Typed up at: Vivek Hotel in Delhi Posted from: Vivek Hotel in Delhi
The first few days in Delhi seemed a bit overwhelming, but our time in east Africa and Cairo had prepared us well enough. If we’d flown straight into Delhi it would have been quite the shock. Traffic was everywhere where it fit, people honked a lot, traffic and people streamed by us where-ever there was any space. Every solid wall as used as an open-air urinal, which provided a little more visual interest and a whole lotta odor, which mixed in with that of street food and piles of spices being sold.
Of course everybody was trying to sell us something. It is true what they say in the guidebook: Do not trust anybody who approaches you on the street. We followed somebody once the last little bit because he seemed nice and I knew where we were going. He promptly and very cleverly delivered us to a different store, where we did not buy anything. Mostly people have told us the way to the state emporiums (fixed-price gov’t run tourist stores) or the official government tourist information center. Except they pointed us to some other shop instead. Trust your map and the guidebook.
We’ve been seeing a lot more animals than we have been. Dogs were everywhere. Flocks of pigeons roamed the city, and there were a few places where food was dumped for them. Lots of hawks were also in the sky, along with a handful of small parrots and some other birds. On the streets we also saw plenty of cows, some pulling carts, some just wandering. Small horses were used to pull carts as well. Finally we spotted just a few cats and monkeys. We haven’t confirmed this for ourselves, but supposedly the area around the parliament buildings is where most of the monkeys congregate.
During those first few days we just took it easy, getting over the initial shock and our jet lag. We wandered around Connaught Place, which is an expensive shopping district. We were surprised to walk into a modestly-priced Chinese Restaurant where the waiters went all out, including moving our chairs in/out for us. The food was great, and the entire meal was less than \$30. It turns out that was actually a really expensive restaurant. We have had really excellent Indian meals for about \$5. India really is unbelievably cheap, and the food is great.
Unfortunately you do, to some extent, get what you pay for. Likely with some juice I bought, or maybe a (very tasty) lassi, some bacteria came in with my drink. On Tuesday I woke up with a sore throat bad enough that I didn’t want to drink any water because it hurt. I spent most of the day in bed. On Wednesday my throat was better but my head was congested. My stomach was starting to feel bad, and I spent another day in bed, occasionally feverish. Then on Thursday I was convinced I was better in the morning, but still didn’t manage to eat or drink much. After another day in bed the diarrhea started around 5pm, and I was feeling cold when I shouldn’t be.
Finally at midnight I was shivering even when lying in bed, with all my layers on, and we decided it was time to go see a doctor. We were in the Vivek hotel at that point and the staff organized a taxi to the East West Medical Center, where we arrived a little after midnight. 2 nurses took my vitals right away, but my body would have none of it as I vomited out whatever was left in my system (mostly a lot of fruit juice). I mostly made it into the trash can.
The doctor told me the obvious fact that I was dehydrated, and fed me fluids intravenously. This meant changing hotels to the hospital. Having Danielle stay with me only cost an extra \$10 per night, so she stayed as well. Initially I mostly slept a lot, ate very little, and got almost all of my fluid through the IV. I guess there’s stuff dissolved in the IV fluid that’s not in my normal diet, because after half a day of this I had a permanent funny taste in my mouth, and my sense of smell was suffering similarly. I kept asking Danielle if it smelled bad in the room, and she swore that it was fine.
But after a day and a half I managed to eat more food, and started drinking a lot of water. Around that time the lab work came back as well. (It had taken me quite a while to deliver the required stool sample.) The official diagnosis they gave me was acute bacterial dysentery. So I got an IV antibiotic which made my arm itch a little bit. They gave me a painful shot to test another one, and that did not have any reaction. I got the other antibiotic several times a day through some uncomfortable injections into the IV hole. It was kind of neat to see how these plastic tubes and various connecting bits became an extension of my blood system. It felt a little bit like I was a cyborg, and also like it took away some of me being human.
After a bit of persistent asking on my part, they stopped giving me fluids using the IV. That meant I didn’t have to be connected to the bottle at all times, so I could wander without the clumsy pole-on-wheels following me everywhere. That day we wandered outside a little bit, checking out 2 small neighborhood parks where both puppies and children played (but not with each other). Then finally, in the night, the IV came out altogether and I was just me again. Sleeping without having to carefully arrange my hand in a certain way was reward enough in itself.
For even more reward, the next day (Monday) I got to actually leave the hospital and return to the Vivek Hotel. Since then I’ve been taking it easy, sticking with bland foods, continuing my drugs, and taking a nap every afternoon. We’ve wandered to a cemetery, and bought tickets for the upcoming Republic Day Parade, but otherwise haven’t done much yet. My hospital bill came to about \$750 for the 4 nights we were there, and I’m now working on the paperwork to get the insurance to pay for that. Of course the paperwork seems unnecessarily bureaucratic, but it’s got nothing on what India requires for even simple things.
To buy a sim card we had to provide our passport as well as a passport photo. I had to fill out things like my father’s address, and after all that the sim card wasn’t activated for another 8 hours. To use an Internet cafe you have to show your passport, give your home address, and fill out a list of sites visited (although “email” seems to be OK). I’m sure this is all for my security, but just like security theater everywhere it just annoys me. There are metal detecting gates and bag checks everywhere, including the metro, a mall, and some of the entry ways into the Main Bazar area. Our tickets for the parade say on them that we’re not allowed to be bring bags, cameras, or water bottles among a big list of other things. It’s truly ridiculous.
With all that, I am enjoying India. The bustle is exciting, in small doses, and I enjoy the colors everywhere. The food is good. Stuff is cheap. The people who don’t approach us are friendly. The weather’s been nice. We just need to get to actually seeing some of the country now.