ode to a sore throat

maskedwith all of these germs going
around
and around

and all of this staying up late
blogging
and blogging

it figures I would catch some
nasty
nasty bug

that would leave me wheezing and
coughing
and coughing

so now it’s time to double down on
lemon
and honey
and cough syrup
and orange juice
and neo citran
and
and
and
blogging
and blogging
and blogging some more
in the hopes of
catching
up

(rather than catching some
nasty
nasty bug)

aircon’d

cloud cover over hanoi, sunsetmost of the days since we came back from our trip to Sapa and Lao Cai (which deserves its own blog post) have been cruelly hot and humid, wavering between 35 and 45 degrees Celsius, prompting me to tweet the following message a few days after returning from China: “good morning Hanoi. heat is hovering around 40 C and weaker air conditioners are breaking down, including the one at home. -_-;;” After spending almost thirty years growing up in Canada, I’ve never known an agony like trying to sleep in 40-degree weather (104 F) with no air conditioning. Well, OK, trying to sleep with a kidney stone was definitely worse in terms of agony, but this one’s up there too. I spent something like four days staying with Duyen—one of the Baha’is on the Vietnamese Nat’l Spiritual Assembly—and his family, because they have pretty powerful air conditioning. That’s when I learned about the cultural characteristics of air conditioning. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in Canada, 21 degrees C (~70 F) is considered a comfortable room temperature, right? Not in Vietnam. If I set the air conditioning to 21 C I would get smacked. When I discussed it with him before going to bed, Duyen told me he would usually set the air conditioner to 30 C to be comfortable—which made me go O_O.

Above and beyond mere numerical values, people seem to use air conditioning in a different way here, too. I’ve tried setting air conditioners to 21 C here and what actually happens makes the room seem way too cold. Maybe this is because people use overpowered air conditioners in small rooms, or put the thermostats in odd places. I tried setting the temperature to 24 C for a few nights and found that it was uncomfortably cold. What’s more, the air conditioner didn’t seem to shut off at all, it just kept on blowing cold air into the room as if it was blissfully unaware of the temperature. Where I would expect a comfortable, cool-ish temperature, I feel as if I have to wrap myself up into a blanket to keep from catching a cold. All of this just leads me to ask the question: how in God’s name am I supposed to use the air conditioning here?

Speaking of catching colds, by the way, I learned the hard way that I have to be proactive in dealing with air conditioning here in Vietnam when I caught a cold from sitting in an absolutely frigid air-conditioned Vietnamese coffeeshop around the beginning of the month, which persisted until a few days ago, when I agreed to undergo a traditional Vietnamese herbal steam treatment to cure me of my lingering sniffles. It worked, but not after I dragged a persistent cough and cold through three different countries on a trip through Hong Kong, China and Macau—and this at a time just after the WHO decided to label the H1N1 swine flu crisis a pandemic, triggering automatic quarantine if you so much as cough at a border station.

Since then, I’ve been acutely aware of these wide-mouthed cooling machines lining the ceilings or rising up from the floors, and wary for those that are set to some innocuous temperature like 18 degrees C, but which, in reality, are set to Cirno-style “CRYO-FREEZE WITH ENGLISH BEEF” setting. Sigh. …why do so many things have to be so different here?

health craziness

yogurt-drinking visitormore kidney stone craziness. i ended up in the emergency room lately with nasty kidney stone pain, which of course, has often been described as the worst pain imaginable, second only to childbirth (a minority of women report that kidney stones are worse). after getting nice and morphined up, the doctors had me zapped with x-rays, ultrasound and the kitchen sink to find out that the 1cm stone that came out of my kidney last year had shrunk to 8mm (yay -_-) and had moved down to just above the bladder (O_O). zounds. does that mean this whole episode might soon be over? my next step is to call up my urologist and book an appointment, hopefully to blast the living daylights out of the stone before I get even more attacks. so yeah. exciting health news. kidney stones are bad craziness. my dad was particularly worried about me, especially after hearing about the tens of thousands of children in China who got kidney stones after drinking melamine-tainted milk and/or milk products. apparently the levels aren’t as dangerous for adults, but damn is that ever messed up. you’ve got to be a pretty callous monster to put an industrial chemical like melamine into milk. apparently it’s a huge crisis in China though, with estimates saying up to 20% of Chinese dairy companies sell melamine-tainted products. yikes. I guess I’ll wait a little while before buying more yakult. o_O

sunday snow day

snowstorm aftermathhuge snowstorm swept through the Ottawa area today, coating the landscape with white fluffy snow. the roads got pretty fouled up, so most people (myself included) stayed inside to do laundry, play with the cat, read, and blog. it was fun. it brought back memories of the snowstorm a few years back in Drummondville—you know, the one that preceded my accident. instead of spinning out on a major highway and landing sideways in a snowbank, though, I have a lithotripsy session to look forward to tomorrow (Monday) in order to break up the kidney stone that’s still hanging around inside me after causing problems in mid-November. that’s a whole other story which I’ll share with you later on; for now, prayers would be much appreciated so that everything goes well.

thank goodness the holiday season is coming soon; hopefully I should have some time to rest and recover from the treatment—no big trips scheduled for now, unless they’re short ones. I keep thinking I’d like to pop by Montreal for a little bit to visit friends but I suppose I’d have to hook something up first. argh planning! we’ll see. things are wonderfully busy here in Ottawa; I spent part of yesterday (Saturday) with another Baha’i friend, following up with some people we met during the Varqa Teaching Project in November. it was a really moving experience—we were visiting a neighbour of mine who seemed to be very receptive to the Message of Bahá’u’lláh and very open to learning more about it through further home visits and Ruhi Book 1. I felt blown away and humbled by the experience. Again, I’ll write more about that later on as things continue to progress; needless to say, it’s the first time I’ve felt so confirmed while teaching the Faith.

blog action day: ecology and moderation

autumn shockThere’s nothing like catching a cold to make you think about moderation. I was feeling great up til about Friday, when I started feeling a little more tired and strung out than usual. Saturday was a long and exhausting day, and Sunday I woke up with this awful taste in my mouth, a scratchy throat and a runny nose. Oh well. I never used to get colds, but now that I’m out of my invincible phase (which lasts from about 18 to 25; at least, that’s what my insurance company told me) I seem to catch a lot more random bugs and malaises. This little (?) body seems a lot more vulnerable than it used to. Anyway, for the time being, I’m hanging around at home eating soup and drinking grapefruit juice instead of milk and cookies.

Anyway, my sick mind managed to draw a parallel between being sick and all this talk about climate change that’s been happening, especially with the IEF conference over the weekend. Bear with me here. I’ve been catching up with the (facinating) video presentations, hearing all sorts of evidence of the effects of human activity upon the world we live in. Briefly, ever since the industrial revolution, Western society has been embracing unbridled and unqualified technological advancement and progress. The more singlemindedly we pursued an ideal of ultimate comfort and ease for ourselves, the quicker these effects accumulated. It’s only in the past few decades that we’ve begun to notice that the choices we’ve made have had, and are having, palpable consequences. Just like it takes a few days to catch a cold before you notice the symptoms, we sailed along merrily pumping more and more greenhouse gases into our Earth’s atmosphere, polluting its rivers and oceans, venting exhaust into its previously clean air. Now comes the big sneeze—or perhaps we could call it the Big Sweat.

If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.

Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 342

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