Briefly, Braving the new world order, we left Australia on December 03. Our first stay was in Lahore, Pakistan for the marriage of Brendan. We spent three weeks there. On December 24th we flew Lahore to Istanbul – missed our next flight and spent Christmas Day in Istanbul flying on in the afternoon. We arrived in Washington DC in the evening with not much traffic. Got to Chris’ and family’s house Christmas night. Three days later all five of us tested positive for coronavirus. Four adults, all with three shots including booster, had mild symptoms, and tested negative within a week except for me who was positive for two-weeks, missing a planned trip to New York, missing re-booked flights to Holland three times. The child, age six, tested positive but never felt any symptoms. We are finally off to The Netherlands for two-months before hopefully returning to Adelaide.
Narda writing in Italics Terrell whatever else there is. I will try and not tell the same story as Narda – but there could be some overlaps. Read the italics and you will be better informed. I tend to ramble as someone nearby has mentioned.
Our last trip to Lahore – way back in 2019 is written up here, https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/December 03, 2021DepartureA new threat to us getting to Brendan’s wedding in Pakistan! Omicron, the latest variant of the corona virus is knocking on Australia’s door. We had decided to isolate for a guaranteed negative test result the at the airport, but we went a step further and moved our flights back a week earlier, leaving Dec 3rd instead of the 9th.Just as well, as there are pockets of the new more infectious strain circulating now in Adelaide. Flights were without incident, despite the additional paperwork. In Melbourne the test was cheaper than we expected ($79 instead of $150 which it was just weeks before) and we had a result in 40 minutes.In Abu Dhabi, a decent enough airport, we had a nice Irish Brekkie (as you do) and only a few hours to wait for the next flight. I think I may have dosed off in the comfort seat. Watched a couple of movies. The next flight was half empty, so I slept for 2 hours like the dead along 5 empty middle seats. We had a very friendly and sympathetic Aussie hostie.Lahore arrival, Bren and Imran waiting for 2 hours while 3 large jets unloaded. But we got there. Great to be back and see Bren. It was a long wait for them, not because of the flight but because it took so bloody long to unload it. Blimey.We checked into the AveriXHotel for 3 nights as Bren’s place was still being painted. A greatarea, close to some nice eating places where we had tomato soup and salads; safe, easy and yum.The hotel also had an amazing breakfast buffet, a mixture of western and Pakistani fare.
We left Adelaide in the morning getting a ride with Narda’s sister, Caroline to the airport. The big box is Brendan’s wedding present, a coffee machine.
Flying to Melbourne we tested there for covid doing the fifteen-minute rapid test. As throughout this trip we worried whether we would test positive and must cancel our trip. When we got the text that our results were negative, we quickly went to the waiting area only to find only one restaurant was open.
Due to covid very few were flying. Narda ordered something meaty, and I ate a sandwich I brought along. By 10.45 pm we were in the air on Etihad 461. Somehow, I have forgotten that flight so must not have been very eventful. Probably slept some. In Abu Dhabi we got a ride through the airport in one of those motorized carts they take the old and lame around the airport in. We asked to go to the food court and found a good Irish type of pub place, O’Leary’s, for a big breakfast then got a ride back to our gate. On the flight to Lahore one of the stewardesses let Narda know she too was an Australian. Narda of course pointed out that Australian’s look after each other and sure enough not before long we got moved to a forward section of the plane that had few passengers. Where we were was full. Narda stretched out over several seats and slept most of the three hours to Lahore. I looked out the window and got there exhausted.
Lahore Airport is a journey of its own. A remarkable madness for westerns to navigate with eyes wide open. We arrived with another flight or two and probably a thousand people rushing to the customs counters. Trying to find which line to be in is a challenge but after a few pushing into lines that were not moving we were directed to one that probably was for the likes of us. Another hour later our bags arrived on the conveyor belt.
Brendan with his driver (and go to for everything), Imran were at the airport when we finally got outside sometime in the middle of the night.
