Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back from the Dead

Cindy, Rudi, Me, Atika, and Kristin

I felt for sure I had malaria.  We went over the symptoms and checked each box.  I laid in bed, cold, shaking the frame of our wooden North Sulawesi hut.  I was hot and cold, throwing up anything I tried to put down.  The bathroom was used as if I just washed down a few kilos of prunes with magnesium citrate.  Paradise swooned beyond our window. The waves crashed just meters from our front door.  Thunder echoed out across the open sea as we settled in with the complications that illness bestow upon a day.  My temperature increased by half a degree celsius each hour.  We did not know what that meant.  The jungle had not afforded us the luxuries of internet or electricity, so errant speculation fueled the fire like an arsonist's rusty lantern.  The inability to translate my temperature to a meaningful context presented an uneasy uncertainty.  

We did not know what to do.  Civilization equalled a forty minute trek and two hours of driving.  Being Sunday, conjuring up a doctor or transport proved quite elusive.  We were told it was impossible to find a doctor on a Sunday.  Our attempts all ended in dead ends.  My throat swelled with pain.  Though circumstances seemed dire when my temperature hit roughly 39 celsius, serendipitous events began to unfold.  I would be visited by several guardian angels.  A woman from North of London that had just checked in next door decided that I looked quite bad. She was going to help me.  Elsa was her name.  Earlier, she had made some chance contacts back in Manado (the nearest city), and with these associations came golden splinters of hope for me.  She knew a Dutch woman named Jose, who ran a guesthouse in Manado and had a reliable driver.  Jose had recently been in an accident, and was seeing a nurse later on in the day to have her wound dressed.  Her appointment proved that medical assistance was possible on a Sunday.  Although Elsa did not know Jose well, she looked at my pale face and decided that she would ask a favor on my behalf.  We walked down the beach to a reception area with the hotel manager, Alex.  Elsa used his cell to phone Jose and inquire about the driver and the nurse.  The whole arrangement seemed promising, but sadly it collapsed when the driver could not access his car.  In a sudden twist though, Jose told Elsa about a woman named Cindy that was supposed to be at a beach nearby.  "Cindy could help," Jose told Elsa.  We walked down the beach and began asking for Cindy. 

I am not the best friend in the world and probably not a very good stranger either.  I try to do my best with favors and helping others, but I can be selfish and at times self interest gets in the way of doing the right thing.  I am extremely thankful that Cindy does not have this issue in common with me.  We asked if she could take me to a hospital in Manado, and she did not hesitate.  She just said yes. 

She was an absolute blessing and a delight to spend time with.  She was with her assistant Rudi, two daughters, Tati and Atika, and their dog, Amanda.  They all spoke impeccable English, except Amanda.  She drove Kristin and I to her home in Manado, where we met more dogs, and than straight to the hospital.  Instead of the busy government hospital, she brought me to the more expensive private hospital.  Manado is not a tourist city, so they have little initiative to learn or speak very much English.  This was the case in the hospital.  Thankfully, Cindy translated everything for me, and honestly, I do not know if I could have made it through the check in process without her.  She also translated and spoke to the doctors for me.  She was seriously my Manado mother.  Since I had symptoms for Malaria and had been in Laos a few weeks prior, they tested me for that and a few other diseases.  I had a very sore throat, and the doctor looked down there with an old blue flashlight, grimacing.  The emergency room experience was interesting, but thankfully not very long.  Everyone had to take their shoes off, and it was very quiet.  In the end, my stay in the hospital was about 20 minutes.  They wanted to keep me overnight for observation.  I emphatically declined.  While we waited for my test results, Cindy suggested that I buy some bread, cheese, and some drinks with electrolytes.  She drove Kristin and I to the mall, where we bought breadstuffs at Breadtalk.  She also took us to a supermarket for cheese and drinks.  After that, we all went to a Padang restaurant to wait for my results.  Padang is a type of restaurant that is basically Indonesian fast food.  They fill up the table with cooked plates of food, and in the end, they come back and count what you ate.  It looked delicious, but sadly I was resigned to about 6 scoops of white rice.  

