OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – ESCAPE FROM STALAG SULTANATE, Part 1
That reminds me of a story. “HELLFIRE AND DALMATIANS!” I shouted to no one in particular. “What’s the problem, dear?” Esme asks in that way she has of telling me to calm down without having to say it directly. “This bloody fucking country. A day late and several dollars short.” I fume. “Can’t get a new liquor license because of the bloody COVID. Can’t go to a hotel bar and have a snort because of the bloody COVID. Can’t even slip across the border to Dubai and soak up some room service and buckets of complimentary cocktails because of the bloody COVID.” Yes, the Sultanate of Oman, in its infinitesimal wisdom, has traditionally followed other GCC countries by at least three months in making any sort of proclamations regarding this latest bugaboo: the hideous, deadly, itchy, loathsome, and possibly serially bent, noxious, pandemical COVID-19; aka, this pandemic’s entry for flu. Their response is one of immense knee-jerk without first having thought of the consequences. “Bloody lockdown, 2100 to 0700. What is this, the whole fucking country’s been bad and now being sent to bed without any supper?” I wondered aloud. “Idiot benchodes.” Even Esme couldn’t come up with a rejoinder to that. “Plus they close all the bars. And all the hotels. And the fucking bottle shops. It’s not enough that these fucking Muppets jack the ‘sin tax’ on booze and cigars by 100%, now they’re not even legally available.” I swore. Of course, once you’ve spent even a small portion of the time that I have in the Middle East, you have your connections. Your system. Your access to the seedy underbelly of any society; the venerable Black Market. Jesus Q. Christ on toast with baked beans, fried tomatoes, black pudding, and mushrooms, I could get most anything in the Middle East, be it legal, shady, or just plain illegal. However, before you all recoil in horror that the venerable Dr. Rocknocker dabbles in the prohibited, just remember: the ends always dojustify the means. “I'm telling you, Esme dear; this Gulf story is getting too complicated. The weasels have started closing in.” I complain to Es as she hands me a fresh drink. “Do you think…?” Esme asks expectantly. Esme is more than ready to go. I’ve used this place as a base of operations for years whilst I wear out the Omani legal system suing those asswipes that think just because they’re local and I’m a kafir, they’re immune to the law. I’ve spent a long, profitable and time-consuming period of the last few years proving them wrong. But, time was marching onwards. I agreed with Esme, we’ve milked this particular cash cow dry. It was time to hitch up our bootstraps, call it a day, and get the hell out of Dodge. But not before I took care of a few loose ends. Now, the country had recently lost its venerable Sultan, who croaked back in January of this year. Sultan Qaboos was a good egg, friend to expat and local alike. Did a shitload of good for this benighted Middle East sandpit. Dragged it kicking and screaming out of the 12th century into, well, not exactly the 21st, but a whole hell of a lot closer. He realized that he needed revolutionary, not evolutionary change in the country. By revolutionary, he needed American, British, Canadian, and the like Western Expats here to do the heavy thinking and lifting and Eastern Expats like Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese to do all the scut work. Yeah, I know. That sounds racist as fuck, but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounced. Simple evolution of society where Omanis graduated the local equivalent of grade school, through high school, into University, and finally into Entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry wasn’t going to cut it. Took too long and the country needed a serious cash flow now. So, that’s what he did. And it worked a treat. Then he died. And his chosen took over. Except his chosen was pretty much antithetical to everything the previous and very revered and successful, Sultan wanted. Soon, there are 100% ‘sin taxes’ aimed directly at the western expats. Tourists included. Then there’s quotas and ‘Letters of No Objection’, which are impossible to get so that the Eastern Expats can’t switch jobs. Then, there are Sultanic proclamations of new taxes on tourists, new taxes on fast food, new taxes on this, that and the other. Then there’s, in his own words, “Oman is for Omanis”, blatantly ridiculous and xenophobic Omanization, and the general swipe at all expats. “GET OUT.” This was the clear message of the new sultan. He wanted to take over and possibly nationalize all the oil workings in the country. Ask Venezuela, Iran, and Myanmar how well that worked out for them. Then he wants all expats out on their asses. He wants Omanis to take over all the jobs, even