Brendan was having his house at Swedish Flats painted before the wedding, so we booked the Avari Xpress Hotel. It is listed as a four-star hotel. Perhaps for Lahore but not in western countries – maybe two-stars. The smorgasbord breakfast was good though and our room was quite large. It is also next to a large supermarket and near restaurants and shopping malls. We were not able to work out the TV. We spent our first three nights in Lahore there
Every day we would walk to Brendan’s house which is in a gated community – surrounded by high fences, large entrance door and boom gate with two or three guards, usually one with some mean looking weapon on his back. In fact, every shop has a guard with a weapon. Some of the guards look as if they are half asleep or too old to fire their weapon if needed. Shopping centres have more serious looking dudes (always males) with machine guns, and they inspect the boot (trunk), bonnet (hood) as well as beneath cars and have a poke around inside. In the containment area (Lahore Cantonment, a large area under military control) just to drive through on their freeway and better roads we need to show passports and women need to have head coverings. I will come back to this later about when I was asked to delete my video of them stopping us, of course being a good citizen of the world, I did – only to discover when I got home it was saved in another area of my phone – I will show you later but don’t tell the Pakistani authorities as they get quite thingy about such stuff.
Next to our hotel was a large chaotic supermarket (“Imtiaz Super Market, is the pioneer in the retail industry of Pakistan, providing an ultimate shopping experience to its consumers” https://imtiaz.com.pk/) with everything from clothes kitchenware furniture mixed with groceries so finding anything was always an exploration to behold. And long long lines everywhere. Further along the street we found several good restaurants our favourite coffee place being Mocca Coffee.
We sat outside in the smog because it was a good day at only 257. We manage to survive in the six and seven hundreds later.
First night out with Brendan’s future wife, Sofie @ Bamboo Union, https://bamboounion.pk/ We sat outdoors, ignored the pollution, and had a good meal.
We moved into Brendan’s house after three-nights at Avari Xpress Hotel and began our almost daily shopping at Jalal Sons https://jalalsons.com.pk/ the local supermarket which is not too far removed from what we would be used to. Everything is in English (one of our languages). Mostly imported foods for what we like which makes them expensive. For example, a bag of chips would be six or seven dollars, peanut butter twice what we would pay in Australia.
Moving in with Brendan December 7Heading out for the day, Imran dropped us off at Al Fatah Shopping Mall https://www.alfatah.pk/ so that we could get some decent coffee. The Second Cup across the road insisted on vaccination for entry. Friendly folk and good coffee. So then to find our way to a market. We tried a tuk tuk. I told the driver where we wanted to go and he did not understand. When I tried again his eyes lit up and he said “Oh La Bertie”! So we thought, haven’t heard of that one so off we went. We paid our 100rp which is about double the going rate at a princely 57c USD. We had arrived at Liberty Market, where we had been before. La Bertie…..Liberty. Huh!!!
Lunch at Liberty AKA La Bertie was a challenge. We were seated in a basement after having ordered a vegetarian hamburger and something similar with meat for me. 45 minutes later it came….not a sign of vegetarian. We were nice about it, and said we would still pay for it, but they took it upstairs and picked out all the meat…….what are ya gonna do.
Nest day headed out with Bren to a western style restaurant with the best food I have EVVA had!!! Bren had pizza, Terrell ordered a cannelloni/spinach/cheese dish (which won first prize!!!!) and I had a dried tomato salad for the gods. We will return, especially as they offered us a free triple choc mousse which we shared (reluctantly)
Lahore authorities have a way of dealing with cars that double park or park where they probably should not. A forklift comes along and picks up the car and lifts it high into the air until the owner comes and pays a fine. See our fifteen second clip here
We took an Uber (taking a break from the scary tuk-tuks in almost impossible to maneuver traffic) to Packages Mall, a large western style mall. A slight difference is that there are armed men with machine guns at the gate and to get inside we had to show we were vaccinated – which is becoming the way of the world. Washington DC now has that requirement.
We made a two-minute video showing the ride to the mall, gun totting guards, the mall, [see Packages Mall below].
I got some really groovy shoes to wear with my Pakistani outfit.
Narda tried on some cosmic looking dresses @ N Junaid Jamshed clothing store https://www.junaidjamshed.com/
Lunch was at Ganache Café at Mall 1, one of Lahore’s most crowded areas. Or as they proclaim “The café has a cosy and a simple ambiance with an indoor and an outdoor sitting area. It serves a range of decadent desserts and other savory items. Mall 94, Main Boulevard Gulberg, Block D1”
Our favourite out-in-the-world breakfast place was at Bundu Khan where we would have puri (a deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour)
and lassies (those wonderful yogurt drinks). http://www.bundukhan.pk/.
