Using a polite form of address in a heavily accented English, the nurse in the ambulance was reassuring: “ ‘Auntie’ (an-tee), don’t worry, you must relax, your pulse is one hundred twenty, everything will be OK”. 120? Relax? Knocked out cold and concussed after collapsing and hitting the bedframe on the way to becoming a heap on the bedroom floor, my pulse didn’t really seem of concern.
The situation got out of hand quickly being in our apartment for just 2 days, violently ill with a temperature of 102 degrees, no idea of how to call an ambulance and where the ambulance should take us. Our friendly neighbor came to the rescue. Unfortunately addresses in India are at best ambiguous. Road names, postal codes, and house numbers are commonly non-existent; one depends on instructions such as: near such and such church or temple, just after the locust pond, opposite the football field, near the chicken farm, or some other appropriate landmark. 30 minutes later the ambulance arrived and the apartment filled with not just the medical entourage but seemingly a bunch of ‘ambulance chasers’ interested to know who was dying. Chaos ensued… “Who are all these people?” Steve asks as he shepherds the masses out of our bedroom and apartment, making sure computers or anything else that wasn’t nailed down didn’t disappear with them.
The stretcher was out of a museum: with one of its wheels that obviously hadn’t rotated in an aeon and had worn a flat side that dragged along the ground, and automatic folding legs that were supposed to make it easy to push the stretcher into the ambulance but instead decided to fold when they wanted to and not when they were designed to, which effectively meant all the wheels were useless, and the nurse and driver were pretty much forced to carry rather than roll the patient to the ambulance.
Good news: the hospital we had been advised to go to was less than 5 minutes away. Bad news: we were advised to go to the hospital that was less than 5 minutes away!!!
A local hospital operated by nuns, ill-equipped, with a Doctor in his 80’s speaking little English that we are not sure understood what an Auto-Immune illness is. We tried to stay on top of what exactly they were administering intravenously, and with sterile needles and syringes, but so much was lost in translation we could never be sure. After 2 days we were close to removing the IV ourselves and making a run for it. Had it not been for the dizziness from the concussion, they wouldn’t have seen us for dust, of which there was plenty in this non air conditioned and relic of a hospital. To top it all off, Steve was expected to stay with me for the whole time! (Probably just as well!) We were both sleeping on beds that resembled scaffold boards spanning metal frames and pillows as hard as bags of cement. We are not making this up!!!
The one highlight was to hold a new born baby the nun had just delivered, even though the room was spinning from the concussion. The little fella was all of 5 lbs. with jet black hair, more than Steve and I combined, and just adorable… Apparently in the Hindu culture after giving birth, the mother is considered unclean and not allowed to return home for 7 days! Way to go Mom put your feet up, relax! I could not imagine giving birth in that hospital, Thank goodness there were no broken bones or surgery required.. OMG!!
But funny how life is… before this brush with the Indian health system, we met some amazing Brits that live in Goa that invited us to a social gathering… how blessed we feel to have met Chilly, and m’ Lord and Lady Richard and Ann Morris of Lockerbie, and their friends who have made us feel so welcome and helped us acclimatize and get our social life in full swing!
It seems so long since we hopped that plane in Athens to Cairo. Egypt airlines: now there is a different world!! We are treated to a reading from the Koran on the T.V. monitor… before the safety video, and, … why are people still faffing in the aisles as we accelerate down the runway???.. Madness… welcome to another world!!
Finding suitable accommodation for 5 months has been a challenge… it’s available, but most is sub-standard even at the seasonal premium rates. After a couple of nights in a flea-pit we found a new condo a 5 minute scooter ride from the beach that after a couple of weeks of negotiating is now at a reasonable price. We are still educating the landlord about the fundamentals of an apartment acceptable to westerners… Yes, we would please like clean pillows thank you!!! And we do need cutlery and dishes!!! …. Oh, a non-prison issue mattress would be really cool!! All seems like such hard work and frustration on top of dealing with the health issues and wandering around like a very wobbly 80 plus year old woman!
But India like other developing and third world countries has a magnetic affect… Once you can look beyond the poverty, disorganization, chaos, filth, and general lower standards, there is an attraction and a feeling of achievement that one can live without the creature comforts and the norms we are used to and enjoy the cultural differences that make it unique. On the other hand… maybe we’re just insane!
Cruising on our scooter ($2 a day) it does not get any crazier. Day one Steve just about dumps me right off the back… Not soo good, but the lack of rules of the road makes it a free-for-all adventure!! You get used to it quickly, except in a traffic jam a few days ago I lost a shoe knocked off clipping another bike and we also managed to clip a pedestrian with the mirror. A good day on the road!! It is pretty wild: hundreds of scooters and motorcycles, pedestrians without a sidewalk in sight walking along the roads, throw sacred cows into the mix and a million people all beep, beep, beeping horns.. There is some method to this madness, you just go with the flow and it all works out!!
Back to the cows.. Not only are they an obstacle to negotiate on the road, they wander the beach, hang out at the store, or in a garden. Anything goes!!! Problem is there is cow shit everywhere. Just ask! Not realizing we had parked the scooter next to a cow patty, I stepped off and straight into one. The way my husband laughed you might think he set it up that way when he parked. He then tried to convince me that it is good luck!!! Hmmm!
We’ve settled into a nice routine of a beach walk before breakfast and again at sunset which is simply a soul lifting experience shared along with thousands of nationals with a spattering of visitors … This is a feast for the soul!! We are frequently asked to have our picture taken with the nationals… a real novelty. Why not? Don’t we take pictures of them? They are very polite and so curious. “You’re an Indian Barbie Doll”, several Hindi women exclaim… “would you like to see my jewelry?”
Peace and love… with 1¼ Billion people and growing.