Thursday March 19, 2020, I started a new adventure. For the next 446 days, I spent my time in various locations, listed in no particular order: New York City, USA; Montenegro; London, England; Lake Eden, Minnesota; Shrewsbury, England; up and down Egypt’s Nile River; Lochdubh, Scotland; Highbury, England; Concord, Massachusetts; Moose County, USA; Carsely, England; Bishop’s Lacey, England; Stardew Valley; Houston, USA; and Guanajuato, Mexico.
An avid reader of fiction will spot that most of the above locations are from books. While living in the United States for 218 days, and Mexico for the other 228 days, I read many books and played unending sessions of the RPG, Stardew Valley. Basically my life was on hold.
I did try to blog, but only a few posts were published, since most were not up to my standards. I even began to blog about Stardew Valley, but became so engrossed in the game that I just didn’t have time to write about it after a while. I really loved living in Stardew Valley for hours every day.
My life outside of fictional locals wasn’t so sunny. Each day I had to weigh the odds of if it was worth it to venture out of the places where I was sheltering in place. Staying put almost always won out. I gained a lot of weight, got to be very out of shape, and developed a very haggard look. That is a bit of a bummer, since I had always looked younger than I was, and now looked much older than I am.
On November 3, 2020, I resumed my old habit of reading the news apps every morning; a habit I had discontinued on November 9, 2016. I have to admit it wasn’t too bad to be keeping up with the US news from the safety of a Mexican mountain side. I dreaded knowing that when my visa ran out I would have to leave Mexico to reset it for another six months.
Eventually I broke down and booked a flight back to the US for April 10, 2021, hoping that I would be able to get the vaccine by that time. Then one day in March a very good friend called and told me that I would be able to get the vaccine in Houston. He gave me a link to a website, where I was able to book and appointment at a drive through vaccine site. United Airlines let me change my flight without charge. I only had a few days to get packed, arrange things with my landlady, and pay her rent for the two months I would be gone.
On March 19th, I booked into a hotel near the vaccine site. The next day, my friend picked me up to drive me to get my first Moderna vaccine. Just before we left the hotel, I received a message from the owner of my BnB, telling me that the person who was in apartment, which I had booked, was staying longer. Since the person was a traveling nurse helping with the pandemic, I really didn’t feel as if I could complain. Eventually we worked it out that I would check into a different apartment at the same complex on the 31st, and bounce between three different apartments during my stay, with the longest time being in the last one.
My shot was administered by a Houston Fire Department captain, and we chatted a bit about fighting fires. The fifteen minute wait for side effects took longer than to drive in and get the shot. After we were given go-ahead to drive off, we headed down to another friend’s house south of Houston, where I would stay until my BnB was ready. On the way we went though a Whataburger drive through and went to have our lunch in a little park near my friend’s house.
Then it was pretty much a waiting game. I enjoyed visiting with my friend and her son. When I moved to the BnB, which was near to my dentist and eye doctor, I found that the apartment, which I had booked site unseen, was very nice, with several windows and a good kitchen. I was in that unit for a week before moving to what my landlord called, “The Harry Potter Room.” It was okay for a week, but I really don’t think I would have liked being there for any longer, though it was conveniently located on the front next to where deliveries were left. My final apartment was next door to the first one, and actually a bit better.
The day after moving, I walked over to my dentist’s office for my yearly check up. That was pretty well all I had on the calendar until my next vaccine on April 17th. I chafed a bit because I hadn’t been booked for the Pfizer shots, which only have a 21 day waiting period between doses. With Moderna I had to wait 28 days. I filled my time playing games, talking to friends on the phone, and trying to book an appointment with the Mexican Consulate to apply for Mexican residency.
I had been told that I shouldn’t book an appointment until two weeks before I wanted to come in. That was old information. I found out that the Consulate is very busy with the issues at the border, and that I should have started trying to get an appointment no later than a month before. I kept checking the appointment website, but there never where any slots available.
As easy as the first vaccine appointment went, I wasn’t ready for how bothersome the second one would be. My friend wasn’t able to drive me to the second appointment, but he loaned me his truck to drive myself. I really hate driving in Houston, and this time was worse because I was a stressed out. While the first vaccine site was in the parking lot of some sort of sportsball stadium in the early morning, the second was at an unused park-and-ride near the airport smack in the middle of rush hour. At least, after the harrowing drive up the airport, I had two hours to relax in the truck, rolling forward every once in a while, until I was able to get the second vaccine. The traffic back to the BnB was even worse, but obviously I did survive. I just don’t know how I did it when I was working in Houston.
