Tag Archives: bangkok

Perks

Every country has its perks, the things that make life just a little sweeter. America has tons of perks…being able to go to one grocery store and find everything you could possibly want (and more!), endless restaurant choices, family who lives in the same country, no language barrier, TARGET!, and the list goes on.

Living in Thailand has afforded me some pretty great perks. The cost of living cheap, especially when compared to the US, and markets, restaurants, and transportation are inexpensive. One of my favorite perks, however, is the low cost of luxuries like massages, facials, blow outs, nails, etc. In the US, I never got a facial, rarely got a massage, only got a blow out when I got a haircut, and splurged on my nails. Here, I can have all of these things without breaking the bank. A massage sets me back about 6 bucks for an hour (I know…I feel like I’m robbing them), a facial is $15, gel nails are $15-20 (a little pricey in my opinion), and a blow out is about 5 bucks.

After school today, Julie and I headed to her favorite facial place, a little hole in the wall that you would never find on your own in a million years, but was recommended to her by a Thai friend. Through a long hallway, we walk past some pretty interesting smells from the various vendors selling their wares until we reach our destination. A modest shop run by one woman, it’s definitely not the spa experience you would get in the States, but we aren’t paying top dollar either, so we embrace it.

With someone already in the midst of her facial, we have to wait. I decide to hobble down a few stalls to a woman who does hair to get a hair wash and blow out. The thing I love about hair washes here is that you get a really nice head massage while she washes your hair. Lately, showering poses its challenges, so not having to wash my own hair is a plus! After my wash, she blow dries it straight, making me realize just how long my hair really is. 🙂


It was finally time for my facial! Laying back, I close my eyes while she does her magic. She follows a regiment of massaging various soaps and mild exfoliators onto my face in circular, upward motions, sponging my face clean between each different cleaner.


My favorite part, mainly because I find it so interesting, is when she uses a flat piece of wood (I think? It might be bone…who knows?) to try and smooth out my wrinkles. She uses it to massage my face, in upward motions of course, to eliminate the creases. Another thing she does is try to help define my cheekbones by using the tool to go around my cheekbones a few times. I don’t actually think this in any way smoothes or eliminates my wrinkles, but the fact that she believes it does makes me love it. Lastly, she massages a really nice cream into my skin, which leaves me with a slight glow.

There are some definite perks to living in Thailand! Kinda loving these two today. 🙂

 

Saint, my pint-sized protector

From the moment he first saw me in the wheelchair, my ankle bandaged up, he was my protector. My little Saint.

I wheeled over to the edge of the playground where my class was happily playing. I’ve missed their smiling faces, their hugs, their sense of wonder. Catching their attention, they rushed over, all with the same question, “What happened?” All, that is, except Saint. With indignation in his voice, he points to my ankle, and asks, “Who this?” His face said it all. Being his teacher, I knew “Who this?” really meant “Who did this?”. Saint, my little three-year-old protector, wanted to know who did this to me. What happened wasn’t as important as who hurt me. Such sweetness wrapped up in such a tiny person.

Since returning to school, wheelchair-bound, my class has been curious, asking me what happened one too many times, learning to respect my boundaries (“no touching my foot please”), and wondering why I can’t do the things I normally can. The novelty for some has worn off, and preschool as they know it is back to normal. But not for Saint, whose sweet gestures bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.

Everyday, at random times, he comes over to me, smiles, and pats me on my arm or my leg or my shoulder, reassuring me that he cares and is worried about me. Knowing that I keep my ice packs in the freezer, he will bring me one at random, making sure I take care of my foot. He watches me, too. When the pain and swelling get to be too much, I prop my leg up on the table, an attempt to reduce the swelling that occurs from keeping it down all day. He questions, wondering what I’m doing, why I’m resting.

Yesterday during interest areas, I was wheeling around, snapping photos of students busily cooking hamburgers and salad with the playdoh, making melodies on the xylophone, or building a tower out of blocks, wondering how high they can make it until it topples over, sending them into fits of laughter, when something caught my eye.

