Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Surviving by the Grace of Strangers

After five months in India, I feel like I am finally living in present-moment awareness, not blinded by my turbulent mind. Coming to India brought out many emotional skeletons I assumed would stay in the closet while traveling. This emotional dark cloud impaired my vision, impaired my ability to see kindness, love, and joy in this majestic country. Focusing more on the system of beliefs that plague the country, I was unable to see the very individuals right in front of me performing good acts and spreading happiness and joy. I could only see the corrupt officers who pulled us over just to get a bribe out of us, the rickshaw drivers who consistently tried to rip us off, and the travel agents lying about ticket prices. I didn't see the average person in the street who smiled at me, who stopped to tell me I dropped my book, who wanted to have a nice conversation about shoes while at a stoplight. Now I see them. I see the beauty in each person. I see the beauty in every interaction. I see the beauty in every day. I want to develop bonds and connections with the local people, with the culture I used to loathe. Looking back through my blogs as I update this Pixie Dust site, I am so glad I cleared out these skeletons to make room for light in a once dark space. Manifesting sickness in the first couple months of our trip signifies how powerful your state of mind is in controlling your circumstances and environment. I am so grateful to have been taken care of in those times of dis-ease.

November 2013

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” -His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Four days into being in Rishikesh, I came down with a cold that hit me pretty quickly and turned into food poisoning as I had some (what I assume was) bad soup. Oh yes, my fears of TD (traveler’s diarrhea) manifested. I had just showered and was starting to feel better as the spicy soup cleared my nasal passages when we decided to walk into town to get out of the room for a while. About ten minutes into the city, I felt an unsettling rumbling in the depths of my intestines. I bought a Sprite and told Matt and Kowboy that something was about to come out of either end of my body and headed home. I think I made the ten minute walk in less than four and had barely made it in the bathroom when my stomach exploded from the bottom. Gripping the walls of the bathroom, I began my 48-hour journey into food poisoning. Every two hours for the rest of the long, dreadful night, I got up to release the demons barreling through my digestive system. Halfway through the night, I finally threw up the culprit of my undoing: that damned spicy vegetarian soup that I had been so grateful for only hours before. Feeling incredibly weak and dehydrated, I took slow sips of water, not knowing my body wasn’t ready for it yet. I had just gotten the last sip down when I felt it coming back up, rushing to the bathroom as quietly as I could to not disturb the boys, and projectile-vomited all over the bathroom floor and toilet, not making a single drop in the bowl. I started crying from exhaustion and defeat, crawling back over to the bed where Matt consoled me into a fitful sleep yet again. The next morning, Matt got up to go to the market for food and medicine. As he was leaving, the familiar pressure in my abdomen reminded me I was still sick and needed to go to the restroom. Upon standing, my body decided it couldn’t wait the five steps to the toilet and released my bowels down my legs and pants. Are you FREAKING kidding me!? I waddled to the toilet, half irritated and half amused at myself for manifesting my damned fears. I filled the pink tub of hot water and began to shower and wash my clothes, my muscles aching from fever. I climbed back into bed and slept soundly until Matt returned with food and medicine. “You have food poisoning,” he announced when he arrived back in the room. He had stopped at a store to get something irrelevant and the owner turned out to be a pharmacist and gave him a handful of drugs, vitamins, and electrolyte drinks. He loaded me up with anti-sickness medication, mixed the electrolyte powder into my water and commanded me to drink as much as I could to replenish my system with nutrients. I slept half the rest of the day, only to wake to move to a new guest house down the road that was cheaper. Making the journey was difficult as my body was still plagued by achy muscles and gripping chills from the fever and the movement made me feel like I had to shit (pardon my French) again.
Upon arrival at the new guest house, I promptly went back to bed and the boys left to do some volunteer work. I awoke to a Taiwanese woman hovering over me, a concerned look on her face and medicine in her hands. Helen (I later found out her name) graciously gave me some Taiwanese anti-diarrhea medicine and a heat pad to put on my lower back and I fell back asleep, comforted by her soothing presence. Hours later, I woke with a start, the pressure in my belly again to go the bathroom. Shit, the boys had forgotten to show me where the bathroom was. I frantically searched the guest house while squeezing my cheeks, not trusting my body. Five steps from the toilet and my bowels released yet again, impatiently emptying out of me and filling my freaking pants again! Damnit, not only did it happen once, it happened twice!! Thank goodness I was alone and no one was around to witness either occurrence. I waddled to the toilet again, sat there for what seemed like hours, and then proceeded to wash myself and my pants, again. I went back to sleep for a few more hours, broke my fever in my sleep, and woke up alive again! I made it to the other side of sickness! Feeling much, much better, I was able to choke down some toast and slowly revive myself back to health, 48 hours after the initial wave of diarrhea. Being sick in your own country, with your usual comforts (fluffy bed, rainbow unicorn pillow pet, Pretty Woman on the television, your mom making soup in the kitchen), is hard enough. Being sick in a foreign country that does not have the same, familiar comforts is truly a quest to trust your new surroundings and new people to protect and nourish you back to life. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers: the pharmacist that gave me promethazine, anti-diarrhea medicine, and electrolytes, thank goodness for Helen and her maternal care-taking, constantly checking on me and nurturing me back to life, thank goodness for the cook at our guest house, for the ginger tea and buttered toast, who also kept checking in on me during my hours of need. Surviving by the grace of strangers revived my sense of community, of common goodwill and selfless love for a sick American girl.

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