It is SO wonderful to be home.
Two months away is a long time. My time in Cambodia was awesome – so full of experiences, culture, new people and things – but it was exhausting. I was on the move every one to four nights, always re-packing and unpacking and re-packing again to stay in a different hotel in a different part of the country. I’m glad I was able to see so much of the country (seven provinces!!), but by week 3 I was aching to stay in one place for even as little as one week without having to pack everything up again!
It was exhausting to not see people like me, not speak complete English with anyone, and not order food that’s comforting and familiar. I thought I would have more time in the evenings to just relax and watch tv or blog or read, but we were up so early every day (the work day started at 7:30am), that I only had a couple of hours after arriving at the hotel and eating dinner before I needed to be asleep. And those were precious hours to spend chatting with my husband and my parents on WhatsApp!
I did a lot of fun things, and while I thrive on having adventures and being on my own, I missed my husband something fierce.
He was amazing to fly all the way around the world to meet me in Singapore, where we toured the city and had a blast for two days before heading off to our vacation. We didn’t get much sleep in Singapore, and I was SLANGRY (sleep-angry) by the end of both days, but we tossed so many inside jokes and banter back and forth, and just chatted and caught up the entire time. It was fantastic.
Then came our “trip of a lifetime.” The Maldives… the country that has been my literal NUMBER ONE placeholder on my bucket-list of destinations since I was 15.
IT did not disappoint. But our time there unfortunately did. I was ill three different times, taking up half of our vacation days, and making me weak/not fully well for all of them.
The Story of My Three Illnesses in One Week on a Solitary Island in the Indian Ocean
The first full day we were there I had an island sickness that goes around, which was similar to the flu. I rested most of the day and had aches and chills, but overall it was definitely the easiest illness I had. I was mostly recovered the second day, but still took it easy. The day after that was my birthday, and I felt mostly well, other than the remnant of a sore throat, and knowledge that I still shouldn’t go “all out.”
The night of my birthday I started having terrible indigestion around 2am, and continued to not feel well until I finally vomited around 6am. It was food poisoning, and although the chef had prepared an amazing Maldivian spread for my birthday dinner, I cannot even THINK about any of those dishes ever again. *Shudders.* I felt terrible in the morning and was super discouraged from getting sick AGAIN. We went to the local doctor and got some medicine and I had to drink a salty orange oral rehydration solution all throughout the day. I felt weak and had digestion pain throughout the day, so I stayed inside and ate chicken broth and watched Full House.
The next day I felt a lot better, so we were able to walk around and snorkel and enjoy the island some more, and I was able to start eating some solid food again. We watched THE most amazing sunset of my life, and had high hopes for enjoying our last morning with a sunrise and swimming the next morning. But then, I woke up on our last day with a terrible eye infection.
The day before, we had gone snorkeling, and my left eye stayed blurry after taking the swimming mask off. The same thing had happened to my right eye a few days before, but it was completely fine after I had taken a nap. I figured that when I woke up the next morning everything would be back to normal. Nope. My eye was scratched right across the cornea. I didn’t know at the time, and it just seemed blurry and dry and a little painful. I tried everything, but the task was made difficult because we didn’t have clean running water. I rinsed it with bottled water, held it closed and blinked the other eye, applied eye drops, and gently rubbed it in case there was an eyelash stuck in there. Nada. It just got worse and worse. Eventually I was in so much pain, and I was so frustrated that I started crying. I just wanted to have one last good day, and SEE the island before we left it.
Instead, my eye got so irritated that all I could do was lay in bed and hold the covers to my chin, gripping tightly to fight against the pain. If I accidentally moved my left eye or its eyelid, or tried to open my right eye such that it caused my left eye to squint, I felt a knife slash across the front of my eye, which was devastatingly painful. It forced me to cry out and grab the bed or Whit’s hand as hard as humanly possible. The worst thing was there was nothing I could do to assuage the pain. I wished that I was in labor instead of dealing with my current infliction because I am SURE that labor can not be as awful as the pain that I experienced, especially since you can rub your belly and at the end a baby comes out, whereas I had no hope in the situation I was in.
I laid in bed blinded, and the local doctor visited us again. He gently opened each of my eyes, which caused excruciating pain both times. He gave a prescription for two sets of eye drops, that Whit had to apply to both eyes every two hours for the next few days, and again caused horrible pain every time we had to do it. Whit finished packing all of our belongings, made necessary arrangements for the day, and brought me water, tissues, a few bites to eat, and let me squeeze his hand when I was in pain. In my desperation I begged for a faster ride to the airport island than the horribly slow $5 public ferry we took on the day of our arrival. Whit worked with some people on the island to get us a speed boat that didn’t leave until later in the day.
The Three-Day Trip Home
When it was time to board the boat, Whit led me to the dock and I squinted to see that I had to kneel down to step aboard. It was a bumpy but faster ride, and we made it to the airport in an hour and a half. I held onto his body, he fed me almonds (I was starving and so thirsty!), and Whit and several of our belongings got soaked along the way.
After making it to the airport, Whit continued to lead me around like a blind person. If I ever tried to open my right eye to see just for a moment, it KILLED my left eye, so I just kept both eyes shut. I was a miserable sight, and Whit still had to administer eye drops while I was laying on the floor of the airport. I don’t remember the plane ride at all, but once we got to Singapore the pace picked up.
Wearing a shifty handmade eye patch made from a sock and a headband, we asked the staff at the check-in counter if we could see a doctor in the airport (in hopes of getting a real eye patch, so that I could actually open one eye). Because of some kind of regulation, they had to ask that I get a certificate that labeled me “fit to fly” before allowing us to check in. They couldn’t hold our luggage, so while a staff member got me a wheelchair, Whit pushed our luggage to the doctor’s office. After getting the doctor’s approval, we were short on time, so we rushed back to the check-in counter. Five staff members were standing at the ready, waiting for us like a racecar pit stop. We raced to the plane, and found that the staff had kindly given us seats together one aisle in front of a bathroom on the plane.
My prayer was that I would be able to open both eyes by the time we got to the US, and halfway through the flight I woke up and opened both eyes without even thinking about it!! It still hurt, but by the end of the flight I could keep my eyes open long enough to watch 20-30 minutes of a movie or show at a time. Praise God!!
Two more flights from coast to coast, an overnight stay in a hotel in North Carolina, a three hour drive, and we were FINALLY back home!!! Needless to say we were thrilled.
Being home has felt completely familiar. I feel as if I never left but there was a chunk of time missing. Cambodia and Singapore and the Maldives feel so far away now. The first morning, I woke up at 3:30 from jet lag, and couldn’t go back to sleep. At 5am I got out of bed, too excited to start the day back in my home again.
I am so thankful to be here, and to be feeling well again.