Sunday, April 27, 2014

Italia: in sickness and in health

We left for our trip to Italy last Friday.  I started getting sick 4 days prior to our departure.  The night before we left, I had a fever and had hard chills and abdominal pains all night.  When I woke up, instead of going to work, I went to Walk-In care.  The doctor took inventory of my symptoms and said he was sure I had influenza.  It turns out he was right.  I told him I was leaving for Rome in 5 hours.  He said:  "Rome, Italy?" And then, "Oh boy." 

After discussing it for a while, he said I could go ahead on my trip but I likely would feel awful for several more days.  He didn't necessarily recommend it but he understood why I would go.  Not exactly a vote of confidence? 

My thoughts for the next few hours went like this:  I can't go.  No way.  I don't even have enough energy to shower.  I don't want to hold Tim and Hillary back from their trip if I go.  I don't want to miss my chance to go.  When will I get to go again?  And when will I get the chance to be in Europe with Tim and Hillary?  What if I get there and get worse?  I can't go.  I have to go.

Obviously, I went.  The doctor couldn't give any meds to treat the flu (it was too late for that), but he could treat the symptoms.  So I had ibuprofen, and meds for nausea, abdominal cramping, and any other problem that may plague me.

And I had Tim, my most solid and patient and reassuring mate. 

 

Have meds.  Will travel. 

 I had a fever when I got on the plane and I just felt plain terrible.  I slept most of the way to Rome.  I got some energy from landing and seeing the gorgeous views out the window.


We arrived Saturday morning and had several hours to kill before we were able to check into the room in the apartment we had reserved.  And we weren't meeting up with Hillary until that night.

We had cappuccinos and croissants and walked around some shops.  For some reason, though my stomach was upset almost the entire trip, croissants always tasted good.

 We sat in a beautiful old church and I fell asleep sitting in the pew.


By evening, we found Hill, but I needed to stay in bed instead of join them for dinner.  They brought me some bread for dinner which is about all I could eat.  I was so happy to see Hillary and I was trying...

When I think about it now, from the other side, I think yeah, I was sick, I felt sick, what did I expect?  But when I woke up the next day after sleeping 10 hours and was worse, and could only go back to bed instead of going out to explore Rome as was the plan that I had so looked forward to, when I was too sick to even sit up, my mind went into some pretty bad places.  I haven't been this sick since I can remember, or ever. 



I spent a lot of time in bed thinking scary thoughts and staring out this window.  I was definitely dying, or should be hospitalized, or at the very best I was pretty sure that I should fly home instead of continuing on with this trip.  I didn't want to hold Tim and Hillary back, and the anxiety I felt about being so far from home was intense.  I totally wanted my mom.

While Tim and Hill were off exploring, my friend Suzanne, via texts, talked me off a cliff by assuring me that it was perfectly normal that I was still this sick.  Influenza is a bitch, she promised, and no I was not dying.

Outside my window was a narrow cobble stoned street (we were in Trestevere, for those of you who know Rome) full of shops and cafes.  I could hear people singing, shouting, and buzzing by on Vespas.  I even heard some men yell:  "Ciao Bella!" and I swear I even heard a man yell"  "Mama Mia!"  I had enough presence to appreciate where I was even if I was experiencing it all through a dense fog.

I had only eaten bites of bread and a few sips of cappuccino for days, so I was weak, and several hours later when Tim and Hill came back to check on me, I had convinced myself it was time for some fresh air and sunshine and nourishment.  We went out "for a short walk" where I ended up finding some energy and with it, some reassurance that I wasn't dying.

The world turns into a wonderfully different place when you don't think you're dying anymore.

We found this soup at a cafe across from the Pantheon.  It was magical and kind of turned my world around.

 I had enough energy after eating this to keep walking.  Rome, especially in the state I was in, felt like a dream.  A warm, sunny, golden, surreal, ancient dream. 



I'm in Rome!  And I'm not dying!




 

I'm not fooling anyone that I'm healthy in this pic


3 guesses what I wished for when we tossed a coin into Trevi Fountain
the shadow of a palm tree
 What a vibrant and breathtaking place.  And how cool to see this city with Hillary as our competent guide.



We sat on a rooftop cafe for an hour looking out at this, all golden with sunset.