11 December SaturdayOff to the International Club initiation. They have done some nice renovation there; it’s very gezellig. We also met Bren’s mate from work, Dustin and his wife. Dustin is quite the personality. He promised to put us in contact with his parents who live in Thunder Bay, Canada for a must-do- because-it-has-lots-of-snow house swap. Nice pizza and beer at the club for me.
We had lunch a couple of times at the International Club – I had mashed potatoes with garlic prawns, so yummy. One evening we had a bar-b-que there and met a lot of the expats from around the world; learning about how bad things were in Brazil and several other countries that people came from. All in all, everyone seemed happy to be in Lahore. I brought up the pollution issue, but it was not big in anyone’s mind, they just seemed to love living here. We met people from South Africa, Brazil, UK, Sweden, and places I don’t remember but at the time I thought ‘how cool’ to be from there. Luckily there was enough salads to keep me happy and a very large fish that was caught somewhere nearby. As I started eating fish a year ago due to my doctor’s ‘or else’ recommendations because of my strict veggie diet I reluctantly have fish twice a week – though not farm-raised. Oh! They serve alcohol which is one of the few places in Lahore where it is OK. Christians and non-Muslims can drink there. I haven’t had any alcohol (except in hand wipes which we all have dry skin from) since 2005 (had liver issues but all seems to be OK now) and don’t miss it.
Then off we went to Packages Mall. I bought me a fancy schmancy wedding dress for the final night and Terrell found some groovy sandals.
Next day we dashed over to a blanket place and bought one for Chris’s bed. Imran at the lead in negotiations. We also managed to get our own sim card, through Imran’s wife Agnes, buying it in her name. It was the only way we could do it.14 December SundayOur first family visit. We were invited to dinner with Sofie’s parents. Nighi, Sofie’s mum is a warm, friendly woman and Saquib, her father, an interesting man to talk to, with his views on the world. His resourcefulness and determination helped us get Chris into the country!
Dinner was great. There was other family there from the USA, Islamabad, and Dubai. We enjoyed the conversations, the warm welcome and the food. It’s a beautiful house in an affluent area in the containment (army owned) district.
The main events of our trip to Pakistan, was seeing Brendan going for the next step in his life. He has known Sofie for a few years, they work together at the same school. She is a kindy teacher, and he is a fifth-grade teacher this year. Sofie was born in the USA and grew up in Lahore. We met her parents and family at their house.
Her brother came over from Dallas and sister from Chicago – so we were quite the international arrivals. We got ourselves looking local for the occasion – here we are standing in Brendan’s lounge before being driven to the family’s home.
We stopped at the flower market along the way [see our one-minute clip Flower Market]
This bouquet of flowers cost about $8 Australian, of course, that was tourist price – in Australia we would pay $50 – $70 for this arrangement.
13 December MondayA new development. Chris still has not got his visa despite the allotted time having been reached and passed. Poor Chris had been phoning and even visiting the Pakistani consulate to no avail. They told him they were waiting for word from Islamabad. I made a few useless phone calls to the embassy in Islamabad but did mange to find out that they are definitely not part of the approval of Pakistani visas in the USA. They only did the permits of extended stays. So! I passed the information on Saquib. He was on to it. His cousin (in charge of National Security) made a phone call to the US consulate, and to cut a long story short, many more moments of anxiety, especially for Chris, the bloody visa was approved.
We think there is a bigger picture here, with these visa applications held up deliberately because Pakistan is upset with the USA….over dumping Afghanistan and causing a major refugee crisis. Who knows?
I will add, there were several sleepless nights with lots of time on the phone (Skype, Whats App, Messenger) sorting out Chris’ arrival. It really started to look as if he would not get here or if he did, he would miss everything. As it turned out he missed the first of the three-day celebration, the Nikkah, but he did get here on the 20th in time for much-to-do still. Keep on reading…
18th December Nikkah – In Islam, marriage is a legal contract between two people. Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills. A formal, binding contract – verbal or on paper is considered integral to a religiously valid Islamic marriage and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride. Once all the requirements are met anyone can officiate the Nikah ceremony (no they didn’t ask me if I wanted to officiate). The bride and groom repeat the word “qubool” or “I accept” three times. Then the couple and the two male witnesses sign the contract, making the marriage legal according to civil and religious law.
We had a lot of food –even vegetarian plates, seeing how ‘special’ I was/am. The main activity of the evening seemed to be taking photos: here is just a sample of probably a hundred photos:
Chris made it in time for the main wedding with only 1 hour to spare. Pretty tough on him!!! He was such a trooper and so was Saquib!
