Friday, May 28, 2010

Lonely Lego - ยินดียินดี

28 May 2010 - Phuket, Thailand

This morning I was video-skyping with a friend from the theater group (I’m an amateur actress in Phuket community theater these days). My friend is a talented director/writer/ actress and has offered to direct our next production. We were talking about [bxA] the craft of acting (which I know nothing about) and inhibitions that compromise performance (which I know everything about). She explained that many people create shells to conceal their personalities but we just need to chip away a piece of that shell.

I flashed on an animated film of a knife cutting into the head of a gigantic person-shaped wedding cake, carving out an eyeball in a neat rectangular piece of cake, sliding it onto a pie server where it is then delivered to a table at a wedding reception. Thai folk music played in my head.


It took a while for me to place it.

May 2010 - Phuket, Thailand. Park Rawai Shopping Center on Chaofa West Rd.

I was up at Black Canyon Coffee yesterday trying to read a book or assess my list of things-to-do or figure out how the wait staff applied the little temporary tattoos of Thai letters and a World Cup ‘soccer’ ball on their cheeks just under their respective left eyes.

Suddenly all my thoughts fell away and nothing mattered but the music video playing on the television across the room. I was transfixed. My senses were awakened and suddenly I could feel all the little cultural nuances about Thailand that I never seem to notice, but will likely discover once I’m gone. And when I am no longer in Thailand, watching this video will take me right back to this point in time, everything happening in my life right here, right now:

(or link to Youtube here)

Don’t ask me why.

Happy Dog

May 2010 - Phuket, Thailand. Dog at Poo's Palm Sauna & Massage, Soi Suksan 1, Rawai.

In my last blog post I said I’d tell you the other emergency room story tomorrow and by ‘tomorrow’ I meant ‘never.’ Sorry about that. I changed my mind.

As they say, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Under the Weather

May 2010 – Phuket International Hospital

20 May 2010 – Phuket, Thailand.

I got back to Phuket last week only to discover I had a staph infection from a bug bite I got in Sri Lanka. Well, I didn’t actually discover it, I was completely ignoring it. Luckily the Gods of Common Sense intervened. [bxA]

Last Wednesday sitting in the McDonalds at the Kuala Lumpur airport reminded me of these guys I met on the same KL > Phuket flight last month. I had shared a taxi with them back to Chalong and learned they are MMA fighters training in Thailand. I didn’t stay in touch but one of them said he was starting a blog soon, so I’d been keeping an eye out for it.

KLCC Airport McDonalds (borrowed from this blog without permission).

With a couple hours to kill waiting for my flight, I messaged him on Facebook from the KL airport McDonalds to ask if he started the blog. By the time I got back to my house in Phuket, I had his blog link and was reading it from the beginning when I came across an excerpt he posted about staph infections. It was like reading a checklist of what had been happening to my leg the past few days: got bug bite, scratched it too much, it swelled, it spread, it was kinda gross, etc. Oh dear.

May 2010 – Phuket International Hospital Emergency Room.

The next day I went to the Phuket International Hospital Emergency Room – which isn’t so much of a triage situation as just a nice clean walk-in clinic. The pretty Thai nurses wear white dresses with those proper bow-like nurse hats and feminine white shoes with little white ankle socks.

The doctor took one look at my leg and said, “Aaahh. Staph.” Glunk.

Dicloxacillin 500 MG cap – 4x daily before meals and bedtime. Blech.

I’ve spent the past week ingesting antibiotics four times a day and suffering flu symptoms on and off while trying desperately not to consider the extreme cases of staph. (What if I hadn't read that guys blog!?!)

I’ve returned to the emergency room clinic every other day for the doctor to keep an eye on the situation while the pretty nurses dress my ugly wounds. Today was my fourth and final visit as it appears the infection is contained and healing, inshallah.

The bi-daily trips to the Phuket ER have brought fond and hilarious memories of the time Alyssa and I found ourselves in an Emergency Room during our first week in Beirut…

April 2009 – Downtown Beirut.

…but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, check out the Fighter Guy’s blog – it’s really good and he writes a lot about life in Thailand:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taxi to Thai Embassy

May 2010 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Suria Mall in KL City Center.

10 May 2010 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“Where you from? …. I think America?” The Malaysian taxi driver asked as I got situated in the back seat.

“Good guess!” I was impressed. It’s been ages since anyone guessed correctly – it’s usually UK or Australia. [bxA]

“I can tell by your slang.”

“Really? What slang gave it away?”

He paused then said, “You said ‘how much—‘ …you speak very simply…”

I flashed on myself marching up to the taxi queue outside the Suria KLCC mall and asking, “How much to take me to the Thai Embassy?”

He continued, “Brits are not simple they say many words,” then he mimicked a British accent, “hello, sir, I was wondering—“

I interjected in a British accent, “yes, good day sir, I was wondering if you could please tell me---" and we erupted into giggles, delighted by our terrible impersonations of proper Brits. I flashed back on my London days where I learned, begrudgingly, that I could only assign work to my analysts after I politely inquired about their weekend or some other polite pleasantry.

The taxi driver put his hand to his neck, touching his glands and continued, “Brits speak from the back of throat,” he said in a low, nearly inaudible throaty voice. I flashed on a very smart Thai woman, my Phuket tailor’s English speaking sister, who told me the exact same thing and did a brilliant impersonation of a British person speaking from the back of the throat, barely moving the lips. She had asked me to talk to her so she could listen to me enunciate my words.

He pointed to the radio and said it was American music. It was a female pop artist. I had just read an article at a Malaysian hair salon about someone named Kesha who I assumed was Lady Gaga since I don’t actually know what’s going on in that world.

