Advertisements
News Ticker

Off to a Shaky Start


A recap the our trip from Singapore to Pondicherry, India, the first stop on our 15-month ophthalmological working holiday, beginning at the Aravind Eye Hospital.


I knew 2015 was going to be a busy year, but this is getting crazy. Over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Anna and myself went to Hoi An, Vietnam, with some friends of ours. They left early and we continued up to Hanoi before returning to Singapore. At the beginning of February, I quit my job because I was the best man at a friend’s wedding in Canberra, Australia and my mother’s 60th birthday was in Traralgon two weeks later, plus we wanted to see friends in Melbourne in between. We returned to Singapore on the 22nd of February and Anna flew out to a conference in Arizona on the 23rd. She returned to Singapore on the 1st of March and then we flew to Pondicherry, India at about 9:00am on the morning of the 2nd. I was excited! Sure, I love living in Singapore, but not a whole lot happens there. It’s essentially the Coke Zero of Asia. So, after my seven years in The Lion City, how could I not be excited about moving to several countries in the space of 15 months, the first of which is a place where, when you open the newspaper on your first day, you are confronted with headlines such as these?

There was only one small problem; when I am stressed, dehydrated or lacking sleep, I’m prone to epileptic seizures and they usually only occur when I’m sleeping. I wasn’t stressed or dehydrated, but I hadn’t had a whole lot of sleep over the previous few days, so when I fell asleep on the plane I apparently was the centre of attention for a short period of time once again. In fact, Anna was afraid they were going to make an emergency landing. Watching someone have a seizure is pretty scary, I’m sure, but it’s probably even worse when that person is about 6’7″, 100+ kg and is in a crowded, confined space travelling at the speed of sound, 10km above the earth’s surface! Anna woke me up to tell me I had had a seizure, which to me was a surprise, as I hadn’t had any of the warning signs; hallucinating smells, deja vu, etc. The guy across the aisle from me just looked at me like I had tried to motorboat his wife. After a while I began to realise what had happened. I was starting to develop a headache, had bitten my tongue quite badly and was drooling. The three hour drive from Chennai to Pondicherry in obscene Indian traffic was hell, I felt every bump, swerve and near-miss in my skull. We arrived at our resort at about 2:00pm, but most of the Monday and Tuesday are a blur. I did get out and do a lot of walking and this is a really beautiful place.

Pondicherry was controlled by the French for 280 years until 1954. There are still a fair few French people here, but most of them are middle-aged or older, not a whole lot of young whippersnappers like myself getting about. I’ve been to India before, Mumbai and Goa, and Pondicherry is like a busier Goa; It’s on the coast, nice and relaxed, a few smelly hippies with their shitlocks and hacky sacks, but with less of the stress, poverty, chaos and filth of Mumbai. Sure, it’s there, but nowhere near as bad. Other things I’ve noticed in the couple of days we’ve been here:

  • There is a lot less beach cricket than I expected. Actually, none. Maybe because the sea’s too dangerous.
  • There are mosquitoes EVERYWHERE!
  • There are crows EVERYWHERE, too! Anna is an ornithophobe, because she believes “They peck your eyes out”. She is also an eye surgeon who has never once treated a single person who has had their eyes pecked out by a bird.
  • Cars, motorbikes and scooters honk their horns for no apparent reason.
  • The French here can be extremely rude and arrogant once they realise you aren’t French. I had one woman who ran a restaurant that, whenever I asked what something written in French on the menu meant, kept asking me what I thought it said, rather than just telling me. The Indians, on the other hand, are so nice. I went to an art exhibition and two women working there, who were really shy and probably in their 40’s, were curious about the tattoo on my leg. One plucked up the courage to call out to me and asked if it was real, the other blushed and whined, “No, it’s his socks!”. Also, last night we had a waiter from our restaurant run several blocks through back streets in the dark to find us because Anna had forgotten her credit card.
  • Pretty much every Indian male here has a moustache. As soon as their body is ready, they grow one. I’m going to grow one again. I did the same thing when I went to Greece. I figured all Greek people had moustaches, so I grew one. I thought it looked pretty awesome, Anna just thought I looked like a pedo:
Sorry, ladies, I'm taken

Sorry, ladies, I’m taken

Anna and myself were supposed to be heading back to Singapore on Friday for a friend’s wedding and returning on Monday morning, but now I won’t be making the trip because we don’t want a repeat of the other day. Instead, I’ll just find a bar to kick back in and do my usual weekend thing. We haven’t checked out much of the nightlife besides restaurants, because Anna has had to get up early for work and do a lot more work when she returns home. Which brings me to Anna and the hospital:

Anna and Dr. Jap, beach-side in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

  • Tuesday night for us was spent shopping for pants to wear under dresses, because Anna and her fellow Singaporean colleague, Dr. Aliza Jap, were told to cover up down to the ankle.
  • Every morning when Anna and co. are trying to perform surgery, their eyes water and sting for about half an hour and they can’t see, as the operating theatre is sprayed with formalin for mosquitoes. Besides that and the lack of toilet paper, they said the hospital is excellent, impeccably clean.
  • In Singapore, while you are training you use pig’s eyes. In India they use cadaverous eyes. There should never be a shortage; there is a sign on the beach that says that one person on a scooter or motorbike was killed roughly every five minutes in 2012.
Advertisements
About Dr. Tan's Travels (99 Articles)
My name's Tim. I'm a freelance writer and former ESL teacher from Melbourne, Australia, who taught in Daejeon, Korea for six months in 2007 and, until February 2015, had taught in Singapore for seven years. My wife, Anna, is an ophthalmologist. Between March 2015 and July 2016 we spent a month in Pondicherry, India, three months in Bonn, Germany, and 12 months in New York before returning to Singapore, all for training and work placements for her. The reason I wanted to keep this blog is because I suffer from epilepsy and have a terrible memory, therefore this would be a great way to help me remember our travels. I will do my best to keep it updated and even continue writing now that we're back in Singapore, but there is one problem; I have a pretty severe phobia of anything medical.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Airports suck (flying does, too)! | Dr. Tan's Travels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: