Tag Archives: Thailand

When will it be over?

Yesterday, HR informed me that I’d be going to the immigration office to extend my work visa. Bring a book, they said, you may be waiting a while…

We left school at 7:30am, presumably to miss the traffic. Spoiler alert: We didn’t. Thirteen miles and an hour and a half later, we arrived.

The office opened at 8:30. We arrived at 9:00. Tony, the HR rep, lined up to get our queue number (yes, you line up to line up), and emerged with the saddest face. Number 194. One hundred ninety-four.


Around 10:00, we went to check the progress of the queue. The red LED lights displayed number 20. Twenty!?!? You mean we have 173 more people ahead of us?!? This is insane! Free from sitting in the rows upon rows of seats, Tony tells us we can meet him back here at 2:00pm. He tells us about the indoor market full of food stalls and the underground food court we could walk around.

My companion, a 16 year old high school student who is a part of our school’s boarding program, and I slowly, and I mean slowly, make our way around. The market was pretty intriguing! There was the typical market fare, but there were also unique foods I’d never tried. We’d occasionally stop to watch as they prepared the food, asking questions about ingredients and preparation techniques. Almost always we were offered a sample, which I gladly took, but my picky friend did not. The coconut and black sticky rice balls were good, but not good enough for me to buy them. They were sweet, but the texture was too gooey. The curious yellow fruit I’d seen peeled and wrapped in cellophane at previous markets, yet didn’t know the name of, was there. Only this time, I saw the woman removing it from it’s large spiky exterior. A quick inquiry revealed it was jackfruit. I was offered a taste, which I took. The texture reminded me of flesh, and it had a sweet, yet slightly stinky, taste. I decided to pass on that one. I also tried rice crackers, cashew and sesame crackers (which I bought!), and pickled green mangoes, which smelled and tasted like alcohol.

Sufficiently killing time and our boredom, we headed down to the food court for lunch. My high school buddy ordered 2 double cheeseburgers and 10 chicken wings. And ate it all! I ate the PB and J I’d packed and a few fries. After a stop at 7-11 for a slurpee, we checked the time, certain it was nearly time to meet up with Tony. It was 11:19. We had successfully killed one hour and nineteen minutes. Man, this was going to be a long day.

Exhausting all the entertainment the market could provide, we sought out a place to sit and rest. I toggled between texting Shaggers, reading my book, people watching, and scribbling in my notebook. My friend watched YouTube videos and played games on his phone. Lunch break for the office came at noon, at which time they were only at number 70! Everyone was ushered out into the lobby area during the hour they are closed for lunch. Throngs of people, all dressed in black and white, sat motionless on the stools, staring into their screens as the time slowly ticked by.

As I wondered how many more hours we’d have to continue the waiting game, I noticed the hours on the door. They close at 4:30. Will we make it? Will they stay open later? Will we have to come back? Oh, please, don’t make me come back. Just as I’m wrestling with this idea of running out of time and having to do this all over again, a rather large man and his partner walk up.

He’s obviously annoyed and disgruntled to see the doors closed and the lights off. A quick look at the hours posted on the door reveals they’re on lunch break. Looking around, unsure of what to do, I reach out to him. “Yeah, they’re closed for lunch. Should be back in half an hour, but you might not want to come today. We got here at 9:00 and are number 194. They were only on 70 before lunch.” I give him a sympathetic smile.

Anger begins to set in. “But I have to get it. My visa runs out today and I am getting on a flight later, and I need my visa so I can come back into the country.”Setting his jaw, he says, “It has to happen.” I ask him when his flight is, and he says he has to be at the airport at 4:00pm, but he first needs to go home and get his luggage.

I wonder, Why did he wait until a few hours before his flight to try to do this? Will he get it in time? What happens if he doesn’t? Will he make a scene? Desperation makes you do crazy things.

Settling back into our seats by the entrance, I notice security is lax. There’s this illusion of safety, what with the metal detector and the baggage screener set up near the door, but the security guards are mostly on their phones and people just walk right in. Sometimes, when their eyes aren’t glued to their phones, they ask people to put their bags through the scanner, but other times, they don’t. It doesn’t matter though. They never look when the bags go through anyway.

Dude, I hate waiting. I wish I could take a nap. I try in vain to get comfortable on the hard plastic seat.

Restroom break time. Surprisingly, it’s decent. Not super clean, but not abhorrent like it could be. A common occurrence in Thailand, we are provided with one-ply toilet paper with which to dry our hands after washing. Tiny pieces of wet paper get stuck all over my hands. This only adds to the frustration of my day.

Now back in the rows of seats inside the office, I try to read, but the constant ding followed by the robotic-sounding voice calling out the next number in the queue interrupts my flow.

At 3:30, they are only at number 137. Fifty-four more to go. And they close in an hour. Let the nail-biting commence. And the annoyance continue to fester.