I went to the hairdresser Toni and Guy. Lovely experience. Had a head massage, on a massage chair and then my hair curled down my back with flowers.Finally, into the cars and off we go. It was a huge outdoor place filled with flowers and mirrored floors. The “stage” as amazing, Bren and Sofie mainly based there as folks came to congratulate them, though the dancing soon also revved up.
This is the main event, a few hundred people, but outdoors. Everyone dressed extravagantly.
Several hundred guests I think, many from Sofie’s family but also from Bren and Sofie’s school. I briefly got to meet Nadine again, Bren’s boss, who stayed back so that she could attend. The food was great. Buffet style.
The kids were escorted into their going away cars. They will spend 2 nights at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a pretty flash place by all accounts!
Two days after the first event, Chris arrived an hour before the wedding celebration (above was the Nikkah, the actual ‘I am doing ‘of it all or ‘I did it’ – we dressed up for the actual celebration – see below). He got OK’d by one pm in DC got to the airport a few hours later and was on a flight that evening arriving four pm Lahore time with Brendan’s right-hand man, Imram, waiting for him at the airport, having him to Brendan’s home by six pm.
The day of Chris’ arrival we went shopping at a very local market. For lots of blocks in all directions sellers had their gear in the middle of the streets and covering the sidewalks. The first few blocks of our wander were sellers of Oppo phones. Oppo seems to be the main phone of Lahore or at least the most advertised and with the most stalls selling them. It is the phone we have, based on Brendan’s recommendation a year ago. Now I see why, he lives in the Oppo town of Lahore. It has worked fine for us and takes good photos/videos, though I just read at least it is in the top 1000.
I was told by Brendan that this market was recently bombed a week ago or so. I think 3 people killed and more injured. No one has yet claimed responsibility.
Narda was looking for some earrings or a necklace or some such thing and she found something she like. Brendan found an outfit for Chris to wear to the wedding and I took photos and some video see…[Gone Shopping] I was looking for a fancy handbag and found one.
Brendan bought Chris his outfit
and his friends came over to congratulate him before we all went off for the celebration and dancing.
Then there was the wedding celebration (day two of the three-day event).
Narda had a fitting for dress
and after a few days it arrived at our door in time for the wedding, expensive for us and for a once-off, though she may wear it with jeans back home someday. Not quite sure how often Chris and Brendan will wear their new-found gear. I think Pastor Chris should wear his outfit in his church when he preaches – I suggested that.
I will wear mine at some random time/place. Probably to the gym or when I visit you.
A side-note, amongst many side-notes. Narda and Chris shared a car with Brendan I went in a different car with two others. A large SUV, the driver worked for an oil company. I mentioned how shops have men with machine guns in front. They both showed me their handguns – hidden in the car doors and mentioned that there was a machine gun M-14 on the shelf in back of me – I looked, sure enough there was.
Brendan and Sofie held court, so to speak, and everyone at one time or another got in the picture behind them or with them.
My favourite photo of the evening was Narda and her children…
And she had important bits of wisdom for her first married son, Chris, who got married in Tennessee long ago (I think about 2005).
Brendan’s hat and shoes – invite him over for tea – he will surely wear these items to you home…
And there was much dancing. I capture some on this marriage dancing [https://youtu.be/YXoRDebU6Vc] clip.
Narda, the social one, spent the evening meeting and dancing whilst I was busy looking for vegetarian food, which I found.
At the end of the evening everyone had something to say to the new couple.
The kids were escorted into their going away cars.
They will spend 2 nights at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a pretty flash place by all accounts!
The morning after we went to Breakfast with Sofie and Brendan at Pearl Continental Hotel.
And as with any well-respected hotel they have their resident astrologer/card reader.
That is me filling in until someone that is for-real comes along, which I predict will be at any moment. Our minute long clip of the hotel is here [https://youtu.be/NV8sSFHoBzs]
On Sunday morning we took Chris to our favourite brekkie place and had the traditional Pakistani breakfast with puri and a selection of dipping dishes all for the princely total of $3, this included some chai as well. Here is an eleven second clip of Chris eating breakfast https://youtu.be/Fb-I7f2_bGWe watched the parking management system where offenders’ cars are hoisted into the air!!! [car removal 12 seconds https://youtu.be/oxlb2489qkY ]December 19th Wedding part 3, the boy’s side
Today we went to the Emporium Mall with Chris and had an American lunch at Big Mo’s.
