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

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

The Dark Side of the Sun.

The Dark Side of the Sun.

The slightly darker side to adventurous travel.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I had a six year career in the travel industry. Needless to say I adored this job. So you may be wondering why I gave this job up. For many years during my job as a travel broker, I had a deep desire to become a Paramedic. The more I looked into it, the more I realised I wanted to help people, be out and about and have a job that throws me a new challenge every day. Travel did this to an extent, but it was different. I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to be a Paramedic. I knew nothing of medicine or healthcare and had not even witnessed an emergency before.

I was in a travel job that I simply adored. I worked hard and played hard. I was on an aeroplane every 5 weeks either on an educational or prize trip. I was then offered a job to train as a Paramedic with London Ambulance service, the biggest in the world!  The decision I had to make seemed like the hardest of my life, at the time. A week later I set off on a work trip to Miami and the Bahamas as I had won first place in a sales competition. (I miss those days!)


I was sharing a room with a female colleague who I confided in about my dilemma. I didn’t want to leave the job I loved so much, travel is my whole world. But the Paramedic training was something I felt I needed to do.


The following day, I decided to head out on a snorkelling trip with my colleague / friend, in the beautiful, clear shallows of the Bahamas. There was a Latin American group on our snorkelling boat too which consisted of young families, teenage children and what I assumed to be the ‘grandmother’. One by one, we all grabbed our snorkelling gear and slipped into the lush water, the only thing you could see above water was the boat and some 15 metres away was a rock wall. I dunked my head and couldn’t see many fish and figured the boat and hoards of people were scaring them away so I decided to swim further away from the boat. The fish here were beyond beautiful. So many colours and lights – amazing! It was at this moment that the light and colours became dark. Was it really what I could see? A still, motionless body, floating under the water. It looked like a young male in shorts. All I could see was the back of the body and it was floating near the rocks, fairly far away from the boat. I have never swam as fast as I did swimming towards the body. I shouted to the people on the boat for help. What they replied made me feel sick. ‘Nana!’ ‘Nana!’ The screams were repeating. At that moment I realised the body was the elderly grandmother that had been on the boat. I reached her and pulled her out of the water. I was clinging on to the rocks with my feet just to keep some momentum to hold her above water. Her lips were blue, her face pale. At this point, one of the young males from the group had swam over to the rocks. Together, we jointly held her head above water and performed the heimlich manoeuvre to get the water out of her lungs. I didn’t know what I was doing to be honest but just used common sense to try to save her. At this point the guides on our boat had called a speedboat over with a lifeboard which they threw into the water. I helped to lift her onto it and later saw she was being administered Oxygen, but still unresponsive. The boat returned to the dock so she could be taken to hospital.

By the time we returned, she was standing up by herself and actually looked straight at me. In that one moment, my life had changed. I had blood all by feet and realised I had actually lost one of my toenails whilst clambering about on the rocks to save her… But I didn’t care one bit.


The day I returned from this trip, I handed in my notice to my employer and accepted the job with the ambulance service. They say things happen for a reason and I think this was one of those inexplainable events. I have never looked back in my current job as an EMT, but I make sure I still travel frequently and writing this blog helps keep my passion alive.

Working the night shift…

Working the night shift…

Working 12 hour night shifts can be long and dull. When you work in London like myself, driving around all night, you get to see some sights. My favourite time of day is the crack of dawn when the sun starts peeping through the sides of the buildings and there is the occasional car passing by and the keen morning jogger running past. The other morning, in central London, I passed this gorgeous London pub and watching this man unload the barrels of beer was magical. The pub looked festive in the morning glow, as if it was excited to be receiving all this booze to be consumed over the festive period.

  
  

My Tam Coc Boat Trip Experience

My Tam Coc Boat Trip Experience

We cycled into the Tam Coc boat dock near Ninh Binh in North Vietnam, left our bikes near a group of Vietnamese people and purchased our tickets. It wasn’t overly touristy here but a guy from our hotel had recommended this place as a beautiful tourist attraction. The boats appeared little more than a thin sheet of curved steel, I hoped they were safe. A small Vietnamese lady was our guide / rowing peddler. I felt a little sorry for her as we (being Westerners) were considerably heavier than her (we tipped her after!). I had no idea what to expect, but honestly I was totally blown away. It was such an intimate experience –  getting up close and personal with the rocks. The boat tour actually travelled underneath caves and when you are floating through these tiny gaps of cave darkness, you can really appreciate the power of these mountains.

I don’t think words can really do justice on how beautiful this place is, so I hope some of my photographs do…

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Our boat was similar to this

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Some of the locals selling food and beer out on the lake
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Travelling through one of the low crooked caves

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One of my favourites. So many colours and the water looks beautiful.

When we were returning our boat to the dock, we noticed that one of the other boat guides had hit her head on one of the rocks in the caves. Once we were back on dry land I grabbed my bike and cycled to where she had docked her boat and tried to explain that I am a medic (I am in the ambulance service in London) and I wanted to have a look at her cut. She did show me and it was pretty deep and at risk of infection. She also had a haematoma (bruised swelling) on her forehead which needed looking at. I said ‘hospital’! She needed a stitch. I was doing hand demonstrations of a stitch, at which point one of her male friends was there too. They understood what I was saying but she refused to go to hospital and simply asked me for ‘dollar’ before jumping back in her boat and rowing away. This made me sad. It really highlights the abuse of our ambulance service here and when people abroad really need help but either do not have access to it or cannot afford it.