Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting back on the "horse"

It’s the first day of the Year of the Horse. Yesterday and last night were very noisy, with firecrackers going off all over town. They are illegal, but a blind eye is turned at Chinese New Year. It’s an appropriate theme for this next period of my life, during which I will need to get back on the “horse” after taking a fall.

My recovery continues. Every day I’ve been able to see progress in terms of mobility. Pain is still an issue, which is affecting my sleep. Each time I move or turn, I have to try and find a comfortable position for my arm. I feel very tired. The staples (33) have been removed and I’ve started physiotherapy with DBC (Documentation Based Care). Sam has been incredibly helpful, finding time in her day to ferry me around town to appointments. I’ve been thinking of friends who have had to learn to use parts of their body again after accidents: Martyn, Patrick, Gary, Sue.

I won’t be able to run again until I have more balance than I have currently. I’m hoping that will be in a month’s time, which would give me two months to train gently towards a half marathon at the start of May, followed a week later by the start of proper marathon training. Jackie (owner of Batik) and I have a date on Thursday mornings to walk along the waterfront, and Sam and I walk on Tuesdays.

Min is running well. He and I are entered for the Kuching Marathon, to be held on 17 August. Some others in our little group are also doing the full, and quite a few are doing the half. I’ve met with one of the organisers and will try to help them promote it. I’m really hoping Di and Frannie will come up from Albury for it.

Since I’ve been staying back at Batik I’ve started to organise film nights in the courtyard, which we're calling “Friday Night Flicks”. Our first one was the week before Chinese New Year. We showed “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. Next week is “Moonrise Kingdom”. It’s for guests and friends, and hopefully will become a regular Friday night event. I can still help organise it even when I’m not here, in terms of selecting films and writing the flyer copy, if there is interest in keeping it going.

A new friend made in the past couple of weeks is Fran, a well-travelled psychology professor/author from Massachusetts. When she visits New York City she stays just a couple of blocks from where I stay, so we’ll catch up there later in the year. We’ve had dinner at Bla Bla Bla and Mango Tree, and went with Jackie to see the Joaquin Phoenix/Amy Adams/Scarlett Johansson film “Her” at the new Cineplex at CityOne Mall last week.

There are always interesting people staying here. I enjoyed meeting a freelance travel writer and book author from New York, Bruce Northam, when Jackie asked a bunch of us out to dinner at a seafood restaurant over on the coast at Damai.

Caught up with Rita and Kah-Yee for a meal one evening. K-Y wants to write a book about her experiences of living with a very challenging physical disability. She’s a lovely woman, a qualified pharmacist. She wants to work in a community pharmacy in Melbourne. 

Made a return visit to Junk, my favourite restaurant in Kuching, with the Wees and Swee, Ivy and the boys, Nick and Kieren, for a pre-Chinese New Year dinner. Sara is back for a few days from her National Service camp and looking fabulous. Her new boyfriend is ridiculously good-looking.

Spent some time this morning with Emily’s family, who hosted an “at home” for the new year and invited me and Fran. Em’s dad has just had a knee replacement, and her mum had broken her wrist, so we three compared our scars. Traditionally, the children – Clarence, Emily, James and Darroll (a sister is away in the Genting Highlands) – honour their parents with tea and lucky red packets. As guests, Fran and I received red packets, too. I’ll take all the luck I can get, thank you!

Friday, January 17, 2014

And then... WHAM!

Sometimes life hits you like a cyclist appearing out of nowhere. Literally.

Two hours after I arrived in Morocco on 2 January, at the start of a planned ten weeks in Marrakech, Madrid, Barcelona, Malta, Istanbul and Cairo that would have included three half marathons, I was bowled over in the street near my guesthouse and fell heavily, breaking my right arm just beneath the shoulder. Friends from Oz who now live in Marrakech were godsends, taking me to a hospital where I spent two days and two nights and had surgery to insert four wires that were supposed to hold the bone ends together while they healed. I was given a sleeve to wear to immobilise my arm, which I found to be a form of torture. I still have weeping blisters and scabs from the abrasions it caused.

For the next four days, after Rita and Bruce left on a planned holiday with their visiting son Seth, I rested at my riad. The staff helped me with bathing, washing my hair, and cutting up my food. I was in pain the whole time and didn’t leave the riad except to keep an appointment with the surgeon, with the help of riad manager Majdouline. The doctor said the wound was healing fine and I should expect to feel pain.

I wasn’t going to be able to do anything I had planned to do in Marrakech or elsewhere for at least the next couple of months, so there was nothing to be gained by staying on in Morocco and Europe, where my costs would be high. My instincts told me to get to Kuching, where I would have the personal support I needed and affordable professional follow-up health care. Rita arranged for her business partner, Abdou, to take me to Casablanca, from where I flew to Kuching via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur on flights arranged by Jacqui at Albury Travel. I was able to get right-hand window seats the whole way, and wheelchair assistance in Casablanca and Dubai. It was bearable when I stayed in the moment and didn’t scare myself by thinking too much.