This 3rd event was the parents of the groom hosting and welcoming the bride into their family.
Bren asked us to take the part of host, so we were there an hour before. This third and final one was on a rooftop restaurant, more black clothes formal, with about 40 guests.
Narda and her probably once-ever-used very expensive dress – I could have flown to the moon and back for the same price. All hand made with each little bead/etc stitched one by one. Then again I am sure we will wear our outfits when bike riding back in Adelaide. PS, not that expensive!
it was a full moon night.
It was a very pleasant evening with spectacular views of the famous old mosque, Badshahi Mosque at the Andaaz Restaurant 2189 A Fort Rd, Shahi Mohallah Walled City of Lahore, https://andaazrestaurant.com/. As the guests arrived, I greeted them, trying some short phrases in Urdu, with mixed success and quit a few laughs. Then they opened the upper mezzanine and soon we had the crowd spread out. Chris and me had some interesting conversation with Saquib about religion and politics; what the religions in the world have in common. Nice.
And of course, we have a clip of the night over at Wedding dinner [https://youtu.be/aYV0vhot20c ]
BTW remember at the beginning of our trip we had that big box we dragged around from Adelaide to Melbourne to Lahore? sorry didn’t get a clip of them opening it – oh wait, oh no not another clip! That’s right just this blurred photo of them opening the box at a very rapid rate and the finished product.
Men’s clothing in Lahore is a bit different than what I am used to in Australia.
Driving to places around Lahore at almost every traffic light there are beggars. A lot of cross-dressing men who tell people in the car that if they don’t give them money, they will end up like them. Not sure whether that is good or bad because being many decades younger than me, maybe being like them, at least age wise would be better than being old, then again, I would not wish to do youngness over again. Here is a bit of a clip of such an incident – [Beggars https://youtu.be/90Prkp0tDN8]
And a clip of driving @ night – [Lahore night https://youtu.be/c1YCpjZyfrk] Lahore driving is crazy.
I am amazed when we arrive at any place that we survived. It is not wise to read an English speaking newspaper –
Our last day with Chris in Lahore we went to the Wagha Border – between India and Pakistan. We have done this visit before, both on the Indian side and the Pakistan side. Due to covid stuff there were a lot less people at it than before. To refresh those few folks who have not read our last blogs about the border, Lahore side (https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/), India side (https://neuage.me/2018/04/12/amritsar/) every night year round there is a flag lowering in the evening at the border. On the Indian side there can be as many 50,000 people at the stadium dancing and cheering with less on the Pakistan side. As usual I made a video but not of just the ceremony this video has many photos of the ride to the border with closeups of folks in tuk tuks and walking along – some of my favourite photos of the trip (aside of family photos) are in this collect (an award collection of photos – awarded by my higher self – good on ya Terrell’s higher self for your recognition of my talent when few others …never mind) Slideshow of Wagha border https://youtu.be/vZCJiRKdyZE
[Chris Preaching https://youtu.be/OWicREb9x2E ] yes there is a final Lahore clip.
Pastor Chris, Grace Capital City church in Washington DC https://www.gracecapitalcity.com/ was asked to give a sermon at a Christian Church in Lahore his last night there by Brendan’s servant/driver/do lots of stuff and church leader, Imran. There are 1.27% or a bit over two-million proclaimed Christians in Pakistan. Read about it on the internet. I believe it is against the law to try and covert a Muslim to Christianity – death or something like that to those who give it a shot. The Christians there are from birth – or expats. For example, Imran’s parents and their parents were Christians – so no converting going on.
December 20, moved to the Main Market
On Monday evening we went with Chris as he was to preach at Imran’s church. An interesting experience. I suspect that this could be where Chris got infected with Omicron!
Had some nice quality time with the boys, went to a nice evening coffee shop, Karak Khel Gulberg, good ambience. It turned out to be just around the corner from Main Market.
December 21st Tuesday
Chris got tested for his flight back to DC (it came up negative). Sofie took us shopping so that Chris could buy some outfits for the folks at home, I also found a nice Pak dress, bright red. Later Sof and Bren joined us in a hunt for scarves for presents to take back home. Sofie bought us some traditional roasted chic peas (I think they were), roasted in a wok of hot sand. Very nice.We left Brendan’s at 11 pm. Chris went to the airport, for his flight leaving at 3 am. The next day Sof and Bren went off to Tanzania and we made our way to the airport with Imran, after a visit to the Covid testing site.