In March of 2020, soon after I first landed in Houston I got sick. I was coughing, sneezing, had headaches, muscle pain, and was exhausted. After about 10 days the coughing and sneezing went away, but the muscle pain and exhaustion lingered on. I thought I had a mild case of COVID. I tried to get tested to see. After standing in line for a long time, when I was only six people away from the front, I was told that they weren’t giving any more tests that day. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I hadn’t had COVID I really didn’t want to be lining up with so many people. I never went back to try again.
My friend convinced me that it couldn’t have been COVID since he hadn’t gotten it from me, though he was delivering groceries to me frequently. One day after going to Mexico, I was in pain enough to chew him out over the phone because he was telling me all about another friend who had long-haul symptoms. He got me calmed down again, and I just wrote my pain off to getting old and being so very inactive. On top of general pain, I hurt my shoulder and knee, neither of which seemed to want to get any better. By the time I got my second shot, I had pretty well accepted that gobbling OTC painkillers was my new normal.
The day after my second vaccine I felt great. I contacted my eye doctor and booked an appointment and checked again at the Mexican Consulate. I got an eye exam appointment, but not one for the residency application. I went to bed at 10p.m. and woke up feeling cold an hour later. The window HAC unit was set at 76F, so I shouldn’t have been cold. I later checked my Oura Ring app and saw that my temperature had actually been 1.7 degrees higher that night.
I was surprised that my muscle pain could have gotten worse. I had thought that I was topped out on the pain scale. It was hard to get out of bed to adjust the heat. The window unit was too high for me to reach, so I had to stand on a precarious stool to change it to heat only and set it at 80F. Laying in bed smelling the heating coils burn off whatever junk accumulates when they are not used, I wondered what I would do if it caught on fire.
Even after the unit turned off at 80 degrees, I still felt very cold, but managed to fall to sleep. At six in the morning I woke up and realized that I no longer felt cold and had apparently slept for nearly eight hours. I hoped out of bed half asleep and was on the toilet before I realized that I wasn’t in pain. I had heard that long-hauler symptoms often went away after the second shot, but I wasn’t expecting it. I was pretty amazed and called a few friends to tell them. Not the friend who didn’t believe that I had had COVID. No use in flogging a dead horse.
My knee and shoulder were stiff, but had no pain. Of course, being me, I went for a miles long walk and re-injured my knee. Even with that, the pain was different. It was regular pain, not the burning pain I had before the shot. I am afraid that my need to let my knee heal and my love of walking are even now battling. The knee is getting better … with reasonable exercise.
The day I went into see my eye doctor, I was considering seeing if I could change my flight to Mexico and return early since it was clear that I wasn’t going to get an appointment at the consulate. Things started going south as soon as my exam was over. I have pretty sharp hearing and could hear several people in the hallway outside the exam room in conversation. I caught that they were discussing my glaucoma.
I have angle closure glaucoma, so eye doctor appointments are always worrisome. When three doctors came into the exam room, I was ready for the worse. When I found out that they just wanted to advise me to get my cataracts out early because of the glaucoma complication. I was so relieved that I wasn’t going blind I was nearly bouncing up and down. I told them that they didn’t have to sell me on having my cataracts out. All my friends who have had the procedure are very happy with the results.
I opted for having my lenses replaced by corrective lenses, though the lenses and the tests associated with them were not covered by my insurance. Funny thing was; the amount was just about what I had set aside for new electronics this year. Oh well, Apple will have to wait until next year. After more testing, it was determined that my eyes were not right for the most expensive lenses, so I would receive the pretty expensive ones. (The lower price alowed me to get a new iPhone 12 Pro Max.) With those I would have to wear reading glasses only.
It was scheduled for my left eye to be operated on first and the right one on the next day. My friend came up to Houston the day before the surgery and stayed with me for a few days. She was able to bring her little dog Mishka with her, as the BnB is dog friendly. She drove me around and was the person who was given charge of me after each surgery. One surgery was at the office close by my BnB the other was quite far away.
On the second day we took Mishka with us, because we didn’t want her to be alone for so long. The since she was in a carrier, the clinic let my friend bring the puppy into recovery. Getting to hold her while my friend was driving me around was very comforting. Since we were both fully vaccinated by that time, we were able to go out to lunch twice. That was so much fun. It had been so long since we had been able to be ladies who lunch. It was extra fun to go to dog friendly places and have Mishka with us.
