. But old habits that can potentially get you sick make you feel incredibly moronic when you can’t break them. Try, for example, brushing your teeth with bottled water when you’ve just woken up. See what happens when you’re done. Almost as if on auto-pilot you’ll reach for the handle to turn the water on to rinse your toothbrush. If you’re in India then you’ll add a subsequent action: shrieking with horror at your own stupidity. It’s been drilled into us that Indian tap water is kryptonite for foreigners and woe be the fool who can’t control his own actions. Luckily, Daniel created a logical, if not silly looking solution to this particular problem:

But it’s everything: taking our morning Malarone and remembering to wash our hands before touching it. Eating toast and discarding the portions we’ve touched (I now understand my sister’s life a little better). Keeping your mouth completely closed while showering. Not even biting your nails out of boredom unless you want the dirt under your nails to give you an excuse to spend a day with your head in the toilet. We’re yet to get sick and we’re probably giving our newness away with the paranoia. But that doesn’t mean the tales I hear from every local and foreigner about Indian-style illness haven’t made me want to be carefree about potential illness.

So, with that completely paranoid sidebar aside, we are off to Malaysia and Indonesia for two weeks. We can’t move into our apartment until July 1st and once Daniel begins work it might be awhile until vacation becomes a reality again, so we’re jumping at the chance. “Why Malaysia and Indonesia when you’ve JUST arrived in a beautiful huge country called India?” you might ask. And so for perfect closure to this day’s tale, I take you back – the monsoons. They are everywhere except the himalayas, and I think our jetlagged bodies may not take well to adding altitude sickness into the mix. So we’re off.

I hope to keep writing – these will be travel tales for 2 weeks instead of “moving to a new foreign land” stories, but hopefully it’ll be interesting nonetheless. And June 30th we are back and ready to truly settle in – with a home, a newly groomed Phoebe and a certainty that rain will continue for many weeks ahead.

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