Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Green Routine Ruined by Bugs & Stuff.

See that face? That's what 14 days of no makeup does to your skin! Oh, and the Thai humidity. 

My goal on the trip was to use as few products as possible (especially beauty products) to prove that the average woman does NOT need to use 34 lotions and potions just to be presentable. AND to try and be easy on my body, be less consumerist, and more eco-friendly.

So this was my routine:

For cleansing, I used my Giovanni D:Tox wipes on my face (and sometimes, my whole body, as showers weren't always available), then let the humidity moisturize. I typically have dry skin so it was amazing not to slather up with lotion every few hours! I also got away with no lipgloss. CRAZY. I am usually applying like it's heart medication. By the way, my skin LOVED me. Only two under-the-skin pimples the whole time. Not bad.
Then, in the shower, I would use whatever soap the guesthouse had in the bathroom to cleanse body and hair, and shave. Those probably aren't organic, but they are sample-sized and there's less packaging to clog up landfills. Post-shower, on my hair, I put in some Moroccan Oil and let it air dry (no power wasted on hairdryer or straightener, which I didn't bring). For deodorant (I don't use those stick anti-perspirants, as you know), I used the Guv'ner charcoal powder from LUSH. You need to reapply a few times a day on REALLY clean armpits for it to work, but totally worth it because it doesn't clog up your glands. Oh, and I did use toothepaste. But that was the whole beauty routine...

-Hotel Soap
-Moroccan Oil for hair
-Natural deodorant powder

For bedbug/bug spray, I ordered Kleen-Free Naturally, the go-to organic pest killer and repellent, according to the Internet. 

And that was it. 

Until I got attacked.

At one point, I had more than 60 mosquito bites on my body. Obviously, the Kleen-Free didn't work - at least not for Thai bugs. The itch was so bad (they were also on my feet, which made walking miserable) that Chris insisted I go to the clinic on one of our first days there. They gave me a cream of some sort that I applied religiously for three days.

A steady stream of pharmaceuticals kept me comfortable, but threw off my organic endeavors.

That still didn't cut it, so we went to the pharmacy, where you don't need a prescription, and you don't know whether or not to trust the clerk's advice, but you leave with another sort of cream that you just pray works.

Dermovate, it's called. I applied it as the clerk instructed, only twice a day. And I know why it's only's potent. It killed the itch. But I am afraid it burned the bite marks into my skin because they're all still there. Just flat, once-inflamed red marks. But at least they don't itch. Thank God. And I got an oral antihistamine (at least that's what I HOPE she gave me). AND we bought high-DEET bug repellent, pumped full of chemicals so not organic whatsoever, but I just couldn't risk any more itch. Funny, because I told myself I was fine for the first two days (there's that HULK again), while Chris  continuously asked me, "Are you sure we can't get something for those?" Man, I need to realize I don't have to "live with" something that's uncomfortable!

Ok. So, just when I was feeling high-and-mighty healthy, I misstepped on a cobblestone street and FELL, skinning my knee and foot to a bloody mess. It looked worse than it felt, because nothing could be as bad as that itch. But I looked over at Chris, and he was just a-gasp - another discomfort he had to take care of me for (and trust me, he was taking DILIGENT care). I just had to laugh, given the near-daily clinic/pharmacy visits. Poor guy, having to deal with me. But, after the initial "I'm fine, sweetie," I had enough sense to acquiesce when he said, "Pharmacy, now." I scrubbed it out with a wipe and a bottle of water (OUCH!), then was given a foamy, (earmuffs, kids) pus-inducing ointment by the "pharmacist" and was left to choose my own bandage. I'll go with Cling Wrap Gauze Thing on aisle 2?

On another morning, as we were walking around Chiang Mai, Chris noticed sheets of red bites on my legs. These: Tiny and numerous; like red, whiteheaded brail. Another trip to the pharmacy. 

"Elephant?" the clerk asked. Then she made scratching gesture. 

"Bugs?" I ask. 

She nods. Great, of course I get fleas from riding elephants bareback through the jungle...then bathing with them in some dirty river. I hold up my Dermovate. 

"Use this?" I ask. 

She nods. Good, no more dollars put toward my healthcare this trip. And at least I was taking a daily Malaria pill (UGH for my holistic view on meds...yucky!). But that's perfect...elephant fleas to go along with my elephant bruise! (During our day at the elephant reserve, at which the elephants roam mostly freely, Chris and I were feeding the elephants with the mahout (elephant whisperer), who had this big bag of bananas. Well, just when the mahout was helping a girl from Liverpool climb up on an adult elephant, another elephant stormed over to take the bananas, so the mahout had to stop him and get him out of the area. At the same time, the baby elephant - easily the size of a McDonald's-fed Clydesdale - also charged the bag of bananas, was successful, and attempted to run off. Chris, afraid the plastic bag around the bananas would choke the baby, tried to grab it away. I lunged towards them, then just see this elephant foot rise up in mid-air, and KICK Chris! Since I'm now behind Chris, I'm pushed - then pinned - to the table. Chris drops the bag. The elephant runs away, and I have a bruise (Chris, thank goodness - and of course - is spared any injury). The mahout, this whole time, is still occupied with elephant No.2, and Chris and I look up to notice the girl from Liverpool's elephant is wandering towards a cliff, her pleas for help getting a little more desperate.)

Oh, and I forgot to tell you how I was poisoned with acetone dressed as Smirnoff, according to both an Israeli girl and a British girl, at the Full Moon Party on the second night. But I can't prove that. I just know I woke up on the beach with Chris, did not remember falling asleep, and felt like my inner body was trying to jump out of my outer body, while my head gives birth to a gremlin. It was miserable. But I guess the cure for that was a) CHRIS, who got me back to our safe-haven part of town and b) Chris taking me to our little restaurant, where I hazily ordered my own hangover-helper, "a Pina Colada and some Spring Rolls." Then c) sleeping till 3 p.m., then d) our version of bottled water, 6% Chang beer.

My point is, I tried to be holistic. No pills. Sweat out all the toxins. Use only a few products in general. Practice simplicity. Instead, I'm on TWO daily pills, more ointment than a rash-ridden baby's bum, and suffering constant worry that the next activity might just do me in. But no, I really am impressed by how much the human body can handle under the guise of "I'm truly having a good time." By the way, I am also incredibly impressed by my husband's patience and caretaking. I'm a fortunate girl.

I have to accept that on this trip, I chose comfort over being holistic/organic. But I value the lesson my husband taught me, and that is, I don't have to be a martyr. I do feel strongly about being natural/organic, but I guess I don't need to kill myself doing it. At least I am trying. It goes with my philosophy that any step forward is a big step. Like that article, which says:

If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.

Do YOU think I should have toughed it out in order to stay true to my "all-natural" mission? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

***TRAVELER'S NOTE: I would use strong bug spray every few hours if traveling to a jungle-y locale like Thailand. Also get travel insurance through It's a sucky $60 to shell out for what you think is no reason, but you never know if that one tricky bug bite or randy elephant could land you in serious trouble. Luckily, I didn't need to use insurance because since the pharmacies don't require prescriptions (and the products are priced like over-the-counter meds), you don't need to see a doctor beforehand. And because the pharmacy staff seem pretty knowledgable, and usually speak just enough English, they might be able to help you just as much. Just my rookie advice :)

1 comment:

  1. What a great adventure! Thanks for the post, and the heads-up for what to expect traveling in southeast Asia. (Also, my English professor profession can't help but suggest you probably meant "aghast" rather than "a-gasp." :))