We hurried back to the hospital after dinner.  Cindy spoke with the doctors, and relayed the news to me.  I was free of Malaria, though I had a bacterial infection in my throat, and also ate something that may have slightly poisoned me.  The double whammy contributed to weakening my body.  I was prescribed 3 types of medicine.  The bill for my Er visit was $20, for the medications, about $9.  I was at the expensive hospital, and obviously insurance is not involved.  We actually payed double for the medication on accident, and the clerk waved down our car to return the excess amount to me.   

We tried to give Cindy money and she declined.  She said she believes in karma, and I hope blessings come her way for carrying me through my day.  I told her I was humbled by the experience, and that it was the nicest thing that a stranger had ever done for me.  It was.

After the hospital, Cindy dropped us off at a luxurious home on a hill overlooking a volcano and a valley filled with aluminum roofed homes.  This was Jose's place (that we later found out is rented from Cindy).  Jose is a very kind Dutch woman, and we talked with her a bit.  We ate Dutch cheese and felt completely at home.  For a night, we had electricity and a hot shower.  Although it was a challenging day for me, I will always look back fondly thanks to the kind actions of Elsa, Cindy and all the others that chipped in.  It taught me a great deal, and made me want to be a better person.  

So, death has been averted, what is next?  I have a lot to report.  Aside from my illness, we managed to squeeze in a fun night in Singapore with Jeff, Amanda, and the stunningly adorable Kate Reierson, and also some excursions into the rugged jungle where strange creatures make their home.  I will start with The Reiersons.

We stopped in Singapore (a few days prior to the malaria scare) for the night to meet up with my old high school friend (and relative) Jeff Reierson and his family.  Jeff and Amanda Reierson married several years ago in Houston, and they are one of the only couples I know that travel more than Kristin and I.  I even got the idea for this blog from their travel blog, "The Traveling Reiersons."  We had met up a few years ago in Prague before the goboogo days, and at the time, they had a travel blog to share their adventures through.  I thought, my, what a great idea.

They met us at our hotel, and thankfully brought Miss Kate along for the night.  Kate is almost a year old (10 months and maybe a week) and is a stunning little babe.  As we walked the streets of Singapore, gawkers oooohed and aaaahed, some closing in to within arms reach to touch a foot of the little princess.  Jeff and Amanda told us that this was common.  Kate has fair skin with bright eyes and the Asian community goes bananas for that kind of stuff wrapped in such a cute package.  We were told that strangers even ask if they can take pictures holding her.

They brought us to dinner at food republic, a mish mash of stalls featuring the vast expanse of Asian offerings.  To save a seat, Jeff placed down some tissues on our table while we feasted with our eyes.  To reserve a table in Singapore, this sort of thing is sufficient.  He also noted that no trash cans were anywhere in our visual range.  In Singapore, one of the most notoriously clean places in the world, trash cans are not too common. The reliance on paid cleaners gets the job done better than personal responsibility.  Also, trash cans smell.

Our meal was great.  I ate dim sum.  Kristin had a fiery pot of vegetables and noodles.  We are pretty sure she accidentally ordered the family portion, as the serving was quite robust.  We took a stroll down Orchard Road.  This area is very haute couture, with well coiffed buyers jockeying about like strange little urban peacocks in the many luxury shops.  The neon lights explode across the sky as if to remind the rest of the world about the marvel of this shiny city state anomaly.

We spent some time back at the Reierson apartment which overlooks Orchard Road.  Kate was up past her bed time and decided to give us on encore performance before we vanished into the warm night.  She goofed off a bit, took a few steps, and generally kept us in the palm of her little baby hand.  We watched and laughed and it was good to see old friends and meet such a fascinating little person.
The next day, we rose early and shot over to the ultra modern Singapore airport, Changi.  We would be trading in the charms of modernity for an older type of world, the rainforest of North Sulawesi.  After landing, a German woman named Katrin picked us up from the Manado airport.  Her resort was located on Cape Pulisan around the northern tip of Sulawesi, where oceans meet.  The Indian and Pacific.  We would not have electricity or warm showers, but we would have a virgin beach all to ourselves.  Also, an orphaned monkey lived on the grounds that looked at you kind of creepy and always had an erection.  His name was Bobby.