On a positive note, I got some mango sticky rice for a snack. The mango wasn’t very ripe, so it wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough to quell my grumbling tummy and take up a bit of time.


Throughout the day, we’d run into familiar faces as we trod along, all of us in on this shared experience, never to see one another again. One in particular was a couple…well, were they a couple? I couldn’t exactly tell. The young man, who couldn’t have been more than 24, was handsome in that boyish, he-knows-he’s-handsome kind of way. Dressed in a fitted suit, red tie, and blue paisley pocket square, his hair perfectly in place, he had an air of arrogance about him. I caught his accent briefly. Definitely not American. British perhaps? I’m not entirely sure. He strode confidently, followed quickly by a young Thai woman, at least a foot shorter than him, cute, hair in a ponytail, and wearing a brown velvet dress and sneakers. She was obviously in love with him, or at least infatuated. She had all the tell-tale signs…laughing at all his jokes, gazing up at him with eyes a sparkle, and lightly touching his arm every chance she could. He certainly wasn’t bothered by it, but he never touched her. That’s why I don’t think they were a couple.

Coming up on 4:30, the crowd thinning, seats emptying, people break free of the imprisonment we have all found ourselves in today. Tony tells us they’re going to keep working past closing time so we will be seen today. Hallelujah! Trying to unsuccessfully distract myself with my book, I am fidgety, wanting this day to end.

Finally, at 5:15, my number is called! A brief interaction with the immigration officer, a few signatures, and a photo later, I’m done. Or so I think. Nope, I now have to wait on my passport.

At 6:00, we load into the van, headed back to our area of town. By this time, I’m hangry. I just want food. Real food. And I want a massage and a shower. And I need to slice. Climbing into the back, I try to lay down, but sleep eludes me.

I finally arrive at 7:15pm. Nearly 12 hours after we left this morning. Such a waste of a day. Relieved it’s over, I get some Kao Soi for dinner and a quick massage on my leg, where I’m certain I pulled a muscle. If I never have to do that again, it’d be too soon.

Spring Break Plans

I’m soooo excited for Spring Break!! Just another 8 days of work, and then I get a magical 12 days off! 🙂 Linner is coming for part of my break, and I’ll be doing a bit of solo travel, too. Today I finalized my plans and I’m really looking forward to it!

When Linner arrives, we’ll have a quick staycation in Bangkok. The plan is to visit the Floating Market (new to us both), stay in a posh hotel downtown with a rooftop pool, get massages, and eat yummy Thai food. All in all, my kinda thing.

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Linner and I will travel to Krabi, Thailand and stay in Ao Nang at a sweet resort not to far from the beach. I plan to lay by the pool (hopefully I can get in, too!), relax with a pina colada or a fresh juice, and read. We’d also like to explore Ao Nang beach. Again, I hope to take a dip. Ao Nang has beautiful beaches, with huge rocks and cliffs nearby. I’d like to take a boat ride one day.


Once Linner leaves, I’ll be solo traveling to Indonesia! After a quick stop-over in Jakarta, I’ll fly to Ubud, Bali, where I will be staying at a relaxing hotel near the city. It has a pool with lounge chairs, a spa, and a good restaurant. The best part is it only cost me $34 a night, including breakfast! There’s a free area shuttle, and if I’m mobile and able to walk around, I plan on exploring. If not, I’ll lounge by the pool, reading and writing. Either way, it’ll be a relaxing trip!


This is why I live abroad…trips like this are possible and affordable. 🙂

Thai Names

Don’t you just hate when everyone has your name? In a sea of Johns or Jennifers, you become defined by your last initial. Well, no more! I have a solution for you! For all of you expectant parents out there, here are some quirky and unique names for you to choose from, courtesy of Thailand!

There’s Einstein and Atom, Mafia and Boss,

Sibling pairs like Versailles and Venice, Violin and Piano,

Classics such as Cheese and Milk, Bike and Book, or

Stand-outs like PlanktonBouquet, Touch, and Titi,

You can be Famous, the Best, a Bonus, or just Wow Wow!

You can be a Party or you can be Mild, cold as Ice or a Saint,

Then there’s First and Third, or simply Nine.

You can be a Proud Captain or you can be a Fluke.

Or you can be the most polite kid around and be Thankyou.

Whatever you choose, know that you hang the Sun over the Earth!

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Living in Thailand has its idiosyncrasies, as every place does. I embrace its vibrancy and quirkiness. One of the things that I find so different than other places I’ve lived, so uniquely Thai, is the names people have. I’m not talking about their names in Thai, most of which consist of 23 letters and are unpronounceable to me. What I’m referring to are the English names they choose for their children. Some may say they’re unusual, others may say they’re weird. I’m going to go with quirky.

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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!