I’m not sure how I’m able to write. But I’m starting to write, and I’m writing, while sick with chicken pox.
Getting sick while on the road must be extremely hassle and difficult. I was lucky that I was only traveling for the weekend, but the golden element of it was that I was out with my workmates. I wasn’t feeling very well come Friday so I was having second thoughts of pushing through with our team building. But the deep “need” to visit a place I haven’t been to (La Union in the Philippines) – sit on the sand, stroll on the shore barefooted, be in awe of the sunset and bond with colleagues and friends – won over the “sick” in me. Anyway the doctor from the office told me it was just an allergy from eating egg (in my mind: I don’t remember any sort of allergy from food but maybe it came up suddenly, it happens, right?). So I finished my work, drank medicine for the fever/allergy, and rested until it was time for us to leave the city. I slept throughout our journey, thinking that tomorrow I would certainly feel better. However, the next day imposed an added layer of fatigue and weakness, as well as fever that kept coming back. We arrived by early morning at the Circle Hostel. The staff was kind enough to inform us that we can rest on the common area before checking in at midday. I snatched a bean bag, shared it with a friend, curled up in a corner, and slept again. Moments later, I was feeling okay, but blisters of alien appearance kept surfacing on my skin. They were small but filled with liquid. Not sure if I was alarmed, but I should have been, as they multiplied in number, starting on my face and then my back. For the rest of the trip, I refrained from drinking alcohol and eating egg or any food that might trigger intense reaction from my body due to whatever illness I got.
I definitely won’t let sickness get the best of me so I took refuge in the awesomeness of the hostel. Aside from the chill vibes of hammocks and reggae music, it’s hard not to miss the funny, biting, and colorful writings and drawings for they are all over the place.
By afternoon, the merrymaking continued on the shore of San Juan beach. The boys brought the cooler filled with bottles of beer, the girls brought their sexy humor and energy. It was time to dip ourselves in the water! The waves were low, yet there were several people still eager to surf, some were swimming or paddling in their boards, many were strolling and relaxing by the shore. The sun was stunning, as always. It could be the perfect time to bathe in the glory of the heat, but the sun was already preparing to retire for the day. The orange glow was soothing nonetheless. I was watching people, but not really watching, my mind was drifting like the waves, sometimes in peaceful arrival, sometimes roaring in foams upon the shore. I wished I wasn’t sick. I enjoyed moments, but I kept thinking, I could make the most of this experience even if only I was feeling healthy. Did I make the right decision of coming along?
The night flowed fast: we got lost looking for Flotsam and Jetsam Hostel (yummy food! Hoping to stay there the next time I come back), observed Earth Hour but then it somehow failed and the light was switched back on minutes later since it was getting difficult for the staff and customers, sipped coffee in El Union for a while, and retreated to the shore and played a couple of games. There was no blanket of stars that night, but I was thankful, for the darkness obscured the blisters, and the feeling of being ill.
The next day, we drove for 30 minutes from San Juan beach to visit the majestic Tangadan Falls. From the drop-off point, we trekked for about 30-45 minutes. I was energized but I was bothered, as well as my officemates, of the icky blisters that kept popping. At that time, it was all over my face, and I felt my confidence a bit faltering. I knew it wasn’t just allergy anymore. But then, I was stubborn and I couldn’t let spending time with Nature pass by. I went on. The path of trees, rocks and streams of water, the shade and sunshine, the locals fishing, the rushing sound and cool water from the waterfall, and the feel of the early morning provided a temporary medication.
It was time to check out and go home. This time, I felt utterly sick and helpless. All symptoms finally showed. The blisters appeared all over my chest and back, and I was having fever again (I couldn’t feel it by the way, my officemate just noticed that my temperature was high). We all concluded it was chicken pox. I was itching to return and head straight to the hospital to ask for proper medication. Somehow, I was relieved to finally know what my sickness really was.
But the relief was short-lived. We had a quick stopover at a gas station. While queuing for the lady’s restroom, I suddenly felt dizzy. I lost my balance and unconsciously bumped my right hip to a concrete fence. I could hear my officemates despite the blur of vision for a few seconds. They helped me recover. After going to the restroom, they led me to the van, and someone suggested that I be brought to the hospital. I refused and said that we should just continue on our drive. While sitting at the back of the van, I was given cold compress and medicine to lower my temperature. I wasn’t sure if anyone noticed, but I was fighting tears. It was no question one of the most vulnerable periods in my life. I know I wouldn’t have survived that weekend without my workmates. Holding in my heart all the comforting words and gestures, I am extremely thankful and deeply touched. I am one stubborn but lucky girl.
Less than an hour later, she was back. She brought me a plate of rice, some chopped-up herbs, and a jug of fresh water. She came into the shack and sat on the side of my bed while I ate every bite of this healing food. I started crying. She put her arm around me, and I folded myself into her as if she were my own mother—even though we were almost the same age. She stayed with me for about an hour, until I was composed. She didn’t say a word; she just sat with me, arms around me, as if to say: I see you. You exist. I will stay with you. I will make sure you are safe.
…The distance I had traveled may have been vast (10,000 miles from home), but the distance she traveled was vaster (all the way across the island, to knock on a stranger’s door) and the kindness of her actions opened my heart to awe and amazement. And that’s when I realized that my entire impulse had been dead wrong. I needed the exact opposite of isolation; I needed connection. -Elizabeth Gilbert
I was in bed feeling all weak, and the words acceptance and bravery kept resounding. I thought I was going delirious.
As of now, it has been 12 days since the helplessness stage. It has been more than a week now without (surprisingly) coffee and junk food. The intake of meat is minimal. I feel like I am detoxifying. I am being energized and reinvigorated by cups of chamomile tea, heaps of vegetables, yogurt, lots and lots of fruits and water, and of course, early bedtime and rest. In this phase of healing, I take refuge in doing nothing, in reading the thick but luscious Ahab’s Wife or, the Star-Gazer, and now writing. It has been a thousand words of releasing and healing. The slowness of time nourishes me.
Time does not owe me. Time gives me everything I need to do what I have to do. But maybe, time, I had taken you for granted for I haven’t been loyal to you, I disregarded your golden glow. I haven’t been mindful. For that, I am sorry. And though this, this moment, may not make up for what has been lost in that passing dimension, the most important is now, right? Clichéd as it rings in your ears, but, now, I effortlessly, unconditionally give my attention to your natural progress. Thank you for always keeping your promise of precious. You are true and loving.
From that experience, there are no regrets of coming along. Instead, I take with me the lesson of nurturing not only my mind and soul but also my body each day, for each day adds up to my well-being. Also, getting sick on the road became a test of how I am and how I choose to face a situation that sucks. It could’ve sucked more if I whined and isolated myself during the entire trip. Most importantly, I developed an openness, larger than before, to letting in anyone who has the great willingness and capacity of caring for a fellow human being, on the road or not.
Now, let’s receive more love and continue to get better.