Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ireland: Getting There Is Half the Fun?

Three weeks before leaving for Ireland, I had eye surgery on both eyes.  In the following weeks, I slowly recovered, finished the school year (mostly by having to depend on other people), packed up all my worldly possessions, and, on the same day that I left for 23 days of Ireland, I MOVED!!  In hindsight, it is really not surprising that the trip did not have the most auspicious of beginnings . . .

My friend Linda (who's also the cousin of my Chinese teacher) wanted to take me out for dinner that last day and also wanted to drive me to the airport.  Since that solved two potential stressors for me, I was overjoyed to accept.  We had a wonderful meal during which I was privileged to eat beef tail soup for the first time (and in China, phrases like "beef tail" are always brutally honest translations).  I actually really liked that soup!  We got to the airport in plenty of time, and the flight from Qingdao to Beijing was smooth sailing.  No problems at all.  But, there was a very wise nagging sense of impending doom in the back of my mind. . . .

The troubles started in Beijing.  The line for Etihad Airlines was the longest I have ever seen in a Chinese airport (to be fair, I have seen longer lines a few times in other countries).  Apparently, half of Beijing was bound for Abu Dhabi -- or at least that's how it felt.  I started to get a headache and a neck-ache while in line, but didn't think too much about it.  I was more interested in whether or not customs would confiscate the bag of shrimp in my backpack (Linda had thought I might want a snack on the plane).  Regrettably, as I would later learn, I had very foolishly packed all of the emergency medication in my suitcase, not my carryon.  Oh stupid, stupid Stephanie!

As the plane from Beijing to Abu Dhabi took off, all you-know-what broke loose from my neck up.  The headache accelerated into a massive migraine.  My eyes, probably overstrained (I had only slept for about three hours in the past three days), started to feel tremendous pressure and excruciating pain.  Cold-like symptoms kicked in about half an hour later, with a sore throat, runny nose, and rapidly stuffed sinuses that made my whole face hurt like a second migraine.  And then my neck, not to be left out, started having spasms of pain that were almost beyond my already-strained tolerance level.  Tears were streaming down my face for hours as I alternated between desperate prayers for relief and failed attempts to sleep.  No doubt, it was the worst pain I have felt at one time since my stomach burn years ago.  Even breathing hurt.

Although Etihad has fantastic in-flight meals, I could only force a few bites down.  I did manage to drink some soda, hoping it would help.  I even kept biting my finger, hard, hoping to divert some of the pain to another region (that does actually work for me sometimes).  For six hours, then seven hours, I continued in this pitiful condition.  I started to feel nauseated, so I got up for the bathroom, but someone else had apparently taken up semi-permanent residence inside.  As the minutes ticked by on my watch, the nausea grew from just a hint to something serious.  Desperate, I darted back to my seat to grab the barf-bag, then went back to desperately wait for the bathroom . . . And then started projectile vomiting, quite spectacularly, into the bag, IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE PLANE.  Humiliation now added to my list of woes.

When we finally landed in Abu Dhabi, after arguably the worst flight of my life, I did a frenzied search of the airport shops  and managed to locate a pharmacy.  I bought some pain pills that claimed to be both maximum strength and fast-acting, then had a quick thought and snatched up some eye drops, too (I had my antibiotic drops, but I thought maybe some soothing moisture might comfort my eyes more).  I bought a bottled water for an ungodly price and then found my gate, breathing thanks when I saw that it had reclining chairs.  I dosed myself up and then curled into a limp fetal position on the nearest of these inviting chairs.  The drugs started noticeably working their magic within about fifteen minutes, and soon I had fallen asleep.

A two-hour nap, followed by a meal of yogurt, mango, and coffee soon set me to rights.  I took some more medicine to finish the job, and by the time I boarded my plane to Dublin, I was weak and a little shaky, but no longer in agonizing pain.  I was able to both eat and sleep on that flight, and felt just fine when we reached Dublin.

No comments:

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"