Saturday, April 04, 2015

Health, Food, & Stormwater Details

One of the downsides of being so away from the US is being far from my family. When there's a health problem with a loved one, I am too far away to do anything useful or helpful. And I am most definitely too far away to make a quick day trip to them to see how things are going.

Since I've been in Australia, my parents have taken turns admitting themselves into the hospital, for various problems. Each time I get notice that they've had a health "hiccup" and it needs "fine tuning", my heart sinks. I feel guilty for not being in the country to help out, and I start wondering if the universe is sending me signals to stay put in the US and give up my nomadic lifestyle. I doubt my path a bit.

Fortunately, my parents are incredibly supportive of my travels, and have maintained positive outlooks whenever they have to go to the hospital. And I know they both have support and family with them - that helps a lot. But still.

This is definitely one of the hardest parts of living abroad for me.

Speaking of health, I wish I had realized that living on the other side of the planet also meant that I might need to manage my health differently, too. Why is this? Because I had gotten a flu shot in October in NYC, when it was flu season there. Simple enough.

I went to the doctor's office on Wednesday to get prescription refills for while I'm here. The doctor looked at my laundry list of medical conditions (probably the word "auto-immune" came up one-too-many times for her), and asked me if I wanted a flu shot for the upcoming flu season.

Because we're going into fall now, and that's when flu season turns up - not in October, but in fall. Such a strange thing to have needed to remember! Since the vaccine I got in the US was not effective for this year's outbreaks, they had to make a new shot for the rest of the world.

I received another dose of flu shots - this time, with the new strains for which to look out.

I wish it hadn't affected me as much as it did, but I was bedridden for a good evening and felt gross for a couple days afterwards. I felt queasy and weak, and my arm's vibrant red took a solid 3 days to lessen. If I still get flu during this season after all of my shots...I don't know what I'll do.

On other more pleasant thoughts, I got to eat Eritrean food with most of my class. The restaurant is run by volunteers who are often refugees from that area of the world in hopes to gain skills for future employment. Being the altruists that we are, we went as a large group to try out the food.

For those who don't know, Eritrean food is a lot like Ethiopian (and I love Ethiopian food). That means we had heaps of spongy injera bread with a selection of stewed vegetables and meats at which to pluck away. The only difference I perceived was that the portion sizes were enormous!! We had ordered enough for the 13 of us, and we took home at least 4 containers back with food.

It was fun to teach my classmates how to eat the foreign food, though I was surprised that the only people who had experienced this meal before were the Americans. Cali Michael and I pulled apart our injera and dug into the stews while everyone else (even the South Asian!) politely managed the dishes with forks and knives.

Another nice day was yesterday. Aussie Kylie invited a few of us to her family's house in the sea town called Redcliffe for a Good Friday lunch, as nothing else was open for us to do in Brisbane all day. People really take Easter seriously here - everything is closed Friday through Monday for the holiday weekend.

We drove up in the morning and found ourselves in a magnificent, sun-drenched apartment with Kylie's welcoming family. Her brother had just come back from a holiday in Japan, and there was delicious incense burning subtly in the background.

The day was full of delicious foods (We had lamb lollies, guys! My rite of passage to Australia has finally come.) and pleasant conversations. I brought Bundaberg soda to share, of course Kylie's dad is actually a local hotshot in the water governance world, and he was interested in our classwork and interesting to listen to.

There was a yacht race on the waterfront located right out of the balcony, and we enjoyed watching the boats tug along towards Moreton Bay. Afterwards, we walked along the beach sands and scoped out the festival stalls sitting on the boardwalk. Redcliffe is a very peaceful and laid back sea town, and the picnic grass just behind the beachfront was riddled with plenty of people to watch. We were able to ogle at the sweet puppies that pranced up and down the shore and talked about the management of stormwater run-off in the area. It was a wonderful reminder that sometimes I need to get out of my place to resettle my brain.

A brief & simple water lesson!

For those who are interested in what stormwater run-off is, it's basically the water that comes from rain or storms and drains into a body of water. Often, urban areas combine that water with whatever wastewater accumulates into public sewage systems (including those storm drains you see on the sides of the road) and dump them into the waterways, like the sea. Think car petrol and grass clippings and exhaust. Sometimes this combination of urban waste and stormwater can make huge issues in the safety of the water, both in the sea and sometimes even in the water underground that you may use for things like wells (we call it groundwater). It pollutes the water with all of those gross things that come from our houses and cars, and can create quite a lot of trouble with wildlife. Like weeds.

It's especially bad when it can flood, and then it's just a free-for-all with the grossness that can get into all of the water supplies. I know NYC has this problem in certain areas, like the Bronx - one of the stormwater drains into the Bronx River and really makes the river smelly and toxic for aquatic life (especially after storms). And swimming is definitely off the table, unless you want to glow in the dark. Nasty.

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