though they’re nowhere near educated nor experienced enough for the positions. Then take up the massive GDP slack in lower oil production and oil prices with tourism. Given everything else, that last line should be enough to get him off the throne. He’s fucking nuts if he thinks people are going to want to cruise or overland anywhere near a place where foreigners are seen only as a cash supply, are despised, and would welcome these all new 100% tax levies. Be that as it may, Esme and I decided that we have had enough of 135O F summer temperatures, virtual house arrest under the guise of a COVID lockdown, and idiots who were the only ones stupid or twisted enough not to vamoose when the great, big bloody letters were clearly written on the wall. But, there was the physical act of getting out of the country. Now, I had plenty of strings which I could pull, but I decided I’d start low and save those until we really needed them. So low, in fact, we went to the US Embassy in Muscat. “How low can you go?” reverberated through my head. What a haven of sad-sacks, flubadubs, and third rate hobbyists. Was either Esme or I surprised that when we finally secured an invitation to the embassy, that required a bit of string-pulling with the ex-Ambassador to Oman, now in Kabul; that besides the peach-fuzz faced Marine guarding the place, we were the only Americans in the joint? “This is American soil!” I laughed, as I pulled out a huge Cuban cigar and was immediately told to extinguish it. “We’re as American as apple pie and napalm! We file our fucking 1040s every April; I pay my fucking long-distance taxes and demand US assistance to vacate this gloomy place of sandy, sweaty, sultry Sturm und Drang!” “Shut up, Rock”, Esme chided me, “They don’t understand English. Much less, the florid English the way you trowel it on.” “Fuckbuckets”, I remonstrated. “Here I had memorized the whole Patrick Henry speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. Troglodytes. No admiration for the classics.” “Rock, dear?” Esme noted, “It’s almost 1100 hours. Best to get to our appointment.” True, our appointment was slated for 1100 hours. But around here, anything starting within three hours of the stated time was considered close enough. We dragged ourselves, none too cheerfully, to the waiting room. Once we pried open the door, there was the usual “If you hear a high pitched wail, hit the deck” signs, and other things one could do while kissing one’s ass goodbye if there was a terrorist attack, we had a whole new slew of bullshit with which to deal. “Social distancing. 6 feet. Or if you’re from Baja Canada, 1 cow’s length.” “Must wear a mask. Bandanna, bandoliers, and large-caliber weapons or sombrero optional.” “No sitting. Faux Naugahyde seats are too difficult to sterilize. You must stand at attention, do not talk amongst yourselves, and remain patient until your number is called.” “Well, fuck!”, I snorted quietly, as I raised my first secret flask in rapt attention to our old glory of red, white, and blue. “Good thing they didn’t say nothin’ about getting a load on. If I’m going to be treated like cattle, I’m going to at least have something to chew on in the process.” “Oh, lord”, Esme grumbled, “You didn’t bring that Japanese Rye Whiskey with you, did you?” “ルハイム”, I said, which is Japanese for “L’chaim”! “Oh, hell”, Esme grinned as she borrowed my flask, “This is going to be a long day.” I began to protest but remembered that I was wearing my Agency-issued field vest. I must have had at least 5 or 6 more flasks lurking around in those pockets somewhere. Funny aside: they don’t bother with my going through an X-ray machine nor do they confiscate my phone, radio, knives, nor other field equipment when I go to the US Embassy. It took them almost two solid hours last time, and by the time they got to my Brunton Compass, emergency flasks, a few spare blasting cap boosters, and saw the label sewn into the back of my vest, they decided they’d just send Rack and Ruin some evil Emails and let me pass unmolested. “I’ll drink to that”, I say as I raise a flask as the locals raise an eyebrow. “Courtesy of Atheists International. We’re here for your children…” The collective gasps and growls indicate they weren’t happy with me or my betrothed. “Don’t care, Buckwheat”, I smiled, “Never did, never will. We’re out of here for good. You can curse my name all you want then. But, then again, why you standing in the American Embassy trying to get a visa to visit the land of the great evil empire?” All the locals and most of the Eastern Expats crowded into a corner as far away from us as they physically could. “BOO!” I snickered over a shot of Wild Turkey 101 Rye. “Now serving number 58! Number 58!” came the call over the tannoy. “Look at that”, I remarked to Es as I stashed both our flasks, “It’s only 12:35. Record