From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






Skype: "ericandjamie"



Friday, October 23, 2009

First Week Back

This week was tiring for me, only partly because of my recovery process. Grades were due and narratives were due this week because status reports were going home. I knocked it out all in pretty much 2 days, but it wasn't much fun. By the end of the week, I had pretty much caught up with everything and was back into the full swing of things.

I am excited for this weekend. I'll go into work to grade some papers and plan for next week, but overall I feel pretty good. I had one bad evening where I had pain and it was only on a 4 level. Apparently, I still have some internal scabs that are passing through me.

I still have to fly back to Bangkok next weekend for my check up. Have yet to book the flight and hoping insurance will cover it. We'll see.

Just wanted to update some people. Hope all is well everyone else's way.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in China Finally

Jamie and I arrived back in Shekou at 7:15 on Friday night. Checking out of the hospital on Thursday was literally an all day affair. Doctor cleared me at 9:00 am or so, but we didn't leave until 6:00 pm. Last thing they did was take my IV off of me.

We checked into a hotel in Bangkok near the hospital for Thursday evening and even made it down to Hard Rock Cafe for a great meal. We both deserved it. We had to figure out our flight the next day through the insurance, and it was finally finalized around midnight.

We slept a decent night's sleep but had to wake at 5:00 am to eat breakfast and then take a cab to Bangkok airport. Bangkok is really only about a 2 hour flight into Shenzhen, but the insurance booked a flight for us to go to Taiwan first (4 hour flight) then back to Shenzhen (2 hour flight) after an hour and a half layover in Taiwan. Frustrating, but we made it.

Today has been a day of resting and getting the apartment back in order, including getting our open VPN set up so I can write and post on the blog as well as keep up with everyone via Facebook. I can now post pictures in China too.

With that said, I'll be writing a bit more on the blog. I have a doctor's appointment in Bangkok again in 2 weeks (Nov. 1), so I'll be flying on that Sunday to Bangkok for a 2 hour appointment with 2 doctors. Kind of a hassle, but I guess it'll be worth it to know I'm in good health.

My new diet has taken effect. No chocolate, nuts, black tea, and soy sauce. We've had to adjust some of our eating habits, but I'll manage. We put white chocolate chips in our oatmeal cookies this evening.

Thanks again to everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and get well wishes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bustin Out!

It is now Thursday morning, October 15. I have been in this hospital in Bangkok going on 12 days, 13 counting the 1 day in Hanoi. They tell me I will be checking out of here today though. I am delighted. I have been pain free for 4 days and fever free for 5. My last ultrasound on Tuesday showed that the swelling in my kidney had gone down, but was not 100%. The dietitian came by yesterday and told me that she wants me on a low oxalate diet. That is no surprise. We had been reading up on it, so we knew what to expect.

The surgeon wants me to jog 20 minutes per day. The kidney doctor wants me to drink 2 cups of water as soon as I wake up in the morning, 2 right before I go to bed, and 2 liters during the day. I have to eliminate chocolate and peanuts from my diet as well as cut back on some other things that I normally eat. Except for the chocolate and peanuts, none of it are too life changing. I need to eat more fruit, which is fine because they are available in China all the time and are quite good.

We are quite fortunate to have some amazing insurance to cover the costs of this whole ordeal. I'm not sure we'll ever see the total bill, but maybe someone can take a stab at what 12 days in a private hospital in the the United States would run plus a private airplane transport and a commercial flight home would run as well as surgery, 2 CT scans, 3 sonograms, and enough morphine and medicine to knock out a herd of elephants.

I won't make some of you cry by telling you how much Jamie and I are out of pocket for this.

We should be leaving Bangkok either this afternoon (Thursday) or tomorrow. It depends on the insurance company and when they book our flight.

I'm looking forward to things getting back to normal. Looking forward to starting my new diet, not looking forward to running 20 minutes a day, but I'm looking forward to dragging Griffey along for the run. He certainly needs to run.