I have to say I am loving travelling again. Our time in Pakistan was a buzz. It is VERY polluted this time of the year with 450 particle readings compared to Adelaide around 15. We used N95 masks all the time, and after only 2 days they would turn brown/grey. But it’s a wild and exciting place. Lots of restaurants and interesting places to see. We had our local chai wallah, who made us delicious chai in tiny cups on the side of the road.
Then there are fancy western restaurants where the 3 of us (Brendan and us could eat a full meal for $17 USD total. Or the brekkie place where we got a nice local but fancy feed for $3 each.
December 23 Wednesday
Our final test was negative and the next day we headed to the airport hotel, the Royal Swiss Hotel. Imran dropped us off there. We were looking forward to a nice quiet evening ready for the next morning’s departure.
The dinner restaurant was amazing, we were almost the only people there with a beautiful buffet where we ate like kings, a bit of everything. The room was also great. Later that evening we discovered that our flight was going to be delayed. There was no notification from Turkish Airlines. I spend lots of time on the phone to see about the connecting flight, which I discovered was postponed to the following day, also without any notification from Turkish Airlines. So we quickly booked a transit hotel in Istanbul (Yotel). When we finally arrived (having travelled business class, which was fantasitc!!!!) we were told that Turkish Air would have taken us to the city were they had a hotel, and put us up gratis. Thanks for letting us know guys!!
The transit hotel was fine, we spent the next day enjoying the business lounge, sampling everything. The airport is nice. No complaints, except that Turkish Air need to pay for the hotel.
The flight was again business class, we arrived at around 8pm and took a taxi to Chris’. They had been celebrating Christmas Day with 2 other friends, expecting us to be a part of it, but that was not to be. Chris himself had had a shocking return trip from Lahore with delays, and an overnight in an airport in Doha with NO hotels available. Pretty tough. Luckily, he managed 6 hours in a sleeping pod in that time. All in all a pretty difficult trip for him, but we are all so glad he could come and celebrate such an important event with his brother.
Bren and Sofie by now reaching Tanzania/ Zanzibar for their honeymoon.
Having got a good deal for a business class flight from Lahore to Istanbul then to DC we made the best of a groovy situation. Our flight from Lahore was delayed by several hours due to smog, getting us to Istanbul too late to grab our flight to DC. We stayed overnight at the airport hotel – a basic windowless small room costing close to $200 USD. We booked it back in Lahore, after Chris’ delay for many hours on his flight to Lahore back mid-December (Narda says it was the trip from Lahore to DC, but, it was the flight to Lahore – he arrived totally exhausted the night of the wedding celebration, little sleep for two days and then he was dancing the night away. One must envy these young folks and their ability to keep on going. We did not want to keep on going and paid the big bucks. However, once in Istanbul airport we were told we would be taken to a city hotel at the airlines’ expense – but it was too late. Now we are stuck with hustling our insurance company with paying for the hotel. We were able to hang out in the Turkish Business Lounge for the day – until 4 pm for our flight to DC. The lounge was great – we ate our selves silly. There were islands of food being cooked – we could order what we wanted at the past area, dessert area, soup, omelette, etc.
I found lots of prepared salads, and of course at the coffee centre there was an endless supply of Turkish Coffee which I drank an endless amount of (I would be awake all the way to DC – more than 30-hours since Christmas Day began in Turkey and ended in DC, whilst Narda slept about seven hours on the way in her comfortable business class flatbed – I spent the whole time on the internet – who would guess?).
We wandered around the airport – it was very quiet in our area.
It is a huge airport and I think at one end downstairs there were a few western restaurant chains that had some Christmas lights happening, but we didn’t go in that area. Narda found Turkish candy
and as there was no music – but there was a piano in the lounge – Narda gave me a bit of a Christmas concert – here is a sample https://youtu.be/c4noCPnr6-g
I spent Christmas Day looking like a local –
Here is on our flight Lahore > Istanbul > DC https://youtu.be/vaIp2fGLhdk
Of course, as with any fancy dinner we had “candlelight dinners”.
great views of the Bosporus as we left Istanbul –
I tried sleeping but after a day of Turkish Coffee I was too wired.
