You may wonder why I haven’t written in two months. Remember that all-night bus ride from Dharamsala to Delhi back in April? It seems that I caught head lice from my seat partner, a lovely man who kept throwing up, but, nonetheless, was pleasant and helpful. We traded seats to give him a better shot at the stairwell, and I leaned back onto his headrest, hoping that the Indian music blaring from the driver’s radio would abate long enough to let me dose. Dream on, if you can. I noticed that he was doing a lot of scratching, but failed to connect the dots.
A week after my return I, too, began scratching. Oh, said I, it must be nerves from the horrendous jetlag I seem to be experiencing. I was so obsessed with tearing my hair out by the roots that I paid scant attention to the gross discomfort and nausea resulting from a virulent strain of parasites, which had taken up lodging in to my intestines for what is becoming a lengthy stay. Driven nearly to distraction, I took my bruised head (along with my tired body) to a dermatologist, who pronounced that I had nits, those encapsulated lice eggs that stick like glue to your hair. He explained the life cycle of the little critters and how easy it was to deal with them. Great! I’m NOT going crazy after all, but if any of you have suffered from this problem, you know what the ghastly procedure it is to rid yourself, your clothes, your furniture, and your bedding of the infestation. Thus began a search for cures, since a couple of washings with RID, the doctor’s solution, didn’t work.
Warning to travelers: Carry with you a couple of pillow cases and use one at your guest house and another under your head on public transportation—buses and trains. Don’t worry if people stare at you. It’s better than what I went through. My internet search uncovered more than 300 recipes guaranteed to kill head lice, though some mothers I know say that it can only be done by picking off each nit, using a flashlight and your fingernails. Since nobody wanted to come close to me except my second daughter, Martha (and she wasn’t thrilled at the prospect), I started through the remedies—mayonnaise, hair grease, vinegar, DAWN dishwashing detergent, all squashed on your hair and held in place by plastic. You wouldn’t believe how many there are. During all of this I decided to be Zen about it. After all, lice have been around since the time of the pyramids and eventually the miserable buggers will get tired of being treated like a waldorf salad and drift away. You wish…. By the time I was pronounced cured, I had a good case of dandruff!
I have never had any kind of illness during my 25 years of travel, so perhaps this bout is long overdue. The giardia and blastocystis are far worse than the lice and should be treated immediately. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to flagyl, the drug of choice, so my doctor has had to be inventive and search for other solutions. He promises that death is not an option.
Last warning to travelers: No matter what someone tells you, do not drink lassi in India. It’s made with yogurt and cut with water to make it thinner. I love it and have had it, often, in the past. Even drank it, along with an assortment of milk shakes, in Myanmar in January. But those days are over. Anything that has ice cubes crushed or water added can be dangerous. All it takes is one unwashed hand or one miserable creepy-crawly to do the damage. But take heart. I do not intend to stop traveling. It will take a lot more than this to cool my zeal for adventure in Asia. In fact, I’m looking into a future trek in Ladakh right now.
While all of this has been going on, Martha and I were privileged to sponsor Rinpoche Wangdor Lama and his translator Lama Lena Feral, both of whom I met at Rewalsar in India last March and wrote about in my earlier blog. There were three inspirational evening sessions here in Maplewood: compassion and wisdom; opening the heart; and the enlightened being.
Wangdor Lama has been meditating and offering instruction to students in the caves above sacred Lotus Lake (Tso Pema) in the Himalayas of India for over 30 years. He is a renowned Master of both Dzogchen and Mahamudra esoteric traditions. Dr. Lena Feral, is a native of South Orange who became a lady lama after many years of practice as a tantric yogini. She is also a doctor of Chinese medicine. What a privilege it was to participate in these three events.
One last note. I enjoyed a short visit from my Seattle friend, Beth Whitman and her partner, Jon Ingalls, who had also traveled in India last January and February. They had just come from the huge Book Expo in New York City and gave me a glowing report on the health of women’s travel books. Seems to be a burgeoning field, though there aren’t too many nuts out there who still go off the beaten track with no idea where it will lead. Actually, I despair of finding too many places I can go that don’t require guides or a police escort. But I’m looking and would welcome any suggestions you might have.
If you wish to see what Beth is doing, visit her blog and website at: www.wanderlustandlipstick.com