Rough Landing

I’ve been sick since arriving in Goa. The kind of sick where I oscillate between visualizing myself hiking through jungle in Uganda “gorilla spotting” or strolling down twisty tree-lined country roads somewhere reportedly beautiful, clean and unfettered (Cyprus maybe?) –  sampling local food and wine and smelling fresh air – to wishing for death. At times like this, when forced to contemplate my mortality (which I do since Jackson died at ridiculously frequent intervals in any event), I take comfort in reminding myself that I, like every other human, animal, insect, plant – every living thing – am just an infinitesimally tiny speck of dust in an instant of time. We are none of us as individuals, nor even collectively as a species, important enough to live forever, nor important enough to be remembered forever after we’re gone. 

My general rule of thumb for seeking out medical care while traveling is to give my body three days and if conditions don’t improve, get checked out. Here, in a country laden with vector borne infectious diseases and having received more than my share of mosquito bites during our travels (Mark, damn him, has received ONE bite in three months), I’m reluctant to wait that long. I’ve had a raging fever and every part of me hurts, but especially my head and my lower back. Malaria? Dengue fever? Japanese Encephalitis? When I close my eyes I can see my brain swelling larger with every rotation of the whooshing fan over my head. At this rate it will soon be so big my head will explode. I’ve been nauseous on and off, coughing and having trouble breathing, and during my second night here, beset with nasal congestion and sneezing, which I’m more apt to blame on the A/C stirring up allergens in the room than this illness, as sudden and violent as those symptoms were. (Besides which, once we turned off the A/C, they lessened almost immediately.) 

On the morning of the third day I tell Mark I want to see a doctor. He told me yesterday there was one close by, and I resolved sometime in the middle of the sleepless night that if she weren’t available to see me, I’d ask Mark to take me to the closest private hospital instead. 

I stagger out of bed and in to the bathroom, then throw my dress over my leggings and T-shirt and strap on my sandals in preparation to walking the 200 meters or so to the doctor’s office, but feel so shaky I have to sit down. “Maybe we should take a taxi” Mark suggests. I nod, and almost immediately remark that I’m feeling lightheaded and seeing little yellow spots. “I think I might faint,” I say, and then do, but Mark has quickly stepped outside to ask the hotel staff if they will call the doctor and ask if she makes house calls. He returns to find me slumped back in the chair and begins shaking me. When I come to I see the stricken look on his face and wonder why he’s overreacting. Come to find out my eyes were open and he couldn’t find a pulse so he thought I had died. I’m just grateful, squirming around in my chair to ascertain my pants are still dry, that I used the toilet right before I fainted; the last time I fainted I must have had a full bladder because when I came to I had peed all over the place. 

Momentarily I feel nauseous, and again, as on the last occasion, I immediately begin throwing up (or “throwing out” as the doctor calls it.) Mark hovers over me, patting my back then rubbing it, which just makes it worse frankly, but I don’t even have the energy to smack him. Eventually the doctor shows up, a very nice and let’s get to the point kind of person, which I’m all in favor of. She sets about taking my vitals and asking me questions about my symptoms, giving me an injection of something to lower my fever and ease the pain, then leaves me with a diagnosis of “severe viral infection and gastritis,” an arsenal of medication (including antibiotics, with instructions to take them only if my chest congestion grows worse), and a receipt for my travel insurance. Her advice: call her if I’m not better by tomorrow, and if I’m worse, “Go straight to hospital!” The cost for everything is 3500 rupees, approximately $43. After she leaves, I lay back down on the bed and within half an hour or so, am sound asleep. I awaken 8 hours later, just in time to go back to sleep for the night.

A couple of days pass during which I haltingly teeter back from the brink of oblivion and begin to pass the many hours, during which I have no energy to go anywhere or do anything, by reading. I’ve yet to step outside our abode so can tell you nothing about Goa yet. I’ve got several library ebooks on my iPad, and Mark has rustled up a couple of print books from the shelves in our guesthouse. I’ve also got the occasional travel newsletter and informational email to peruse, one of which comes with the tag line, “This Woman is Giving Away her $1.7 million Dream Home for $25.” Preposterous, I think, and click on the link to find out more. Here’s the deal: A Canadian woman named Alla something or other wasn’t finding it as easy as she’d hoped to sell her large home in Alberta for her asking price, so she decided to hold a contest. Each entrant must write 350 words answering the question, “Why would moving to this lakefront dream home change your life?” and pay a $25 fee. At the end of the contest, after 68,000 people have submitted their essays and fees, one lucky person will be awarded the house, based on a ruling by an assembled panel of judges.

I think about entering, but initially two things prevent me from doing so. First is the sad fact that $25 is an extravagant sum of money for me to essentially throw away right now. I’m subsisting on roughly $10/day here in India, and I keep track of every penny. Second is the realization that I could not afford to pay what are surely vast sums of money in property taxes on a $1.7 million house. Who could, except someone who is already wealthy? And for them a $25 entry fee would be trivial. Which leads to the further realization that anyone who can afford to pay the property taxes on a $1.7 million house doesn’t really need a $1.7 million house for the paltry sum of $25, they can buy it outright. That’s when the pretense of this so-called contest leaves me not wanting to enter it, but protest it. First of all, it’s not a giveaway if you have to pay. A giveaway is just that: you give, not sell, the item in question. Second, whereas each entrant is “only” paying $25, and whereas one entrant will, for that sum, presumably be given the deed to the house, Alla what’s her face is still selling her property, and not for the sum of $25. She is selling it for the sum of $25 times 68,000, which comes to $1.7 million, the original asking price when she listed in on the market. In effect, 67,999 people are subsidizing the purchase of her home for one other person who will be listed as the buyer in the final transaction.

So hey, Alla! (who of course will never read this, but I feel better already for calling her out on her silly little game): Don’t call something a giveaway when you’re actually getting $1.7 million for it. When you turn the keys and deed over to someone else and you haven’t received a single cent for it, then you can rightfully call it a giveaway. In the meantime, you’re not fooling me, and I hope you’re not fooling anyone else who can little afford the $25 “entry fee,” never mind the property taxes.

P.S. I wouldn’t really smack Mark, no matter how much I want to.

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