American pop stars: Kesha Lady Gaga

“I like rock,” the taxi driver announced, “Scorpions, the Eagles, Hotel California, Rob—"

“Yeah, me too,” I concurred, “did you say Rob Zombie?”

“Yes, I like Rob Zombie.”

“We must be about the same age.”

“When I drink beer and whiskey, I listen to rock.”

“I don’t like whiskey. I like tequila.” I then giggled freely as if Alyssa were in the taxi with me, getting my inside joke.

“Ahh, Texas girl. Tequila. I like Chivas. And rock ‘n roll.”

He pulled up to the curbside next to the white stone walls around the Royal Thai Embassy. I handed him twenty ringgits.

“Gracias, Texas girl.”

“Kob khun ka,” I said in Thai as I got out of the car.

The embassy was closed for lunch so I found a little Persian restaurant in a small office building. It was freshly painted with enormous posters of Persian patterns and photographs of Iran covering the tall red walls. Malaysian women wearing uniform red polo shirts and red hijabs served Persian food prepared by Iranian men in proper chef’s hats.

Another ordinary day in an extraordinary world…

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Elephants & Intelligence

8 May 2010 - Colombo, Sri Lanka

I'm sitting at the Coffee Bean at Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport using free wifi drinking terrible coffee. Have been up since 4:30am. Still grappling with the whole blog thing, but trying to push through it. Have had an incredible adventure in Sri Lanka and wrote a few blogposts I haven't posted. It takes time and I haven't had wifi.

But more difficult is [bxA] the 'appropriateness' question, which I wrote a blogpost about in Thailand but never posted. There are all kinds of problems with blogging, respecting people's privacy, being considerate, being accurate, being politically correct...and being safe.

Last night after like ten days of non-stop talk and giggles, Dirk walked me back to my cheap hotel by the World Trade Center and I suddenly stopped, "oh yeah! Dirk, I forgot to ask! Can I blog about you?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Can I use your name? My blog is public."

"Sure, why wouldn't you? What do you mean?"

"I don't think I should use your name. You should have a pseudonym."

"What? Why?"

"I don't know. But all our friends in Beirut had pseudonyms at the ready when I asked them last summer. Also...can I post photos? And can I say we are visiting your housekeeper? Or should I say she's just a friend?"

"You can say she's my housekeeper." Dirk was confused.

"Can I post photos of us with her family?"

"Yes, that's fine. What is it you're worried about?"

"I don't know! Aren't these privacy issues? What about the spy thing?"

Dirk and I had been laughing the entire night about our spy paranoia and debating if it's real and if so, which part - the paranoia or the spy threat? Living in Beirut makes westerners completely paranoid and I've been grappling with this for months - but I have been afraid to blog about it.

"Like, the whole spy thing that happened tonight - can I write about that? Or is Hezbollah reading my blog? I wrote a post about our dinner with 'Addidas' the other night but I can't post it, right?"

"I don't know? Can you post it? It was so funny it would be good to post it, but ---" he paused, "but people do write about this stuff. It happens. Look at Robert Fisk, he writes about it."

"Yeah, and I'm not a spy so I can write about it, right?"

We still don't know the answer. I'll probably remove this blogpost when I get to the next city. Or maybe I'll post the blog about why I don't want to blog about things like our dinner with Addidas the other night.

"Paranoia the destroyer."
-the Kinks

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Winds of Change

April 2010 – Colombo, Sri Lanka. Colombo Hilton next to the World Trade Center.

30 April 2010 - Colombo, Sri Lanka.

I tried to buy a Lonely Planet at the Hilton bookshop but “it finish.”

Later I got a massage at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel spa. The massage girl said [bxA] she is from Phuket, Thailand and really misses home because she’s been here a very long time: six months.

Just before dusk, dark storm clouds rolled in and the waves picked up. The weather is hot and muggy so the winds are warm. It feels like the winds of change I keep feeling in my own life, only here there are military soldiers holding rifles standing all around.

A man walked me across the street and joined me on the sea wall for a pleasant conversation. He said I’m lucky to be here now because the war is over. I asked when the war ended. He said about six months ago and now there is peace for the first time in 30 years. I asked how certain he is it will remain peaceful. He said very certain because the terrorists in the north – something about Jaffna – are under control now.

He changed the subject and encouraged me to go to a gem sale that ends today. I said I’m not in the market for jewelry. He then tried to persuade me with a parable I learned in Hindu yoga school about tasting a mango: you can say you don’t want a mango based on what people tell you a mango tastes like, but you will never know a mango until you bite into one and taste it. Mathaji told it with strawberries. I didn’t realize it could be applied to jewelry, but maybe I just haven’t found the right pair of earrings.

Nov ’09 – Uttarkashi, India. Sign at a Vivekananda primary school near Sivananda Ashram.

I walked away through a dozen soldiers milling about a military truck. One young soldier smiled this enormous smile at me with his discolored buck teeth bursting out of his mouth, which he immediately and awkwardly tried to contain with his lips as I tried a careful, friendly smile. He wanted desperately to be handsome and with all my heart I wanted that for him.

As the winds blew harder and the waves rose higher, I headed back toward my hotel before the rains came down. A group of teenage schoolboys in white shirts approached and were all smiles until one bravely asked me where I come from. I told them “USA” and then with a huge grin one of them announced, “We’re from Sri Lanka.” I grinned back and said cheekily, “Ahhh…I was just going to ask.”

We passed the regal old colonial looking building with the gate around it and statues of Sri Lankan men. The boys told me it is the old parliament house and the statues are of their heroes.

Derrick arrives tomorrow.