Monday, September 29, 2014

The End and the Beginning of my Indonesian Adventure

It's 6 AM on the last day of September, and I've turned off the AC, waiting for the hotel room to warm up a bit to make the cold shower more bearable. The last day of my vacation; I'm also waiting for the kitchen to open up downstairs so I can redeem my free breakfast (roti panggang - a thick piece of toasted bread drizzled with chocolate and condensed milk).  I'm in Medan, a city in North Sumatra where I also began my week's vacation, the most extensive bit of traveling I've done since arriving here in Southeast Asia 18 months ago.

As I look back over this last week, there were some wonderful moments (tasting all the amazing Indonesian food I remember from 25 years ago; finding a wild orangutan in the jungle), there were some disastrous moments (having my phone stolen; re-aggravating my herniated disk).  I could have done more.  I should have done less.  All in all, it's been a very special trip.

My ultimate goal as an ESL teacher is to come back to this country, Indonesia, where I spent two years of my life before the age of 21, to teach.  Some restrictive laws about work permits here don't make that easy.  Coming here now, I've been made to re-think that ultimate objective.  In some ways, my resolve is stronger.  In other ways, I've gotten a more accurate picture of Indonesia (North Sumatra, at least) in the 21st century, less clouded by 25 years of idealizing a place I loved as a much younger man.

So, here is the first video of the adventure: the trip there and my first impressions of the city of Medan.  Note, I was going to use the YouTube subtitle feature to add English translations to all the Indonesian language bits, but that is far too tedious of a process and not really feasible with my hotel's spotty and slow internet connection.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

More Firsts

Me waiting my turn for the OR.
"DON'T MOVE!!" the surgeon yelled from behind me as I lay on my side on the operating table. I froze, still shaking a bit. Sure, they had told me half a dozen times in their preparation not to move, but I wasn't expecting that level of pain!  I'd already felt a few stabs of pain from the anesthetist's big needles. I could feel that my back was numb. I thought the worst of it was over.

"Relax your body. Relax your mind," the nurse who was holding my head said in a soothing voice. "Relax your body.  Relax your mind," she continued chanting. Uh, okay. I did my best. It actually kinda worked too.

Well, that momentary spasm mustn't have had that big of an effect, as the doctor seemed pleased with his results. 

What followed next was an order to lay flat on my back without as much as even sitting up for the next eight hours in the recovery room.  That's quite a long time to remain in one position (he did allow me to roll on one side or the other for short periods).  Fortunately, one of customer service officers from my language school came with me (the hospital actually wouldn't even perform the surgery unless I had a 'helper' with me).  For those next eight hours, she fed me, helped me drink and we made small talk to pass the time.

All in all my first time in a hospital wasn't all that bad, and it was one of but several firsts that day.

1. First time I've been in an operating room.
2. First time I've had a nurse chant over me. (see above)
3. First time I've ever peed in bed (while actually trying to do so).
4. First time I've ever had someone help me pee (that I remember).
5. First time I've seen a human being who looked like a Grey Alien (the poor girl
they rolled into recovery had a cranium that was the size of a basketball.  Very scary and disturbing. Apparently fluids were not draining from her head).
6. First time I've eaten my lunch via a straw.
(It was rice soup, so it was faily easy to suck up)

Most importantly...

7. This morning was my first time in 7 weeks that I've woken up without being in excruciating pain!

YAY!  Let's hope that disc stays deflated and doesn't burst out again.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My First Time in a Hospital

I've been pretty fortunate in my life when it comes to serious conditions or illnesses. I've never been checked into a hospital. Sure, I've visited emergency rooms from time to time. My favorite instance of which was a basketball injury back in the nineties. In a scramble for a loose ball, another guy's cranium slammed into my forehead, opening up a gash that I knew would need stitches. Blood was gushing forth, and I sopped it up as fast as I could. I drove one-handed to the nearest emergency room, walked in, my face covered in dried blood and told the nurse at intake as deadpan as possible, “I've got a bad stomachache”.

All kidding aside, my life over the last 7 weeks has been defined by one thing: pain. It's my herniated disc. It's not really getting any better, which is how these work I've been told. I haven't been able to enjoy life. It's colored everything, and particularly when still trying to adapt to a foreign culture and challenging environment. It's left me in not only physical pain, but kinda depressed too. In following my Burmese doctor's instructions, I've been taking my meds, resting as much as possible, but it hasn't worked. Went in for a follow up earlier this week, and my doc ordered an MRI.

Here's the results. This picture was taken with my phone while I was riding in a taxi on the way from one hospital to another (explaining why it looks like there's a car in my spine). Look at my L5 vertebrae. See that mass spurting out of spine into the white line along it's back? As the MRI summary noted, that's a 'large disc protrusion in left paracentral region with compression of left S1 nerve root.' Ooo. Sounds nasty. Yeah, it's felt that way.

So, tomorrow morning at 7 AM, I'm checking into the Asia Royal Hospital here in Yangon for the next phase of my treatment. No, it's not the spinal surgery that I still may have to have down the road, but it's still considered surgery. I'm have an epidural. Before this, I didn't even know what an epidural was. I'd only heard of it in the context of women giving birth. Apparently it's also what my doctor called an 'intermediate fix'. In about ten hours from now, I'm having a needle injected all the way down to my spinal cord.

There's almost no risk in this procedure. I think it'll help in the short term. How long it's gonna last, no one can tell.

It will at least allow me to enjoy my week's vacation in Indonesia which starts on Tuesday.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Eight million people missing in Myanmar

Just finished watching Myanmar defeat Thailand 2-1 in a soccer match. The Philippines is hosting a regional cup type thing, and if I understood my Burmese correctly, Myanmar now moves on to play Indonesia in the finals.

I'm such a homey. I've lived in half a dozen different American metroplexes, and now a handful of Asian countries. When it comes to sports, I always root for the home team. Consequently, I'm a fan of a whole bunch of different teams, but wherever I'm at, I scream and cheer for my homeys! Take THAT you Ayutayans! We still kick your ass!

Side note of interest: the word in Burmese for Thailand is Ayudaya. An entire country named after a kingdom we crushed 250 years ago.

Did I say 'we'?

Well, since I sat and watched it, I feel like part of the 'we'. This goal by Htke Htke Aung as just awesome.

I heard my neighborhood chanting “HTKE! HTKE! HTKE!” after that goal. If you can hear in your head what a chant of Htke sounds like, you get an A+ in Asian phonics. The goal ain't on YouTube yet, but I'll post it when it gets there.  Very Youtubeworthy.

'We' are having some problems. We had a census a couple months back. The first one in 37 years. Previously, the population had been just estimated. Now that we've counted each other, we got a bit of a problem...

Eight million people missing in Myanmar. 

As Myanmar’s initial census report was announced the population at 51,419,420 on August 30, 2014, suspicion arises among Myanmar people.
In 2008, Myanmar’s population was nearly 58 million. In 2010, the government estimated that Myanmar’s population was 59 million.
According to that list, 8 million people were vanished within four years. It is like 2 million people decreases per year.


I thought I was going to retire there. I was the senior staff member. I'd been there longer than anyone. It. Is. Not. Fair.  But on the ...