Friday, January 25, 2008

The medicine man is keeping me down...

Organizations that send expats abroad pay a lot of money to insure against something going wrong. Which it inevitably does for most of us eventually. You can't live with bugs and grime and stress, and quirky foods forever without something happening. So, after about twenty days of chest pain I decided to call our travel insurance people. I was travelling out to Singapore anyway. Why not see a doctor? I had already self/internet-diagnosed (always the surest way of diagnosing) it as heartburn.

Now what I didn't know is that the words, 'chest pain' spoken to a medical consultant at the travel insurance company cause them to begin behaving like a Jewish grandmother. The woman did everything short of telling me to sit down right where I was and await an airlift. She advised me against flying to Singapore. She gave me dire descriptions of what could possibly be wrong. Of course, there was really no choice since the best medical care in the region is in Singapore and the only way to get there is by flying (or slow boat). I told her I'd take my chances. She called me twice more before departure. And twice on arrival. The company had booked me in for an appointment at one of the best clinics in Singapore which is located (I LOVE SINGAPORE!!) right in the airport.

Yes, it's kind of out of the way and most people don't even know it's there but on the basement level is a fantastic health clinic. While other people were carrying their Cartier, Godiva, and Chanel shopping bags I'm traipsing my chest x-ray and EKG from radiology over to the lab and back again. I even popped into the cosmetic counter to pick up a headband. A little duty-free shopping a long way to making the whole medical care experience more enjoyable. Why has no one thought of that in the West?

So, I finally sit down with the doctor and he gives me the news. I have some severe indigestion. Then he starts in on the list of do's and do'nots. Which are - and I quote:

No chillis, oil, or curry. (There goes most food in Aceh)
No alcohol. (Bummer)
No eating 3 hours before bedtime. (well, ok)
No chocolate. (That's physically painful for me to hear)
No coffee. (That's physically painful for those who work with me in the morning to hear)

He starts scribbling out prescriptions. I am just laughing out loud. (Doctors LOVE when you do this after their diagnosis by the way.) I tell him that I'll take the meds and not eat the chillis but that there's no way I'm giving up coffee.

"You have to," he says.
"No," I say.
"Drink tea," he says.
"No," I say.

He shrugs and tears off the prescription and hands it to me. I have to come back in 10 days. Heading once again into the duty-free bonanza that is Singapore's airport I ran into the latest issue of TimeOut Singapore which has an article telling me how to, 'stay sane without our vices'. Included among them is how to give up coffee. I'm going to go read it over a latte.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Appropriate pilot behaviour...

A friend of mine is a pilot and today I was flying out to Medan. She had no co-pilot so asked if I wanted to sit up front. Do I ever!?!?! I got the sweet headset, the little dials and knobby things in front of me - even that steering gizmo. If she keeled over I would have been in charge. Probably should've been frightening to the other passengers but they didn't need to know that I couldn't fly. I sensed that their respect for me went up the moment I climbed into the cockpit. Yeah, no more was I one of 'them' I was a pilot. Well...not really, but again, what they didn't know couldn't hurt them - unless there was a plane crash, of course. That would probably hurt them. But it would hurt me more. I digress.

Now, I learned some things today about being a pilot. I mean, apart from the actual fact that I could never, ever fly a plane. Not even if the tower was 'talking me in'. Seriously, there's a lot of stuff going on up there. No, the first thing I learned is that you can promptly take the tension up a notch on a plane by being the person 'flying' and pointing and looking puzzled out the window. I was just asking a question about the clouds but there is nothing that can cause a plane full of passengers to crane their heads faster than someone in the cockpit looking puzzled out the window and pointing. If you are a pilot, never, ever do this.

The second thing I learned was the worst words you can ever hear a pilot utter. Imagine the scene with me. We're about 45 minutes into the flight. We're chatting amiably over the headsets about...well, about holiday plans if you MUST know...but I'm sure it looked important and authoritative to those 'others' in the back. When, suddenly, my friend grabs the controls, utters the words, 'oh crap!' and starts flicking one of the dials. Flicking it! Like they do in the movies when the thinga-ma-bob that keeps the plane in the air stops working and the rest of the movie is about surviving on a desert island after a plane crash. I have never had my heart beat faster than at that moment. Turned out to be nothing but if you are a pilot, never, ever do that.

Let's recap: Appropriate pilot behaviour...
1) No puzzled pointing
2) Never say, 'oh crap!'
3) No flicking the dials

and I guess being actually able to fly the plane should be #4.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rain in Malaysia...

What does the rain in Malaysia have to do with anything? That, is an excellent question. I first heard it today when our internet went down. I walked (read:stalked) out of the office and demanded of our administrator (who has no actual control over our internet) what was going on.

"It's raining in Malaysia," she said looking up sleepily from her computer. Apparently, I was not the first to have asked.

Later while we were all getting our lunch our logs asked the girl next to her what was happening with the internet. The answer had gotten more succinct:

"Rain. Malaysia."

And the funny thing is that the answer works like a charm. "Ahhh, of course! Rain in Malaysia!" If you don't think about it too long there seems to be some sort of inherent logic in it that you just don't understand. There's something about that answer that makes you not want to ask any more questions. Rain in Malaysia. The key is not thinking about it too long.

I've decided that it going to be my automatic answer for any and all 'why' questions.

"Why is the dollar so weak against the Euro?"

It's raining in Malaysia.

"Why did that BA flight go down in Heathrow?"

Rain. Malaysia.

See how well it works? You can try it out for yourself today if you'd like

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Would you rather...

I love those books. The ones that are filled with 'absurd dilemmas to ponder' like: Would you rather live in a world where Afros were mandatory for members of Congress or where it was legal, in fact encouraged, to crucify mimes...or... Would you rather give blood or read Hamlet?

Well, I would like to add this one. Would you rather live without electricity or without water. This might seem like a no-brainer to some. Electricity, of course. But, living on the equator where it is light for 12 hours and dark for 12 hours a day, being in the dark for 12 hours a day gets old really quick. But, of course, if you then choose to be without water instead you can't wash your dishes, clothes, shower, or flush the toilets. This also gets old pretty quickly.

Luckily, we haven't had to make that choice here because the powers-that-be who are in charge of the utilities ensure that we have a day or two without electricity, followed by a day or two without water. See, so we never have to choose. Isn't that nice of them?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, there are better ways to ring in the new year than paddling around in the Indian Ocean and generally lying around on the beach but it's hard to think of them. Here are some pictures from my New Year.

Not a soul in sight...Jennifer's fantastic...and tasteful...sunglasses...

Playing soccer...

Riding quads...