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.

The Old Macdonald story part three

R climbed out of our bed this morning, still warm with fever, saying “ayi ayi”. Same thing he said running towards xiao He when she entered the door.

He picked up the cover of a Baby Einstein DVD he loves. There is a section on farm animals with his favorite theme song. He wanted to watch it, yet again.

He sings along every time: “Ayi Ayi O”.

Thankfully we discovered how much he loves Old Macdonald and the farm animals because this afternoon, still burning with fever, watching the cows and horses was the only thing that put a smile on his face.



The Old Macdonald story part four
The Old Macdonald story part two

My not so controlled, not so scientific experiment.

Our sleeping arrangement is as consistent as everything else is with me lately. L and R share a room and have a crib each. For the beginning of every night they are in their room. Some parts of some nights we have one of them in our bed, and sometimes much more rarely both. Having them sleep in our bed is a recent phenomenon. When we went to Koh Samui in February, the two cribs and our big bed all in one room rendered much better sleep than in the past.

A few weeks ago I was trying to see what the nights would be like in the different cases mentioned above. In general the child who is between us sleeps better than when in his [I use his in this post to mean either child] own bed alone, at least for longer periods of time, and a hug or gentle tap on the belly usually gets him back to sleep in minimal time. When I was experimenting with this, I switched the child in our bed each night for about a week to ten days. That one was sleeping better than the other. The one who stayed in his own bed pulled the other one’s hair many times the next morning.

When I had them both in our bed, if either woke up before morning he would cry, fuss, push and even roll over the other one to make sure I took care of him. This happened only when he noticed his sibling was also in the bed. So both ended up awake. That meant that Maher and I were up too. This segment of the experiment lasted two days. I was ready to have them back in their own beds unless necessary, and Maher had a talk with me about this too!

In order to maintain a few hours of sleep and some sanity for myself, especially in the case of simultaneous wakings our nights are a combination of the above situations. We spend a part of the night alone, part with one and sometimes the rest of the night with the other.

The last two nights R and L had a fever and runny noses. They both vomited. L on the first day, R the second. It seems to be a flu. Of course if one has it, the other one is likely to follow. Usually there is a lag of a day or two, but this time, it was simultaneous and intense. Neither accepted to be alone in their own bed. This meant when one woke up and saw the other in our bed, there was the crying, fussing, pushing, and rolling over. All four of us were up, and both children were burning with fever, crying and asking for “mama, mama.” One would climb onto me and push the other out of the way, then a minute later it was the other way around. Maher and I looked at each other, stuck. I laughed awkwardly as we tried to react to the situation.

The guilt that comes with having to choose one child over the other at the spur of a moment eased up a lot as my confidence developed, as our bond grew, since they became more independent (as in could walk and climb up and mainly down from places on their own, eat and drink on their own, etc), and now that their favorite word is “baba” and they tail him all day long. But it comes back, and I guess it always will. Now that they can express what and who they want, it is more painful.

Tonight is better. L is in her own bed and hasn’t had any fever all night. Rahul is getting there slowly,