Washington DC Christmas Evening
Our flight was the only one when we landed in DC, and that was far from full, seven pm, so we went through customs quickly. No mention of vaccinations, covid tests, I guess that was all taken care of before getting on to our flight in Istanbul. We grabbed a taxi to Chris and Jessica’s house. The driver was from Afghanistan – pro-former guy in Whitehouse – we could not figure out why. He had not heard from his family for weeks – since the US pulled out of Afghanistan. With few people on the road, we got there in about 35-minutes. We had planned to get to DC the night before but a day later was better than never at all. It was Narda’s first meeting of her new grandson, Josiah, who I called Messiah as it is pronounced much the same.
Narda hugged Chris as a mother would do. I kept my mask on. Two days later Chris and Jessica tested positive to covid – three days later Narda did and five days later I did. We all had few symptoms with Narda in bed one whole day not feeling very flash. I had a bit of a runny nose but nothing else. We did our best to quarantine staying in the basement which Chris and Jessica rent out as Airbnb for five-days. We stood for about two hours in a line to get tested with my results being negative and Narda’s positive. The rest of the time we tested at home.
Jan 5th 2022 Washington DCWe are currently in Chris’ AirBnB apartment downstairs. We’ve been here since Christmas, and the very first thing we did was hug the kids and contract covid! All of us. The little ones too. Luckily it’s Omicron (we assume, just a crappy cold, headaches, snot, cough, and achy bits.) Chris and Jess have to work now (virtually). Usually they have a nanny, but since we’re all testing positive we have taken up the nanny duties.
It does look like the whole world will get this one. Let’s hope we are all immune after that…would be nice.
We had a great time reconnecting with Liam, who has grown into such a lovely boy, a gentle type who adores his little brother. It was a challenging week for all of us, pretty full-on, but a great opportunity to really connect with our grandies.Josiah is a joy. A cuddly happy little guy, who does not miss anything, very alert and smiley.
Christmas Night at the Moerman’s – https://youtu.be/tT0UrbzE7zw
We had not been in the USA since 2019 (our blog for then https://neuage.me/2019/07/14/usa-2019/) and the atmosphere has changed so much. Not just covid – but politically too. We had been in DC July 2019 for Chris’ 40th birthday. His father, and brothers had come over from Lahore (Brendan) and Australia (Stu and their father). We had done a similar flight to what we did this time going from DC to Amsterdam in mid-January back in 2017 https://neuage.me/2017/01/24/washington-dc-to-amsterdam-and-life-in-between/ more on this later.
We were excited to hear that it would snow tomorrow and when it did, we were up and out the door.
I went with Chris and Liam to a local hill to watch them play in the snow. Here is a minute and a half of their enjoyment https://youtu.be/cF4lpUVozGEJanuary 6, 2021, being a tough day for Americans we decided to go a year later to the capitol – not many people around in the morning when we were there, mainly TV stations getting lined up for a day’s broadcast.
We did eavesdrop on an interview by a foreign team of a policeman video https://youtu.be/fvVw-0OMo_Q
Chris and Narda sing to the children – https://youtu.be/Jut5fg3nXTk
We had bought tickets on Amtrak to NYC for New Years Eve and for a train to Albany, New York on New Year’s Day then rented a car to drive to Oneonta to visit with my sister for a couple of days then a train back to DC a week later then onto Holland. Never happened – well the Amtrak bit, Narda testing positive on December 28th put the end to that. Then of course, I tested on positive on New Year’s Day, so it was just as well that we did not go.
After five days of no symptoms, we thought we could go out safely, wearing masks of course. We did a few trips around DC but for the most part stayed around home and babysat. We did go to where Lincoln was shot, at Ford’s Theatre and did the free tour. Photo below is the chair Lincoln was in when he was shot.