time.” We both shimmy into the glass-fronted and presumably bullet- but not C-4 resistant- glass. We pick up the telephones there and acknowledge that we are who we said we were. The East Indian fella, one Harsh Talavalakar, behind the multiple layers of glass asked us why we were here. “Didn’t you read the appointment card?” I asked, “We’re here to have Uncle Sam get us passage out of this sordid and sultry place.” “You are American citizens?” he asked, vacantly. “That’s what it says on appointment cards and these here blue passports,” I replied. “Well, how was I to know?” he scoffed, returning to his half-consumed powdered sugar doughnut. “Maybe read the appointment card and see that we are US Citizens here on the behest of Ambassador Bethesda Orun?” I replied. “Like I have time to read everything that comes across my desk”, he scoffed again. I tapped on the glass to make certain I had his full attention. “Look here, Herr Harsh. I’m not sure how you got this job at the American Consulate but want to be very clear with you. My wife and I are residents of this place for the last 20 years. We’re American citizens of very high standing and have more high powered connections than an Arduino in a nuclear power station. We have direct connections with Langley, Virginia and if you want to retain your cushy job, you’ll put down that fucking doughnut and pay very rapt attention to the two Americans standing here who are getting more and more irritated with some Indian benchode that doesn’t think he has to really do his job. You savvy? You diggin’ me, Beaumont” I guess the benchode got his attention. The two scowls he received from Esme and myself sort of cemented the idea that we’re not too pleased and not with to be trifled. “Yes, sir?” he said, “And ma’am”, as Harsh quickly corrected himself as the doughnut disappeared. “We want out. Gone. Vamoose. Outta here. AMF. You got me?” he nods behind the shatterprone glass. “Now I know the borders are sealed and the airport’s closed, but fuck that. We want out and we want gone for good. I can’t make that much simpler or clearer. Get after it, son.” I said, as seriously as I could. “Well, sir”, he began, “ The airport’s closed…” “Are you deaf or born stupid and been losing ground ever since?” I asked, rhetorically. “I know that. We all know that. My HAT knows that. So, what devious little plan does the US Embassy have in store in just such an unsavory situation?” “Well”, he chokes a bit, “There’s this unofficial lottery where America citizens are issued random numbers and if their number comes up, there are seats made available on special clandestine charter flights.” Considering that Es and I are some of the last American citizens left in the country, I thought our chances might be pretty good. “OK”, I said, “Let us have two of your finest numbers.” “Yes, sir”, he said, “That will be US$500 total.” “Excuse me?” I said. “Oh, yes”, he smirked, “US$250 per number. Chances are you’ll never be called, but with these numbers, at least you stand a chance.” “OK”, I said, “Forget the numbers. I want your name and operating number. I’ve got a report to file that’s due in Virginia before breakfast.” “Oh, sir”, he smirked more, “I cannot release that information. Thanking you. Now be having a good day.” And he slammed the supposedly bulletproof shield between himself and Es and me. “Bulletproof? Maybe. Nitro proof? No fucking way.” I groused as I fished out a couple of blasting cap superfast boosters. “Calm down, dear”, Esme smiled to me as we walked out, “When he wasn’t looking, I took his picture, got his operating number, and full name. In fact, I think I got some information on where he lives…” In the cab on the way back to our villa, I reviewed and confirmed Es’s subterfuge. Flasks number 6 and 8 needed serious replenishment by the time we arrived home. “That’s fucking right, Ruin.” I yelled over the phone, “We need extraction. And now. Along with our personal effects and a few hundredweight of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ boxes of stuff we need to be transported.” “Well, Rock”, Agent Ruin replied, “That’s a tall order. Usually, extraction is for one person and the stuff they’re wearing. Tell you what. Let Rack and I work on it for a week or so. We’ll arrange transport of your personal effects, then we’ll see about getting you and Esme to Dubai. At least there, you can order a plane. Hell, knowing you, you’ll get Tony Stark to fly in and provide door to door service. Sit tight. We’ll be back in touch.” “Good!” I say as I slam the phone down. With these newfangled cellphone telephone instruments, they lack the same sort of satisfying “KER FUCKING CLANG” the old landlines used to have. “Es!”, I yelled, “Start packing. We’re due out of here within a week.” That meant we needed to do some packing triage: • Things going home with