Prescription for Disaster

Sunday, 31 July 2011

I may be an unfit parent - carrying both at once

This has been one of the most stressful things about having twins for us - how do you carry them around? Do you leave one in the car? Use the stroller everytime we go from the car to the house? Strap one to the front of my body and the other to the back everytime we need to prep for transport? Wear a coat with hanging straps and leave it to the twins to hold on themselves like koalas?

We started with laying them both on the ground tummy down and then scooping them up into each arm like footballs. I'll even go so far as to admit (*looks around for CPS workers*) that if they are wearing sleepers or the onesies that button up -  in a pinch we'll pick them up by the back of their outfit and haul them throughout the house like carrier bags. They love it.

I was really impressed with myself though when we were in Canada and I had to get them both out of the car at once. I parked at my father in law's house, left the kids in the car and ran into the house to yell for help getting them in ( clearly I get very stressed about transfers! ). Nobody heard me so I ran back to the car to comfort the twins as they were upset at being left alone in the car. They were both screaming like banshees for me - so I took one out of her car seat, held her on my hip and went round to the other side of the car and opened the door to comfort the other one, but I couldn't get her out. I was going to put the one I was holding onto the grass, grab the other one, have them both on the grass and do the carrier bag trick, but there were so many mosquitos that I couldn't put Twin A on the ground to be devoured and I was already starting to pale from the amount of blood those suckers were getting from my exposed legs while standing there ( I freaking hate mosquitoes! ) so anyway, panic set in, time was of the essence and I had a thought - if a war-amp one-armed single mother can get her child out of a car seat and pick them up ( not that I have ever seen this, I'm just assuming that surely such mothers do exist and also assume that they've dealt successfully with car seats and the lot ) then surely I could too!

So, pretending to be a one-armed war-amp, I clutched one twin tightly on my left hip while I reached in with my right hand, expertly navigated the car seat straps with only one hand, reached in with both my arm and my right hip (it was a youtube moment in the making, let me tell you) and triumphantly pinned the other twin against my right hip for leverage and lifted her out of the car. Proud as a peacock I shut the car door with my knee like a freaking ninja and walked right into my father in law's house where Paul was sitting on the sofa - at which point he scooped up a dangling twin, gave me a peck on the cheek and asked me why I hadn't brought in the diaper bag.

Had I not been holding the other twin at the moment I may have decked him.

The Elevator Story

So for a couple of years I was an adventure tour leader in China, Mongolia and S.E. Asia. In that job, you get into loads of awful, strange and embarassing situations - take all the horror stories of travelling and compact them, as you don't actually get to go home for months at a time.

If you've got a weak stomach, stop reading now.

Anyway, I had 3 days in between tours, so the tour company sent me on a "research trip" ( not as great as it sounds. You go to check out a new location or attraction and write a report on it so the company can decide whether or not they want to add it into next year's tour schedule ) I was sent to check out the Sea Turtle Breeding Research Centre in Ping Hai, which is a tiny, tiny fishing villiage a 2 hour bus ride from Shenzhen and about 3 hours from Hong Kong.

I only had three days to get there, see everything there was to see and get back to Hong Kong to meet my newest tour group. I took a night bus down there ( imagine a reasonably flat bunk bed designed for a max height of 4"2 on a rickety bus that reeks of diesel fuel and cigarette smoke, with the loudest karaoke you have ever encountered and having to lay bent in half, as it's the only way you can fit on the bed and still keep your bag strapped on for good measure. Add in a flock of chickens and a group of 7 year olds that are thrilled to talk to you ( scream at you over the blaring karaoke ) but the only English words they know are "hello" and "fat".)

So I got to Ping Hai bus station ( and tried not to touch anything ) and promptly found out that the sea turtle reserach centre was only accessible by a 30 minute motorcycle ride along the beach. ( sounds great, yeah... but how are you supposed to get picky, safety conscious tourists to board motorcycles with no helmets and no roads and drivers with no teeth???