The dramatic play area, by far the students’ most sought-after center, is too small for my wheelchair to fit, so I watch from afar, an outsider not a part of their fantasy. What I saw was Saint sitting in a chair, his leg up on the table. Lali was tending to him, bringing him a glass of water. Zooming in, I snap a picture before I ask, “Saint, what are you doing?”

With a forlorn look on his face, he responds, “My leg is hurt.”

“It is? I’m sorry. Is Lali helping you?”

Nodding, he says yes. A smile crosses Lali’s face, as she continues to care for her hurt friend. Knowing that I’d removed all the doctor stuff last week, I asked, “Would you like an ice pack?” Of course he would!

Lali came over and I handed her a no-longer-cold ice pack. She went back over and wrapped his leg. Later, his leg still on the table, another student tries to help him, using a pizza cutter as a tool. Grinning, I think, maybe I should return the doctor stuff to dramatic play.

I go about my business of tending to the other students in the class, but about ten minutes later, I look over at the dramatic play area again. There is Saint, his leg still propped up with his ice pack, sitting alone. His heart is so tender and loving, and he is just trying to make sense of his little world.

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Not Just a Routine Check-up

“You know, I didn’t cry the last time I had my wounds cleaned,” I bragged to Dr. Narong, my no-nonsense doctor who thinks crying is unnecessary.

“You didn’t? Good for you! Are you going to cry today?”

“I hope not.”

He undresses my wounds and begins his assessment. I’m now nine days post-accident. “Your arm is almost completely healed. I’ll just clean it, but we don’t need to wrap it anymore,” he tells me.

One good report. Let’s hope there’s two more where that came from.

Inspecting my largest wound, the gnarly road rash on my ankle, he reports, “Your ankle is healing well. It won’t be too long before it scabs over and we don’t have to cover it. There’s just this one spot that’s not so good. Let me clean it,” he says as he begins scrubbing my ankle with a cotton swab doused in Betadine.

Flinching, letting out some grunts, and unsuccessfully keeping my right leg still, I hear him ask, “Are you gonna cry?”

Determined, I grit my teeth. “No.”

“Good. There’s no reason to cry.” He finishes scrubbing and cleaning the rest of my wound, and dresses it with foam and waterproof tape.

Another good report. One more to go.

Taking a closer look at my toes, I hear, “Hmmm…this isn’t good. I’m worried about your second toe. That black spot is really bad.”

You mean that same spot I’ve been worried about since the accident? The one I’ve been told was no big deal up to this point?

“What’s wrong with it?” I ask.

“There’s a lot of dead tissue on top, so the wound can’t really heal, and we don’t know what’s under there since we can’t see. There are some spots on your other toes, but not as bad as your second toe.”

How did my toes get such deep wounds when I was wearing tennis shoes? What would it look like if I had worn my sandals like I originally wanted to that morning? I don’t think I wanna know.

“OK, so what does that mean?” I ask, worry creeping into my voice.

“Well, it means that if we don’t treat it, your toes will have really bad scarring, and most likely you won’t be able to move that toe since the scar would be on the joint.”

“What do you mean by treat it?”

“I’ll give you a local anesthetic and scrape out all the dead tissue from your toe. Then it can heal properly.”

Tears sting my eyes. “Do you mean the spray they used on me in the ER?” Flashbacks to that day send a shiver through me.

“No, we’ll inject a local anesthetic into your toe, and you won’t feel a thing.”

“With a needle?” I say, my voice quivering.

“Yes, with a needle.”

Alone and worried, I think about whether or not I should do it. I know I should do it, but I hate needles, and I hate pain. And I know it’s going to hurt. A lot. Silent tears fall as I try to decide.

Less than a minute later, with a bit of impatience in his voice, he asks, “So what are you going to do? Are we doing it?”

“Do we have to do it today?”

“No, but if we wait, it may get worse.”

Man, I wish my mom or dad was here. Heck, I wish anyone was here with me. They could hold my hand, reassure me, and tell me what to do. But they’re not. I have to do this alone.

“Can I call someone?” I ask.

“Sure.”

