Of course, when you jump on a plane on a whim to the other side of the world, then you still have to deal with what is going on inside of you. And, no matter how many Balinese massages that I got, those feelings kept arising. My time was very introspective. It was the only month abroad where I repelled away potential new friends. But sometimes, I suppose, that is ok. It is ok to listen to your body and to your soul. My soul desperately wanted to be alone and to process everything that happened, how it happened and what I can do differently next time.
The day that I decided to turn things around, to start a routine with running, writing and planning for my future, was the first day of my new life. I was so excited to get going and made a list of everything to start doing the next day. Anna and I created charts and set the stage for our futures. I went to bed with less anxiety than my other days (even though all of my days in Indonesia were filled with sun, beaches and swimming so not the worst place for breakup/life change anxiety).
But then, when I woke up, something terrible happened. I couldn’t move. It was like when Gregor Samsa woke up as a giant cockroach one morning in The Metamorphasis and couldn’t figure out how to get out of bed. I awoke on my back, unable to move my arms or legs and my first (clearly hallucinogenic) thought was,
OH fuck. I have turned into a giant insect.
I flopped around on my back, trying not to wake up Anna who was sleeping next to me, and then realized that the pounding in my head had paralyzed my entire body as waves of nausea passed over me.
Do giant cockroaches feel nausea? I pondered as I pried open one eye with all my might to find out my fate. I lifted my head ever so slightly to find that I was still human. I saw both my arms and legs, yet they still wouldn’t move. My head ached as I lifted it so I set it back down on the pillow, squeezing my eye back shut as another wave of nausea hit. My head hurt so bad, my nausea was so bad, and it was all I could do to not shit my pants since my body, for some reason, still couldn’t move.
I’m going to die, I reasoned with myself for several hours of inexplicable trauma before Anna forced me to the island hospital. By that point, still channeling Gregor’s strength for getting out of bed as a cockroach, I had made it to the end of the bed and gotten one leg off before resting for another hour. My head was mushed into a towel at the end of the bed and I was sobbing in pain from my illness. The electricity had gone out at some point in the morning and I was lying in my own sweat for hours without the aid of a fan.
“Joy, you need to go to the doctor,” she said. “This doesn’t seem as it will heal on its own.”
Forcing myself to stand up, I shuffled down the dirt path past our bungalow, past the burning leaves and chickens running around me and blindly followed Anna. At first, I thought I couldn’t see due to the illness but halfway there, I realized that I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts.
The ‘island hospital’ was boiling hot inside as the electricity was still out on the entire island. It consisted of a room with a desk and a few men standing around. They looked very, very young. But again, I couldn’t really see so they were a blur of smiles and poor English as they tried to ask me questions. Anna had already met them to get me some medicine but they all thought it was better if I just came in myself. I had been experiencing extreme diarrhea for about a week and very extreme diarrhea for the past several days. My dehydration level was very high and I hadn’t even attempted to eat in the past 24 hours. I remembered trying to take a sip of water around 12 hours before the hospital visit.
“You are the one who is sick?” the doctor asked as I started crying. It hurt to talk, to stand so he had me lay on the gurney that was by the door. It was a hot, plastic table with a plastic pillow. I was still sweating profusely as lines of sweat began running down the plastic on the pillow. The doctor poked my stomach a few times and took my temperature. He checked my blood pressure,
“Oh, very very low,” he said. “You have low pressure, very low.”
“She needs an IV,” Anna told them. “She is very dehydrated and can’t keep anything down.”
“We give her injection, injection first. Then antibiotic. Then infusion.” The doctor replied.
“No, no, no,” Anna said. “She needs an IV first. She is very dehydrated. You can’t give her antibiotics without doing any tests.”
“Very inflamed,” he replied. “Bad stomach. Big intestines, too big for stomach pain. We give her injection, then antiobiotic, then injection.”
This arguing went on for a while before they finally conceded to giving me an ‘infusion’ first, which turned out to be an IV. They gave me my first ‘injection’ during the first bag of fluids, claiming that it would stop my nausea. I started vomiting profusely by my second bag of fluids and six more times during my third bag of fluids. I was lying on the hot plastic pillow sobbing with vomit dripping down the steps below me. The bag that they had given me had a hole in it and the doctor walked away, seeming angry that I was still vomiting.
A girl ran into the ‘island hospital’, frantic,
“My boyfriend, my boyfriend!” she cried. “He is very injured. You must come. It is an emergency.”
“We can no leave,” one of the men said. “You come here.”
“He cannot move! He is much hurt!” she cried in broken English with a heavy European accent. “He is much, much pain. You come with me!”
“No, no,” the doctor said. “He come here.”
After much arguing, the girl managed to get one of the men from the room to go with her. After a while, they came back in. Her boyfriend was slightly limping but didn’t appear to be dying at all.
“What happened?” the doctor asked as they sat in the two chairs about four feet from where I was lying and occasionally vomiting with an IV stuck to my arm.
“A sea urchin!” The girl cried. “Is it poisonous, is he ok?”
Anna had come back by this point and was assessing the situation. There was no electricity on the island, no power or internet to look anything up on Google so after a lot of back and forth from the doctor and the couple over the very expensive medicine, Anna interjected and said,
“You aren’t getting anywhere right now. Go and try to find a way to call your insurance and see what you should do.”