The next morning, I woke up and felt like I was going to die.  We have come full circle, and the beginning of this blog picks up at this point.  Here are some pictures.  If you seriously just read all of that, well, I am impressed.

 At the Bali Airport leaving for Singapore.  Our Bali driver, Made. (I have been calling him Merde in the blog, ooops)

 Indonesian Gatorade.  I love this stuff.

 Food Republic in Singapore 

 A typical stand at Food Republic.

 A trash bandit on Segway?  Perhaps.

 BBQ Pork Bun, like good only better 

 Shrimp Balls 

 Gluttonous Rice
 Jeff showed us that a seedy underbelly exists in even the most posh of addresses.  Orchard Road Human Trafficking
 Miss Kate 

 The stairwell at Chateau d'Reierson

 I think this is a mall.  It may be filled with little men in small rooms counting money.

 Kristin, Kate, and Amanda 

 Kristin and Kate 

 The Parents, Jeff and Amanda 

 A uniformed cow.  We saw some drunk kid pee on one of these.

 Ice Cream Sandwich 

 Way too literal 

 All of us with our ics's.  Thanks for the great picture, Jeff.
 The Clark Quay area of Singapore 

 Meagan and Kristin at a medical themed bar

 Everything at this bar was old hospital stuff

 Foot massage at Changi Airport, Singapore 

Knock out your fats 

 We arrived in Sulawesi during campaign season.  This is a typical campaign sign.  We really enjoy the pictures and think out politicians should be obligated to include a photograph.

 This is a snapshot of Northern Sulawesi.

 This lady took my bag on her head.  I swear we tried to stop her. 

 Down the road towards Pulisan 

 We had to hike through rainforest for a while to get to our beachside bungalows

 We were greeted by dogs guarding our hut.

 Out across to nothing, North Sulawesi 

 The next day, I get sick. Here we are at Cindy's house dropping off her daughter and the dog.  She had a bunch of cute pups.  See that guy on the far right?  Love that one.

 My Manado family 

 Kristin on the very nice open air patio at Jose's

 The view from teh patio
 As you can tell, I really liked this patio 

 Me and Jose 

 Jose's place, sweet dreams 

 I am so sad that Justin left here sick.  

 What?!?!?!? He's back!  Hey Furmonster

 Doing some light cleaning on our front porch.  We are sand slobs.

Our Bungalow, "Nangka"

 Kristin resting at Dugong dive center 

 Ryan jamming with the band.  With Alex Timberlake on vocals.

 Furmonster of the day, Foxy.  We named this dog Foxy, and later found was already his name.

 Foxy taking it all in.  He was caught in a pig trap a few years ago and lost one of his rear paws.  Poor little guy.  He sort of gimps around.

 These guys just sit up here and make music, occasionally taking people to snorkel or dive 

 Full band with Meagan 

 I had really bad stomach problems.  I could not unlock the door to my bathroom.  I climbed through the window, and got locked inside the bathroom.  Thankfully, Alex rescued me.  You dont want to be locked in that bathroom.  I will just say that toilet flushing is not a common technology here.  You have to manually scoop water in from a basin.

 Kristin on the beach about to dive with Elsa.  I cant figure out why I have no pictures of Elsa.

 Great Beach 

 Beach Hut that someone gave up on painting 

Beach, Bungalow.  Bungalow, Beach.

I have so much more, but it would be insane of me to make this any longer.  More later.  I am feeling much better by the way.  Internet is too bad to call you, family.  I apologize.


  1. Dude. Epic post. I read it all and am glad to hear you are on the mend. Do you see these comments? Love always and forever,

  2. So glad to finally hear from you!!! I had a feeling there was something wrong during your ordeal. Hope you are back to normal, Justin. That was a horrible experience for you. We are praying that nothing else like that will happen to you or any of the others!!!! Miss you four and send much love!


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