Saturday, May 12, 2007

"And then I realized I was getting sick"

Today’s title is a line by Michael Kelly borrowed from his definitive text on the Gulf War – Martyr’s Day. Following his coverage of the war in Kuwait, Kelly made his way north and continued writing on the situation in Kurdistan. At one point on his journey, he realized he had come down with some sort of malady and knew that he had to make his way to reasonable health care in a short time, or else. Through the help of his Kurd companions, he finally found himself in a refugee clinic before he succumbed to the dehydration that often comes with these types of diseases. As a postscript, Kelly was one of the first casualties in this current war in Iraq, having been killed while embedded with one of the advanced divisions.

I realized I was getting sick yesterday after breakfast. Something didn’t feel right and things went downhill from there. I’m guessing food poisoning – maybe an egg, maybe the custard in the little Danish I ate. Or maybe it was the whipped cream on the hot chocolate I had at Starbucks. I’ll never really know. But judging from the symptoms, it was virulent, whatever it was.

On a higher level, getting leveled with a sickness while you’re on the road raises the notion of just how much we take the simple parts of our life for granted. Now, being laid up in a 4 star hotel is far, far different than getting sick while trekking with the Peshmerga, but it is still darn inconvenient. You can’t just run to the store for chicken noodle soup, you don’t have anyone to give you a cold washcloth for your fevered brow and most importantly you are on your own. Completely. And it’s a bad thing to be sick and alone.

The other problem is that your recovery has to adjust itself to the rhythms of the hotel. You either don’t have your room cleaned or you find something else to do for a ½ hour or so. I chose the latter and chit-chatted with the maid when I heard her knocking around out in the hallway. I butchered my inquiry of “20 minutes or so” but she got the point so I headed out into the street figuring I’d go and sit in the park and spend a few minutes looking at birds.

Shanghai is busy all the time but today being Saturday you might expect a let up in the din. That was not the case. The streets were busy and the exhibition hall around the block was in gear putting on some sort of machine tools event. I walked down to the park and settled in on a bench. I saw this sign on the way it. It’s not uncommon for Chinese signs to be a combination of their language and English. I thought that “Spring Scenery all over the Yanhong” was a pretty funny combination.


Now I often speak about Light-vented Bulbuls, they are by far the most common easily seen bird in the parks. For being so common, they have a lot of personality. They’re sort of like a speeded up version of our Say’s Phoebe, acting a lot like a flycatcher but in their case, much busier and noisy. While sitting today I was able to spend a bit of time looking at them in detail which revealed a lot of their characteristics. They’re quite a beautiful bird with their puffy white nape a yellow wing edges.

You don’t see much of a variety of birds in the parks. A few interesting individuals but not the variety I see at home. Today though I was treated to an over flying Black-crowned Night Heron and a magnificent Azure-winged Magpie that glided out of the trees, landing on a tree limb nearby.

After an hour it was time to head back to my convalescence. I took an easy stroll down the street stopping at the crossing to sneak a picture of this woman with her child on a scooter. The kid had a mask, sunglasses and an adult jacket on, providing a makeshift cocoon protecting him from the exhaust.


It was starting to sprinkle so I was glad to get back to the hotel. The rest of the day was spent resting until my pals returned from their day on the town and dragged me out for a pizza.

Feeling better now, it’s time for bed and hopefully a bit more recovery tomorrow.

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