Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

5 tips on what to do if sickness or injury strikes on tour..

5 tips on what to do if sickness or injury strikes on tour..

It’s happened to the best of us, we either get a horrendous cold / flu, a bad case of travellers diarrhoea or something worse requiring admission to hospital. It’s bad enough when it strikes in your comfort zone, but what if all you have a suitcase of a few belongings and a crummy room without hot water? Here is a quick guide to help you in this situation;

1. Always always always take travel insurance, without question. Purchase a decent policy that provides medical cover for the whole duration of your trip as a minimum.

2. Make sure you always have some bottled water with you wherever you go. If illness or injury occurs, you will need hydration.

3. On every trip, take a few sachets of diarolyt or similar brands. They are sachets you mix with water to replace lost electrolytes in severe cases of vomiting and diarrhoea. Trust me, in such cases you may not be able to get to a shop and it’s important for your health to keep these balanced and yourself hydrated.

4. Check where the nearest clinics / hospitals are prior to departure. If you have a known medical condition, this is important!

5. Always take basic medical supplies away with you, not all places have easy access to these. The major ones I’d recommend is; antiseptic cream, paracetamol, ibuprofen, plasters, bandages, also lavender essential oil has fantastic healing properties. Keep them to hand, if you get an infection it’s best to manage it before it can become more serious!!

Safe travels!

There are People Still Unaccounted for in this World.

There are People Still Unaccounted for in this World.

In developed countries, busy commuting to college or work, it’s easy to think this is normality for the entire world. We all moan about our governments and healthcare systems etc etc, but we hardly ever stop to appreciate the fact that we have them.

When travelling to the outback, farthest depths of developing countries, it’s only then when it hits you, hard, that there are people, families, children, who are ‘unknown’. They are not a statistic, they do not have a passport, they do not have a bank account. They live in the same clothes day in, day out, perhaps in a tent in the desert with nothing around for miles but their family.

I was fortunate enough to sit with such a family and drink tea with them in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan some years back. There was not a trace of electricity or television. They had simple cushions and blankets under a basic tent to provide shelter from the punishing heat. Two young boys played up in the rocks while their parents sat with us and talked. They were generous and offered what they could and more importantly, they seemed happy. Imagine a life where education and employment doesn’t exist. Only skills for survival..

The youngest of the two boys was coughing, a lot. I work in healthcare so I could tell he had a pretty bad lower airway infection. This family, with their simple means of survival, had no easy access to antibiotics. Even a shower.

In the developed world we lose our minds because our network provider ‘crashes’ for an hour, disabling access to making phone calls. But this family, they had never seen an iPad before.

Really makes you think.

The Time I almost Died, White Water Rafting

‘Do one thing every day that scares you!!!’ They said.

I’ve spent my entire life being pretty tame. I once even cried the whole way down an abseiling wall. I’d always liked my feet safely on dry land… Until I travelled. Travel pushes you to your limits. So, whilst in Bali I decided to push the boat out and try white water rafting.

Our guide, a slim, young Indonesian man gave us a quick briefing and explained that when he shouts ‘boom’ we need to duck to avoid fallen trees etc. I recall him saying that if we fall in the water it was ‘bye-bye’, and then he laughed. This didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

He helped me into the boat with my friend and two Australian teenage boys. They were half my age and lived on the opposite side of the world. In every-day life, we would have absolutely nothing in common. Yet in this hour, smashing through the speeding waters in the jungle, they would become my family.

The start of the rafting was gentle, our boat softly pondering through the waters. Giant, powerful cliffs surrounded us and there would be the occasional family sitting on the banks, farming or making clothes. I could hear rattle snakes and cheerful bird songs. Then things started to speed up…

We each had an oar to help row, but naturally were using it to splash as much water as possible at the passing tourists. The world passed by quickly, my eyes were struggling to keep focus on danger, whilst trying to spot potential water-fight warfare. The rocky, green cliffs were whizzing past me in a hot blur. I believe this is where the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome kicked in… Adrenaline started pulsating around my body. My clothes were soaking wet, my finger nail bent right back and I bumped my helmet-covered head on a rock-wall. All the while, I felt no pain.

A collection of boats had gathered, stuck at the top of a small waterfall in the direction we were headed. Our pathway was blocked except for a large rock protruding from the centre of the waters. We ricocheted from several boats and at high speed slid up the rock and became wedged. Before I even knew what was happening, I felt myself in mid-air, violently flung from my boat. I was face up, watching the sky distance itself from me, aware that beneath my body was a sheer drop into harsh, rocky waters. I wasn’t afraid or worried, I guess it all happened too quickly for anything resembling emotion to settle in me.