us. • Things being shipped. • Things being sold. • Things being left behind. • Things no one was about to get their furry little mitts on. “Oh, fuck!”, I startled. I had just remembered the John Wick-ian stash of various explosives, and adjunct materials I had buried in the basement. Obviously, I couldn’t take it home with me, I couldn’t sell it, and I sure as festering frothing fuck wasn’t going to leave it here. I needed to call one of my more shifty and swarthy friends and arrange for passage out to the deep, dark desert. Around the area where the new sultan had opened a couple of brand new landfills. Looks like I was going to expand them a few meters once we disposed of the few hundred kilos of accumulation I attained over the last few years. See, I’m a packrat. I never leave nor toss anything that might be convenient. Might have a benefit. Might prove to be useful sometime down the line. So, I’ve accumulated a bit of kit. Like…well…a few hundred sticks of Du Pont 60% Extra Fast Dynamite. A couple dozen spools of Z-4 Primacord, in various degrees of fullness. A shitload of C-4; enough bricks for a Floydian wall. A couple, well, a dozen, well, two dozen cases of binary liquid explosives. Hey, this stuff is hard to come by… Continuing, several thousand blasting caps and superfast flash blasting cap boosters. Some mercury fulminate. Some nitrogen triiodide. A couple tens of pounds of PETN. An equal amount of RDX. A few Erlenmeyer flasks full of shit even I’m not certain of what it is… Oh. And a few kilos of freshly decanted, raw nitroglycerin; packed in sturdy wooden boxes lined with new fuzzy lamb’s wool. Not that much. Just 10 or 12 kilos. Yeah. I can’t leave that here. Even a small accident with this stuff would lay waste to not only our villa; but my landlord’s villa with whom we share a common wall. Besides, as Omanis go, my landlord was the only dishdasha dressed denizen for which I had any respect or admiration. He was a good guy. I needed to return his villa at least in some semblance of what I received when we first rented from him. So, I had to dispose of many, many billions of kilojoules of potential energy. I needed to do this out in a distant and far away from prying ears and eyes regions and I needed a truck to haul this stuff out to the range. To be continued…
My uneventful hysterectomy experience + smooth recovery at 4 1/2 weeks postop
I'd like to show my thanks for you folks who have provided so many useful tips on this sub by sharing my fairly standard/normal hysterectomy experience and week by week recovery. It's a long, detailed post but TL;DR: my experience is similar to folks who have had a normal recovery with no complications and manageable pain and discomfort and I highly recommend surgery! (I'm including insomnia and mood swings as normal, since I kept my ovaries and I'm coming off hormonal medication as well, lol.) I waited until 4 weeks before posting because even though I felt great during the first few days after surgery, I wanted to wait and see if complications and weird stuff popped up afterwards. Nope! It has been a delightfully smooth recovery: only very little spotting 2 days after surgery then no bleeding even up until now. My surgeon checked out my vaginal cuff 3 1/12 post-op and she said it was healing nicely, no pain when she touched the cuff and no bleeding. Background:
I'm a non-binary (they/her pronouns,) femme- and androgynous-presenting 35 year old, overweight and sedentary except for light walking. No kids, never gave birth or had an abortion. No top/bottom surgeries and no hormones apart from norethindrone 5-10 mg to stop bleeding/periods and manage pelvic pain a year before surgery. Most of the dysphoria for me post-op is the swollen belly (I look quite pregnant especially during the first 3 weeks) but I'm trying to reframe the swollen belly as looking really cute :) and that the swelling will go away eventually, even though it'll take months. But having no uterus is really awesome! I like the emptiness and lack of heaviness and fatigue from the uterus/fibroids/endo. I did grieve losing parts of my body but this process was months before surgery.
First surgery ever for adenomyosis, endometriosis, and multiple fibroids; total laparoscopic hysterectomy (LAVH): delivered 7 cm fibroid vaginally (!), only kept ovaries and a vaginal cuff was sutured where my cervix used to be. 6 cm endometrioma on right ovary removed, endo excision on partially obliterated cul-de-sac and uterosacral ligaments. Biopsies confirmed adeno in uterus and endo in endometrioma and excised tissues. Took hormones until 3 1/2 week post-op checkup when surgeon allowed me to stop using them. Surgeon expects low recurrence of endo.
I had short notice (3 weeks) for my surgery due to COVID-19 precautions at the hospital, but I was waitlisted for almost a year beforehand.
