COVID19, Dengue and Joys of Travel

I have been living in India since July 2019 under the New Colombo Plan.

Recently I was called home due to #COVID19 but plan to return to India 2021.


It's fun but it isn't always easy and things often do not go to plan. Especially living in Asia. This blog I have dedicated to a couple of the (mis)adventures I have had across Asia.

Mosquito born diseases, assaults by monkeys, food poisoning and living in a damp basement with no shower are just some of the funny (in hindsight) misadventures I have had gallivanting across India.

One of the less humorous events happened little over a week ago when I was called home 'on the next available flight.' All New Colombo Plan Scholars were recalled home after Smartraveller upgraded all of Asia to a Level 4 Do Not Travel due to the risks of COVID19. A mad rush to pack up 19 months worth of belongings (I now want to be a minimalist, advice welcome) and booking a flight that left India the next day was a whirlwind to say the least. No goodbyes, no farewells, no last curries, just an eight hour drive and 16 hour plane journey and suddenly I was back home in Australia.

While the circumstances of my return home are less than ideal, I am grateful to be home and hope to return to India to continue my New Colombo Plan as soon as it is feasible. Until then, I am finishing one of my degrees and self isolating in a caravan until I move into the family home in which a bedroom shuffle is underway (my siblings are the best).

Now... onto another misadventure involving monkeys.

When I was studying Hindi up in the mountains of Mussoorie, nicknamed 'Queen of the Hills' I had a walk to class that consisted of observing many monkeys. The place was literally crawling with them and locals often carried a rock and a stick with them just in case you got jumped on by a monkey or they decided they wanted to rob you of your purse, lunch or small child (last one is a slight exaggeration).

A Langur

One day I was walking to class with a friend who was eating a banana

when a monkey known as a langur jumped off a nearby car and started heading towards us. I assumed, like most people the langur was going for the banana.

I was wrong.

The monkey instead swung himself off

a car, smacked me on the butt then ran off. Completely ignoring the banana! Everything I thought I knew about monkeys was wrong. Yet I did learn a new meaning of the term

'Cheeky Monkey.'

In my time in India I had the great misfortune of being bitten by a mosquito carrying the tropical disease dengue. I spent five days in hospital after being diagnosed and spent so much time in bed that I didn't even know where the light switch in my room was! The hospital itself, was actually very lovely (well, as lovely as hospitals can be). Hats off to East West Medical Center in New Delhi.

Prior to being diagnosed I spent four days traveling around India in which I attended a wedding and gave a speech at an event hosted by the Australian High Commission. In between these events, I was given medicine to take (that I now have found out is banned in Australia), had bleeding gums and was hunched over at railway station at 1am dry reaching. The speech I gave, I think is the closest thing I have ever had to an out of body experience. I can smile and joke about dengue now but at the time it was rough and I felt the effects for weeks after I was home from hospital.

Throughout it all, I am very grateful that I had travel insurance and people around me that could help and care for me with love. Even if they had only known me for a couple hours (I am talking about the Indian Auntie that held my hair back at the train station at 1am).

So the moral of that story, is to wear bug spray kids, the doctors aren't kidding.

Top left: Me in hospital Top Right: Friends looking after me at the wedding Bottom left: Me on a train feeling awful Bottom Right: My out of body speech experience (apparently I spoke well)

My final misadventure is fainting on a very crowded Indian train. I was on my way to Mathura for the celebration of Holi when I started to feel very dizzy. I didn't have a seat ($4 tickets, yes I like cheap) and was coming off the back of an episode of food poisoning, so I wasn't in peak physical condition. A hour or so into the trip, the world began to close in around me and sound became distorted. Now, I am no stranger to fainting but as I stood, more like swayed, all I was thinking, other than "I feel awful" is "There is literally no room on this train for me to faint." Yet a man sitting in a seat close to me saw my white, pale face and stood up and gave me his four times more expensive seat for the next two hours while I passed out. I found out when I woke up that the people sitting next to me had literally changed a diaper and thrown it past my face and out the window without me stirring in the slightest.

I am very grateful to that young Indian man.

But in all seriousness, the ups and downs of my NCP are part of what I signed up for when I decided to move to Asia for 19 months. I have friends (both home and abroad) that have supported me at every one of those ups and downs. Travel isn't just the pictures you see on Instagram, often it is messy, tiring and sometimes, just hard.

Yet, all of the misadventures and plain awful experiences I had living abroad, have made me more resilient, stronger and more empathetic to this world I call home. I am grateful for friends that become like family and for the goodness of strangers. India is home to some incredibly selfless and genuine people and I am glad that I can tell their stories through my misadventures. Some funny, some not so funny.

On my way home

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