Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


Thursday, November 20th, 2014

I’m a happy person. I smile a lot. I bounce a lot. I love life.

And some people ask me how I manage to be so happy all the time.

The first thing I say is that I’m not happy all the time. But I don’t like not being happy so I try to restrict the not happy times to a minimum. I also try not to share the not happy times with all and sundry. So I guess I probably am happier a lot more often than very many other people. And I certainly appear to be happy more often than many others.

What’s the secret of my happiness? Well, it’s somewhat simple. And yet really rather difficult at the same time.

I make a conscious decision to be happy. I work on discovering what makes me happy. And I do as much of that as I can. I understand that I can’t devote all my time to things that make me happy. I also need to do tedious household chores so that my housemate doesn’t kick me out (that would make me majorly unhappy). I need to work (and my job doesn’t always make me happy) so that I have enough money to pay my bills and pay for the things that make me happy.

Now this all sounds simple. And it is. But it does require effort. I actively need to work out what makes me happy. And what is the right thing to make me happy at any given time. And I need to cultivate moments in my life where these activities are possible. Here are some of them: drinking a decent cup of tea, meeting up with friends for a good chat, conversations with friends that leave tears of laughter running down my face, falling in love, great productive arguments with friends about important issues that get me really fired up, dancing, reading a good book, eating good chocolate, watching something good on TV, making bread to share with friends, hot showers, sleeping in. The list does go on (as do I!). 🙂

So that’s step one.

Step two is about choosing to be happy. That’s about looking for happiness in everyday situations. It’s about choosing to take joy in the cup of tea, rather than just drinking it. It’s about actively seeking out happiness rather than waiting for it to pop up and say hi. And the amazing thing about this is that happiness is a habit. Once you start looking for it, it becomes so much easier to see it. And then you don’t have to try so hard to find it anymore.

Step three is about making other people happy. Happiness is contagious. And once you start being a source of happiness for other people then their happiness creates a virtuous circle that spreads and does find its way back to you.

So it’s easy: I make myself happy. I choose to be happy. I make other people happy.

But it’s also quite tricky: it involves a concerted effort and some hard work (at times).

But it is completely worth it!

And being happy makes me happy!! 🙂

I Thought I Might Die

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

There have been two times during my travelling where I have seriously considered the possibility/likelihood that I might actually die. Not just being frightened about something (I don’t like heights, I get nervous on the second step of a ladder). But actually thinking I might die.

The first was on a bus in China. It was about 3am and the bus was driving the wrong way down the motorway (at speed) honking its horn to warn oncoming drivers. We had done this because our side of the road was blocked by a truck that had jackknifed.

The second was on a boat in Jaffna in Sri Lanka. The waves were very high. The boat was basically an oversized canoe with an engine. Even the guy from the Coast Guard who does that trip regularly was frightened.

There have been other times when I have been somewhat nervous about death or serious injury:

  • climbing the staircase at Sigiriya
  • taking a Benedryl capsule from a nurse I met on a bus (well, she told me she was a nurse)
  • riding on the back of a motorbike in Sri Lanka (we ran over a cat)
  • a bus in Jaffna in Sri Lanka overtaking slowly over road works that meant the bus was tilting quite a lot
  • being on a bus in Sri Lanka that was driving so fast over the potholes that we were all being bounced 10-20cm out of our seats
  • crossing a very scary log bridge in Nepal

I really don’t want to die. Nor do I want to suffer serious physical injury. And I really try not to take silly risks. (Though getting on the back of a motorbike, or jumping in the back of a pick-up truck, or getting a ferry from KKD in Jaffna, or getting on a bus in Sri Lanka may all seem like silly risks to the more sensible amongst you.)

And while I’m planning to live to at least 125 (I’m going to gain immortality, or die in the attempt (apologies to whoever I’ve stolen that from, Wilde?)) I do actually want to LIVE till I’m at least 125. And life, if done correctly, certainly involves risks!

Up and Down But Mostly Up

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

I’ve been having a great time while I’ve been travelling. But there have been some not so great times.

One of my very loveliest friends (and the list of very lovely friends is very long indeed) sent me an email after my last tranche of blog posts asking if I was ok. He thought I sounded rather frustrated in them. And yes, I think I did. And at the time of writing most of them I was going through a bit of a frustrated phase. Which I’m out of now.

So I thought it appropriate to write a little something about the ups and downs.

My blog is written mostly for me to keep track of my thoughts and impressions as I wander round having fun, but it is also written to keep my friends updated with what I’m up to. It also allows me a forum to engage in interesting discussions about some of the topics I write about. (It may also end up as part of the inspiration, groundwork and first draft of a book.) I engage in a certain level of self-censorship (which I think is a good thing) for several reasons. But I do want it to be representative of the truth. Most of it (I think) is quite happy and bouncy. But this is because I find my life to be generally happy and bouncy. Sometimes my posts are a little less bouncy. I don’t want people to think that things are horrible. Nor do I want people to think that everything is a bed of roses.

Sometimes travel is hard. When I’m ill (fever, vomiting, no energy) then things become harder. When my energy levels are a little lower than normal then it is harder to keep smiling in the face of everything. Sometimes the cultural differences and communication barriers are fun. Sometimes they’re the straw that makes the camel’s chiropractor rub his hands together in anticipation of a large fee.