How the weeks played out post-op:
After surgery: going under anesthesia and waking up in the recovery room happened in seconds. I felt pain which was 3-4/10 but never really went beyond 5-6 (at that point I requested pain meds); most of the pain came from gas pain which touched on the parts that had surgery so it hurt, but I didn't have the dreaded shoulder pain. The catheter was uncomfortable but I asked the nurse to adjust the tubing which sort of helped. I wore the hospital robe during my overnight stay, which had some tiny blood stains from my incisions. I mostly slept and was woken up by nurses during their rounds of checking my blood pressure and temperature. I drank coffee and lots of watejuice after my catheter was removed the next morning and before being discharged. Didn't use my phone and didn't need my toiletries, wore the same maxi dress and slip-on shoes as what I came in the hospital with.
Week 1: most of the discomfort and pains (especially gas) happened this week: ice packs helped along with taking OTC pain meds (tylenol/acetaminophen and naproxen) on a regular schedule and narcotics (tramadol) only a couple of times cause I was afraid of constipation. I made sure to include stool softeners (eg Miralax) in-between pain meds. No fatigue and only 2 days of light spotting; no discharge as well. Incisions were healing normally and were itchy at the end of week 1. Had urine leakage so I purchased additional incontinence pads but I already had this issue prior to surgery. Watched a lot of Netflix/Prime Video while reclined on couch and paced around the house a lot (usually after peeing a lot due to all the fluids) to help get rid of gas/prevent blood clots; activated charcoal didn't helped me, I had to ride out the gas pain. Had pressure while peeing but wasn't painful, also peed a lot due to drinking lots of fluids and eating soups. My BM on the second day was gassy and loose at first, but became more solid when I had another BM that same day, so I didn’t phone the surgeon’s office. I had more BMs than before surgery (went once a day before, then twice a day post-op) and I used a small stool in lieu of a Squatty Potty to help me poop; doing the "moo" sound instead of straining was a big help! I was also really hungry and ate more than usual; more like frequent, smaller meals: a lot of toast/rice, some fruit, and lots of soups with chicken and vegetables. No housework and didn't lift anything heavier than half a gallon (~2 litres.)
Week 2: I had fewer abdominal and back pains compared to the first week and I continued to feel great; ab/incision pains went away eventually by the end of this week. No discharge but still felt pressure from peeing, so I purchased urine tests that were a dollar each from the pharmacy (which also checks for blood and proteins) and I didn't have a UTI. I still used ice packs at the start of the second week but stopped them once I started taking a small dose of cannabis during the day and edibles at night. I stopped naproxen before taking cannabis but this point, I could have also taken tylenol if cannabis wasn't a option, but I didn't like the idea of taking tylenol for long periods of time (can affect the liver.) I gradually increased my walking from slow walking around the block to averaging about 3-4k steps up and down sidewalks in the neighbourhood despite walking very slowly. My surgeon allowed me to do light low impact exercise two weeks onwards. My belly felt more swollen after long walks, likely due to increased activity. Felt tired in the afternoons but I attribute this to the long walks and sleeping less than 8 hours. Still no housework and didn't lift anything heavier than half a gallon (~2 litres.) Felt more emotional this week, cried a bit from post-op blues (wasn't major depression, but thinking about what my body went through up until this point made me sad and angry) but my husband listened to my feelings and I felt better.
Week 3: I felt my body starting to normalize (fewer BMs, not so hungry/thirsty) and sitting down became more comfortable (fewer instances of external genitalia soreness) but "Beware Week 3" is correct! I did ~9000 steps one day at the start of week 3 cause I felt so good (big oops) and I felt more tired in the afternoon and a bit more soreness (mostly leg soreness from the long distance walked.) I rested a few days after and took it easier and it's all good. Still no discharge and even on the 3 1/2 week mark when my surgeon did the post-op checkup, my cuff was healing well and my ovaries looked well. Surgeon recommended pelvic floor therapy as I mentioned the urine leakage. Started to get really bored but walking helped, just not overdoing it. I tried modified, really gentle yoga/pelvic floor exercises/chair yoga and felt sore, but rested afterwards and the soreness resolved. Pressure from peeing continued to decrease, now I can feel my bladder emptying when I pee and I sit for a little bit after peeing for the rest of the pee to come out. I was cleared to drive but at this point, twisting was still uncomfortable. I started experiencing insomnia so when it got really bad, I would take cannabis oils/edibles again and I was able to sleep continuously.
Week 4: Smoke from west-coast forest fires kept me stuck at home so I continued to rest (watch TV and Reddit,) do a little bit more bending/squatting and even picked up a load of laundry under 20 pounds (surgeon cleared me to lift anything under 20 pounds but no lifting furniture for 3 months.) No bleeding despite doing those move