When I wake the next morning, my ears and sinuses are a hot zone of infection and – you guessed it – they hurt. I’d been hot and cold all night and I feel pressure inside my ears. I fantasize about the relief I’d feel if that pressure were released.

There’s a knock on my door and it’s my good man from the previous night. He’s on his way to work, but he’s got meds. He tells me that went to ask a doctor friend who said that this is what they said to take.

I’m so grateful. What a gem. I had no idea where to find a doctor in this town, or how much it would cost, or whether I was going to be able to adequately explain my symptoms. My elation disperses a little when I sit down on the bed and google the drug names to find out what I’ve actually got. They are steroidal anti-inflammatories and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, but no antibiotics. It’s only 8am and too early to be demoralised. But I’m a little concerned that these are not going to solve the problem, and the mounting pressure on my inner ears has me worried. I know that sinus infections can be viral, but in the context of diving, followed by localised sinus and inner ear pain, fever, the feeling of pressure in my inner ear, and no outer ear discharge… well I really just think some antibiotics would be just great. I’m a little confused by the corticosteroids. I take the NSAID because at least it’s also a painkiller. Munch a couple of paracetamol. Hope that my immune system will eventually kick and do something before my eardrum ruptures.

I’m not feeling perky. Slowly I pack up all my stuff, get my gear on, stagger outside. Pay the sour faced receptionist. Halfway through, one of the nice young men from last night reappears. He’s carrying some small plastic containers with food: a chicken leg, sambal, rice, a some vegetables. He tells me that his mother cooked for me.


My breakfast! Winning!


A total stranger. She got up before dawn this morning and cooked for me. Because here’s the thing that I haven’t mentioned yet: this was during Ramadan. The month of fasting, when most Muslims fast – no food, no drink, not even water – between sunrise and sunset. So in the Muslim areas, particularly outside the larger towns and cities, the warung are usually closed during the daytime. Nobody is eating, so nobody is cooking and selling food. And this lady whom I’d never met was thinking of me – a non-Muslim, traveling alone – and she worried that I would be hungry. So she cooked me breakfast, packed it, and dispatched it with her son to be delivered to my hotel.

Such kindness. I am so touched. My ears still hurt, but it is a good day.

7 thoughts on “The Pressure Mounts

  1. danlockhart says:

    Get well soon, Grace. Ear and sinus infections really suck. Wish you could get some antibiotics.

  2. Karin-Marijke Vis says:

    Get well. Take care. The beauty of people. Always good stories!

    1. Thanks! So many good people we meet along the road. 🙂

  3. Elliot Skultin says:

    Happened to me but in one ear. An ENT (ear nose and throat specialist) inserted a tiny drain through my eardrum. It was an uncomfortable procedure, but once it was in, he I injected antibiotics right into the inner ear and the stuff drained out. You will keep the drains in for a week or three while the bad stuff drains out. See if you can find an Ear Nose and Throat doctor where you are. Good luck Grace.

    1. Arg, that sounds like quite a radical intervention. I think it’s safe to say there are zero ENTs in rural central Sulawesi but fortunately I survived!

  4. Daniel Ankenbrandt says:

    Just checking in on you and seeing how the anti inflammatory drugs are working and have you made it to a next destination?
    Inquiring minds want to know?

    1. Thanks! Yes, I survived, although it took a while to clear up. I probably should have taken the emergency antibiotics that I ride around with all the time, but I wasn’t convinced that I was close enough to death to break into the emergency stash… It’s times like that when it’s good to ride solo because then no-one else has to listen to me to complaining about my ears all day long 😉

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