That Old Thing Back: The Trip Before Christmas

Love this one by B.I.G, Ja and Ralph Tresvant, this one was bangin’
The remixed version, though, sounds like good vibes from a tropical island,
Recovered just in time, another holiday for the year,
One week exploring the land and sea, home in time for Christmas Eve,
Still sitting pretty, feeling stoked, the worst is truly behind me,
Gotta stay focused, though, let’s not get cocky.

16 – 23/12/2018

Warning: This post contains over-sharing

My parents and I stood on the upper deck of a cruise ship docked at Sydney Harbor bound for Tasmania. We leaned against the railing and watched the busy scene below play out as people walked up and down the harbor like little ants, soaking up the sunshine and relishing the pending summer break. I assumed that those who were dragging their feet and had a rather glum expression on their faces were the ones who had to work throughout the holiday period. To them, today was just another day.
Other would-be travellers headed towards the ship and I can’t say that the scene resembled the opening minutes of Rose’s flashback from that movie Titanic. People weren’t dressed in fine suits and dresses, accompanied by their equally well-dressed children and speaking in formal British accents. There were no working-class folks being checked for diseases that they might carry onboard and staring with a mixture of scorn and low-key envy at their more affluent counterparts. Heck, there wasn’t even a classic car being loaded onboard the vessel that would soon be christened by a young couple from contrasting social backgrounds. Instead it was couples old and young and families with playful children dressed for the summer merrily stepping aboard following a long gauntlet of security and bag checks.

The sun may have been shining brightly that day but it was a different story atop the ship’s upper deck thanks to some rather intense winds that managed to overpower the sun’s rays. Pity the poor folks wearing hats that were trying to take photos and selfies, finding themselves stuck in a balancing act of trying to hold their phones or cameras steady since the wind was aggressive towards the direction facing the iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Me? I thought I had my cap screwed tight onto my noggin but that damn wind decided to get wise with me and I had a few close calls. Luckily I didn’t become one of the unfortunate few whose hats were blown clean off of their heads, forcing them to chase after their head wear like dog owners that had lost grip of their leash and having to chase after their furry friends as a result.

The ship slowly sailed out of the dock and made its way through the Sydney Harbor Bridge and out into the open sea, cueing cheers and a mass photography session from the people around me, the mischievous wind suddenly forgotten. My folks and I took in the sea air for about ten minutes before heading back inside and exploring the ship’s interior, passing by the library where a few weary passengers were taking their mid-day naps with open books on their laps, a few bars and clubs and of course, the ship’s grand atrium with its golden glass elevators, mini rock pool, stairwell and a space at the foot of the steps for a grand piano where a pianist would sometimes entertain guests at night. The area was also surrounded by stores, restaurants and bars and was also where the ship’s team of receptionists and the exits were located.
We headed to a buffet at the upper deck for a rather late lunch, not far from the outdoor pool and cinema where just about half of the ship’s passengers were already enjoying a social drink or two under the sun as children splashed around in the pool.
Talk about getting the party started early. Has Pink arrived yet?
Not having eaten since breakfast I was starving and so after finding a vacant table (an assignment that required the type of eagle-eyed scanning of the premises that was straight out of a sniper’s playbook), my parents and I took turns braving the long lines to put food on our plates with dad, as predicted, having the most loaded plate out of the three of us.

Trust Pops to want to sample everything at once.

Seriously, put him in a buffet and you will see something truly amazing. As for me, I went up for two rounds. My appetite may not have been on the same ballpark as my father’s but let’s just say that when it came to eating it was still a true case of ‘like father like son’. The crowd had begun to die down by the time I’d lined up for the second time as the buffet would be closing in about an hour’s time in order for staff to get dinner ready. They were at least kind enough to allow the current wave of arriving passengers to eat to their hearts’ content.
After lunch my parents and I walked around outside at the ship’s lower deck, watching the land and civilization fading away as the ship sailed further out to sea. It was so calm and peaceful out there, even if the sound of the waves was somewhat stymied by the roar of the ship’s mighty engine. The room assigned to us consisted of two bunk beds and one single, one rather cramped bathroom with a shower that was a tad difficult to figure out and a balcony with a view of the ocean and whichever port the ship was docked at. It was good to know that we had access to the outdoors and the fresh sea air without having to venture out onto the decks, although a naturally restless person like me would still head out to the decks frequently while we were out at sea to keep the body moving and also to let my mind run loose, which we’ll get back to a little later.

The ship sailed from Sydney to Tasmania and after two days out at sea it first took us to Hobart where we checked out the city and a sprawling botanical garden, a haven for those with a love for painting landscape shots. Next up was Port Arthur, the ruins of an old historical prison that served as a ghost of Australia’s past and was rather fun to explore, although one would have to be mindful where they stepped as dogs had turned the grounds into their own personal latrine. Spending some time alone inside the remains of some of those brick wall cells was a rather soothing experience even if these empty, crumbling spaces once housed a crazy assortment of thieves, murderers and other scumbags.
Maybe I’m just a weirdo.
We explored the city and forests in Burnie the next day before making a pit stop in Melbourne. The stop at Melbourne was rather short but we managed to explore the city, including the shopping district where we tried out some macarons from a sweets store that my sister had recommended from during her work travels there. The weather was favorable during all the stops but rained unexpectedly during our stop at Burnie while we were in the middle of exploring a forest. Being huddled up underneath a small bus stop with several people at the same time and then waiting half an hour for that blasted bus to arrive was a trip. 