I would like to again thank all of my co-workers and friends in Shekou who have looked after Griffey while we've been away as well as subbed for me and taken care of my classes. We certainly didn't plan to be out for 2 full weeks, but it is nice to know we have such wonderful and caring people to help us out in our time of need. We would like to think that we'd be equally wonderful if the shoe were on the other foot.

This has been the worse experience of my life to date, and I hope I never repeat it. Sure, I'm sure I'll be in the hospital for something again eventually, but let's hope I can take care of myself and delay it, at least for something like kidney stones.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still Here

Tuesday night and I've been in this hospital for 10 days. Again, it is an excellent hospital, but I'm getting a little stir crazy. Had another sonogram this evening and I hope that my kidney is back to normal. No fever or pain for 2 days.

Here is a picture of Ronald at the McDonald's downstairs in the hospital. Decent food court down there. Jamie has eaten about all her options down there over the last 10 days. I have been eating the hospital food. Some good and some bad. I've chosen western meals and stayed with the chicken for the most part. The pork goulash was particularly tasty for lunch today. The always have some sort of juice, but my favorite is the apple.

As you can tell, no news here. Same bed, same couch, same TV with same stations. I've about finished my book. I take naps and play solitaire just to pass the time. Jamie and I roam the hallways to get out and stretch our legs. They actually brought a wheelchair for me today to take me down to my sonogram, but I just walked behind it. The nurse put my folder, which is now 2 inches thick, in the wheelchair instead. Nurses are insanely nice here. Their English is pretty good, but sometimes they just smile and repeat themselves when I ask a question.

I hope to get of here tomorrow. The insurance lady from Aetna (the nicest person we have ever spoken to from a major corporation) called tonight to check in on us and tell us the steps for getting home. Aetna has been simply amazing, but I'm sure it is costing our employer a pretty penny. We certainly couldn't afford worldwide insurance back in the states. In fact, I don't know anyone who has it back in the states.

I'll keep everyone updated as best I can...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kidney Smidney

Still in hospital recovering. Kidney doctor told me today that the infection where the stone was lodged is not getting much better which is affecting my kidney. My days are getting monotonous. I have not been outside in 1 week. I feel as though I am typing this from some prison room or a prison camp. I have the same pain in my side where the infection is about once per day and have to ask for some pain killers because the pain is unbearable. I was hoping to go home tomorrow; but instead, it'll be more sonograms, antibiotics, billions of liters of water, and crappy hospital food.

I wish Jamie would get out some, and not because I don't want her here, but because I feel she needs to get out. Maybe she'll heed my advice and get out some tomorrow. She has been wonderful during the whole process. There is really not much she can do when I'm in so much pain, but she stands next to me the whole time holding my hand or rubbing my back. Really is a good wifey.

I'll post some more when I know more, but as of now, we are here for several more days. We made our lesson plans for all week. I have never been out of work for so long due to an illness, never been in the hospital overnight much less 8 nights, and have never had this much cabin fever.

On a good note, as soon as I recover, I can begin research for my dissertation. Still hoping to knock out the research before winter break, but we'll see.

Feel free to drop me a comment on here or on Facebook. I appreciate all who have already done so. Keep both of us in your thoughts please.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Quick Update

It is now Friday night and I'm still in my lime green hospital PJs hooked to an IV pumping me full of antibiotics. The surgery gave me an infection (of course), I have to go a couple of days longer without a temperature or sharp (curl up in a little ball and scream) pain.

I'm moving around more and staying awake most of the day. I have learned that anywhere are 37 degrees Celsius is a normal body temperature. There are some English channels here in our room (42" LCD) that shows HBO, Cinamax, and Star Movies, as well as CNN, ESPN (Asia), AXN, and Star World. I have watched Star World the most because it has the best shows. Just finished watching Boston Legal.

