The Involuntary Vacation

Two weeks ago, Teddy had gone on a road trip to the Texas-Mexico border and I was taking the opportunity to frenetically clean the house in his absence.  The phone rang when I was scrubbing baseboards.  Knowing it was Teddy calling, I said laughingly, “Guess what I am doing?” He answered, “I am in the Emergency Room in McAllen”.  My heart stopped, metaphorically, and I screeched, “What?”  At first, I thought it might be one of his allergic reactions to insect bites but then he told me that his heart rate was very fast and irregular.  They were struggling to get it stabilized and he was being admitted to McAllen Cardiac Hospital as soon as a bed was available.

As soon as I put down the phone, I went into triage mode.  I phoned his hotel and explained the situation then booked a flight for the next day.  He had driven down in his own car but it is almost 700 miles from our home in south east Texas.  When he was transferred to the Cardiac Hospital he was put into ICU.  If his heart rate, rhythm and pressure improved, they intended to put him in a regular room, possibly for another night or more.  Teddy has a long history of cardiac issues – first, a tachycardia as a young man, then high cholesterol and blood pressure in his 40s.  All have been managed very well with medication over the years and no hospitalizations or events.

I have chronic anxiety with some depression and the news about Ukraine was beginning to bring me down.  As I pondered how I was going to deal with this, my heart went out to all those refugees who were going on journeys with no end in sight.  This was the time to put on a stiff upper lip and just be brave.  What I was most worried about was the journey back in his Challenger sports car.  We would have to do it in two days, as originally planned, and I would have to reschedule the booked hotels.

Like many of us, I had no wish to go on an airplane right now.  I arrived at the airport and it was jam packed with people.  My flight was delayed by a couple of hours – it was flying inbound from San Francisco and had a mechanical problem.  There was a bar close to the gate, so I decided to have a glass of wine.  I had a nice chat with a pretty lady travelling back to Monterrey, just over the border in Mexico.  Finally, our plane boarded and I settled in the back.  The mechanical problem was non-functioning air conditioning, so we were all a bit hot and bothered.  A couple, from the north, sat across the aisle.  They had obviously been drinking and their previous flight had also been delayed.  They borrowed the phone from the guy behind them and the mask-less woman proceeded to loudly berate their travel agent about a missed hotel reservation – all while the plane was speedily rattling down the runway.  The flight attendant tried to intervene but just gave up.

I was silently furious.  It was a 50-minute flight – couldn’t she could have waited to phone until we landed?  Had she not been watching the news with people boarding trains from Ukraine with no accommodation booked?  Teddy’s phone had been running out of battery with no charger so our communication was getting brief.  Luckily, Speedy Gonzales was flying the plane so it was a bumpy takeoff and landing with brakes screeching.  I raced off, got my luggage and went out to get an Uber.  A young man outside told me that there was a 35-minute wait for an Uber so I jumped in a taxi.  Immediately I was transported back to Egypt.  There was a candlewick bedspread on the back seat, it smelled like goats had been the last guests and he spoke no English.  My Spanish is not good enough behind a mask and Scottish accent, so he dropped me at the wrong hospital and I had to get an Uber to the right one…

By the time I got there, I was utterly exhausted, but Teddy was looking good in a regular hospital room.  It was such a relief for both of us to hug each other. McAllen is not a rich town but serendipitously Teddy had his heart incident treated in one of the 50 best cardiac hospitals in the USA.  The hospital was very clean but utilitarian.  The doctors changed his medication and monitored him until his heart rate was completely stable.  It was an isolated event triggered by goodness knows what but age, a long trip, red wine, dodgy shrimp and too much caffeine may have triggered the inevitable.  As he was discharged, the cardiologist looked at me and said, “You know the warning signs of stroke, don’t you?”  With trepidation, I assured her that I did with a family history of cardiac ill health.

The staff were fantastic from the Cardiac hospital to the little ER and we thanked them all.  The receptionist at the hotel was ecstatic to see the ‘Irishman’ who had become ill.  She had a bit of a crush on that accent…  We stayed one more night in the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.  Then we set off on our very long journey travelling from scrubland with cactus all the way to rolling hill country.  We were made to pull over at a border patrol about 30 miles from McAllen, as was everyone else.  It is advisable to carry your passport when so close to the border.  They were looking for a fugitive but one look at the older white couple and they waved us on.  It was very exciting!

I had no intention on going on vacation but my soul was soothed by the bucolic vista complete with goats, sheep and cattle.  We stopped for coffee breaks at little towns until we reached Cuera.  By then we had come out of deep oil country and it was truly agricultural.  It was such a treat to idle behind a tractor full of hay bales.  Most of the towns had magnificent central courthouses in the square and each had a different feel depending on the ancestry.  McAllen was almost entirely Hispanic but then we reached German and Czech towns.  Although I had a nutritional/exercise plan worked out in my head, I relaxed the rules a little for our involuntary vacation together.

