Healing on the island of Samui

This is an update I wrote over a week ago, a couple of days before we left for Paris. It is interestng how it relates to the post about parks in Paris, and also to a comment about the same post.

In February over the Chinese New Year break, we spent about ten days in Koh Samui. L and R had been sick on and off for a few weeks. Our close friends gave birth to their baby girl only a few days before we were to leave, and I wanted to spend some time with them. Then L got high fever. We debated whether to go or not. We waited until the last possible minute for her fever to break. It didn’t. We really needed to get away, to relax, breathe some cleaner air, play in the grass and on the beach, eat delicious Thai food, and just be the four of us. Our friends had everything under control with their new born and I had the feeling that they needed to bond. L was feverish. We took the flight anyway.

The trip was tiring. After CNY line-ups in the airport, we spent four hours waiting on the plane before take off. We missed our connection but made it to Samui the same day around midnight. No luggage. No stroller.

Nevertheless, in two days the sicknesses and weaknesses we had all been dealing with evaporated with the bright sunshine. We chased butterflies, listened to chirping birds, swam in the sea, sipped on coconuts, and ate not too badly. It was the first time we spent a holiday together, just the four of us. I was happy. So was Maher. The children laughed a lot, ate more than usual, and slept better.

We are ready for a repeat. We need a repeat to pull us out of the rut. L and R have been sick almost continuously for the last two months. It started with a bit of a runny nose, cough and fever. They recovered. In a few days it transformed into gastroenteritis type vomiting and diarrhea. They recovered and then it recurred. Over and over. About a week ago, we had another bout of diarrhea which their ayi (nanny) seemed to suffer from as well. It comes with terribly painful nappy rashes. Then ayi’s son had high fever and a very bad cough for a few days. Ayi got it. Inevitably L and R. followed.  Maher also had high fevers, chills, sweats- the works every few weeks. I have my one day here and there. Luckily I haven’t been hit too hard so far.

It has to stop. They haven’t gone more than two or three days with full energy. The pollution is not supporting their immune systems. TodayI am having one of my low days with fever and a head ache myself. So this is my rant of how hard it is to get a clean outdoors space where L and R can play. They want to explore and be outdoors like typical eighteen month old toddlers.

We play outside everyday. The park we went to a few weeks ago exhibited dead fish floating in the contaminated water. So did the beautiful West Lake we visited in Hangzhou last weekend. They play in the mud and grass areas that look more like marshland, thick clumps of grass, smelly mud, mosquitoes with fluorescent stripes. They want to play with crispy leaves on the ground and draw in the mud with sticks.

Rahul now picks up cigarette butts in our up-scale housing complex. He has had enough of our “NO’s”. I saw him put two in a dustbin the other day! The playground in our complex is always quite dirty and the swings broken, with rust on the sharp metallic ends. The floor is black and slimy. Since I was not allowed to take them out of the apartment for the first four months of their lives, I refuse to lock them up now. I am done with being paranoid about everything they touch. They have to live a little. Yes there are consequences I suppose and we are bearing some of them now. Two cooped up toddlers is no fun at all.

With the two air purifiers working full blast over the last few days being indoors is no better than being out. When I walked into L and R’s room a few nights ago I thought one of the appliances was burning. I looked and couldn’t figure it out. I rushed out of their room. The same smokey smell was in the living room. I woke Maher up to see if he could figure out what was burning. We both thought to open the bedroom window and sure enough it came from outside. Apparently some hay is being burnt on the outskirts of the city. Every night for the last five days regardless of all the windows being shut, we sleep in smokey air.

In my first two years here I met more doctors than in my entire life. I visited many clinics and hospitals. I did treatments for my bones and joints, tests in gastro intestinal and endocrinology labs, gynaecology hospitals. I developed a number of food allergies – including to milk, and MSG. I buy mainly organic now. Maher is having his fair share of doctors and hospitals since his stroke three years ago. Now he is in a bit of an up and down phase, in and out of clinics and labs trying to figure outr the recurring flu like symptoms. A good friend told me that she took much longer to heal from sickness when she lived in Chengdu. She spent about 5 or 6 years here.

We have to get over the fatigue and weakened immune systems. Today all four of us were ill. Five including ayi. Not so sure how to do it. We have a big trip to Europe in a few days. Fatigue from the long travel, jet lag and the endless appointments won’t help. Seeing family and friends, eating good food, and playing in the parks will certainly do us some good.

I spent my childhood in Zambia barefoot in the grass, climbing trees, playing with dogs and caterpillars, eating default organic food. I imagine it has changed a little since my last visit a number of years ago. I wish to give L and R some of that. A little freedom outdoors. In a few months we will return to Samui. Just the four of us. As commercial as the island has become with its bars and hotels, it is known to be a spa, detox, and yoga island, especially in the more remote parts. It is the closest to a home I have had in a while. Since I moved to Chengdu, Samui is where I most frequently travel both for yoga retreats and getaways. I always return rejuvenated and centred. A trip back to our healing island “home” can’t come soon enough.

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