Well, I’m just back from a few exciting weeks on the road.
To begin with, my band played the Oakville Jazz Festival, arguably the closest thing to playing my home town. It’s a great jazz festival to boot & over the years, I have always enjoyed the friendly crowds there, and you never know when, say, your science teacher will show up! (He’ll never know how his descriptions of cells has helped me to understand what goes on in my body) In any event, it was a really fun show on my fave stage, complete with an on-stage mention of organ donations, and a standing ovation for our music. I watched them all stand up as we hit our last note, and I was thinking, “Wow! This is amazing: is this for real?! Wow!” It felt SO GOOD! We followed this by an autograph session beside the stage and –wonder of wonders– people actually showed up … including my Science teacher!
The VERY NEXT DAY Tom and I boarded a transcontinental vacation flight TO HOLLAND AND FRANCE!!!! I’ll try and break the trip up for you;
TRAVELING WITH A TRANSPLANT: Firstly you need travel insurance. This can be tricky, as it is amply available for unforeseen circumstances (ie: you break an arm), but scarcely heard of if you have a pre-existing condition, and say, developed pneumonia. However, Tom found a company who WOULD cover me…& at a superb rate. PHEW! (Since we had already booked our tickets when we realized I wasn’t fully covered SHOULD something go wrong, the plan was to GET MY ASS ON A FLIGHT HOME the minute I started to feel “funny”! Luckily we enjoyed traveling with $5 Million dollar coverage!)
Other than that, “Transplant travel” was interesting. I accommodated for the 6 hour time difference by slowing adjusting my pills onto the new schedule. I packed ALL my medicines in original bottles (in case security were picky). I took care to bring extra medicines in case we were delayed — you never know when a volcano might erupt! At least in this lifetime, I am not able to travel lightly.
TRAVELING IN A MASK: I wore my heavy duty respirator on the flights (which is pink). Although I had read an article more or less debunking the “recirculated air myth” on planes, I still wore my mask and had a worry free journey. I had lots of weird looks (especially fascinating to children) BUT, the security I got when the guy sitting behind me sneezed, well, it was unbeatable! This just seemed an easy way to safeguard my health. Nobody wants to get sick while traveling.
Reactions varied . Some wanted to know “what was wrong with me” (One lady said, “She’s probably got SWINE FLU”), or oppositely, “was there anything they could do to help?”, while others looked like they wished that they too were masked. Some security guards didn’t care to see my face, still others insisted I take off the mask passing security. And coming home into Pearson I was nearly barred from entering the country until Tom explained that “No, she didn’t get a weakened immune system on vacation, she was like that before!”
Either way, Purel gel is a must for the TRANSPLANT TOURIST. Also I took a simple cloth mask with me onto the train, and into museums. One last health thing, I needed a lot less insulin on account of all the walking I did… which seemed to burn off the sugars. Overall I tried not to let transplant dictate what I did or where I went.
THE SIGHTS WE SAW: We began our travel in AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND (5 days). A beautiful, friendly, well organized city of canals, with classy outer regions, countryside, parks, & RijkMuseum. The canal system, with it’s houseboats, bridges, cyclists, and lights are lovely to walk around: and we WALKED MILES A DAY!!! The tacky area is down in the red-light district, but even that is okay: it’s in the beautiful older part of town, which sort of balances out the wacky sex stores and the “coffee shops” (establishments which sell dope, which along with prostitution is legal there). We enjoyed lovely hotels (Hotel V, and our favorite EATSLEEPMISC) and good food, good art (The RijkMuseum where I go to see great masterpieces I studied in University). We also visited The Rembrandt House museum where I was able to see the ACTUAL ROOM the great artist painted in, which was inspiring to me. I plan to take up drawing again.