Looking at the time, I realize I can’t call my family. It’s the middle of the night. I call the next best person, my best friend Shaggers. She immediately picks up. She already knows where I am, since I had been texting her updates and photos of my injuries.

“Shannon, I’m scared,” I barely get out.

“What’s going on?”

I explain the situation, through tears and shallow breaths. “Should I do it?”

“If he says you should do it, then yes, you should. It’s good they’re being so thorough and wanting to get rid of all the dead stuff.”

“But they’re going to use a needle. It’s going to hurt.”

She reassures me that while yes, the needle will hurt, I won’t feel a thing after that, and they’ll make it all better by removing the bad parts.

Turning to Dr. Narong, through blurry eyes, I tell him I’ll do it.

Shags tells me she’s proud of me and asks, “Would you like me to stay on the phone with you to distract you from the needle?”

I crumble. Through sobs, I say, “Yes, I would like that.” This is why she’s my best friend. She’s always there for me through the tough times. She begins talking about some topics she might slice about tonight and asks me about my slice. I tell her an adorable story about what one of my kids did in school today. I might slice about that. We talk about a few other things…her sister’s new baby, Marlowe kicking her crib when she should be napping.

The doctor and nurse prepare my foot. Dr. Narong tells me he’s ready to begin. Fear sets in, and I start to cry. Shaggers reassures me that I’m brave, I’m going to be okay. The needle goes in. AHHHHHHHHH!!! Screaming, crying, and thrashing about, the nurse holding my leg still. Shannon is still there, telling me the worst is over. Then, a few seconds later, a second needle in my other toe. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!! More screaming, more crying, and more thrashing about.

What the hell? Why did I have two injections?

Confused, Shannon asks me what happened. I tell her about the second needle…at least I think I do.

“There’s no reason to cry,” Dr. Narong says.

Like hell there isn’t! You’ve just injected me two times with anesthesia when I was told I would have one, and now you’re about to scrape my toe. Yeah, I have a bloody reason to cry!

Dr. Narong then starts scraping my second toe. I can feel it, but not feel it, if you know what I mean. I’m still crying and struggling to breathe through my nose. Shannon’s still on the phone, talking to me, trying to distract me from the pain. I can’t really recall what she’s saying, but I appreciate that she’s there.

Unexpectedly, I scream out in pain again, a guttural scream that comes from deep within me, but this time it’s not from an injection. It’s from the fact that my doctor is scraping the wound on my big toe without anesthesia. Shags wonders what’s happening. Dr. Narong tells me there’s no reason to cry. I tell Dr. Narong I don’t like him anymore. Petty, yes, but I’m not in my right mind at the moment.

The next few minutes are a whirlwind of pain. My fourth toe gets the same treatment as my big toe. I question his wisdom. A few more scrapes, and he’s done.

“All done. It already looks so much better. Have a look,” Dr. Narong cheerily says to me.

“No thanks.”

“No really, look at it,” he pushes.

Sitting up, I look down at my mangled toes, bleeding uncontrollably at the moment. Yeah, that’s heaps better.

Still tearful, I thank Shannon for being there for me. And I apologize for screaming in her ear. She laughs, and says she only wishes she could have been here to hold my hand. Me, too, Shags, me, too.

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As I sit here, back home in my apartment, tears streaming down my face as I relive the experience, the pain coming on strong as the anesthesia wears off, I’m a mess of emotions. I’m in pain and disheartened that I have another setback, especially after such a positive day yesterday, and I’m grateful that I have a friend like Shannon who loves me through the hard stuff. I really don’t know what I’d do without her, and despite living in different countries for the past 5 years, we talk nearly every day and she knows me even better than I know myself. Shannon is my person. I love her.

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Enveloped in Kindness

Ever since my accident over the weekend, I have received countless kind words and actions from friends and strangers. I cannot get over just how nice everyone has been, especially given the fact that I’ve been here less than two months!