Anyway, after an admitedly very cool and liberating ride down the beach I arrived at the research centre and was greeted by the owner - a short man wearing a full on brown business suit with black shiny shoes and women's socks (Hello Kitty, no less). On the beach in 40 degree heat.  My Chinese wasn't awesome at that point in my life, so after a lot of jarbled Chinese and akward charades I communicated to him that I was there to see the sea turtles and I was researching for a tour group. ( seriously. How the hell do you mime sea turtle??? Not easy )

So off I go armed with my 24Kg backpack, camera and a notepad. I only have that afternoon there to see everything I could, a night in the research centre's hotel (Yeah, I thought that was strange too... ) and I was supposed to be off the next afternoon. I was low on time so I ran around like a maniac, like most research trips tend to go.

The whole time I was out, I didn't find one, single bottle of water.  I kept looking and asking, but nobody had or sold bottled water. Anywhere. Not down in the village ( although they did have snickers... ), not in the restaurant, not in the hotel, nowhere.

So anyway, when I finally got to my hotel room I was completely, completely exhausted. And severely dehydrated. Running around with a heavy backpack in sweltering heat and humidity will do that to you. I was beyond desperate for water. I was so, so thirsty. Alas, in the corner of my room, there was a water dispenser - the kind with the big blue bottle full of cool, glorious water. Oddly, the water was brown. Not just a little brown, but watered down iced tea kind of brown. I convinced myself that the water was fine, just that the bottle must be a bit dusty and old. ( I was seriously dehydrated and quite desperate. It didn't take much to convince myself )

I drank. It tasted horrible. I drank some more. I literally drank a good half litre of the stuff.
Feeling fine, I then peeled off my sneakers and shorts and went to bed.

Holy Crap.

Around 3am I wake up and am viciously ill. Like, exorcist ill. I feel like I've downed 3 bottles of Nyquil and was in a state of delirious stupor. Until I started throwing up. It was EVERYWHERE. In the bed, on the floor, in my shoes, everywhere. Once nothing was left in my system, I tried to get help - but who could I call to help me in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere??? So, banging my shoes together to get most of the sick out of them, I put them on, shoved my stuff into my bag and  crawled out of my hotel room on my hands and knees with my bag in tow. I couldn't lift my bag to save my life, so I had to kick it down the 3 flights of stairs ahead of me.

Once I got to the ground floor, I lay there on my backpack, calling out "jiu ming!" (save my life! ) in Chinese as loud as I could manage. Thankfully, somebody came to my rescue. I needed medical attention. Western medical attention ( as sick as I was, I was sure that if I went to the local hospital I would go in with food poisoning and come out with heptatitis ) So the startled woman woke up the cook who had a motorcycle, and the two of them strapped me and my bag to the back of his bike and off we went down the beach toward the bus station.

I felt my best bet was to make it to the border of Hong Kong, and soon, as at best I felt I only had another 4 or 5 hours of life still in me. We got to the bus station and I had to bribe the driver to let me on. (understandably. If a foreigner was going to be found dead on his bus, it should at least be woth his while) I had the entire back of the bus to myself ( nobody wanted to sit with the crazed, sweating foreigner that was throwing up into shopping bags and throwing them out the window )

Oh, god, it was terrible. I felt like a snake that had just eaten a goat. Whole. And that the goat was trying to get back out.

I got to the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen, but couldn't stand by myself let alone hold my bag. So I paid 2 beggars to carry me and my bag to the border control at Lo Wu. Straight to the bathroom the western women in there took pity on me and set me up with as many western pills and meds they thought I could handle. Oh, I was so grateful. Grateful like a heroin addict after failed rehab. To get my temperature down ( border control anti-SARS temperature sensors coming up ) I splashed myself with cold water, threw on my bag and walked as calmly and collectively as possible to the customs line. One look at me and the Chinese customs guard was more than happy to let me out of their country. I don't even remember her checking my passport. It was more of a "holy crap, just go" kind of exit.

I miraculously made it past the temperature sensors and through Hong Kong customs - with my friend ready to pick me up on the other side. He couldn't believe it when he saw me, it was like death walking. Straight into a taxi and off to the nearest hospital - at which the emergency room nurse responded with a "wow" and a gurney, stat. I was packed with cooling pads, an air mask and was promptly stabbed with 6 needles in my very sensitive bum cheek.

After about half an hour, I was feeling great. Honestly, I was feeling better than I had ever felt in my entire life. ( even better than the morphine trip after my bout with lightening in 2002! ) I may have even been singing show tunes at this point.

