Pneumonia is no fun

So, to be fair… I had a good reason for falling off the face of the earth in May.

Right around my last post, I came down with what was the beginning of an aggressive drug-resistant pneumonia just before visiting Kay in Singapore for the weekend after he switched to INSEAD’s Asian campus from France, which made the flights to and from Singapore some of the worst, most painful ones I have ever endured. After two weeks trying out three different kinds of antibiotics and suffering from 40ºC fevers daily whenever my fever meds ran out, I was finally admitted to the hospital.

I really, really, really did not want to go to the hospital with Kay in a different country. I cried a lot about it. I prayed for the antibiotics to work and for myself to stop coughing into vomiting. But the fact was, the pneumonia was beating me. I was sleeping for up to 20 hours a day, I had excruciating back pain (from the muscles around my lungs, as I later found out) that made it hard to breathe at times, and  I didn’t want almost any kind of food. It was all just… disgusting, aside from fruit, fruit juice and Sprite, and sometimes cereal. But even those would come back up again when I coughed enough, and I couldn’t control my coughing, yet it was a seemingly harmless unproductive cough. I lost a lot of weight pretty quickly, which put me down to around 123lbs, a weight I haven’t been since I was around 13.

So, feeling quite alone in the world, I packed a bag up one Sunday, dried my tears, and took a tram to the hospital to check myself in, in German, not knowing how this works with insurance. Kay, six timezones away, was traveling in Bangladesh with friends for the weekend, and was beside himself with worry when he found out that I had to be hospitalized. It was all pretty freaky. He wanted to know if he should fly home, but I told him not to miss his classes and that I would be in good hands with the doctors. I’m basically a saint. 😉

The doctors took an X-ray of my lungs and were horrified to see how large the fluid in my right lung had become. While they thought they might not have to admit me, they ended up doing more tests to confirm that I had a huge “thing” in my lungs and I needed intravenous meds ASAP. They also were concerned that there was a slight risk I could maybe have tuberculosis (that’s something fun to hear!), so they immediately put me in isolation in the emergency ward before finding me a private room to isolate me. Suddenly being masked and isolated (all auf deutsch) was kind of surreal. Kay was asleep by that point and after a visit from my FIL, I was all alone again, kind of freaking out.

When they finally found a room for me, which normally I wouldn’t qualify for on my insurance, but they needed to isolate me, the nurse settled me in for the night, and before she left, I asked her what my room number was. “17”.

Kay’s special army number. Somehow, I felt like it was my MIL acting from above, and letting me know that everything will be alright, even if Kay was so far away. It reassured me some as I spent the first night in that dark room terrified.

I ended up staying for ten days in the hospital. My case was apparently of great interest to the doctors for how extreme it was, but I started feeling better, and eventually was released to spend another week at home before going back to work after a full month away.

The meds at home were still pretty nasty and made me feel very ill and nauseous, but back at work, I slowly started getting better. I looked terribly gaunt and unwell thought. My skin was sallow, my cheekbones were hollow, and I had dark, exhausted circles under my eyes. Ain’t no makeup gonna cover up some unhealthy skin like that… I wasn’t fooling anyone!

Kay and I also had to spend almost 2 months apart, because I was too unwell to travel and visit him anymore. We didn’t see each other again until he flew home for my birthday in July before starting his summer internship in Germany. It was really hard being apart so long, but since then, we’ve managed to see each other every weekend in the summer and not longer than 2-3 weeks apart for the rest of the school year.

I’ve had several follow up appointments to check up if the pneumonia and my lungs are healing well, with almost twice the time to check for healing as with normal pneumonia cases. I was surprised how many people in the hospital have heard and discussed my case… it makes it sound like one of those Grey’s Anatomy cases where the doctors say, “Hey, look how crazy this is! Have you ever seen anything like it??” In fact, for happening in May, I still have to go for a lung panel next week to test if my lungs are working properly. But considering that I continued my training for a half marathon after the pneumonia and successfully ran it in September, I am not too worried. 🙂

As things stand now, Kay is almost done with classes, finishing up later this month. I have traveled SO much since then, and have lots to fill you up on. We have a lot of exciting plans for next year and I know I will have time to update the blog! More soon. 🙂

Gluten Free Brasilia, Brazil

I didn’t really worry about how to eat gluten free on our whole trip to Brazil. The main food we eat is churrasco, which is BBQ meat with beans, rice, veggies, and salad. Plus, Brazilians label all packaged food, even things like cachaçha, as gluten free.
For breakfast at our hotel, there was also usually pão de queijo- cheese bread- which is made out of tapioca flour.There was also always a lot of fresh fruit to enjoy, and lots of Brazilian coffee!With lots of fresh vegetables and options, I was not feeling left out of the food scene, although I did miss enjoying the subzero beer from my previous visit in 2010. They serve beer extremely cold and keep it in a thermos on your table, ensuring that each glass you have is ice cold. Plus as soon as you finish the bottle, another one was on its way. I had to be a little more careful with the caipirinhas. 🙂Some meals were not quite as amazing as others, like this mediocre salad below, but that happens when you’re eating in a mall.We also enjoyed lots of cafezinhos, little coffees.If there was one thing we got enough of on this holiday, it was MEAT. Glorious meat.Another favorite of mine is Brazilian tapioca, which are a kind of pancake made out of tapioca flour, often served with condensed cream and coconut. Although they are less common outside the north of the country, we found them in a mall and made sure to order some!Another part of churrasco’s feijoada – stewed beans and pork served over rice- is farofa, which is toasted cassava, or tapioca, that you can see in the lower left of the photo above. That was also a typical part of my Brazilian diet. 🙂

Not all the people know what gluten is, but eating gluten free in Brazil is still a pretty painless process. The most painful part was eating too much meat and not enough vegetables!