And I’ve found that things for me go in phases. Generally, the longer I’ve been somewhere the more I get under the skin of the culture I’m in and the more the difficulties become obvious. Plus, dealing with difficulties is easier when I’m still on the high of everything being a novelty. When you’ve been facing the same situation week in and week out for a few months, the novelty can wear off. But then something happens or changes and things become rosy again. My energy levels return and everything is a glorious adventure and a wonderful challenge again.

But, the difficulties are part of what makes this adventure so wonderful. I wouldn’t trade them in for anything. I love the good times. I love the difficult times too. I learn from them. I hope that next time I face a difficulty I will be slightly better at dealing with it (or at least not worse). Plus, a few difficulties and frustrations are very much worth all the wonderfulness that surrounds them. They also remind me that this isn’t a dream. 🙂

So yes, sometimes I find it hard. And sometimes the email/text/Facebook message that asks if I’m ok is the most amazingly wonderful thing ever (since hugs are more difficult to come by out here than they are back home)!! But even when I’m at my lowest (2am and I’m curled up on the edge of my bed in a cold sweat and aching and trying not to move so that the nausea won’t hit again, then flinging myself up and out of my mosquito net so that I can vomit into a bucket, all the while hoping that the next hour will go much faster than the last one did – note: I went to the doctor the next morning, got a cocktail of pills and a week’s bedrest and felt much better 🙂 ) I don’t wish to be anywhere else. I don’t want the adventure to end.

I love the ups. I love the downs. I love the ups more! And there are a lot more ups than downs. 🙂

Washing Hands

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Washing your hands is very important. When you are in a country where you eat with your hands it is really important.

Often when I go to visit people I get offered a bowl of (sometimes warm) water in which to wash my hand. Other guests get this too.

But I’m fairly sure that wetting my hand is not the same thing as washing it. I’m surprised, because I thought that here the hand-washing culture would have been much stronger than at home. To some extent it is, but it seems more to be a very strong hand-wetting culture than a hand-washing culture. Strange. 🙂

Dog Bite Aftermath

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Here is what happened to me after the dog bite.

In the first post about it I mentioned that I went to the hospital and that they gave me the first rabies booster injection. And I think I mentioned that the doctor didn’t really look at the wound – certainly didn’t treat it but that when I went home, Suchintha’s mother helped me to dress it after I’d cleaned it. I also mentioned that I had to go back to the hospital to get the second booster.

So here’s what happened then.

I bought a larger dressing and removed the sticky plaster. The wound was about 3cm long, the width of a sticky plaster (they only come in one size in this country) is about .5cm. The length of the pad bit of a sticky plaster is about .5cm even if the length of the sticky plaster itself is about 5cm. So I needed a bigger paddy bit. This proved to be tricky. But I did get a giant (10cm x 10cm) surgical dressing and some micropore tape. The pharmacist assured me it wouldn’t stick. The phrase “my arse” springs to mind for two reasons. It stuck. To my arse. Well, the top of my leg.

I found another type of dressing a few days later which is like a sticky plaster but bigger (about 10cm x 20cm) which I thought was an improvement, though way too big, but too big is better than too small. The problem was that the pharmacy in Kandy where I got it seems to be the only one in the country that sells them. So when I got to Anuradhapura I had to Macgyver 4 normal plasters into one big one by carefully cutting the side sticky bit and then overlapping so that I had a big enough pad with no sticky bits in the middle. It mostly worked. 🙂 By this stage there was only the occasional drop of blood on the plaster anyway, so it wasn’t bleeding profusely. Then the plasters came off. Yay! And stayed off. Yay!

On the Saturday I went back to Kandy hospital for the second injection (one injection, two sites, so they stuck half of it in one arm and the other half in the other). That didn’t take too long. But I did get sent from the injection room to the rabies room then back to the injection room where I had to wait for 15 mins (which turned out to be 1hr). But that was ok.

One of the other interesting consequences of the dog bite was antibiotics. The doctor didn’t say anything about antibiotics. But Suchintha’s sister’s husband is a doctor. When he heard about the bite, he asked if I had been given antibiotics. I said I was on Doxycycline (which is a broad spectrum antibiotic that was prescribed as an anti-malarial), but he said that wasn’t enough. So he suggested another one. Suchintha’s mother had some sample packs in the house so I dutifully started taking antibiotics twice a day (plus my anti-malarial, plus some panadol to help with the swelling and the pain). Suchintha’s brother in law said he thought that the doctor had probably been so excited treating a foreigner that he forgot to mention the antibiotics. Which seems a pretty major thing to forget in my mind and a pretty feeble excuse for being overwhelmed. But, I had my own personal medical team helping me out so I was ok. 🙂

And the final piece of annoyance was my trousers. But I took them to a tailor in Kandy. I needed to get them taken up anyway. Which was lucky. Because the bit they cut off the cuffs they used to mend the rip. Which they did in a day and charged me a very reasonable sum of money for it. So I now have trousers with no holes (except the important holes that you need for getting into the things and sticking your feet out the ends).

And now, the injections are done, the antibiotics are finished, the wound has healed, the trousers are fixed, I can sit down comfortably. It’s all good.

I saw the dog a few days ago and it didn’t bat an eyelid at me. It seemed completely unconcerned by my existence. So that’s also a good thing.

Here endeth the dog bite story.