From the moment the crash happened, when several Good Samaritans came to my rescue, I have been surrounded by kindness! My friend and boss, Julie, went to incredible lengths to make sure I was taken care of. From taking me to the ER when the initial crash happened to setting me up in her house for the first day and night to waiting on me whenever I needed something to taking me to my follow-up appointment the next day to checking on me daily, she has gone out of her way to make sure I’m well taken care of. I cannot thank her enough for her generosity!

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My friend Lauren was the sweetest! On Saturday afternoon, she and Lincoln delivered a yummy Thai care package of a fresh coconut, mango sticky rice, and pomelo, all my favorite things here in Thailand! Later on that evening, she made me homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese, the ultimate in comfort food. She’s the best!

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After hearing about my accident, a colleague of mine, Dainty, brought over a bounty of treats including more mango sticky rice, bananas, bread and tomato salsa from the local Italian joint, and more pomelo. She barely even knows me, but went out of her way!

My colleague and friend, Elissa, has been checking on me non-stop offering to bring me anything I needed. She sent over fresh fruit and a Starbucks treat via her husband Mitch on Sunday. She’s also been helping me out in the lesson planning department by supporting my sub while I’m laid up in bed. I am so blessed to have her as a friend!

Josh, my friend, neighbor, and writing buddy, has also gone out of his way to help me, bringing me a jug of water, helping me tidy up my apartment, and hanging out with me. He’s coming over again today after work to keep me company and eat some dinner. I am so lucky to have met him during my first week, one rainy day at the hotel we were staying. He’s turned out to be a great friend!

I’ve also received countless texts and emails from colleagues, friends, family, and my students’ parents offering their well wishes and offers to help. Whenever strangers see me struggling to get around on my crutches, they offer support, by way of holding doors, helping me with my bag, or just a simple smile.

I am one lucky girl! I mean, getting into a motorbike accident is no fun, and in a foreign country, it’s definitely not ideal, but the people I’ve been surrounded by have made it a little more bearable!

My Thai Emergency Room Experience

Yesterday, I was in a scooter accident that sent me to the emergency room. Click here to read the first slice about the accident.

After fighting stop and go traffic, where it took us 45 minutes to go the 5 miles to the hospital, we finally arrived. As soon as we stopped in front of the emergency room entrance, an orderly rushed out with a wheelchair, and I was promptly taken inside. Wheeling past the registration desk, I was taken to bed 7, and helped onto the gurney. Crying and unable to stay still, 2 nurses and a doctor were by my bedside in an instant. After ascertaining my personal information from my driver’s license and insurance card, they began checking my vitals and examining my wounds.

“Tell me what happened.” Through cries and fast, shallow breaths, I recounted the basics of the accident. Turned right in front of me…tried to stop…hit him…skidded on pavement…scooter landed on my ankle…I was wearing a helmet.

“We’ll need an x-ray to see if you’ve broken your ankle.” In preparation for the x-ray, the nurse laid pieces of gauze over my open wound. The simple act of placing feather-weight gauze on my ankle sent intense pain through my body. Clutching the bedrail, tears streaming down my face, I made them promise they wouldn’t clean the wound without first giving me pain meds. The thought of cleaning it without something to take the edge off was too unbearable to think about.

Another orderly appeared to wheel me to the x-ray room. Florescent lights streamed past, as we twisted and turned through hallways. As we entered the elevator, I thought, this must be what those patients on Grey’s Anatomy feel like. Only being able to look up, rather than forward, as you are wheeled through an unknown place creates another layer of anxiety of what’s to come.

In the x-ray room, the technician asked, “Have you dependency?”

With my face scrunched up, I asked, “What?”

“Have you dependency?”

“Do I have dependents? No, I’m single, no kids.”

“No…have you dependency?” This time, his question was accompanied by actions. Mimicking a pregnant belly, I finally understood.

“No, I’m not pregnant.”

Taking x-rays of my ankle in a couple positions, the process took just a couple of minutes. Then, we headed back to the E.R. where the real pain would soon begin.

The doctor, after having reviewed the x-rays, said the words I wanted to hear. “Your ankle’s not broken.” Thank God! According to her, there was damage to the soft tissue and muscles surrounding my ankle. I’d have to stay off of it for the next couple of weeks, but then I should be able to start putting weight on it again.

