Being sick and getting well

sick abroad

Experiences in Kenya

Falling sick in a foreign country is annoying. Especially when you actually just want to enjoy your trip and need to be at the top of your powers.

I have been sick several times and developed a mind-set that helps me get well quickly again.

I follow the rule “the earlier the better”. If I feel feverish, weak, dizzy and stomach ache, I go to see a doctor or chemist. It doesn’t always have to be a hospital. Especially in Kenyan public hospitals you sometimes have to wait for a long time. Chemists or private clinics will also do the test and then prescribe the proper medication.

When i am not feeling well, it is usually because of malaria or stomach problems.

Malaria

The symptoms always start with some pain in the joints of my fingers. Then it spreads across the whole body. I feel weak, a general disease and a bit dizzy. It happens often when I am back from the countryside, where malaria is more common than in Nairobi.

I go to the doctor, get pinched in the finger and the test is done. Then I get six times four yellow tablets which I will take over the course of three days and that is it.

Malaria is not to be joked with though, so even if you take prophylaxis and always cover yourself in mosquito repellent – whenever you feel the slightest discomfort, go for the test.

We once dragged my whole family to the doctor just to be sure, and nobody had it. That was also a relief to know.

That said, malaria is also not the end of the world and easily treatable. Even in rural areas there are health facilities around, so don’t shy away from visiting them.

Stomach problems

We foreigners are not familiar with how to wash our hands, how to clean specific food, and how to generally keep a certain level of hygiene in new circumstances. Therefore it is common to get some stomach problems. Some can be solved with anti-diarrhoea medication. I always have some available. But if the condition persists longer than a day, I go to see a doctor.

They will ask for a stool sample, which is not everybody’s favourite, but a necessary means for a proper diagnosis. Common cases I experienced were infections, amoeba or h. Pylori. There are always medications against them. I always make sure to ask what I am allowed to eat or drink and what not.

Medication

Sometimes the price for the medication is negotiable. However, it depends on the place and the drugs. There are certain brands and labels that are cheaper, and others more expensive. We once had a case of a mouth infection, and we bought the required mouth wash much cheaper in the supermarket than from the chemist.

Pain killers

Usually, chemists or doctors give me some pain killers, too. (Mind the fact that especially with stomach problems you can only take a certain type of pain killers.) Therefore we often have a stock from last time and I tell the doctor that I don’t need them.

Natural remedies

My mother-in-law used to have a pot of home-made herbal medicine that cured basically everything. She helped me get rid of a terrible diarrhoea with two cups of a very bitter herbal drink. If you are open for these things like me, they are worth trying. It’s old knowledge that has proven to work for generations.

Dosage

Ask how many pills you will have to take at which time of the day. I always confuse the numbers and amounts which the chemists write on the small paper bags to indicate the dosage.

In general: try to not overreact.

I don’t question my doctor in Germany, so why should I do it in Kenya? They know what they are doing. They have studied those things and they are not helping people for the first time.

I generally talk a lot when I am seeing a doctor, just to make sure they get all the information, and I get all the instructions right.

Go to the doctor or chemist early. Make sure to communicate much, well and politely. Follow instructions. And then get well soon!

 

9 things people in India did with my baby

travel with a baby to india

Travelling with an infant is different from any other way of travel I did before.

  • Packing gave me some unknown challenges. (How many diapers are enough? How many are too many?)
  • I massively slowed down the itinerary. (We tried to take a break every other day.)
  • And travelling with an infant was probably also the easiest way to get in contact with local people around me.

Here are 9 things they did with my baby which they might do to yours if you let them.

1.They called my baby’s name (when he was almost asleep).

One of the first questions was for his name. And once people knew it they would call it over and over again. Even if the pronunciation was difficult to them. Especially, when I was trying real hard to make him sleep.

2. They called my baby other names.

Sweety Pie and Chubby were only some of the English names I understood. The ones they gave him in their mother tongues passed me.

3. They pinched my baby’s cheeks.

To all occasions and in various degrees my son was pinched in and twitched at the cheeks. I had read about it earlier and realised that it is a common thing to do to babies. Although he didn’t love it, he never complained about it either.