I tested positive for fourteen days from January first (how I started 2022) until testing negative at six am on Saturday the 15th. We booked in our official test ($90 each of us) for five pm and that came back negative. One interesting side-note if there is an interesting side-note was that the very first time, I had a positive test on the first of January the line on the tester was so light I barely could see it. Each day after the line became darker then the last three days the line for positive showed lighter each day. I looked all over the internet – from top to bottom – and there was no one saying that the darkness of the line showed how much viral load there was, but we were convinced that the lightening of each day meant soon I would be negative. It was annoying, and mentally I was getting negative without being really negative – go figure. Every morning I would take a test – it would be positive, we would re-book our pcr test and change our flights to the next day (United Airlines were very helpful with this and we never had to wait in a queue and they changed it to the next day without fees each time). My insurance ran out on the eleventh as that was the day we were to be going to Holland. Australia has reciprocal Medicare with 11 EU countries and Britain. This helps us a lot with insurance, our insurance company is the one who told us we did not have to buy health insurance for these countries. As I have so many pre-existing things from heart disease (pacemaker, five stents, other surgery) to diabetes and beyond our insurance always is more than the flights (including going business class this last time from Lahore to Istanbul to DC). Insurance for the USA is very high. We spent from 6 am until 8 pm on the phone on January tenth waiting in queues – getting disconnected – starting over – waiting in a queue– to be able to extend our insurance for a week. We once again booked our flight for the next day which was Sunday the 16th. Besides all the other annoying things to worry about; insurance and covid tests being top – and being a week or more late for our house sit coming up in Holland, there was a major winter storm that was to “slam” our area starting Sunday afternoon. Sunday morning, we took a Lyft to Dulles airport @ 8.45. First the flight was delayed from 12.45 to 1.30 pm due to an approaching storm then it was delayed another hour then finally at five pm we were on the runway getting de-iced on plane. We got to Newark and had one hour to spare and spent it in the United business lobby as we get a free lobby thingy each year for having a United Credit Card. BTW it is a great card to have – we had enough points for both of us to fly to Amsterdam. We added a hundred bucks to upgrade to economy plus which was well worth it. So we ate as much as we could stuff into our face and got into line to get onto our flight. They wanted so much paperwork at the counter; pcr test result, vaccination result, some other stuff – can’t remember it all. Thankfully Narda is amazing at keeping track of all this shit. I just live in la la land and smile at all the foreign stewardesses.
De-icing flight to Amsterdam https://youtu.be/49Sl-ApmKAk
Here we are in Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, the Netherlands. Arrived on the 17th January about six hours later than scheduled and a week later than planned. We have a house-sit for two months looking after six chooks and two rabbits. We were at this exact house exactly two years ago but had to return to Australia March 2020 due to covid. Thanks to Fred and Chantal for asking us six months ago if wanted to look after their animals as they were off to Capo Verde off the west coast of Africa. We had done a house/car exchange two years ago so already had a connection to these really wonderful people. Narda hopes to catch up with relatives – but we will see how that works out with the current covid restrictions in Holland.
Our blog from exactly two years ago https://neuage.me/2020/04/10/rotterdam2020/
We will probably just chill for two months, looks like we may go back to Australia mid-April 2022 instead of mid-March. This would be our longest ever house-exchange and almost five months away from home. I may be speaking Dutch after-all.
I want to work on some video projects. But after Lahore and DC we need this time to do nothing except bike ride as much as possible. And we joined the local gym, finding a 9 euro special for a month online. And a few days ago, the 26th January, restaurants opened up in Holland after a year so we had our first meal in a restaurant since Lahore mid-December which seems like so long ago but was really only six or seven weeks ago.
We even get to drive their car – what disturbs me in the photo below is that my hair has not grown in two years.
We didn’t take wearing masks very seriously either, I think. Actually, we were unable to purchase any anywhere at the start of covid. Because we do not follow the news (I don’t understand Dutch – and Narda speaking/reading Dutch didn’t pay much attention to the news – we did not know how fast covid was spreading until all the masks were sold out everywhere we went.
That’s all for today. Off to explore the Netherlands today and this week/month – check back mid-March/April for an update on our life. Cheers!
Lahore 2021 covid world tour on YouTube https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzv1YGfx_SMw-e35J_du1wBRjpdY5D08c
I was having a quiet Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian
Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.
We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.
I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.
Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.
To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.
Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.
Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.
We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?
“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”
Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.
First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.
King Derby wins giving us a 4.4 times our betting winning sending us home winners.
Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.
Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.
The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.
We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.
Happy Valley Trolley
We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.
Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.
Well that didn’t work out did it?
Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…”
Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.
We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.
Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.
Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.
Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.
Hello! Wow is this so possible?
Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.
So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?
See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.
The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.
Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.
I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.
Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.
These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.
“There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight, First you slide to the left then to the right. The Watusi is out of sight, You slide to the left, then to the right. Take two steps up and keep it tight. And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”
There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes  believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.
At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.
Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.
The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.
It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.
Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.
We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.
Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.
My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.
I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.
I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.
So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.
To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,