The sound of one hand clapping

For the past few months I have been noticing pain in my right hand when I wake up in the morning due to the thumb and first three fingers being numb.  I also have noticed when I bend my arm too sharply for a long period of time those fingers and my thumb will go numb.  I kept hoping the pain would go away, and wondering what was causing it (cycling?  a pinched nerve or muscle pull during BodyPump?).  The pain did get better though… while I was on holiday at Christmas and New Years.  Then, 3 weeks after returning to work, I started waking up with burning pain in my right hand again.

So I put two and two together and realised it must be work related.  Yes I know what you are thinking, “duh”.  But I have everything set up right!  I have a gel wrist pad for my mouse and my workstation has been assessed and deemed ergonomic.

So I booked an appointment with my GP, and went in on Friday.  When I described what I was experiencing he said “You probably have looked this up on the Internet already and know that it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, but don’t panic”.

First of all, amazingly, for some reason, I actually hadn’t looked it up on the Internet.  For most issues Google would be my first diagnostic tool, but for this one, it just seemed to slip my mind.  I guess in my head I just kept thinking “There could be a million reasons why my hands are going numb”.  It was only after I went to see a massage therapist and I describe the pain in my hand she said it was most likely overuse and spent about 20 minutes massaging my forearm, which was then painfully sore for 3 days.

So I booked in to see the GP and he confirmed what I had begin to suspect, and when I heard “carpal tunnel” my first thought was “now I am fucked for the rest of my life.”.

Luckily he informed me that there are a number of treatments and most are very effective, with a simple surgery being a last resort but able to take care of the issue.  He referred me to a hand physiotherapist and asked me if I wanted a shot of cortisone in my hand, which was also an effective treatment that could have benefits lasting up to a year.

I said sure, not thinking it would be a difficult procedure.

Imagine searing pain shooting up the nerve in your hand.  And then, intense sharp pain every time you tried to use that hand for the next 48 hours, slowly subsiding but still recognisiable now, on Sunday evening.

The ridiculous thing is that I have worked on computers my entire adult life, however it was not until I started working at the Open Polytechnic 1.5 years ago, a distance education provider, where I engage in personal email correspondence with my 50+ students 5 days a week, using a standard mouse, that I have started having this pain.

Luckily they have been responsive thus far to the issue and have ordered me an ergonomic mouse and a standing desk.

In the meantime I am gaining appreciation for many things I used to take for granted, having 2 fully functioning hands, that I am no longer able to do with such ease, including:

  • grinding pepper onto my salad
  • slicing vegetables
  • opening a jar of peanut butter
  • getting my knickers off to have a wee
  • hooking/unhooking my bra
  • being able to brake on my bicycle
  • tying my shoelaces
  • clipping the fingernails of my left hand
  • putting earring backs on
  • washing dishes
  • scraping cake batter into a baking dish
  • and so much more..

It’s really surprising how many things you need two hands for, your at least access to your dominant hand.  I won’t even bother trying to knit for a while.

I’m hoping I haven’t permanently damaged myself.  I guess I will find out Tuesday when I see the hand physiotherapist.

the sugar diaries

If you know me, you know that I have an insatiable sweet-tooth.  Cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, ice cream, and, my Achilles heel, candy, figure far too prominently in my diet.  I definitely exceed the daily recommended allowance for sugar on a regular basis.  For some reason I have convinced myself that calories from sugar are better than calories from fat, because you can exercise, which I do a lot, and burn them off.  And deep fried shit is like, really bad for you.

But, I realize now, I have been deluding myself.  Sugar is like, really bad for you.

Not only does it make you fat and rot your teeth, it suppresses your immune system, among other things!  I was a ill a number of times this past winter, and I wondered constantly why I kept getting sick – I eat lots of vegetables, I exercise regularly, I take vitamins, I drink green tea, I get a good amount of sleep, etc.  My colleague who lives on rice and onions and works about 10 time as many hours per week as I do wasn’t sick a single day!