4. They held my baby.

Much quicker than any German before, many Indians took my son into their arms. Several of our hosts seemed to see it as their duty to let me have my arms and lap free so that I could eat. Therefore they carried him a lot. But also total strangers would pluck him from my arms. One young woman even asked whether I would remove him from the wrap I was carrying him in so that she could hold him. I had to explain to her that she should at least wait until he woke up. But when he did, I had my arms free once more.

5. They carried my baby around and away.

Once people held him, it didn’t take long and they carried him around and showed him things in the other room, in the yard or elsewhere. Several times a day I was wondering where my child was.

6. They fed my baby.

In India my baby started to show interest in food other than mother’s milk. Since it was his first time to have solid food I tried to be careful with what he ate. I didn’t want to overwhelm his little stomach. He ate biscuits, though, and other Indian food that people gave him.

7. They talked to my baby in their mother tongue.

He doesn’t speak yet and he is growing up with at least two different languages anyway. So the languages in India may have not been more confusing to him. Only I didn’t understand what people told him.

8. They took photos of and with my baby.

We as a family have a policy. We don’t want photos of our baby to be spread around. We tell people that it’s okay to show them to others but they need permission before sharing them online. In that way we are trying to keep control over the distribution of our baby’s photos. I should have mentioned that to the many people in India taking photos with and of him. I just felt uncomfortable and wanted to be polite so I didn’t. Next time I will.

9. They blessed my baby.

I don’t know what it means when a woman moves her hands around my baby’s face and then clicks her finger bones on her temples. They did it a lot. But I consider it as a blessing. All the things people did to him, including starting to cry, people did out of happiness and joy about him and for his best.

4 reasons why my baby is a more mindful traveller than I am

baby travel mindful

Mindfulness means paying attention to the very moment and living in the absolute present. It means being. It means acceptance, patience and openness.

To travel mindfully, I open my mind as wide as possible, curiously letting all impressions in without judging them. At least I try. Here is why my baby is much better at it.

1. Baby lives in the present.

It is admirable how children live the present moment to the max. Baby doesn’t worry about the future and ponder over the past. All that counts for him is what is there right now. That is why even  the hundredth time my funny noises are funny to him.

2. Baby discovers something new in everything.

To him, everything is an opportunity, everything is interesting, everything is new. Keys, blankets, trees, people and the floor – he tries to discover them all with the same undivided amount of curiosity, as if he saw them for the very first time.

3. Baby doesn’t judge.

Whether I give him a fancy toy or a random spoon, he will play with both. Whether a grumpy old man passes him or his favourite aunt, he watches them both curiously and is open to what they may have in store for him.

4. Baby trusts.

He knows everything will be fine. He doesn’t fear falling from the bed, being knocked by a car, banging his head on the floor or slipping through his dad’s arms. Baby just enjoys being thrown in the air and trusts he will be caught.

In short: Baby has an open heart.

  • He treasures the present moment.
  • He acknowledges the opportunity in everything new.
  • He is non-judgemental.
  • And he trusts.

How to travel as mindful as a baby

Live in the present moment.

Don’t rush to tick the sights on your bucket list. Instead, pay attention to the place you are in right now. Practice that a lot during your trip. Be it the waiting lounge at the airport, the hostel room, the river bend, the temple, the kiosk. How does it look like? How does it sound, smell, taste and feel like? Simply experience the places without liking or disliking them. Do that often.

Focus on mundane things and people, too.

If you consider an area at your destination more boring than the others, go there deliberately and be open for surprises. Look out of the taxi window knowing that nobody ever had this view, which is your very own this very moment, before. And nobody will ever have it again. Not even you. Be curious for the way people live. See what you can learn from them.

Don’t judge.

Try not to compare life abroad with what you know and take for granted. Instead, sit, breath, listen and watch. It is not your job to divide all impressions into good or bad. Instead leave the categories closed and just focus on the experiences flowing by.

Get lost.

Start walking, not knowing where you are going. You might have to ask strangers for help to get back. Trust that all your encounters will be beautiful. I am not suggesting to behave risky and mindless. On the contrary: Be mindful and pay attention to all the possibilities coming your way when you simply trust that you will be fine.

Mindfulness is like a muscle. It needs to be trained. But then, after some exercise, it will work seamlessly. I am constantly reminded by my baby how fluent time is and how needless to try to hold on to it. Instead, I try to open my heart as often as possible, practice mindfulness and let the world flow through me for a second.