Against my friend's better judgement, I went to the Hong Kong to prep for my tour, which was starting in about 2 hours.  I was still feeling absolutely fantastic. I put on my loose tour leading border shorts, threw on my tour t-shirt, grabbed my maps, binders, etc. and headed for the elevator, looking uber professional and cool - and feeling fucking fantastic.

(*now, our company used this hotel a lot, so whenever we started a new tour there, the staff would set up our group members in chairs around the elevator, so when the tour leader came down to meet them it was all very showy and dramatic, etc. blah blah blah)

So anyway, there I was. Riding down in the elevator, wearing loose shorts and feeling awesome. See, the problem with this great western medication, is that it doesn't always completely solve your medical problem, sometimes it just masks it so you don't know what's coming.

The moment the elevator door opened and the concierge introduced me and I took a dramatic step out of the elevator, I shat my pants.

It was everywhere. I was mortified. It was on the floor, on my shoes, everywhere.

I did the only thing I could think of at the time - I leapt back into the elevator and jammed the door close button repeatedly until I was safely inside and hidden away.

Oh my freaking god. And then I had to spend 3 weeks with these people.

As well, I had to change tour routes later, as although I could never bring myself to step foot into that hotel, the Newton Kowloon, ever, ever again  - I couldn't have even if I wanted to.

I was banned.

My Kingdom for a Phillips Head Screwdriver

Oh, things here are rarely ever boring.

This morning we're scheduled to leave at 8am on a 9 hour drive from Maerkang to Langmusi. It's 7:55, my group is downstairs packing up the bus and I've just tied up my shoes. I throw on my pack and go to leave... the door won't open. The deadbolt has broken in half and I am now locked in.

Okay fine. Not a big deal. I'll call down to reception to get them to send someone to save me. My phone doesn't work. ( as I now realize why I didn't receive a wakeup call ) Okay fine. The next possible thing is to shout out to anyone in the hall, so I press my face up to the door and holler "Jiu ming! Mei kai men!" ( save my life! My door won't open!) Luckily, the person on the other side of the door is one of my group members so I explain to them what has happened and ask him to send up the girl from reception.

He goes down to the reception and with much difficulty tries to explain to her that his Tour Leader is locked inside her hotel room and needs rescuing. It's not working so he walks around the counter, takes her by the elbow and brings her upstairs. Now, she's a very nice girl, but not the sharpest tool in the shed. From the locked side of the door I explain to her (in Chinese) that my door lock is broken and I can't get out and for her to please fetch the maitenance man. She really doesn't get it and keeps insisting that I simply open the door so she can see what the problem is. (when she said that she was very fortunately on the other side of the door because I surely would have strangled her ) Once I unleashed a bit of rage through the door she finally realized what the problem was and went away to fix it - by getting the master key.  She comes back and uses her master key on the door but it won't open, to her great surprise. She then informs me that Oh! You have to unlock the deadbolt to open the door! Did you know that? ( Seriously, if there hadn't been a very solid barrier between us her body would never have been found. )

So after much yelling on my part she finally went to get the maitenance man. I try to explain to them that all I need is a screwdriver but I don't know the word for it. They go to the room beside mine ( on the 6th floor ) and 4 Chinese people hang out the window, including the reception girl. They think that because my bus is waiting I should climb out my window ( on the 6th floor ) and into the adjacent room that they are all hanging out of. Uh, no. I explain to them that all I need is a screw driver ( with charades ). They brought me a hammer. Nope, not going to help. I charade again. They left and about 8 minutes later they brought me a small hacksaw. Again, not very useful. Now I have drawn a picture of a screwdriver and passed the picture to them by zipping it into a sweater pocket and throwing the sweater to them while hanging out of the window. Thrilled that this time it might work I sit back and wait.

They brought me a screw.

Oh my God. I'm apparently dealing with a wild pack of circus monkeys. I yell down to my group, who are all watching from the road below, that all I need is a phillips head screwdriver and could someone please go find one. Someone ran down the street to the nearest hardware store, bought the correct screwdriver, came up to the room beside me, tied it to a piece of string and swung it over to me. I then took off the lock and went downstairs to check out.

Here's the kicker: the hotel tried to charge me for damage done to the lock while removing it from the door!

Ah, I can't wait to go home...