March 16, 2016
We take a four hour, air horn blaring bus ride from the hill city of Da Lat, Vietnam to the seaside resort of Mui Ne, Vietnam. The bus doesn’t stop where we thought it was supposed to (we hear this is common in Vietnam) and we end up five kilometres (km) from our hotel. The taxi drivers waiting for the “suckers” on the bus want 90,000 Dong (our four hour bus ride was only 78,000 Dong) for the five km drive. We think, “what! That will pay for dinner tonight”! So we strap on the backpacks and it takes an hour walk (in crazy heat) to reach our booked accommodation. Our room overlooks the ocean. I drop my backpacks and I am in my board shorts before Christine has her backpacks off. I run down to the beach all giddy like a baby who just had a diaper change. I get ready to do a running dive into the South China Sea and, at what feels like mid-flight, my alert bell rings loud and I STOP before getting my toenail wet.
My Freudian id tells me, “let’s have fun, just do it!”. My Freudian ego counters, “wait a second, you know there is something wrong here”.
This is not the first time the hairs on my neck … my arms… my back… my legs… my ears… my nose (getting to be an old man sucks – hair grows everywhere I don’t want it and no where I do want it) spring up alerting me to take a step back and assess the environment. Twenty-three years of being a registered nurse seriously bites at times! I don’t share my silly thoughts with Christine. I figure ignorance is bliss, and at the end of day, it doesn’t matter anyway …we are here!
For instance, we check into our budget accommodations, black fuzzy material is growing on the walls and in the caulking and I think, Stachybotrys atra (black mold). I jump into the pool; does anyone really check the chlorine levels in here? I wonder if I am at risk for Cryptosporidium or Shigella or any other recreational water illness. I look at the mattress and think, Cimex lectularius (bed bugs). I look at the sheets… questionable if they have been washed and I know they are hung to dry and I think Scabies (only killed by hot water and a hot dryer).
In case you are wondering, no, I do not carry a blue light with me.
Smoking is everywhere! Exposure to second hand smoke has been linked to heart disease and lung cancer. It is like we are smoking the cancer stick itself! We have been on eight-hour bus rides with someone coughing up a lung. I know Tuberculosis is coming back with vengeance around the world, many with resistance to antibiotics, and I know there is nothing I can do but hope for the best. I think, it is ok, Mantoux test and/or chest x-ray when we return to Canada.
When I use bathroom facilities, I look at the shower floor and “see” Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s foot). Our shower sandals are absolutely indispensable. The toilet has a little, discrete, innocent garbage can next to it. The can has a pretty, little swinging lid to cover the toilet tissue that is put into it (necessary in many places where their sewage system cannot handle toilet paper). I look at the lid with disgust and wonder how many poopy hands have spread Escheria Coli (E-coli) all over it. I am not even going to mention the handle of the bum gun… oh my gosh, just imagine where that thing has been!
We go out to eat. The cows here are so emaciated; I wonder how the heck do they have ground beef. Do they import beef? Christine see’s a juicy hamburger, I see Variant Creutzfeldt – Jakob (Mad Cow) disease and imagine myself being unable to move and becoming mute before I kick the bucket. Chickens feed next to toilets and, once killed, they are treated like a dirty rag… Avian flu. Sprouts come on a side plate for my Vietnamese Pho, and all I see is that darn E-Coli all over those stringy bits. I know I shouldn’t eat them… but Pho without sprouts is not Pho! The rats here are huge… Leptospirosis. A latte? I wonder if the milk is pasteurized? Do they use filtered water? How many parasites could be in water? Am I getting Schistosomiasis or Amebiasis? I feel better because I have my steri-pen with me. In reality, UV light does not kill parasites, but it will get the E-Coli… oh good! Ah heck, we can de-worm when we get home.
So, you get the idea.
In any event, I have come as prepared as possible. We have a mixture of bandages, q-tip applicators, alcohol swabs, cling bandage, sliver remover, “second” skin, Poly-to-Go spray, Polysporin for pink eye, tincture of iodine for wicked dirty cuts and antibiotic ear drops. There is Sinutab for day or nighttime relief, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Robax Platinum for my old achy body when yoga will not stretch it. Lamisil ointment for our wet, moist feet. Reactine and Benadryl should save us if there are any type of allergic reactions. For any of those gastrointestinal issues, Scopolamine and Imodium could save some clothing.
If things get real serious, the first aid kit has Azithromycin (already used because of my “Princess” system) for waterborne gastro-related illness, Acetazolamide for elevation sickness, Acetaminophen with Tramadol HCL for pain, Hydralyte for dehydration, Valacyclovir for coldsores, topical corticosteroid for skin irritations, DEET to avoid nasty malaria, Dengue fever causing mosquitoes, Malarone if we develop Malaria symptoms and Proctosone in case all the sitting on buses, trains and planes bring on an undesirable berry or two. Finally, Aspirin 81mg prophylactic for the long flights; or heaven for bid, I have a stroke (it would never be Christine).
See, I told you having a nursing background can be a downer when traveling.
And getting back to my swan dive into the ocean… as it turns out, Mui Ne, Vietnam is a rather dirty and filthy place. As I was about to jump into the ocean, the strange looking brown ooze along the shore line and sandal piercing broken shells all over the coastline convinced both my Freduian id and ego… ALERT… don’t you dare jump in!
But, as they say in Vietnam … “it’s no problem”!
Mark and Christine