Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow

This is a detailed description of how it felt to be sick over the last five days.  It’s for my own memory.  My recommendation to the blog subscribers:  skip this one.  🙂

It was always the middle of the night, somewhere between 3 or 4 AM when I would wake up.  I would have the irrefutable image of a high tide approaching.  My blood would start to pulse and eventually my skin would feel too tight to house this growing amount of liquid and both my hands and feet would hurt as they got pricked by a thousand little needles, as if caused by a sandstorm.  That was the time the sweating and the chills would start.  That was the time when the IBUs from the night before were wearing off.

When you try to lift your notebook and it feels like a load of bricks, when the thermometer shows 30C/86F but you are shivering, and when you can feel every muscle and joint ache even if you don’t move, you don’t need a thermometer to know that you are running a fever.  I wasn’t delirious so I am guessing the fever was no higher than 39C/102F.   But it was enough.

I could have taken two more IBUs and gone back to sleep, but I did  not for two reasons: first, my pills are limited and I don’t know how many more I will need.  Of course, there are pharmacies in Myanmar, but as every travel guide warns you, you have no idea what you are getting.  Has the medicine you are buying been properly stored?  Is it a cheap generic product that may not even contain what it promises?  In other words, you are best off to rely on what you brought.

But perhaps more importantly, I wanted to know exactly which symptoms I had.  Was it the old set, or were new ones developing?  And so I spent the next few hours listening to my body, following the sandy waves of blood crashing against the shores of feet and ankles, hands and wrists.  If I got lucky I could drift off into no-man’s land for a few moments resisting the temptation to move.  The aching was the worst.  The pain embodied itself in dozens of little devils gnawing at every body part.  Infallibly the illusion would manifest that if I would just turn or stretch, the pain could be alleviated.  Less and less I succumbed to those temptations as all the devils would awake and bite, leaving me wincing.  Around 7:30 I allowed myself the day’s ration of IBUs, 400 mg.

I lay as still as I could, savoring every minute as the tide slowly subsided, inch by inch.  Ebb follows flow in its age-old ways.  One little devil after another would dissolve itself into space.  I would fit into my body comfortably again, and by 8 AM I could slowly move my head.  It was my daily miracle.  400 mg.  I had no new symptoms.  I had not gotten worse.  For a few hours I could go out and explore the world now until this dose would wear off and the afternoon in bed would repeat the ritual of the morning until at 8PM I would allow myself my night dose of IBUs.

But today, the fifth day into this ordeal, there was another miracle!  When I woke up, I heard the jingles of silverware clatter against porcelain plates.  I heard the chatter of voices outside my room.  It was not 3 or 4 AM.  It was 7:30 AM.  There was no tide.  There was no devil.  I had slept in.  The fever had broken!  I was getting better.  Thanks, Bhaiṣajyaguru!

9 comments so far

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  1. At last! The nightmare is hopefully over and that every hour finds you feeling much better and that wonderful adventures await you. Carry on!

  2. When you advised us to “skip this one” it’s “for [your] own memory” I wanted to read it all the more. I am most interested in your placing yourself in your travelogues, and this one was an important piece that revealed so much of what it takes to travel as you like you do. Thank you for trusting us as readers who appreciate your work, your health and wellness, and your personal writings.

  3. Great graphic to go with that incredible narrative!!!! Glad you feel better.

  4. Lucy and I are sure glad that you are on the mend! Good grief, what a nasty night that was. Your description is so vivid.

  5. Dear Elisabeth, I hope you are already feeling better and you’re able to continue your travels. What about your time table? Can you still do everything you’ve planned? When I mentioned I’m facinated about how we saw things differently, I had this sentence in mind of your article ‘Buddhism on Steroids’ where you asked ‘What’s the point of all this?’

    I never asked myself that question. I just was fascinated of the things I saw. Probably because I experienced Shwedagon, Golden Rock and Mahamuni Buddha together with thousands of buddhists in a fascinating atmosphere. When I went to Golden Rock my driver brought his girlfriend to join us. I asked her if she feels sad as she’s not allowed to touch the rock and put gold on it. She negated. For her it was wonderful to pray just right before the rock and the idea of touching it was never in her mind. Now back in Germany colleagues were asking me ‘What’s the sense of putting gold on a rock?’ and I reply ‘What’s the sense of drinking red wine celebrating the last supper at church?’ And all this gigantism… it just fascinated me a lot. I’m not naive and know the (military) history of Birma, but I thought, it’s quite better to spend money for giant buddhas instead of buying weapons from it. But on the other hand you’re right… The burmese people are in need of so many things. Health care. Food. The money would be better spent that way. But I hope things will develop over the next years. At the moment I wonder if working for Development Assistance (Entwicklungshilfe) somewhere would be a job for me.

    Sorry for not commenting every article. Mostly I read them whilst I’m on the train on my mobile. So everyday I have a short holiday. I hope you make it to Bagan soon as it was a very nice experience and wish you luck for good weather there. Maybe we find the time when you returned to the States to have a Skype conversation. I’d love to.

    Viele Grüße aus Hamburg.

    • Thank you so much, Kim, for your insights. I totally get it. There is nothing wrong with just accepting it. In many ways, I do, too. But I am also the ever teacher, the ever sceptic and so I deliberately ask questions and poke at things. It’s “my job”. 😉 I think you would be great in that job working somewhere in the world!

  6. I’m sure you know that I – and probably most people! – am especially interested in reading anything that I’m told to skip 🙂 And I have to say that I’m in awe of how poetically you can describe a time when you felt so miserable!
    Very happy that you are feeling better now. Like Martin says … traveling is definitely no fun when you are sick.

  7. Glad to hear your fever is breaking. I hope you still have a few pain meds left over. Getting sick while traveling is the worst.

  8. So hard to read about what you went through but so glad that you are better – I have been praying for you!