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.