In that second, the guide (who was half my size) grabbed onto the shoulder of my life-vest and a large chunk of my hair and pulled me effortlessly back into the boat. He actually saved my life. I couldn’t stop laughing and hugging him.

On my next visit to Bali, what was the first thing I did? Booked myself onto a white water rafting session.

SEE beauty, without your eyes..

SEE beauty, without your eyes..

  
This memory will always stay with me.

When I worked in travel, I spent some time tailoring an expensive, detailed holiday for this particular client named Dinah. We created a bond over the days, discussing her holiday in great depth and building rapport via email and telephone, as I did with most of my clients. But this one was different.

When it came to booking the flights she mentioned that she required special assistance. When I asked what her disability was, she told me she was registered totally blind.

I was slightly shocked. I felt awful for feeling this way, but why would she spend thousands on a holiday with a nice view and luxury setting if she couldn’t see it?! So, I decided to ask her. Her response changed the way I see things.

She told me that she could feel, smell and touch everything so much that she could appreciate her surroundings without seeing them. 

This got me thinking. Losing my sight is my greatest fear, but she proved that travel can still be amazing without being able to use her eyes. I admire her.

A Profound Experience in the Best Place on Earth

A Profound Experience in the Best Place on Earth

As much as I adore travel involving aeroplanes and culture shocks, sometimes the most profound of new experiences can be very close to home. Please be warned, the content of this blog may be upsetting to some.

I live in England and work in central London (on the ambulances so we move around a lot).

On a quiet night shift I was near the west end in London and paid a visit to Great Ormond Street which houses, in my opinion, the greatest hospital in the world. Great Ormond Street Hospital, or GOSH, is a hospital dedicated to sick children, be it appointments, treating sick children or palliative care, they offer a wide service and are proud of the fact they are one of the best paediatric facilities in the entire world.

The hospital opened its doors back in 1852 with just ten beds and was the first of its kind in the UK. The building has witness surgical breakthroughs and much celebrity support over the decades. The staff are so incredible and dedicated in caring for our little ones. They must face heartbreak on a regular basis but power through to provide support to loved ones and save those that they can.

When I paid a visit recently, I specifically wanted to see the chapel as a friend had told me how wonderful it was. When I walked into the chapel, all of my hairs picked up on my newly formed goosebumps in reaction to how indescribably moving this place was. It was immaculately taken care of, clean, thoughtful. The most moving part was that the shelves surrounding the edges of the chapel were filled with soft toys. I can only assume that each toy was placed by a heartbroken family to represent the lost life of a little angel.

 

Great Ormond Street Hospital, Chapel.

 

Soft toys in GOSH chapel

There was also a book where families had written down their prayers. I didn’t read them for two reasons, one – they were meant for God’s eyes, two – I knew the messages would make me fall apart.

Opposite to this there was a ‘thank you’ tree where families had written messages of thanks and hung them up.

 

GOSH plaque and thank you tree in the background

It was one of the most emotional and moving experiences of my entire life. If you are ever in this hospital, please visit this chapel.

To make a one off or regular donation to this hospital which helps to fund equipment, accommodation for parents, refurbishment to increase patient capacity and support research into saving children’s lives, please click the following link;

http://www.gosh.org/Donate

Thank you for reading,

Cuddle Your Globe

7 of the most ridiculous reasons to call in sick when you’re really abroad.

7 of the most ridiculous reasons to call in sick when you’re really abroad.


You know somebody who has pulled a long term sickie from work when they have booked a holiday, or failed to return to work when they were supposed to because they are STILL on holiday!!! Or maybe you have done this yourself?

I have decided to do some research, including speaking to office managers to find out some of the worst excuses given when a staff member has gone missing in action.

1. ‘My flight got delayed by 4 days and I had no battery on my phone to call you.’

2. ‘I contracted Malaria whilst in Ghana, Africa so I had to stay in hospital for 2 months. Here is my genuine sick certificate…’

3. ‘I’ve been in a witness protection programme.’

4. ‘My granny has died so I need some time off.’ (The same granny has died 3 times now).

5. ‘I’m addicted to crack cocaine and my dealer has been arrested so I need some time off to recover.’

6.’I’m… Erm…. In a Thai prison.’

7. ‘I missed my flight and can’t get on another one for 3 weeks!!’

If you’re planning on doing this, for the love of god come up with something more original.