I see now, it must be the sugar.

While I do eat healthy, generally, and I don’t drink sugary drinks or put sugar in my tea, I do a lot of baking, and eat a lot of cookies.  When I feel hungry… my snack of choice is undoubtedly something sweet.  So, after listening to this podcast about how bad sugar is for you, I got to thinking… “I should really eat less sugar.”

This was at approximately 1’00 pm this afternoon, just after I had finished my lunch.  I had pulled out a small container of “Blackberry & Cream” flavoured low-fat yogurt which I was planning to have a little later in the afternoon.  I realized that so far that day, I had already made it to 1’00 pm without having any sugar.  I determinedly put the little container of yogurt back in the refrigerator, and willed myself to give up added sugar for an entire week.

This shall be the diary of my experiences.

I then spent about 2 hours looking up recipes for baking with stevia.  I haven’t  tried any yet – since my ill-fated and inedible chocolate stevia cupcakes of last year, but I will post about my experiences here.

I already felt tempted this evening, when, feeling peckish I opened my desk drawer in my office, where my eyes fell upon a bar of Lindt chocolate.  “Just one little square won’t hurt….” I heard myself say to myself.  I picked up the package and looked at the ingredients.  Sugar was right there, at the front of the list.

I resisted the voice telling me to eat it, and shoved it to furthest recesses of my drawer.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?  I just keep telling myself I can save it for next week.

But who knows?  Maybe by next week I will be cured of my addiction to sugar !??!

For the purposes of this experiment, by sugar, I mean “added sugar” – ie – any food that contains refined, or unrefined added sugars, including honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, etc.  However, natural sugars found in juice, fruits, and vegetables are permitted.  And since artificial sweeteners give you cancer, no aspartame or sucralose.  Stevia, on the other hand, is not sugar or an artificial sweetener, so it’s ok.  It also has a pretty repulsive aftertaste, but if I get desperate, I feel safer knowing I can bake some stevia cookies.

Sustainable pescertarianism, an Oxymoron?

This past Sunday, at the Wellington Harbourside Market, I paid a visit to the floating fish shop.

As I watched the customers calling out their orders for snapper, flounder, salmon and tuna, cleaned and filleted to order by the boat’s crew, I couldn’t help but wonder – how can I eat fish responsibly?

We all (should) know by now that most commercial fishing practices are pretty terrible, environmentally speaking.  The oceans are in serious trouble, and will eventually be devoid of fish if we keep stuffing our faces with seafood at every possible opportunity.  Farmed fish… especially salmon, are also problematic, as they can affect wild populations health and safety.

So, how to be a sustainable fish-eater?  I don’t know.

Greenpeace maintains a list of the most vulnerable fish species in New Zealand, those that should be avoided at all costs.  I witnessed many of them being snapped up by eager shoppers on Sunday.

But what about fish not on this list?

In New Zealand, Tarakihi are one of your best bets.  I’m not sure why, but a reliable information source told me that.  I guess it would be good to know why, but I can’t be bothered to try and do that research right now.  I have a stack of books and articles to wade though.

So, on Sunday, I asked the fish man for 2 Tarakihis, cleaned, but not filleted, which I plan to make Laap Pa with tomorrow evening.  That’s Laotian Fish Laap for those of you who don’t speak Lao!

sounds of silence

Well, it’s been about 1 month since I last posted here.  As I predicted, I don’t have much to write about except cooking, which I am now doing on the Holloway Road Food Blog (though not very often).  Basically my life here is not very exciting.  It’s quite alright – I’m sick of excitement!  My life has been far too exciting, full of ups and downs, twists and turns, a general roller coaster ride for the past few years.  I’m happy to settle into quiet little routine of domesticity and academic work.  I’ve actually been avoiding academic events and the entire University social scene, nearly avoiding all forms of socialisation in favour of knitting, sewing, reading, baking, etc.

