Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Here is what my plan was for yesterday: Get up early, check e-mail and see if Conor or anyone was on facebook (yes, I know what I have said about facebook in the past. You know I have always been a lame and changeable hypocrite. I also note a direct correlation between my productivity here and my signing up for facebook), eat some breakfast, read my novel for an hour (Possession by AS Byatt- I highly recommend it), go on my long loop bike ride (about an hour and 15 minutes), stop by the market and get some supplies and look for a gift for our Yankee Swap Christmas party at Rita's on Saturday, come home, take a shower, change my linens, call Judy for a laundry pick up, get my lesson plans together for the week and write up a detailed lesson plan to send back to World Teach for my TEFL, ride up to the 24 hour convenience store and buy a Chang, come home and cook dinner, eat, write a blog entry on Buddhism while I enjoyed my beer, and get to bed by 10:30 for once. Well you know what they say about Mice and Men. Here is what I did instead:
I made it as far as talking to Conor, and I even talked briefly to my good friend Rick Ash, which was nice. Then came the breakfast part. I bought some meat the other day at the market which I had with some stir fry, and there was a little left. How long is meat good for? Perhaps I should look into that before buying it again. Or maybe it wasn't the meat. I was feeling a little off anyway, I think, before breakfast. I had ample time to consider the matter as I lay on the floor, all my joints aching, my head throbbing, and my stomach in a sailor's monkey's fist knot. There wasn't much in the way of vomiting or...you know....I was just immobilized. I wanted to take an advil for the head and body aches, but then I would think of my stomach and I was sure nothing I put in there would stay . It was the kind of sick where time is slowed way down and you have slow motion conversations in your head that ooze back and forth like sludgy oil:
Maybe I should go upstairs to bed......3 minutes later... No its too hot up there...
Do I have a fever?....
Maybe I should go to try throwing up again....
Should I watch a movie on the laptop?.....oh god it's all the way over there...
I should at least go get a pillow...man my stomach hurts...
How is my head?
How sick am I really?...Am I just being a wuss?... I should just get up and shower...
I wonder what the symptoms of Malaria are?

At around 6 pm, when it became clear that whatever this was, I was not going to make it to school Monday, I phoned Jes the field director. I just couldn't face a call to anyone Thai. It takes more energy than I had. Then I called Ben to see if he was going to the night market and could he see if he could find some ginger ale. Once Jes called my directors, there was plenty of action. At one point I had four generations of the same family in to tell me what to do- the grandmother who lives next door, her daughter who is a second grade teacher at Thai Samakee, her daughter Jenny who spends all day on line looking for a European sugar daddy, and Jenny's six year old daughter by a disappeared Malaysian father. I propped myself in a chair and they chatted about how best to cure me. They are very adamant that life's cure-all is to eat. Like the trained medical professionals they are, they also wanted to know, via hand gestures, if I had diarrhea. Nothing like discussing diarrhea with 5 women in your kitchen. They brought out several packets of pills and I showed them what I had left over from my cold. We narrowed the choices down to one which was for the stomach, which I was about to take when they waved me off adamantly to tell me I must take, with food with food! Since I wasn't about to eat something just to take a pill to settle my stomach, we had to call a truce. Ben arrived with a Sprite and a sports drink ( they were horrified when I took a sip of the Sprite-No, no! Will make you hand gestures to indicate burping).

It is another one of those moments where I realized that my country and culture has highly specific responses to a given health situation. I wanted quiet, no food, no light, and certainly no company. I wanted ginger ale and rest. And I have been trained to "listen to my body", whatever that means, and let things "run their course". That is indicative of me coming at the tail-end of the hippie generation and also of my upper middle class grooviness, I am sure. One's experience and outlook on health and health care are very much colored, even within a culture, by factors such as social class. Still, in my native country, after 50 years, I am pretty confident what is going to pass and what is serious enough to merit a trip to the doctor. Here in Thailand, from what I have observed, the order is inverse. You get sick the first thing you do is surround yourself with others, then take pills and go to the hospital. A hospital visit here is not the same as in the US. Rather it is where all the doctors are so you go there as opposed to visiting your personal physician. I suppose it is very different in Bangkok or the other major cities which are more westernized. I actually do have faith in the doctors and their training, even if all the pills are confusing and leave me a bit flummoxed. People come from the States and Europe for health and surgical procedures to Bangkok because it is modern yet still much cheaper.
After a bit the third grade teacher who was there also picked up on the fact that I was about to collapse and shooed the gathered others on their way. I got some advil down, passed out until 10 pm and then took two tylenol night times and slept straight through until this morning. Today I have slept most of the day too. At four I took a shower and that was good. And now I have almost completed a blog entry, not on what I wanted to write, but Mai Pen Rai, yes? Good health is so fragile and temporary, but we spend so little time appreciating what a blessing it is to have. I see people, young and old,  blithely  trashing their bodies, forgetting how desperately we want to just feel okay when sick. Then all our dreams and ambitions and concerns are out the door-  If I could just feel okay, that would be enough- And if I could ask for any medicine at all, here is what it would be: It would be to be young again and rest my head in my mother's lap and have her put cool washcloths on my forehead and stroke my hair and say to me, "There there, everything is going to be fine..."

1 comment:

  1. Peter! I heard you're doing better today. Take your time getting back to school though- I think this stuff is REALLY contagious (if it is the flu thing and not the meat thing). I had a feeling I might be raining down a storm of women fussers when I called Boom, but what to do? I couldn't tell if you were dying from malaria or had a bad cold. Someone needed check on you. And now you have the experience of getting bad medical advice pushed on you when you feel terrible- it's a must-do for Thai assimilation. And it's not always so bad. I actually did have two ladies wipe down my feverish body with cool wet cloths and tell me soothing things in their sing-song native tongue.