Finally, we arrived home and it was such a relief to sleep in our own house.  After a week he had another AFIB incident in the middle of the night and we went to ER.  It was a short visit and they treated him with IV medication.  His GP is now in control until he sees a cardiologist in April so fingers crossed that this was a timely warning. 

Teddy doesn’t look bad, two days after ICU – all beer and Band-Aids. May he enjoy the last beer he will ever have…😊

Thanksgiving 2021

Was there ever a better year to thank health and care workers? On our recent trip to Natchitoches in Louisiana, we noticed little Halloween or Harvest displays by local companies along the banks of the Cane River. As we tentatively enjoyed our first vacation together since the pandemic, it struck me how much we need to thank all the people who worked relentlessly through the last two years. How grateful I am to farm workers, supermarket employees, scientists, health care workers and all the other essential workers who kept us alive and fed. Thank you!

When traveling, I love to find out something unique or whimsical about the area. Did you know there was a Creole fairy – Fee Folay? According to the sign, it is not dissimilar to our stories of Will O the Wisp. The display had a touch of Druidic charm that enchanted me.

The Grinch won’t leave!

What is it about the holidays?  My mental health is better than it has been in months but still the festive season pushes all my buttons.  I think I used to enjoy Christmas but at some point it just became stressful.  It was better when there was very little money in our lives.  Presents were much needed and usually a delight – despite a white and brown polyester dressing gown that I had to wear for years…  In later years my late crazy mother got her knickers in a twist about the varieties of Christmas puddings and drove her daughter nuts trying to find the PERFECT one.  Remember when there was only one or you made your own?

As my mental health was improving during fall, I got very busy creating postcards from Teddy’s beautiful images.  Then I started on my handmade soaps and enjoyed the process.  I wrapped them prettily and gifted them to everyone.  It backfired somewhat as I made some friends feel that they had to reciprocate.  The true joy is in giving with no expectations.

Then Teddy got some unanticipated leave from his new job and we went to Fredericksburg for Christmas, possibly the most famous German town in central Texas Hill Country.  It was really beautifully decorated and the weather was fantastic – photos to follow.  Despite enjoying my environment, historic buildings and endless wineries, I couldn’t stop being irritated.

  • There were too many tourists yet we were two of them…
  • The other cars were driving like crazy Grinches – especially through Austin, the most traffic-congested city in Texas.
  • Our luxurious room wasn’t quite clean enough (it really wasn’t).
  • I was bored and tired.
  • The road from Medina to Kerrville was ridiculous – hairpin bends and really steep gradients. I guess I missed the point about visiting the hill country.
  • Teddy sleeps like an owl and I am like a bear. Maybe I should hibernate through winter??
  • Other guests. That’s a standalone but they were talking outside in broad daylight, beeping their cars locked and worse still, talking in their room at 7 pm.  They ate all the breakfast.

I know what you are thinking – poor Teddy.  It’s true that he put up with a Grinch wife but we still had wonderful meals and laughed all the time.  I am hoping that made up for the time, after driving for hours in silence, I turned on the CD to keep myself focused AND THEN he started talking.  I told him to Shut the F*** Up and gave him the finger.  Thirty seven years and counting – I love you Teddy!!!!

 

Where’s Kerry?

On the water somewhere?

Can you guess? Apologies for my absence from writing and reading blogs. My life has been a little hectic recently and I took advantage of a short hiatus in my schedule to fly to San Diego. What a photogenic city! I chose this destination because some of my American ancestors were early settlers in San Diego…and it had a great weather forecast. I am so shallow.

Over the next few weeks I will share my travels but for a change, I had very little funny human encounters. I think I was disadvantaged by staying the Gaslamp area which was full of convention visitors and tourists. The Uber drivers were eagerly engaging but other people didn’t seem to want to talk to me. 😢 I’m Chatty Kerry, for goodness sakes! Nobody was unfriendly but just focused on themselves. When I walk around the trails near my house most people wave or say hello whether I know them or not.

The Gaslamp is an interesting part of downtown San Diego which is on the way up but some parts are still a little run down. My hotel had a guide for safety at night and there was a safe in my crappy room. Istanbul seemed safer… I dutifully took sensible precautions and went to dinner at Happy Hour, taking advantage of sunset and safer streets. When I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Andaz, I thought I had interrupted a photo shoot for a glamorous magazine. There were a plethora of handsome young men in snappy suits. When they ascended to the rooftop bar, I asked why they were being photographed. It was a groomsman party from England would you believe? They must have had megabucks to party across the pond! More lovely shots of them in blogs to come.

Groomsmen PARTY!