I have however, been doing quite well in several new health related pledges; I have cut out all caffeine from my life, and started jogging 5 times a week.  So far I have been very successful in both these endeavors.  Though I do desperately miss my green tea, I’m finding herbal or decaffeinated replacements, and I figure that once I ween myself off the caffeine I can begin allowing myself small doses again.  I generally drink 2-3 liters of tea a day, and I was experiencing some insomnia. I realized this was obviously a result of too much caffeine ingestion, and haven’t had a drop since then, more than 2 weeks ago!  I have to say that I have been sleeping much more, and deeply since I gave up the stuff, though when I do inevitably get that post-lunch fatigue I do feel very tempted to help myself to a strong Earl Grey, I have thus far resisted.  As for jogging, I had taken the entire winter back in Montreal off from nearly every form of physical activity, so getting back into the sporting life took me a while.  Now that I’ve worked up to a quick 15 minutes jog every morning, I’m hoping I’ll soon be able to expand upon my routine which currently takes me from one end of Holloway road to the other and then back home again.

Sorry for my dilatory posting.  I do have some ideas for future posts based on things I have observed around town, and conversations with my flatmates, who are essentially my primary sources for information on all things kiwi.

What I learned today:

North America        New Zealand

Sweater                    Jersey or Jumper (Less frequently)

Cardigan                 Cardi

Sweatshirt              Sweater

Jersey                      Sport uniform

Tank top                 Singlet

more entanglements with bureaucracy

Well, I am nearly ready to send in my application for my New Zealand student visa. In addition to filling out a 20 page application, getting passport pictures taken, and photocopies of several official documents detailing my acceptance at Vic and my financial arrangements, I am also required to submit proof that I am a physically healthy individual, unlikely to put undue strain on the New Zealand health-care system, and provide the authorities with evidence of my good character.

In order to accomplish these 2 final steps, I have had to figuratively jump through a number of increasingly irritating hoops.

Step 0 – get fingerprints taken in Illinois last time I was home to send to the FBI for my “police certificate”, or essentially evidence that I do not have a police record and am not one of America’s Most Wanted.

Step 1 – Phone several doctors and clinics to find one that will see me and do the necessary tests. Go to the post office, get a $18 USD money order for $25 CAD, mail to the FBI, along with my finger prints.

Step 2 – Go to the St-Henri walk-in clinic, pay $50, wait 2 hours to see a doctor for all of about 5 minutes, while he looks at my documents, takes my blood pressure, and signs one page.

Step 3 – Walk up the mountain to the Montreal General Hospital, pay $260 to get my blood drawn, pee into a cup, and be given a large orange jug, which I am instructed to pee into for the next 24 hours, and return the following day with the full jug for further testing. They instructed me to keep the jug in my fridge during this time, where hopefully one of my roommates would mistake it for orange juice and drink it.

Step 4 – Ride my bike in the snow to the Montreal Chest Institute.  Pay $35, get my chest x-rayed.

Step 5 – Wait.

Step 6 – Call the clinic to see if my results have arrived. They have.  I prepare to pay another $50 to see the doctor for another 2 minutes.

Step 7 – Call the FBI to check up on my police certificate that I submitted 4 weeks ago.  Hey, guess what, the FBI is so backlogged they still don’t even have a record in their system that I’ve submitted a request.

“Wait a week or 2 and call back.”, they advise me.

“This is the final document I need to submit my student visa application.  I’m leaving the country in 5 weeks and don’t have a visa.  I requested expedited service.  Why does it take so long?”

“Sorry ma’am.  We have a huge backlog.  We can only guarantee 8-10 weeks processing time.”


Step 8 – Wait.  Panic.

Step 9 – Reflect on all of the documentation I’m submitted for this visa, and how money I have spent, now nearly $400, not including the actual application fee to the NZ consulate, and the courier fees for overnighting it to Ottawa and then back to Montreal. Worry that my application, when I do submit it, will be rejected for some inane reason.