Still drinking water which I'm getting sick of. My temperature goes up and down, so I sweat from head to toe sometimes when I sleep. When I get up to use the restroom, I come back to a cold, wet bed. Once, in my morphined pain-induced state a few days ago, I asked Jamie to check to see if I had urinated on myself because I was so wet. It was just sweat.

The nurses are very nice and all weigh about 75 pounds. I have my blood pressure and temperature taken about every hour. It is amazing how much your blood pressure fluctuates. Is that even normal?

Jamie has been awesome, but I know she is bored out of her mind. She says she dread the time when I will curl up in my ball and begin screaming because of the pain. Luckily, it hasn't happened in 24 hours. Pain free for 24 hours, sounds like a T Shirt.

I'm rambling, but wanted to post something lighter than surgery procedures or doomsday material.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Update on Surgery

I'm going to be candid and little detailed here, so if you have a squishy stomach or do not want to hear the details of my horrible experience, you might not want to read ahead. I'm writing to detail my account as best as I can experience it.

It is now Thursday morning (Wednesday night for most of you). My surgery went well. They removed the stone that was lodged in the opening of my bladder from the uterer. The stone was about 2.2 by 4.7 mm. Not huge, but because it was lodged, it was causing some kidney swelling.

After the surgery, the placed a catheter in me. Along with the catheter was a wire that ran through my penis, up the urethra, into the bladder, up the uterer, and into the kidney. You can see the wire above, look closely toward the bottom of the picture. Might be a strange thing to keep, but that wire was not stabilized, so it was constantly moving inside my body irritating it with a pain that was much worse than the stone itself.

When they removed the catheter on Wednesday morning, I began feeling better, but had some constipation problems due to all of the morphine and other pain killers. Also, my urination burned because it was half urine and half blood. This only lasted a few hours though. My back also had severe pain because of the wire that had been inserted had irritated a path all the way to the kidney. About 2:00, they finally gave me some more morphine after I had my first bowel movement in 4 days. I slept for about 2.5 hours which was the longest I had continuously slept in 4 days.

After I awoke, I felt normal for the first time since Friday night. Since then, I have been recovering and have just had some overall body pains and trying to regulate my stomach issues by eating more regularly.

I would like to thank everyone who has emailed or FB me with best wishes and get well comments. It is nice to know you have people thinking about you when you are sick, much less being 8000 miles from home. Luckily, our hospital has been very good and the doctors and nurses have been very helpful.

We are hoping to leave the hospital today or tomorrow and fly back to Shenzhen over the weekend. Our insurance flies us back home, so we have to wait for them to finalize arrangements after hearing from the hospital.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vietnam - Day 9 (The worst day of my life)

From Vietnam 2009 Jamie

At 7:30 am, I woke up with some pretty extreme back pain. I knew it was a kidney stone trying to pass.

For those who do not know. Kidney stones hurt because they develop in the kidneys and pass through the tube called the ureter before entering the bladder. It is this part of the process that is the most painful. It is difficult to describe, but imagine someone sticking a knife in and out of your back or perhaps imagine one of those little sand spurs you get at the beach or the ones in the ones in the woods and having it pass through a section of your insides. Once the stone reaches the bladder, most of the pain is gone. All it has to do then is pass through the urethra and out of the penis or vagina.

My pain killers that were prescribed to me by a Chinese doctor didn't make a dent in the pain. At 11:30, I told Jamie that we needed to go to the local SOS International Clinic in Hanoi. We found it easily and took a painful cab ride there (the roads in Hanoi are extremely bumpy).

As I walked in to the clinic, I was nauseated due to the cab ride and the pain, so I threw up immediately. We quickly told them (and I think they could tell) that I had kidney stones and need pain medication (preferably morphine) immediately. The complied and took care of me right away.

The rest of this story could take days and pages to write. I'll abbreviate here.