Per my request, I was given an injection of some pain medication, and told it would take effect in about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, my pain had only reduced from an 8 to a 5, but the nurse said the cleaning had to happen in order to prevent infection. Preparing for a stream of saline, I clenched my teeth and held onto the bedrail.

What happened next was some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. The nurse began spraying a numbing chemical directly into the wound, sending a searing sensation through my body. Uncontrollably, I began screaming bloody murder, cursing, and kicking my good leg. Julie held my leg down, as I later found out, in an effort to prevent me from kicking the nurse in the head. Another nurse stroked my arm, telling me it was going to be okay. I didn’t believe a word she said. Following the nasty spray, I was doused in saline, and the nurse began scrubbing my wound. Yes, scrubbing my open wound. According to Julie, I must have taken the entire road with me, as dirt and debris poured out and onto the plastic mat underneath me. There was so much junk in there that halfway through, they had to change the mat beneath my leg. The same procedure was repeated with my toes, which had also, despite wearing tennis shoes, experienced gnarly road rash.

After the cleaning, they applied betadine and anitbiotic ointment before placing a special thin layer of gauze-like material designed to prevent the dressing from sticking to the wound. My ankle was then wrapped up in a layer of gauze, as were each of my toes, which now looked like white little sausages. My arm, which sustained a 5-inch long road rash burn on my elbow and forearm, now needed to be cleaned. The procedure, along with the pain, followed.

Once I’d calmed down, I was seen by an orthopedic doctor, based on my complaints about pain in my hip. After I told him my medical history with back pain (scoliosis and sciatica), he scheduled a follow-up appointment to see me in a week, saying that at this time, with the damage to my foot and leg, he would be unable to ascertain whether my hip pain was related to the injury or not. He was very knowledgeable and kind, and didn’t rush, which I really appreciated.

My wounds bandaged, I was taken in a wheelchair to the rehab wing of the hospital to be fitted with crutches. The nurse gave me some basic lessons on how to walk with crutches, and then I was given some time to practice. Leg first, then crutches, when going up the stairs. Crutches first when going down. Being on crutches is no joke! It’s super tough, and I’m really glad it’s only for a few weeks. I admire those who have to do it for longer.

Last up was the pharmacy, where I was given antibiotics to fight possible infection, muscle relaxers, pain medicine, and Tylenol in case of fever. All in all, I only had to pay for the crutches, ice packs, and meds, which totaled about $90. Insurance covered the rest (less than $200).

Before we left, we talked the orderly into wheeling me over to the Starbucks for an iced tea and a sweet treat. Yes, there is a Starbucks inside the hospital!

While I was still in pain, I was grateful for the kind and attentive doctors and nurses, and the high quality medical care I received. Oh, and I was super pumped that my ankle wasn’t broken!

I was a little worse for wear (okay, a lot worse), but here’s me on my way out of the hospital. I’ll spare you the gory photos of my foot. It’s a little hard to stomach.

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Well, that didn’t go as I had planned…

“Why don’t you come over to my place and we can drive over together?” Julie texted.

“Sure thing! I’ll be right over!” I replied, and then jumped on my motor scooter to make the less than 10 minute drive to her house. On the way through her neighborhood, I decided to stop at 7-11 for a bottle of water. Exploring a new market in Thailand was going to be fun, but it was also sure to be hot!

Only a couple of minutes away, I hopped back on, strapped on my helmet, and took off. At the last intersection before the turn onto Julie’s street, the one where I need to go straight through, I was riding in the middle of the road. There was a guy riding a scooter just ahead of me, driving along the left-hand side of the road. Without using his indicator, and most likely without looking, he made a right-hand turn directly in front of me.

Shit! Immediately slamming on the brakes only lessened the speed of the impact. It was all a blur, but after crashing into him, my bike skidded to the ground, taking my left ankle with it. On the ground, screaming and crying, I realized my ankle was pinned underneath my scooter, the weight crushing me. Between my screaming and a steady stream of expletives, I remember shouting, “Get it off! Get it off!”