Port Arthur

I didn’t work out in the ship’s gymnasium during that one-week trip as I decided to take a whole week off from training but I did spend plenty of time walking laps around both the upper and lower decks in the afternoon after taking in the sights on land earlier in the day, more so on the lower deck as the winds were less irritating on lower ground. I must have looked like a hamster to my fellow passengers, just walking around in circles on the decks during the same hours every afternoon without fail, earphones plugged in to shut out the rest of the world. Immanuel Kant would have surely been proud of Mr. Routine here. I also was rather strict with the number of times and the hours during which I ate, just as it was at home. I still had my medication schedule to maintain, after all. Those three Imuran tablets at lunch and four Mezavant tablets for dinner didn’t stop just because I was on holiday.

No rest for the recovering.

There were, thankfully, no accidents, near misses, scares or anything of the sort during the trip. Sure, I’d walked around the ship inside and out to ward off boredom between trips and to familiarize myself with the vessel (and so I can also act as a one-man GPS for my parents should they forget where certain places were located!) and noted where all the toilets outside of our room were but I never felt an urge to make a mad dash to the can and all I can say about that is thank the good Lord. My next appointment with Dr. B was scheduled for towards the end of the following month (January) and it was great to know that I would have more good news to brighten his day with. I’d already fulfilled his mission to get me back into the Wing Chun Academy and hopefully, any positive results from this upcoming meeting would lead to a reduction of my dosages.


I let my mind run free as I made my rounds around the deck and thought about how throughout my adult life I was the type that could eat like a horse and never seem to put on weight. It was probably due to a fast metabolism since I was – and still am – an active person but even when I’ve decided to undertake an exercise program geared towards building muscle and ‘making gains’ it took plenty of effort just to add two measly kilograms on my lean frame. Shoot, even if I eschewed training for two or more weeks and lived on a Homer Simpson diet the entire time I’d still lose weight! I didn’t know whether to call it a gift or a curse but I won’t lie, I loved being able to feast like a spoiled child king during the odd ‘cheat day’ and not have to worry about blowing up into a massive beast afterwards, a far cry from my childhood where my waistline boy-titties reflected my eating habits and relative lack of physical activity. As an adult I always returned home at least five kilos lighter every time I went on a holiday, which had long been a source of wonder and exasperation from my friends and family members. They would playfully rip me apart for it every single time;
‘You’re already thin!’ my mother would shriek, ‘why did you lose more weight!?’
‘Your metabolism is something else,’ lamented my father.
‘You lucky prick,’ my sister would joke.
‘It’s probably from all the walking and not eating and training like I normally would,’ I’d shrug

Like I said, it’s a gift and a curse but one that I was happy to possess.
Anyway, upon returning home from this particular trip I weighed myself on a scale shortly before taking a shower, expecting to find out that, once again, I had lost at least five kilos.
The result was quite surprising.
No kilos lost!?
Well……that had to be a first. I did plenty of walking during the trip and didn’t work out once, and I ate more than three meals a day whenever I could yet somehow my body didn’t waste away one bit. Looking back now, I wondered if perhaps this ‘speedy metabolism’ that I had been blessed with was actually that damn colitis in disguise. A frequent need to use the restroom and unexpected weight loss were also symptoms of the disease and in addition to my body’s freakish ability to shed weight rather quickly I was also the type that was sometimes summoned to the bathroom for business number two multiple times in one day, sometimes up to five times if you can believe that. It happened even if there was nothing particularly wrong with me and I was firing on all cylinders health-wise.

Sorry for the over-share. And now that I think about it, my record might have actually been six times!

My mother and sister expressed concern over that during my teen and adult years and I would laugh them off every time and put it down to a high-fibre diet and active lifestyle. In my immature mind I thought I was fucking awesome for being able to eat whatever I wanted without having to worry about the consequences and as I matured that childish cockiness made way for pride over my body’s ability to stay lean and mean no matter what I put in it, even after my age had surpassed the maximum number of days in a given month on a calendar. Besides, I felt fit as a fiddle and strong as an ox so I saw no need to panic. I was completely oblivious to the existence of inflammatory bowel diseases and was convinced that my body was immune from all manner of serious illnesses.
And then my immune system decided to go all Judas on me. Talk about being humbled in a heartbreaking way.
Anyway, the Imuran and Mezavant seem to have done more than heal my wrecked bowels. I no longer dropped weight at the snap of a finger plus my trips to the throne were also reduced to a more manageable once or twice a day max, three if I’d been pigging out for consecutive days.

Wow, so this is what it feels like to have normal bowel movements.

Fortunately, my metabolism remained strong and I retained the ability to eat like a school kid without worrying but given Dr. B’s orders to take good care of my bowels, I continued to eat several small, healthy meals a day while splurging just once a week in addition to working out. Dr. B did speculate that this Ulcerative Colitis could have been an underlying condition that I was born with, if not something I might have unknowingly picked up somewhere along the way. My family was not cursed with any serious bowel diseases and conditions and if it was something I’d come into this world with, then I guess that by some cruel twist of fate I was always destined to go through that circle of hell and back. Talk about a sucky legacy to leave behind on the family tree, but as I’ve said over and over I’ve learned to turn the curse into a blessing and I’d vowed from the moment of my diagnosis to not only emerge triumphant but to keep that bitch in remission for good. 
But for now, it was a great week spent in Tasmania and Christmas was just right around the corner. All was well in the world.

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