The clinic took a sonogram and noticed 2 stones that were quite large. Since they didn't have the facilities to do any kidney or urinary tract procedure, they suggested they air ambulance me to Bangkok. After some problems with the insurance and plane, we finally took off for Bangkok at 9:00 am on Sunday! I battled the kidney stones, vomiting, morphine, dry mouth, and no food the whole time.

The ride to the airport because of the roads and my sore condition was the worst part. The flight was decent. We were in a private jet of only 2 pilots, a doctor, a nurse, me, and Jamie. After landing and passing through customs in Bangkok, we arrived at the Bumrungrad International Hospital at about 11:30. They settled us into our own private room. The hospital easily rivals the best hospitals at home. It is large, clean, and the staff have been amazing.

Again, I'm going to cut it short, but it is now Monday at 2:45 pm as I type this and I'm still here. I am scheduled to go into surgery to remove one kidney stone that is stuck in the opening of the bladder from the ureter. It isn't a large stone by stone standards (2.2 mm by 4.7mm), but simply won't move. I have bouts of pain that will last a few hours, then a period where I am fine. I thought since I felt fine right now, I'd go ahead and catch up on blogging.

I'll report back soon after the surgery when I feel like it.

Jamie has taken a few pictures I'll upload for you.

Vietnam - Day 8

From Vietnam 2009

Today was a day that Jamie and I were excited about yet still dreading. Most of dread came from the fact that we were a bit unprepared for hiking in the mud and rain. However, the day turned out great, we rented some little rubber boots from our hotel, and started off our hike with a 3 km walk through the streets of Sapa and down a country road.

After making a quick pit stop, we headed down the hill into the rice fields and terraces. When I say down hill, I mean it. Our little train was slick, rocky, and muddy. Many people fell (I fell once or twice and Jamie fell once), but we had local villagers there that acted as our "guides." These 80 pound women literally held us up as we slid down the mountain for over 3 hours of hiking. The scenery was amazing as we went from the top of the mountain down the steep rice terraces toward the valley with a river running through it.

We went through 2 different villages of the Black H'mung people and one of the Zai people. These villagers make their living by growing rice or working in the city of Sapa (men) or making hand made items to sell to tourists (women). The items are quite nice and authentic.

I had to battle through some kidney stones about half way through our hiking trip, but pretty much walked them off. I had some help from my guide as she talked to me about village life and basically got my mind off of my pain.

After a quick bus ride back to our hotel, we showered up and ate a quick dinner before heading to the train station in Lao Cai which was about an hour drive from Sapa. Our train left promptly at 8:10 pm and arrived in Hanoi about at 4:15 in the morning. Luckily, we had arranged for an early check in at our hotel, which meant we could go straight on in (after waking up the poor guy at the desk who was flaked out on the 2nd floor).

Be sure to check out our pictures from our hike today. I look great in my camouflage boots and shorts.

Keep reading... You definitely don't want to miss what happened on Day 9!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Water Puppet Show

From Vietnam 2009 Jamie

I mixed these video clips together into a small little video to give you an idea of what we saw at the water puppet show. It is a bit blurry but hopefully you can still see. I had to lower the quality so it wouldn't take forever to load up. Enjoy!

Trying a Bun Cha Meal

From Vietnam 2009 Jamie

Here is a little video of Jamie explaining our Bun Cha meal. I finally was able to upload the picture.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vietnam - Day 7

From Vietnam 2009

Jamie and I woke up by stepping off the train in Lao Cai. We then took a van up the mountain to our hotel, The Sapa Summit, in the little mountain village of Sapa.

After checking in and showering after our train ride, we headed out with our local guides through the village of Sapa, through the rice terraces, and down to the small 300 person village of Cat Cat. The H'Mung villagers live here and make all sorts of arts and crafts. They follow you around in packs asking and hoping you'll buy a little handmade item from them. The items are very pretty and you can tell they are hand stitched. We even saw the indigo plants they use for dye and the girls' and women's hands were dyed blue, black, and purple.