Brasilia, Brazil

Kay had been wanting to visit the capital of Brazil for many years, so when I found “affordable” direct flights to Brasilia from Paris, where he was already going to be for his INSEAD pre-course in December, I booked us tickets together and started planning the trip from there.

Once he was done with his course, I whisked him away for some relaxation before the craziness of INSEAD would begin.Brasilia is one of the few “planned” cities in the country, laid out in the shape of an airplane, with many buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, it also houses the three branches of government.
Brasilia was nice and hot when we showed up. So much, that we didn’t rub enough sun lotion on our little gringo bodies and got burned on the first day! Oops.

The domed building was the Memorial dos Povos Indígenas (Museum of Indigenous People) which had a photography exhibition at the time.The city was a bit more empty than usual as many diplomats who fill the city were on Christmas holiday.Here we are visiting the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, or Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasília.The inside of the church was very beautiful, with exquisite stained glass and an intriguing floor plan having people go below ground level to enter the church.Kay was very interested to visit the governmental parts of the city, below you see the towers that house the Congresso Nacional (National Congress).

And near the congress was the Praça dos Tràs Poderes, with an Olympic flame nearby.
We were two happy campers with the weather in December. 🙂Brasilia is not the most pedestrian-friendly city, and we ended up using Uber for the first time ever a lot on this trip.There are also some areas like around the TV Tower, wide, open, dark spaces, that you don’t want to be at night, because they are a big scene for drug deals and theft.We also made a visit up the TV Tower to see a view down the “belly” of the airplane.We booked a tour to visit the Palácio dos Arcos housing the foreign ministry.Also below was our visit to the congress halls, which took quite a bit of finagling to get in, and Kay needed shoes and a nice shirt. We actually went like three days in a row before we finally got tickets for a tour. Bureaucracy is strong in the capital of Brazil!After a few days, it was time to head to Bauru to meet Kay’s family for Christmas.

Thanksgiving Treats

Yeah, posting about this in May, not only because we always celebrate the day sometime random in Switzerland, but because you only have 5-6 months before you need to start planning Thanksgiving 2016!

Or, if you’re like me, maybe you hanker cinnamon-based desserts year round, because YUM.If there’s anything Kay should miss this summer while he’s in Singapore, it is our ice cream maker, because the ice cream coming out of this machine is mouthwatering. This cinnamon ice cream recipe from Epicurious is pretty epic.I don’t make too many ice creams with eggs yet, but I really should, because they make the most wonderful, creamy texture in ice cream. This really seemed like a proper ice cream, and not some weird gluten free, lactose-free ice cream that I was making the previous summer.I also wanted to make a cranberry apple pie to bring along for dessert, as well as pecan tassies, and a pumpkin ice cream. It was a lot of dessert, even for seven people.Again, I used the The Everything Gluten-Free Baking Cookbook for the pie crust, and then I sort of winged the apple cranberry part with some normal pie recipes online.Overall, I was pretty happy how the pie crust turned out. GF pie crust kind of scares me a bit. I still haven’t made a covered pie, but I will at some point.In between making the ice cream and taking it to my friend’s house for Thanksgiving, I taste tested the cinnamon ice cream with the secret cheesecake I made for Kay. The one that I’m not allowed to share with others. 😉 It was great celebrating our ninth Thanksgiving together with these friends.They are my first friends in Switzerland from my rotary house times, and Kay is already a little sad that he will miss 2016’s Thanksgiving because he’ll be in Singapore.We age like fine wine together. 🙂Good times are always had with this crew.Maybe 2016 will be the year for the covered GF apple pie? Or a new attempt at pumpkin pie without my precious Libby’s pumpkin puree? Only time will tell.

Citizen M Hotel, Paris

Kay and I first stayed in a Citizen M hotel in Amsterdam for our minimoon after getting married civilly in Zurich. We enjoyed the hotel then, so whenever I see a city with a Citizen M, I am a little partial to choose them. Our flight to Brasilia in December was on a Sunday morning at 8am, so I booked us a room at the airport location to make things easier.

The hotel has an interesting concept that you check yourself in and out (no waiting), as well as supplying the room with ample technology to improve your stay, like multimedia integration and special mood lighting. Using an iPad, you can control the color of the lightning, music, and TV in the room.The rooms are also very stylish and designed to maximize space utilization. A large king size bed sits wall to wall in rooms, with the front portion of the room towards the hallway used for the bathroom and sink area.Breakfast was a little lackluster at the Paris location, although there were some gluten free options, all the hot food like eggs and bacon were empty during our entire breakfast and the staff didn’t seem concerned about refilling it, even though it was 6:30am. The fruit was also the canned variety, leaving me a little dissatisfied overall, but it was fine for a day.INSEAD is touted as being in “Paris”, but not really. It took us over two hours to get to the airport from Bois-le-roi by train and metro. So long, that we didn’t have time anymore after check-in to get back into downtown Paris to see the new episode of Star Wars.

Cue sad face, until I looked up nearby shopping mall to the airport and hotel, Aéroville, which was also playing the movie, and made a great place to have a late dinner and drinks before the showing.This is not the first time I’ve booked an airport hotel for an early flight the next day. After getting up at the butt-crack-of-dawn to get home from London on a Monday morning one time, I decided to reserve a room for us in the Hotel Sofitel Athens Airport to make the early flight back from Greece more bearable.
Have you stayed in an airport hotel the night before a flight?