After it was all over and my friend headed home, I realized that my vision wasn’t getting any better. As a matter of fact it was about the worst it had been in my whole life. I could see close up, but when I looked at something only six feet away, I got what felt like motion sickness. I went back to the doctor’s, where they explained that because I had had Lasix in the past, it was impossible to know just how much correction had been applied to my eyes. They had made their best guess, and were very far off.
They gave me contacts to even out my vision, and scheduled me for a battery of tests to determine what the right lenses would be. I went back to the apartment and rebooked my flight again, since I would have to stay for two extra weeks. United let me change it again without charge and without even knowing it was for a medical reason. I contacted my landlady, and she said it was fine for me to wait and pay her the month’s rent when I got back, rather than sending it by PayPal.
When I returned for the testing, they were able to give me contacts which corrected my vision to what it would be after the next surgery. They scheduled me for an operation to take both the lenses out on the same day and replace them. In the meantime I would have time to make sure that I was satisfied with the correction. I had to get reading glasses to use with the contacts.
My friend wasn’t able to come up a second time as she was booked solid with her job. I called around without any luck, and finally put a request on Facebook asking any of my friend who live in Houston to help me out finding someone to drive me and sign me out from the surgery. A classmate I hadn’t seen in over 40 years volunteered to be my responsible person. I was very touched. I guess Facebook is good for something.
I was under the impression that replacing the lenses would be easier than putting the first set in. Boy was I ever wrong. The first round of surgery was no worse than my Lasix all that time ago, but the second was even worse than the emergency surgery I had for my glaucoma. I will not go into the gory details, but it was only a little better than child birth. Hopefully, like childbirth I will forget the fear and pain in time.
I need to put in here, that my experience isn’t very common. Most people have their cataracts replaced and are seeing the best that they ever had within days. I have had trouble with my eyes for my whole life. When you get right down to it my eyes are a birth defect. I am farsighted and was born with very severe amblyopia. Add in the Lasix surgery and the glaucoma, I was doomed to have complications.
My old classmate drove me down to my friend’s house, since the surgery coincided with the end of my BnB reservation. I Ubered up to Houston, for two more checkups, and so far all is well. I am booked for another exam in November, when they will decide if I need a procedure to correct my eyes more or if there are any issues with the capsule around my new lenses. At that time I will get word on what strength of reading glasses I will need, so that I can stop guessing. I am currently wearing various drugstore reading glasses, which my friend gave to me. None of them seem to have the strength printed on the temple pieces. It was a good thing that my friend kept her old glasses when she needed a stronger prescription.
Thanks to the trouble with my knee, I did a lot of Ubering this time in Houston. The funny thing was that the price of rental cars is so high right now, that it was cheeper to order all those Ubers over a month than renting a car for a week. From what I read it seems as if the rental car companies sold off their fleets during the pandemic expecting to buy new cars once they needed them again. They had no way of knowing that a microchip shortage would make buying new cars in volume pretty impossible.
During the two weeks I stayed at my friend’s house, she was out of town for a week, and her son was studying for his Unlimited Third Mates license. Since I was his mother’s roommate at Texas Maritime Academy, and spent 41 years as a merchant mariner, he liked having me around to question. I was glad that he was busy with his studies leaving me free to play Stardew Valley online with a friend for hours each day.
Finally it was time for me to fly home. I really can’t express how much more relaxed I was flying while fully vaccinated. It wasn’t a normal travel day for me. I had a checked bag and my carry-on bags were very heavy as I was taking things home for the house I am renting. I am not doing that again. I would much rather pay import duties though Amazon.MX.
The Leon/GTO airport is small and easy to get in and out of, the first blip I had was a taxi driver who wasn’t familiar with the city of Guanajuato. I even took his phone and programed the drop-off location into Google Maps. He still stopped on the way into Guanajuato and picked up one of the guides, which you see along the road, to help. (At least he didn’t expect me to pay for the guide.)
My landlady had arranged for a man to met me and carry my bags up to the house. She told me to give him 100 pesos and see if he would accept that. It took me 150 pesos to get rid of him. He is another reason, that I am not checking a bag again.
The next day I walked down to the bank to get pesos to pay my belated rent. It was so nice to be out walking not worrying if my mask was fitting well. Most people here are still wearing my masks outdoors, though they are only required to wear them indoors or in crowds. Since then, I have been out walking most days. It is so nice not to feel as if I where taking an unreasonable risk to leave the confines of my house.
- In a final note: WordPress has made quite a few changes since the last time I used the app. To be perfectly honest, the changes are getting in the way of my writing. I will have to give some serious thought to changing platforms for my blog. I am sorry if on your computer, the site is displaying in the mobile format. I will have to see if I can fix that.