We hiked down to the villages before seeing an impressive waterfall and then hiked all the way back up to our hotel. After a great lunch, we wanted to rest a bit before seeing the town.

We had not really prepared for the weather, so I bought a little cheap rain jacket. Thank goodness I had brought a long sleeve shirt, but after we started our hike, I was hot, so I took if off.

Since it rained the whole afternoon and evening, we just took it easy and read and enjoyed the view from our hotel window. The rice terraces are yellow this time of year because it is harvest season. Back in the summer when we went to the Longji rice terraces, they were green. It is interesting to see the color change.

All for now. I've uploaded the pictures, but can't upload the videos because the rate here just isn't high enough. I'll wait until I get back to Hanoi or China for those. We have a long day of hiking on Day 8.

Vietnam - Day 6

From Vietnam 2009 Jamie

Jamie and I had to check out of our hotel today, but not until noon, so we just slept in and rest in the morning before heading out for the day. We knew we were going to leave on a 9:00 train to Sapa, so we had 9 hours to spend in Hanoi. We weighed our options, and the day went pretty well.

Our first stop was to try the famous Bun Cha meal at a very local restaurant. Not too many tourist in there. The meal consisted of grilled minced pork balls (basically sausage) in a sugar/vinegar dipping sauce, rice noodles, twice fried spring rolls, greens, and some garlic and pepper for flavoring. Jamie and I didn't really know how to eat it, so we just watched some of the locals mix it all up so we'd have the proper flavoring. It was delicious and one of our favorite meals we've had in Asia so far. Jamie does an excellent job of describing it in the short video above.

After lunch, we walked saw St. Joseph's cathedral from just the outside and then walked along Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter. We went to the Ngoc Son Temple on the island in the lake to see the grounds and the giant mummified turtle that is the legend there. As the legend goes...

According to a tale that dates back to the 15th century, King Le Loi, also known as Le Thai To, the founder of the Le Dynasty, found a holy turtle during a cruise on the then Luc Thuy, or green lake. The turtle told the King to return the sacred sword that had helped him defeat the northern Ming aggressors now that peace had returned. Le Thai To unsheathed his sword and threw it to the turtle. He later named the lake "Hoan Kiem" (Lake of Returned Sword).

Afterward, we found a small little ice cream place that was in our tour guide that was refreshing and headed out for some more walking in the Old Quarter. It was raining, so we dodged into a cafe to wait until the showtime of the Water Puppet Show.

I have a video that I am going to try and compile and upload of this performance. It is hard to explain, but the had 18 small performances using puppets on water. It was very interesting and definitely worth it if you visit Hanoi. The theater was crowded, but all seats were very good.

We went shopping and found some great deals on pashima cashmere scarfs and silk dresses for Jamie and some linen pants for me. We even bought 2 silk sleeping bags because we had been warned that the beds on the trains might not be too clean.

Dinner was at a famous (according to the guidebook and owner) restaurant that served only fried fish. It was good but not great, but certainly worth the walk up the street to check it out. It had a decent sauce that came with it and of course veggies and other condiments to complement it. Overpriced, but decent.

We were supposed to be picked up at the hotel at 7:30, but weren't until 7:45. We then waited around the train station while our travel guides wheeled and dealed for some tickets for us. Apparently in order to make a profit, they don't actually purchase your train tickets until you actually get to the train station. Then, they wheel and deal hoping to purchase them for less, and take the profit after you have already paid full price. Like scalping football tickets back home.

The train was nice and Jamie and I were actually separated at first, but a nice Australian gentlemen gave up his bed so we'd be in the same room. The beds were "soft" for Asian standards, but very clean and well kept. There was even a flat screen TV on the wall, although we didn't turn it on.

We chatted with our Isreali train mates for a few minutes before reading and going to sleep. When we awoke, the conductor was banging on the door because we had arrived in Lao Cai.

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