I love rooftop bars because of the photo opportunities and this one was lovely but full of lonely people sitting by themselves (and me…) It crossed my mind that this would have been a good Bunny and Teddy destination but we are travelling alone until our last cat makes it to the rainbow bridge. On the the second night I ventured further afield and for the the first time ever, rejected a meal at a swanky bar. It was terrible so I found yet another rooftop bar (not the hip Hotel Andaz in the shots) which was much better but the food was still meh…

Kerry with the San Diego skyscrapers at sunset in the delightful Hotel Andaz

The barmaid in the second unnamed rooftop hotel, however, was wearing an outfit that shocked even me. She was an attractive slim blonde who was wearing a non supportive bralette with see- through linen pants that revealed that she had forgotten to put on her underwear that day. Perhaps it was a way to increase her tips? Ladies at bars were wearing very revealing costumes so maybe it is a really fun city after dark. Guys were giving me lascivious looks or none at all and I was wearing very supportive underwear. I don’t mind a nice compliment or admiring eye but I felt uncomfortable on my own.  Many beautiful shots to come and some funny stories.

Bloody Dolphins!

Do you see the dolphins?

Do you see the dolphins?

Bloody dolphins! I know they are invisible but there is a mummy dolphin with two cute little babies, diving in and out of the water. Diving in precisely when I took each shot… Despite my fear of deep water I love to be near it and took advantage of a little water taxi service in Charleston that takes you upriver to the Aquarium, across the Cooper river to Patriot’s Point where the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier is now a military museum, then to the Marina, and then back to the center of the Historic district. It was $10 for all day use and I just loved it.

Water Taxi Charleston

Water Taxi Charleston

Charleston is a peninsula, with two rivers on either side leading out into a wide estuary and then into the Atlantic Ocean. It was curiously hot during my stay and very humid (even more than Houston) and the water was soothing to both my dry eyes and soul. My desperation to snap more dolphins made me put up with being in a tiny boat across a major shipping lane – eek!

This is how deep the Cooper river must be....

This is how deep the Cooper river must be….

When we lived in the north of Scotland (for almost 20 years) we were close to the Moray Firth, home to the most northerly group of bottle-nosed dolphins. The water is warmed by the North Atlantic Drift supporting plants and creatures that would normally not live in such a cold climate. Despite being on the coast thousands of times we only saw the dolphins ONCE! I am sure they were always there, laughing hysterically as they do, hiding when we watched for them. They had a bad reputation as fearsome predators and would regularly beat up the poor little porpoises. It was man’s fault, as ever, because we had over fished their territory and there was a battle for food.

Back to Charleston – those too are Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. The rivers and estuaries are home to all sorts of seabirds and fish. It was a seafood lover’s paradise which was wasted on me but I did enjoy some really delicious food. Between the sea and the sun, I and every other tourist was as brown as a berry. There is no need to have a car in downtown Charleston as there are free bus services and easy walking with sidewalks everywhere. I didn’t notice many overweight people – it was quicker to walk to your destination than wait for a bus. It was a very short visit but I would have loved to have visited a plantation and got out into the real countryside.

On land for the next post but one last action shot from the person who is terrified of deep water.

I was leaning right over the taxi to get a shot of USS Yorktown.

I was leaning right over the taxi to get a shot of USS Yorktown.

Instructions from Mexico

mexican-flag-medium

No more blogs for a short while as we go on a little vacaciones to Mexico. I had threatened to go to Mexico City on my own as my husband is curiously tentative about going south of the border. We have both traveled most of the world and he has been to very dangerous places in Africa and Latin America. A few years ago I went on solo vacations to Belize and Yucatan and finally I tempted him to go to Baha. Not Cabos – a little mission town where you have to take cash…

I have bad Spanish but it is good enough to argue the price of a taxi in Spanish when in Peru. The Canadian tourists that I met in Yucatan were amazed that I traveled on local buses solo. Anyway…I am too cheap to use the expensive transportation from the airport so searched around for a local shuttle operator. My husband said, “What if they don’t turn up?” “We will take a taxi”, I replied exasperatedly. To his relief I have chosen well and I laughed out loud when I read their very precise instructions.

There are reservation numbers, maps of terminals, and endless documentation for a $12 ride – told you I was cheap. It is so precise – ‘go directly through immigration and customs, blah, blah. Do not stop! Only approach our representatives with orange t-shirts, the company logo and your name on a sign’. I wondered if we were potential kidnap victims but this is just to get us past the time-share predators! All that was missing was the title – For Stupid Gringos.

It is a pity that I look like my one Scandinavian ancestor or I might breeze through but I know they will make a bee-line to the incredibly blonde white lady. Once I start being stroppy in Scottish accented Spanish they will back off in terror – it’s even better in Arabic. The Egyptian taxi drivers called me ‘Khamsa Guinea’ which translates to 5 Egyptian pounds. I would pay no more than 5 LE to go anywhere in Maadi. That was the middle ex-pat rate, not the ridiculous tourista rate or the slightly cheaper local rate. One unsuspecting driver from another area, like Nasr City, once picked me up and said it would be 25 LE. I shouted, in Arabic, for him to stop the car and got out. He tried to argue with me but I just said I would wait for the next taxi. Eventually, with his tail between his legs, he told me to get in and he would accept 5 LE.

Hasta la vista, baby!