You toasted the new year alone with a bottle of stale water and some antibiotics in your friend’s apartment in Chumphon. Fireworks burst behind the cover of coconut trees as the clock on your netbook reset and a fresh wave of nausea passed over you.
A brush with a jellyfish off the coast of Koh Tao put a premature end to your diving lessons and left you with an expensive doctor’s bill and several symptoms you would rather have gone without; namely, a heart rate as high as 114, fever, breathlessness, muscle weakness and constant and severe nausea and stomach cramps.
You had been preparing to descend on your third dive when you and the jellyfish collided.
There is nothing so wonderfully bizarre as the feeling of weightlessness; floating through a cloud of fish with nothing but the gentle purr of your regulator and the cool pressure of the ocean confers a feeling of equanimity you’re aching to achieve again.
Your instructor tells you to begin your descent. You swim backwards along the surface to reach the guide rope and feel a ball of needles brush against your calves. It starts burning a few seconds later, and you pause in the water to take a look. The ocean is a milky sapphire colour, and yields nothing.
“I think I’ve been stung,” you call out to your instructor. She swims over to look at your leg.
“Did you see what it was? Does it hurt very badly? We can go back onto the boat to put some vinegar on it.”
Every minute you stay on the surface cuts into your time underwater, so you decline.
“I don’t think it was a box jellyfish. You would be in agony if it were.” She says.
The burning subsided fairly quickly and the pain became more like a severe leg cramp. Every stroke sent a little shiver of pain up your leg, and the cold and the pressure didn’t help as much as you had hoped. Later on you find out that the waters around Koh Tao have an 80% infection rate, largely due to the fact that the island’s sewers empty into them.
You complete your Open Water qualification, but decide not to go onto your advanced right away. You feel the first of the shakiness on the ferry ride back to the mainland, and by the time you get to your friend’s apartment you’re feeling worse. The next day- New Year’s Eve- you’re bedridden.
There isn’t anything else to do but take your pills at the correct time and wait it out. As strangers’ fireworks herald the new year in the Eastern hemisphere, your friends and family back home in the UK still have another 7 hours to go. Meanwhile, those following the Chinese, Islamic or French Revolutionary calendars (on a slight digression, I think the latter is genius*) had their New Year’s several months ago. January 1st is to your reasoning an arbitrary date, and being too ill to celebrate it wasn’t particularly heartbreaking for you.
The jellyfish sting looks like scabies and it’s going to leave a bit of a scar which you aren’t so pleased about, but at least it didn’t kill you. Happy new year!
*Ten hours a day, ten days per week and three weeks per month with 6 days national holiday at the end of each year to bridge the gap between the calendar and solar year. To my eternal dismay, it didn’t catch on.