Alice thought having a photo of my foot as the first post of the website didn’t give a good impression, so here’s something more socially acceptable. Alice and I in Minneriya Wildlife Sanctuary in Sri Lanka :)
Is it some sort of mid – twenties crisis? A complete failure of artistic photographic ability? *Just a phase I’m going through*?
It all starts about 18 years ago. I got my first verruca, on my left foot. That’s an english term for a wart on the bottom of your foot. A wart is a viral infection (not a fungus or bacteria) just under your skin, caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus. It causes the skin to grow erratically and generates a nasty looking shape above the skin.They start really small and can grow quickly. Being in school, my job was to wear a ‘verruca sock’, a plastic sock covering my foot in a kind attempt to prevent it being picked up by other kids. It was eventually frozen off painfully by the doctor, only to reappear a few years later.
By my mid teens, my foot had four or five at the top, and one on the heel. They weren’t going away. Because they weren’t sore except in the heat, I lived with them.
By my early twenties, the bottom of my foot was completely covered by large warts, like this: http://www.foothealthcare.com/images/articles/editor/warts.jpg, only worse. On my heel, several large ones had joined together and most of my heel was covered with a huge, deep wart. They grew slowly, and I continued to live with them.
In 2009, just before Alice and I got together, I got my first wart on my right index finger. It grew slowly at first, then to about 5mm, and after a few months I managed to get rid of it in a rather painful mess which I won’t describe as it’s not relevant.
It came back about six months later, and got bigger and bigger. After an attempt to use an over the counter ‘freezing’ medicine from Boots UK to remove it, it grew even faster. By the end of 2010, I was trying all kinds of painful treatments including vinegar. In the mean time, four more warts had begun to appear in between and on top of my toes. Nasty!
Alas, in 2011, the year of my wedding, it returned larger than ever, a horrible 1cm cauliflower on my finger. Busy with wedding preparations, instead of fight it, I took to just covering it with a plaster. If you look at all the photos of my wedding to Alice, you’ll see the top of my right index finger is covered by a white band. It’s for the better, trust me!
Two more appeared on another finger, one growing fast. Clearly I was susceptible to the skin form of Human Papillomavirus, and my body couldn’t fight it. For the first time in over a decade, I decided to try to have the finger ones painfully frozen off with liquid nitrogen. The small ones on my other finger disappeared within a few months. The large one kept coming back, smaller each time. About six months ago, in January 2012, I had my latest freezing session. Since then I was constantly checking for evidence of it returning, which thankfully it didn’t. I paid no attention to my foot any more. I knew I’d be living with warts for the foreseeable future. It had been almost two decades, after all.
As you know, Alice and I have just got back from a long trip around Asia. We’ve been in all kinds of strange and wonderful places, and sometimes dirty, and checking my feet was the last thing to worry about.
Three nights ago, I looked at my foot, and noticed it seemed cleaner than normal. Holding my breath, I took the bedside lamp and shined it to illuminate the full palm. A sight which I’ve not seen my whole life greeted me, and in shock I gazed at my fully grown left foot, completely clean of warts on the top and bottom. Huge, deep verrucas I’ve lived with for ten years, gone. Warts which had grown fast and large on the top of my toes in the past year, gone.
I struggled to analyse why, how? After so long, why should my body suddenly be able to fight them off during a long trip across China, Tibet and India? Warts are known to just disappear after some time, as I later researched, but still, after two decades, in my case, what triggered it? What’s your opinion?
* The recent freezing of my finger and attempt by the wart to regrow was met with a response from my immune system that eventually fought all the others too?
* Starting my journey with Buddhist meditation. Beginning to see things from a new perspective with new eyes. A calm of mind.
* Travelling through many difference places and tasting many dishes of varying exquisiteness finally beat my warts?
* Being in Tibet. The spirituality. The high altitude. Lower blood oxygen level?
* Indian water – enough to kill anything?
* Other foot problems (toenail) stimulate my immune system to fight off the virus?
* Travelling through multiple climates and temperatures fooled my warts into confusion, and they came off?
* A critical number of warts in my system get noticed by my body such that it fights them all off at once?
Either way, travelling is usually the time when your immune system is weaker, and you pick up things you didn’t have before, not fight off a cronic virus you’ve been living with for 18 years. I’m happily baffled, but resolved my own response to the whole thing:
* It doesn’t really matter what thing or combination of things caused them to go. I am thankful, and have a better understanding of ‘nothing lasts forever’ or as the Buddhists say, the impermanence of all things, even if they look set to stick around forever!
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Alice and Liza with Liza’s new baby, Kele, yesterday afternoon. A joy to meet a new member of the family upon returning to Beijing!
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Alice put it so very eloquently in the previous message, how can I follow?
I too find myself a little overwhelmed by the material joys of being home, but left with an odd feeling of dissatisfaction. How to engage with new comforts when we have had little but the most important things with us on our journey? Even my computer seems alien, and those of you who know me well will see this as quite unbelievable; but I am not used to using a computer at all after almost three months without it. It feels like a distraction, a luxurious and beautiful product designed with the power to help, but also dangerously distracting, disengaging. How to mindfully use a computer? I don’t know yet. I shall have to learn.
Nevertheless, a mild bewilderment on our parts is an excellent sign, I think. It shows some of the filters in us, however small, have changed, and it is deeper than just ‘returning home after seeing some great sights for a few months’.
Our linear, western minds have trained us to see abstract things such as beginning and end as real, solid. Alice and I have landed for the last time in this trip, we are back, and our lifestyle will change, but what is really over? Beijing shows signs of the greenery of spring, the new building at Fortune Plaza stands 200 feet taller, there are friends to meet, jobs to find, new people to meet. And so life now challenges us to take our new eyes, and make them see things we didn’t see before, and perhaps even pay less attention to things we saw as important before. The journey continues. Returning to a familiar place and seeing it differently is never the end. It is the beginning.