Travel

Arriving home from Ho Chi Minh I have less than 2 weeks to wait for my next trip overseas. We again go to one of my favourite places in Asia, Jonker Walk, Melaka, Malaysia. Ho Chi Minh was good for 4 days but Jonker is better in my mind. To consider which is my favourite destination in Asia is hard but 3 of them immediately come to mind, Hoi An, Luang Prabang, and Jonker. Before coma my absolute favourite was definitely Luang Prabang but I haven’t been there since I came out. I know I always loved Hoi An and have been there about 3 times since, but Jonker being only a 3 hour drive from home and such a historic place steeped in Peranakan culture is probably the best destination I’ve been since coma. Can’t wait to go back, and i’ve caught it again, the travel bug. My wife loves the place too and also has the bug, one of the many reasons we’re together.

Ho Chi Minh

I feel I should post for important events in my life so that I remember, I am traveling again, in Ho Chi Minh city Vietnam right now. It’s been a while since we’ve been here, about a year, one of my many favorite destinations of Asia. My memory is so terrible that I had forgotten Australians need a visa to come here, Singaporeans don’t. My wife thought these things were in train but enquired about it the night before flying. I tried to arrange a visa online at 3 in the morning, just 8 hours before our flight. After repeatedly calling and emailing the visa provider we finally spoke to someone about an hour before our gate closed at the airport. I then received a required document via email about 15 mins before the gate closed, it was necessary to have this document of visa approval to board the plane. Amazingly we are here now in Ho Chi Minh about to go to an old favourite haunt, the Continental Hotel for a Vietnamese coffee. We are staying across the road at another good hotel, the Caravelle.

Scientology

scientologuWatching CNN recently there was a program called ‘believer’ which considered L Ron Hubbard’s scientology. What interests me about the religion is the belief in reincarnation and also that we originate from aliens. That and an activity called ‘auditing’, perhaps as significant to scientology as confession to catholics. For Hubbard the purpose of auditing was to show a hypnotized person that their actions were derived from their past, of course, but the suggestion was more subtle than that. In the development of auditing Hubbard realized that people had lived many lives and that this past too influenced their actions. That was the first step. Having said all that I have been disturbed by scientology’s door knocking and street walking advocates. It seemed more like a business trying to expand rather than a religion, I’m not one. The CNN program also showed scientologists who had been excommunicated because of money they received from other followers not being forwarded to the central body. Suspicious. All I can say is good luck to the many people from all walks of life that follow scientology. I wouldn’t be surprised if we originated from another planet though, quite likely I suspect, but then again it all points to humans evolving from monkeys, or another theory from dolphins when the waters receded. But I believe in aliens…

Recovery

imagesFellow coma victims, once again I dwell on recovery. I think one of the best things to do is to keep a calendar or diary for memory. I’m keeping a Google calendar on my iPhone in which I religiously record my activities present and future. I often use it to remember what I did yesterday or any day. I suspect that the use of technology in this way helps quite dramatically, outsourcing memory. Just the act of remembering to update a calendar helps, and through your records you can admit that these events actually occurred. Clearly we must make use of the memory function in the brain regularly, to clean out the cobwebs. I use the calendar to recall what I had for dinner almost everyday, and to check if my recollections are accurate. Indeed they have improved and are back to normal now, maybe three months ago I had no idea what I had for dinner last night.

Health

HealthI only write this because I’m watching the debates about the healthcare bill being put forward by Trump in the US. In Australia we only use health insurance for extras and to reduce waiting times and maybe choose doctors and hospitals. If you have lots of money you can get first class hospitals and healthcare but health is regarded as a fundamental right of any living individual. It is much the same system in other western countries. The US should remove the concept of insurance from health and tax more to provide health as a basic right. Focus on life rather than money.

I should mention that the tax system in Australia is graduated depending on how much you earn. It gradually goes up as you earn more money, the top rate for earnings over $100,000 is 49%. If you earn below $18,000 it’s zero tax, say 30% on earnings between $30,000 and $50,000 and 40% on earnings between $50,000 to $70,000 etc. In Australia the individual tax rate is up to 49%, in the US it’s 39%. These are all estimate tax rates but it’s graduated and quite a fair system in Australia which also has unemployment benefits if your out of work. And the pension if your too old to work but still need money for food etc all covered by the tax system. The country hopes to provide for all people in need but then again there is also Superannuation which is deducted from your income, partly for retirement. Citizens should financially care for the poor and in Australia they try to.