Probably the BEST day of the whole vacation was our most intrepid day. We rode the train to the countryside, past cows and canals and windmills (just like the paintings in the galleries) to the town of Alkmar. From there we rode on sturdy European bikes for a good hour towards the seaside. Me. On a bike. But the Dutch are so pro-bike that they have these extraordinary well kept bike paths everywhere. FROM THERE, we rented horses, and went on a guided ride through the sandy pine forests, out to the ocean, via the amazing sand dunes. I rode a little pony much like Gypsy (A Haflinger pony) and we galloped SO FAST on the beach! I was covered in sand and sea splatter from the lead rider ahead. But man, this pony just loved her job and went like a bat out of hell. Tom did great also, on his Dutch Warmblood mount. IT WAS DURING THIS DAY THAT I FOUND MYSELF QUIETLY THANKING MY DONOR A LOT. It was just such an athletic ride, honestly, I never would have imagined I could do what I did. AMAZING. Further to that, after that two hour horse trek we rode a funny bike route back to the train station, got a bit lost, and I shall forever recall the shadowy figure of a windmill against the purple sky rising out of a canal beside us as we followed our noses back to town. Unreal.
ANNE FRANK MUSEUM:Mostly on my trip I rarely thought about the transplant because I was just so BUSY experiencing Europe that I didn’t once worry about the things I do at home. I was just. Living!
One other time I did think about health, was when I went to the Anne Frank House. Her figure has always touched me. Even as a young girl I was moved by the film (based on The Diary of Anne Frank) Basically, I was fascinated by a little girl who lived a short life, confined to a small room, an innocent and a prisoner who met a tragic end by things beyond her control. I suppose to me it’s easy to see how I somehow –though by a strange connection– have always felt pathos for her. I too had once been a young girl, who spent lots of time confined (myself in hospital), marking my time there by the church bells outside the hospital. I took my rejection pills on Prizengracht Street the last morning we were in Holland, right before I went into the Anne museum. That street would quite possibly have been the last one Anne walked on before going up into hiding from the Nazis in that house (which is now the museum). As I walked around the wonderful museum illustrating what they went through to hope to live free and normal I thought myself entirely lucky to be able to walk out of there a free woman. We can and must learn from the past so that we do not let those wrongs ever repeat in our lifetime. It was a very touching museum.
PARIS!!! Onto Five days in France: Paris was beautiful. Everywhere you LOOKED there was gorgeous architecture. I proudly walked up all the steps to Sacre Couer, I proudly walked all around that city, and enjoyed very much the Musee Dorsay. I was most suprisingly affected by the self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh. To see it in the real is to really see it: so thick in the application of the paint, and those eyes looking out at you against the blue background: very astonishing. I was most surprised to like it so! I also enjoyed their huge Degas exhibit: a man who painted light with pastels… what I hope to do with my own horse portraits now that I’m home.
The Louvre was TOO BUSY to be a really spiritually moving experience, which is a shame. Any of the art pieces I had wanted to see (Michealangelo’s Slaves, or Nike for example) were simply swarmed by tourists so much so that you couldn’t truly appreciate the art. I left feeling like I’d been elbowed repeatedly by the maddening crowd and overwhelmed. Our walk out through the gardens on grounds were much more relaxed, and I enjoyed that the most from that day.
Oh and the food! Baked goods every morning, wine, creme sauces, escargots, YUM!!!! I certainly didn’t lose any weight on the trip, despite all the walking we did. Sadly, we didn’t hear much music (an African band one night) because all the Gypsy jazz guys had gone to the South of France for vacation. I mean. Rip OFF! Not one Gypsy in all of Paris? I really must say I was most shocked by this… that in such a large city… no jazz?! But apparently they don’t wear barrets anymore either!
DOGS IN EUROPE: I found myself in foreign lands. Which meant I had to work to communicate with people (and no, the French weren’t rude to us, they were delightful) Now, while people were sometimes hard to relate to I was continually dog-watching, for whatever reason. I saw some cute dogs and cats. They sort of felt comfy and good, when all around me was new and unknown. Because essentially pets are the same everywhere, only in Holland you can take yours to Burger King for a snack. Oh, and it really is true, Parisians don’t stoop to scoop up after their dogs…
HOME AGAIN HOME AGAIN: Upon our return from Europe we drove directly to Owen Sound’s SUMMERFOLK Festival with Lickin Good Fried, which lasted three nights. We played all weekend, and stayed up with my in-laws. It was a busy time, but a good post-Europe trip to take… sometimes when I get back from a great trip I get the blues, almost, because all the fun is done. But this was a good focused thing to come home too. I sang a song and the praised Owen Sound for having such good organ donation rates. It was received well, and one man came running up to me, embraced me and said “I’m donating my WHOLE body! Thank you!” and I think I said, “No… thank YOU!”