The arguing stopped and they left. Anna left to find some food and to get out of the sweaty gross clinic that now carried the putrid smell of my vomit. After some time, the couple came back in, purchased the expensive sea urchin medicine and left.
Some time later, an older Danish man calmly walked in.
“My son was hit by a sea urchin,” he said. “Can you remove the spines? There are maybe five or six.”
“Yes, yes,” said the doctor.
Later, the Danish man brought in his son, 19, who sounded jolly and not in pain at all. They examined him and found not 5 but 15 of the spines stuck in his foot. He laughed as they removed them, gave him his medicine and as they sat to pay, I started vomiting again.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered as I puked in a bag right next to them, unable to move with my third bag of IV fluids dripping into my veins. I couldn’t see what they looked like but I kept imagining Steve Urwin and what his super child would’ve looked like if this had happened to them. They ignored my vomiting as they laughed with the doctor and talked the bill down to half the price.
Once everyone was gone, the doctor looked at me in dismay. I was far worse than when I had come in and he seemed disappointed with me every time that I vomited. One of his helpers would pat me on the back, whispering kind words when I vomited and the doctor wouldn’t even bring me a tissue.
“I give you another injection,” he said.
“But your injections aren’t helping,” I said. “I don’t know what they are!”
But I let him give me another one anyways because I didn’t know what else to do. He gave me some medicine, hydration packets and instructed that I go to the hospital on another island the following morning. When the fourth IV bag ran out, I asked,
“Can you take out the IV please?”
“You pay first,” he replied.
“Yes, yes, we will pay,” Anna said, who had come back to get me. “Just take out her IV.”
“No, you pay first then I remove IV,” he said.
“You won’t take out her IV until we pay you?” she asked as I threw up again. We paid, he took out my IV and we very slowly walked back to our bungalow.
The following day, I was still sick but on the mend as I wasn’t throwing up profusely anymore. I had purchased a flight that was departing in two days and I found out that none of the boats were running anymore.
“There have been many earthquakes,” an Australian girl told me at a café that I was trying to finish a writing job at while also fighting waves of extreme nausea. “They don’t want the tourists to know as they might not come anymore.”
She showed me the map of earthquakes that her local, Balinese friend had texted her. 56 earthquakes in the past seven days!
Tourists usually come to the Gili islands, which were the three islands that Anna and I had been camped at for weeks on end, via fast boats from Bali. The trip usually takes about an hour and a half. Since all of the fast boats had ceased to run the week before, which I didn’t know about, due to the earthquakes, the only option to get to the Bali airport was to take the public ferry from the neighboring island of Lombok or to take a flight from Lombok.
Since I found all of this out two days before my flight, all of the flights from Lombok were booked (and too expensive) so I had to take the public ferry.
This consisted of a public boat to Lombok, a two hour ride in a very old van (I sat on a very worn out seat over the motor which became boiling hot within 20 minutes as the engine kept stalling, with holes by my feet, trying to keep my flip flops from falling down the hole where the brake pedal was at) then a ferry ride where we sat on the boat for two hours before it departed, five hours at sea, and then another two hours near the Bali port, waiting for room to dock.
My ticket was supposed to involve a driver on the other side dropping me directly at my hotel several hours away, but things don’t work that way in Bali. I sat in the front seat next to the driver in a van full of other travelers in case I needed to vomit. The young male tattooed driver drove fast and recklessly, which would’ve been to my delight if it meant we would arrive at the hotel sooner. But instead, there was dead stopped traffic every other minute, so he would swerve around slower vehicles, narrowly missing the families passing by on motorbikes and swerve back onto the road while slamming on his brakes in order to not slam into the stopped car in front of us…all while trying to light his cigarette. Several hours later, he stopped in dark alley, opened my door and said,
“This is your stop.”
“No, no, take me to my hotel,” I said, showing him my hotel on my map.
“No, no, one stop,” he said. “You stop here.”
“It is night and this is a dark alley,” I said, getting angry (which you are never ever supposed to do in Asia). “There are no taxis around.”
“NO,” he said. “Only stop.”
We argued as the other travelers looked on. They were all going further north so after getting mad, I just grabbed my backpack out of the back of the van and he sped off. I looked around, trying to figure out what to do when a motorbike drove up.
“Taxi?” he asked.
After bartering my way onto a random motorbike in a random alley, we piled my things onto his bike and rode off into the night. I had to direct him to my hotel while balancing my things and my phone without falling off the bike. Once I checked in, I set my things in my fancy and beautiful $30 splurge of a room and headed off for a massage before making my very first new friend, Wayung. She was a beautiful Balinese hostess who walked up to me as I finally sat down to eat for the first time of the day around 10 pm and said,
“You have the strongest most beautiful arms!”
“Hahahaha,” I said, glancing at my glistening arms from the oils from my massage. “Thank you! It is my sick and starvation diet!”
We laughed and then I taught her how to exercise in the restaurant (literally, showed her YouTube videos and everything) before heading off for bed. The next day, I laughed with more people before heading off to the airport, finally feeling like myself again.
The illness was only at its worst for a few days but really, those toxins needed to come out. The bad energy that I was carrying around and the victim mentality had to go, and it came out both physically as well as emotionally.
I love the healing nature of traveling. And traveling altogether. I love even the moments when I am sick, alone and arguing with a young, tattooed Indonesian shuttle driver who leaves me on a dark alley in the middle of nowhere. It sure does beat a cubicle!
Till next year, Indonesia!