Jonker

Since I have made a habit of posting when traveling, it’s good for my memory, my wife and I went to Melaka in Malaysia again this weekend. To one of my favourite places there, Jonker walk. Quite old world it is, the buildings, even the hotel in the middle of the dilapidated town, everything about the place. I often compare Jonker to one of my other favourite destinations, Hoi An in Vietnam. In both places it feels like you are in another time period, maybe 100 years ago, except for the cars. Apparently developed by the Chinese and Portuguese, Melaka is a city derived from the harbour many years ago, circa 15th century. I reckon everyone would love Jonker walk, not just romantics like me.

Recovery

Fellow coma victims, how to recover? By my research there is no clear path but at least everyone thinks I’m recovering quite well. Can we become the person that we were before coma? I think not. By my experience it takes so long for the brain to communicate with body parts again, to develop the new pathways. Also non physical defects like memory can be difficult, I have been religiously trying to remember what happened yesterday. Thankfully my memory is improving perhaps through use, it wasn’t for a long time. I know that I’ve been to Japan before but I still can’t remember anything about it. I knew my way around Bangkok quite well from being there before, Khao San road and the likes stimulated memory. But I still have trouble with body parts on the right like toes, the foot, and my hand etc… and get cramps in my foot. I always consider my defects with every step, trying to normalise my gait. The eye sight in my right eye isn’t perfect either. Certainly my walking dramatically deteriorated about 2 years after coma, perhaps the new pathway became primary at that point, but the new pathway still needed to relate to the subtleties like feeling and balance. So can we become the person we were before coma? I suspect not but we are always the same person to others, maybe a little less capable to ourselves. The photo above is about 1.5 years after coma, I’m out of the wheel chair now and past the walking frame but still need a stick, slowly improving. There was no damage to my leg, just coma. So I am recovering awkwardly. I sometimes feel embarrassed by my defects because I suspect people don’t believe I’m trying. Coma is not like a typical injury where we see regular sequential improvement. My only advice to other coma victims is to encourage the brain to relearn the subtleties by using the limb in strange ways, the human body is a very complex thing. Regularly I try to balance on my bad leg and use my bad arm to hold onto something as I lift the good leg. When I started doing this I would fall. After 2 years it’s much better, not perfect. We must always push our bodies, perhaps the same can be done with the non physical defects. I always try to remember yesterday, even now that it’s improving just to keep using that part of the brain. So just focus on stimulating your defects I suspect, the only advice I can offer.

Kyoto

Parts of Kyoto are the old Japan, a must visit. Walking around the temples yesterday my mind tried to imagine the people of the past here, 500 years ago, among others Samurai and Geisha. I discovered today that there is a free shuttle bus every 15 minutes to JR Osaka station from our hotel. My Wife told me about it and so we caught a super express train from JR Osaka Station to Kyoto. It was good to see Japan out of a train window. In Kyoto, first stop was the Kiyomizudera temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in 780AD. We had to walk through a very old village, traditional old Kyoto in the Higashiyama district, to get to the temple. We walked across the slope of a hilly area where the temple was atop. Then down to Gion and into the most well known Geisha street, the Hanamikoji for dinner.Today was the journey to Fukuoka, to stay near the airport for one night to catch a flight home tomorrow. A last ride on the fast train, the Shinkansen. Really Japan is very modern, the trains and the stops, everything. I suspect this is the future way to travel because of global warming, although there are still many cars here. Once solar energy is well established and there are magnetic trains we can be cleaner in respect to our carbon emissions. Train departed 13:42 arrived 16:11 travelling 611km with about 6 stops.

Osaka

Like most tourists to Osaka I visited the castle today. My walking was terrible however, probably about 1km / hr. Nothing for it fellow coma victims, just time for the brain to rebuild. Japan is a most excellent country, the people appear quite friendly, if only I could understand them. First stop was Hiroshima, a nice place too especially when one considers the atomic bomb. My word you wouldn’t know now what happened there. Centrally the city has been rebuilt, there are places however that remember the past, the peace memorial for one. The first hotel in Osaka was appalling and I had to change. I’m now at the Imperial hotel which is great compared to the first. Sashimi dinner here last night was absolutely fantastic, amazing. I have always thought Japanese food the best in the world, along with French, both cuisines are so focussed on flavour and presentation, artistry. Travelers often say that the best way to experience a culture is through the food. I’ve always been interested in trying local delicacies when traveling and love the food here. Sashimi is one of my favourites dishes in the world. Last nights perhaps the best I’ve ever had, can’t wait for tonights dinner. Same again I suspect, but I also had a French inspired dish last night, foi gras, I love that dish too.

The following day I went to Dotonbori, another great place, a little like a Chinatown in many cities, alleyways with street level shops, my walking only slightly improved from the castle. It always goes up and down my walking, after 5 years I still can’t relate to my right leg although the downs seem to be becoming less severe, the ups more frequent.