Step 10 – Decide I can’t do anything about it, I’ve done everything in my power to take care of all these matters in a timely manner, using my best time & resource management skills (which, according to Susan Miller, Leo’s are great at), and leave it all in Buddha’s hands.

On my mind, throughout this entire process, I must admit I’ve been thinking”No way would Ticker go through with any of this.” And resigned myself to the thought that he probably will never apply for a 1 year working holiday visa.  Who knows, maybe he’ll prove me wrong? Again, this is all in big B’s hands.

final countdown!

I’m leaving for Liberia on August 22nd!

Hence, I have been quite busy and haven’t had a whole lot of time to post in my blog.  In addition, I haven’t been up to many interesting things.  In fact, mostly I have been busy running around trying to take care of a multitude of medial tests and exams required by Peace Corps Response before they will “clear” me to leave.  This has included the following:

  • HIV Test
  • Hep B Surface Antigen
  • Hep B Core Antibody
  • Hep C
  • G6PD Titer (I don’t even  know what this one is for…)
  • TB test
  • Urinalysis
  • Pap smear
  • CBC
  • Physical exam
  • Dental exam
  • Panorex x-rays
  • Bitewing x-rays
  • Tetanus Vaccine
  • Meningitis Vaccine

What a pain in the ass working for the US Government is !

Still in the process of sorting everything out, and sorting out my PhD application.

So, it’s been a short and busy stay here in North America, and all my plans have been a bit complicated by a certain some one in my life… though not an unwelcome complication!  You’ve probably already heard the news, but if not, and to de-obfuscate any intentionally vague comments I made have made earlier, I will spill all the beans now.  Recently I made the acquaintance of a very special boy and, as cheesy as this may sound, we’re in love!  It’s pretty serious and I’m really unbelievably happy and feel so lucky to have found him.  Logistically it’s a bit complicated with all my globe-trotting adventures, but I’m not worried.  However, this may mean that my adventures around the world will soon be coming to an end… and HOLY MOLY!  I might actually be settling down some time in the near future!!  Who would have ever thought it was possible?

Strange weather in Lao… signs of global climate change?

So, it’s March in Lao, which should be the middle of the dry season. But it’s raining right now. And I didn’t bring my umbrella to the library!

Even my Lao colleagues are all puzzled by this strange weather, and everybody is sick.  Nearly all the library staff have some kind of cold, and I have been slowly recovering from a really terrible sinus infection that gave me a 39 C fever last week.  I took advantage of an excuse to relax a bit and spent a few days at home in bed watching pirated DVD’s, among which I have to say “Twilight” is my favorite.  Normally I’m not a fan of teenage sci-fi romance novels, but I read this article in the New Yorker which inspired me to see the movie, especially after I learned the author of the series is a Mormon… for some reason I’m obsessed with unusual religious groups.  Or just religious groups in general?  maybe because I had such a secular upbringing, with a few dashes of fanatisism (uhh.. Jehovah’s Witnesses?  Sukyo Mahikari or however you spell it?  My mom was involved with both these groups.)

Anyway, strange weather aside, things are lovely here in Laos.  On my way home from work yesterday I stopped to get some food, and the Korean man at the restaurant turned the TV to BBC news for me.  Watching the advertisements for the various programmes they would be showing later in the evening almost made me wish for a TV… but then I thought better.  Anyway, on the BBC they were discussing how some British scientists estimate that within the next 10 years we will reach a global critical mass of population versus food and energy resources… meaning total chaos or the end of the world as we know it?  This worry, combined with the fact that I am going back to the USA in a few months to a lack of any type of job or income and a potential long-term reisdence in my mother’s house has given way to insomnia, and a general feeling of dread and anxiety about the future.  But everything will be ok, because i know Universe is watching out for me.