Way to start the new year
As of today, I have been in Bangkok a month. I know this for a fact because I am currently sitting in the hospital, waiting for my appointment in which the hospital will assist me in renewing my visa.
I got an e-mail yesterday from my counterpart, asking why I have been keeping silent. Well, true -I’ve also been silent for about a week, not that the week was completely without event, but I had to think about how much detail to write – after all, I don’t know exactly who reads my blog and how much detail people really want to know.
First things first – the new year. There is another PCV here, from Mongolia – I’ve referred to him in a couple of other blogs. As he is a young man, he wanted to do something to celebrate and ring in the new year. I told him I would accompany him, but he had to do any planning, find a party, etc – usually when we go somewhere it is me who does all the planning, so I turned the tables a bit.
We ended up going to an American-style sports bar/restaurant for dinner, and I splurged on a steak (fatty, but otherwise tasty). After that, we went to one bar, had a drink, and quickly left – it was too loud for any sort of conversation and neither one of us wanted to play pool. Our next stop was a little more interesting – a converted, pink, VW bus that was parked on one of the streets, outside a rather nice hotel. As they had a few tables, one of which was available, we thought, “why not have a drink here?” and stepped up to order. I was looking through the drink menu (impressively extensive), I saw one called “Gay Power”. I must say, that was intriguing – I was familiar with most all the other drinks on the menu (they even have Harvey Wallbangers here!), but not that one. I asked what was in it – vodka, peppermint, triple sec, and lemon juice (so I was told – it was actually lime juice but either way). We decided to give it a try and my, was it tasty. The drinks also came in buckets, so we ended up ordering a bucket of gay power. I am sorry, but just the sound of it was enough to amuse me, whether or not the drink was tasty.
I could have remained there, but G wanted to continue to hop to one or two more places, so we did, and ended up in an Irish pub/restaurant when midnight came. I reminded him that we have an advantage in that we are enough hours ahead of the U.S. that if he wanted to, he could celebrate all over again in 12 hours when the ball drops in Times Square.
Thus was New Year’s. However, Thais like New Years and there was much celebrating to be done – as a matter of fact, they celebrated all over again the next night.
What else did I do in the past week? Well, I decided I was getting too restless in my room, and though my stomach had been bothering me for over a week, I decided to visit a place just outside of Bangkok called Muang Boran, or Ancient City.
What is Muang Boran? It is an outdoor museum, covering 240 acres, with scaled models or replicas of ancient city ruins and historical monuments from various parts of Thailand. This outdoor museum preserves the past architecture, art and culture of the different regions in Thailand with ruins and monuments located in an area in the shape of the map of Thailand.
According to information about Muang Boran, a great deal of research was done to ensure authenticity in the reconstruction of these structures. Where the originals were destroyed, reconstruction relied on historical records. There are 116 scaled models or replicas of ancient ruins, monuments, buildings and structures that sum up the ethnic and cultural heritage of Thailand. Some of the exhibitions are creative designs to symbolize religious beliefs and concepts.
Getting to Muang Boran was interesting – a bus, then a songthaew – another new form of transport for me here in Thailand. What is a songthaew? It is a small pick-up truck with benches in the back that people sit on, and a cover (which leaves the sides open for air flow). I took a photo of one but have not uploaded it onto my computer yet. The songthaew took us directly to the entrance of the Ancient city.
In my opinion, the 400 baht entry fee, which included use of a bicycle to get around the park, was a better investment than the 400 baht to enter the Grand Palace. Though the replicas of the sites were small, they were to scale and allow people who cannot travel the whole of Thailand to see some of the architectural treasures here. My favorite was the Temple of Enlightenment. Sadly, the memory that came to mind when I was at that particular attraction was one of the seasons of “America’s Next Top Model”, where the end of season fashion show was held there. But it was beautiful and interesting.
I had originally planned to return to Ayutthaya on the last day before my procedure was scheduled, but on the way back from Muang Boran, realized I had been a bit stupid that day. The weather was cloudy in the morning (as it often seems to be here) so I forgot to put on sunblock, and was a bit pink where I had been exposed to the sun. I woke up Tuesday morning and, as it was still tender, decided to go to the PC office instead.
It was a fortunate decision, as immediately after lunch, I was hit with stomach pains. Now, I had been having them for about a week and a half at the time (as well as a couple other symptoms), and the doctor knew about it but neither one of us was too concerned because I had no fever. Well, I became concerned when the pains were so bad that I was doubled over, crying and sweating. I got in touch with the doctor, who told me to go to the ER at the hospital…and when he found out I was at the office, he had a driver take me.
At the ER they admitted me immediately – though the pains were on the left and in the center, not on the right side, so we knew it was not appendicitis. But they were not entirely sure what it was, so I had a couple of tests done, and then was put in a room and started on fluids (I made them change where the IV thing was – in my right hand was not the best choice of places, so they put it into my left arm instead. I still have a bruise on my hand from it).
The next morning I was begging for food, so the doctor allowed for a liquid diet (and consequently had the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well, they changed the Jello-O flavor). The doctor came in the afternoon and told me my white blood cell count was pretty high, indicating a bacterial infection. By the end of the day I was on antibiotics, though still a liquid diet. At the time, I had only minor pains in my left side and stomach (well, I had not been eating food), though the area was still tender. Being as I am not an anatomy student, I had to be told that the infection was in my colon. Now I know…
I was still allowed to have my procedure because I did not have a fever and was showing improvement (again, easy to do when you have no food in your stomach). On a side note, it took a fever three weeks to develop when I was in Ukraine and had a similar problem (during my first few weeks there). But I did not really want to get to that point again, so I was glad they were taking care of it.
The next morning, when the doctor came in (they start EARLY – he was visiting me at 6:45 a.m.!) I begged for real food – by then, I had not eaten for 36 hours. He was cautious, but put me on a “soft” diet because I did not have the severe pains anymore (well, there was no real food going into my stomach, of course I was not having pains). I had poached eggs for the first time in my life. They were not bad, and I was glad that the yolks were fully cooked.
Something must have happened during the day because by the end of the day, the doctor told me I could leave if I wanted to. I was surprised that he put the decision on me – I mean, isn’t it up to him? It was not that tough of a decision – as nice as they are in the hospital, and as good of care as they take, it is still a hospital – though the many channels and films on demand, plus the free WiFi were nice. But I was discharged, and immediately got some food (nothing too difficult – a salad and a roll). I was told to stay away from fruit and dairy – really?! I was eating a TON of fruit here – what a bummer! Later in the evening I decided he must have meant citrus fruits, and had G bring me some watermelon – I mean, it is a fruit, but mostly WATER, so it must be okay, right?
The irony…I got back to the hotel and seeing as I am still recovering, what do I have to do? Not a lot, other than read and watch HBO, Cinemax, and CNN at the hotel. Well, the hotel is going through some sort of transition and guess what – all of the THAI and ARABIC channels are coming in, but not the English. And of course, no WiFi at the hotel. I started to question my decision – at the hospital I had those amenities to help pass the time, and my meals were brought to me. Oh well…at least I went the whole night without being asked how many times I had gone to the bathroom or having my blood pressure taken every two to three hours.
So now it is nearly noon on Friday the 6th (I just had to look on a calendar to get the day – I have lost track of days here). I still have two days of free WiFi from the hospital so I am sitting in the hospital’s Starbucks and taking advantage of the WiFi, while waiting for my visa appointment. I am recovering, though still having stomach pains and other symptoms (well, the antibiotic does not work miracles – it takes time).
When I was told I was coming here, I never anticipated being here so long that I would need to extend my visa. What a strange journey it has been, and there is still more to come.