The next day, our plan was to move on via train to Naples and then via boat to the isle of Capri where we had another apartment to stay.  My big decision was whether to fly home from Rome, or continue on, knowing that I was getting farther away from a rescue plan if I got sicker.  This decisions caused me so much stress, but I decided with enough ibuprofen I could carry on.

In Naples, which we dubbed "Sketchyville," we napped on the grass.  Tim and Hillary were so very good to me that they promised this is exactly what they wanted to do too.  Castles and piazzas and ancient ruins?  No, we'd rather sit here with you and rest. 



By the time we boarded a boat for Capri, I was feeling a bit better but no one wanted to jinx it by asking me if I felt better.  We just breathed in the fresh sea air and marveled at the view of this high-cliff wonder of an island ahead of us.  

 If Rome is hustle and bustle and shouting and singing, Capri is strolling and turquoise jewelry and white gauzy dresses and blue water.  I felt as though we were plunked down in a movie set. 


Via taxi, we found our way to the top of the isle where our apartment was waiting for us. 




 Having booked this all on the internet, you're never quite sure what you'll get.  Our place on Capri was better than the photos, a big airy room with a balcony overlooking the gardens with a grove of lemon trees, and then beyond that, the sea.

We lightened our load by dropping off our bags and then (I felt good!) we walked all over Capri.  Lemons and limoncello and cappuccinos and flowers and Italians making Italian shoes right there on the street.  




 

 

 

lemon trees

After a while, I really felt good.  No fever, a little bit of an appetite, and enough energy to walk and buy pretty turquoise beaded jewelry.  Hallelujiah.
 



It took me a while to connect that the Caprese salad, one of my favorite things, is from Capri!  So we had to have one that night. It was the first night of the trip that I joined Tim and Hill for dinner.  I had a few sips of wine and about ten bites of pasta and some of this salad.   That cheese!


Our days on Capri were the best medicine.   And yet I was reminded over and over again that Influenza wasn't done yet, and I would still have hours at a time of discomfort.  I was slowly climbing out of it but it was not the leap back into health that I had hoped for.

We made our way back to Rome, stopping along the way to eat and face time with the kids at home.  Clearly we were happy to see their faces.


Traveling by train is my favorite.  We captured this dramatic sky between Naples and Rome.  I tried to rest on Tim's shoulder and absorb everything I could, knowing I was heading home the next morning. 


Our last night all together in Rome (Tim stayed a few more days after I left, and Hillary is there for another two weeks), I felt the best I had.  I was up for a late dinner at Dar Poeta, the pizza place Hillary had been talking about since January.  We waited an hour for a table and it was worth every second. 

 I ordered as instructed by Hillary.  This baby, with pecorino and fresh mozarella and artichokes and olives.  I ate about half of it.  I also ate salad!  And drank a beer!  Saying that the cheese is really amazing in Italy seems to be stating the obvious, but it's so different.  It's incomparable.

 After dinner, we ordered chocolate mousse and the nutella calzone.  Tim was wide eyed looking at me:  "You have had three bites of food this entire trip and now look at you."  I was making up for lost meals.  I was in heaven.  I felt about 80% good, but this food was definitely bumping me in the right direction.  We sat at that table until 11 pm, and I held onto every moment and every last lick of nutella on the plate because I had finally gotten the feeling that I was really present in Italy.

I wasn't sick in Italy, I was just in Italy.  And it may be a bummer that I didn't feel that way until  the last night in Rome, but at least I got to go, and at least I got to feel it.



And no matter where I am, I get these two for keeps.



I was in such good hands.  Every time I thanked Tim for taking care of everything, for carrying bags, and getting the tickets, and looking at the map, and making sure I was drinking enough water, he would brush it off:  In sickness and in health, honey. 
Good thing we know how many more adventures there will be, and good thing I know that every day with him is full of goodness anyway.  Getting home, getting my kids back in my arms, and slowly continuing to feel better has all left me incredibly grateful.  It wasn't the trip I expected to have, but there were moments of wonder nonetheless.  And isn't that just how it is? 

One of the best things about traveling is that it makes you see yourself differently.  Italy impressed, amazed, and stretched me.  And I'll be going back someday for more of that.