My wonderful family in Kuching, Sam, Min and Sean (Sara is away doing her national service in West Malaysia), met my plane on Thursday evening,  took me to their house and looked after me for the next four days. The day after I arrived, Sam and I saw an orthopaedic specialist at Normah Medical Specialist Centre, where I’ve had a couple of wellness checkups in recent years. He said the wires weren’t strong enough to hold the bone together properly, and I went back into hospital on the Monday for a second operation, again under general anaesthetic, to insert a serious plate.

Since Tuesday night, I’ve been able to take up residence at my usual home in Kuching, the Batik Boutique Hotel. I now feel that the healing has started. I have some movement in my arm, and each day I’m able to do something new. Sam has been a wonderful help with bathing and dressing, though I’m able to do that myself as of yesterday. She has also been bringing me delicious dinners!

A lot of people are helping me in various ways. I’m relieved to be in Kuching, and I plan to stay until the end of March, then to return in May until mid-August. Maybe life has other plans in store, but I’ll deal with those as and when… In the meantime, it’s business as unusual. I’m grateful that I don’t earn my living by doing calligraphy; my handwriting using my left hand looks like a two-year-old’s. But I can use Jack the Mac OK, and my brain is still functioning.

Having to deal with my travel insurance company is payback for every nasty thought I’ve ever had. With Sean’s help, I’m halfway through completing the claim form. As I wrote that, the Wees arrived to deliver a fish pie for my dinner and to hang out in my room for a while.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013: Un año feliz (A happy year)

What wasn’t to like in 2013? I can’t see me giving up my life as an international bag lady anytime soon – fingers crossed/touch wood/Dog willing/inshallah…

I saw out the year in Seville, Spain. After spending a fun week enjoying the company of Oz/HK friends Debra and Tony (visits to a flamenco dance performance, tour of Seville’s famous bullfight ring, a number of meals, and two runs with Tony), I hunkered down for three days of long work hours to finish a big arts project. Today, 1 January 2014, I came up to Madrid by train for an overnighter before the next stage of my travels: a month in Marrakech. The museums are closed for the public holiday, but it’s wet, grey and dismal so I don’t mind just hanging out in my hotel for the rest of the day. I’ll be back for a week at the start of February.

A quick recap on the year…

I saw in 2013 in Melbourne, where I was staying in the apartment of friends Barb and Bill while they were in the US. I had seen my mum and some family and close friends in Albury at Christmas, and was able to join in the Nightie Before Christmas run with Di, Frannie, Julie, Jules and other friends. Chris rode his motorbike down on Boxing Day from Sydney. From Melbourne I went to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, where I saw my dad and nieces Jaye, Kellie and Cassie.

To Ubud, Bali, for a couple of months, with a week’s side trip to Sarawak in early March to see my Kuching extended family.

From Kuala Lumpur (on a short visit with Patrick) to Europe, where I based myself in Florence until nearly the end of May. In April I flew for a few days to Paris to catch up with the Wees from Kuching again, who were on an architectural highlights tour of northern Europe. I ran the Firenze half marathon as a bandit. Side trips to Rome, Venice and Lake Como. To northern Italy for a night to see Giorgio and Amy, then a three-day taste of Barcelona, which whet my appetite. A frustrating week back in Paris followed, where the highlights were two races (20K and 10K) and catching up with Monique, a friend made in Bali.

To New York for June and July, where I got back into proper training with the 5.30 a.m. crew and ran in lots of races. Caught up with friends old and new. Always great to see Dominic. Indulged myself with lots of films!

August was holiday month. Really enjoyed running a half marathon in Dublin with Marc, a friend from Chile. Long-time friend Sarah and I then drove around Ireland for a week. A frenetically busy fortnight in Wales and England, walking up Mt Snowdon and along the Jurassic Coast, and seeing more special friends.

To Budapest for September for a rest. Loved it! Ran a fun half marathon there just as the weather changed from summer to autumn. Became pals with Jules. Vowed I’d be back. To Vienna for a night and Prague for four days.

October through to mid-December I was back in New York, finishing up the racing season and getting guaranteed entry to the 2014 New York City Marathon. Ran the Philadelphia half marathon instead of the planned marathon, as I hadn’t done the training needed to go the full distance. I’ll need to remember that this year in August/September… Became good pals with Brigitte, who fed me at Thanksgiving. Was grateful for a couple of snowfalls, which made the cold weather bearable. Made note to self not to stay so late in the year next time…

Just before I came to Spain I spent five days back in Budapest, which felt familiar and welcoming.

I really want to say thanks to the people who come into my life and then decide to stick around, even when they know I can be a real pain in the butt. If I saw you this year and didn’t mention you by name above, it’s just because I wanted to keep this review brief. Be assured that you helped make this such a wonderful year for me, and I hope I’ll see you again soon. I’m always very grateful to Françoise and René, who since 2009 have generously allowed me to live in their home in New York when they are in Lausanne.

I hope you all have a fabulous 2014.