The man I crashed into, apparently uninjured, came to my rescue and lifted the bike off my ankle. With the immediate danger gone, and the intense pain setting in, I continued screaming and crying. So much was happening at once, but suddenly, a few people were standing around me, seeming to have materialized out of thin air. A Thai woman, who spoke English, crouched down beside me and held my hand. She kept reassuring me, telling me to squeeze her hand as hard as I wanted if I was hurting. Another woman was standing there, and I remember shouting, “Get my phone! Get my phone! It’s in my green bag. Call Julie. She’s my friend.” After asking me the passcode for my phone, the kind woman called Julie to say that I’d been in an accident. A Thai man, who had obviously been on a run, asked me if my head was hurting, and when I responded that it wasn’t, he removed my helmet, presumably to help me breathe better, as I was hyperventilating. Another man, an American who teaches in the high school, stopped by, too. I remember him telling me that it wasn’t that bad and could definitely be worse.

In what seemed like a few minutes, Julie appeared in her car. A whirlwind of things happened all at once. Julie got the other driver’s information, after checking on me. The lovely Thai woman who held my hand drove my scooter over to Julie’s house. I was hoisted up by someone, I can’t remember who, into the back of Julie’s car. Crying and struggling to catch my breath, I looked at my ankle for the first time. Swollen to at least twice it’s normal size, with a mix of blood and dirt in a large open wound, I began praying that it wasn’t broken. It sure felt broken.

On the way to the hospital, Julie fought the Bangkok traffic, while simultaneously trying to distract me by talking about other things. I really appreciate all that she did for me, as well as all of the strangers who stopped to help me.

More on the Thai emergency room experience in tomorrow’s slice…

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Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be teaching preschool in Thailand, I would have fell on the floor laughing and told you that you were crazy. Heck, if you had mentioned it a few months ago, I would have had the same response. But here I am, living in Bangkok and teaching preschool.

I was chatting this afternoon with my friend Melissa, who works at the same school and has joined the SOL challenge this year, and we were laughing about my day and my super adorable kiddos, when she posed the question, “Would you have ever thought that you’d be here doing this one year ago?” Smiling, I told her there’s no way that thought would have ever entered my mind, but somehow, I know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Life is funny that way, isn’t it? You think you’re supposed to do one thing, but there’s a whole other plan out there that you aren’t even aware of, and it turns out, their plan is perfect for you. It’s just what you need. Well, it was just what I needed anyway.

Being in Thailand, at this moment in my life, is so unbelievably, serendipitously perfect. Living in my new-found simplicity (more on that in a later post), surrounded by some pretty amazing people, has allowed me space to heal. Something I thought would take forever to happen has begun so quickly. The layers of hurt and fear and junk that I’ve piled on over the last year and a half have begun to slough off, leaving me feeling lighter, more like me. Things still creep up on me, reminding me of the past and bringing me back to those old feelings, but those incidents are far less frequent than they used to be.

Other than my good friend Lauren, who I knew before I came to Bangkok and who has been my biggest support here, everyone else I’ve met is new. Despite my newness, I have developed fast friendships with a few people, and I couldn’t imagine my time here without them. They encourage me, support me in times of doubt, and spend lots of time with me, chatting about life and exploring this incredible city. I already know I’ll shed more than a few tears when I leave.

And then, there’s the whole teaching preschool thing! Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be teaching preschool. The fact that I am, and even more, the fact that I’m enjoying it, is huge! I always looked at early childhood teachers with a mix of wonder, respect, and confusion. I mean, who in their right mind chooses to work with little (and I mean little) kids all day! Well, having taken advantage of being in the right place at the right time and accepting this position, I can honestly say I get it. I know why they do it. Three- to four-year-olds are so full of life! They are unapologetically themselves. They say what they think, they question, they explore, and they do what feels good. What a way to live!

I’m savoring this season in my life, taking each day as it comes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else unfolds on this new adventure I’m on…it’s sure to be a wild ride!

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