My mother is an amazing person. Strong, straight and firm when needed but oozing with warmth and a seemingly boundless capacity to love. And despite the occasional use of the feather duster (the cane end) for our youthful transgressions I reckon she did a damn fine job navigating the complexities of bringing up children.
But the one thing I sometimes had an occasional issue with was her medicinal remedies. For some reason they all seemed to be very 1950’s and involved a level of discomfort. There was the burning Magnoplasm on infected wounds, Mercurochrome on open cuts and then, of course, there was salt. For everything.
Sore throat – gargle in salt water. A rash – bathe it in salt water. An eye infection – salt eye bath.
Now the reason I mention this is that I think I just kicked a pretty horrible sinus infection that has plagued me for a week. I reckon it was from surfing in polluted Balinese water and it was ugly. Luminous green nasal discharge (how bad is that word). Sinus pain creeping across my face. Broken sleep and an aching sore nose from blowing it every 5 minutes.
But the remedy? Salt water. Snorted ingloriously up my nose and down my throat several times a day. I would sneeze cough and splutter but every time it felt just a little bit clearer. And every time I did it I could feel my mother watching me, smiling, saying “Told you so….”
The reason for writing is not about random travel medical remedies. It’s because as I was grimacing through my remedy I realised just how far I had come in terms of dealing with the responsibility for keeping myself alive and healthy overseas. I was comfortable taking care of myself. More than that Mel and I are carrying the onerous weight of responsibility for three little lives as well. We ensure they sterilise their hands, we watch what they eat, they are educated about water and ice and fruit in developing countries. But we tell each other that sooner or later it will hit. That horrible feeling you get when one of your kids goes down with a tummy bug and you have that cold lonely realisation that no one can help you parent….you are on your own.
So we will wear it, push through and they will be fine again. And we will be confident through it because we have our travel legs back on.
This all struck me several days ago in Bali. We were staying out at a lovely little place overlooking Balangan beach. There was the usual mix of surfers, families and Euro backpackers. One day two young Australian guys turned up in their Bintang singlets and Thai fishermen’s pants. With their funny Axel Rose type bandanas around their heads and stubbly beards. Trying to be overly cool as they played pool and drank Bintangs just a little too early in the day.
I noticed them and thought…”man, they just feel young”. Sure enough I noticed one of them again a few days later. He wandered in from a surf, board shorts on, dripping wet still – with a small gash from the reef on his forearm. Nothing too bad, no stitches needed but a nice gash. He looked a little dazed, a little shocked and silent. He wandered up to the Balinese hotel receptionist and pointed to his wound. The receptionist man stared back. The young guy stared back and said “Can someone tend to this for me?”
The receptionist stared back a little confused.
“Can someone tend this for me?” the young guy asked again.
The receptionist took out some Betadine and swabs and handed them to the young guy. He just stared back as if to say – “Can you fix it for me?”
There was a moment of confusion and hesitation from both parties and our young mate just wandered off dazed and confused back to his room.
I would like to think I have always been cool and collected overseas but I am sure I was a little young and naive on my first trip. He will get his travel stripes. He will realise that there is no mum around to dab on the Betadine. And next time he will be a little stronger and more independent. But right now he probably went back to his room and Facebooked all his friends about how much he wanted to come home….
…and I felt a little wordily and wise. Sure I may not look as cool. I may not be out all night, surfing all day, driving a motorbike around with a blond haired girlfriend on the back. Hell – I don’t even have any ink.
But I know how to tend a wound. I know how to treat an infection. I know how to hold a child’s hair out of their face as they vomit. And I know how to stay calm and collected as I do so.
I reckon that’s worth a few cool points. Ink or no ink….