Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thailand post 4

Don’t worry guys, I AM alive, I just haven’t had any internet for a while, so strap in— this is probably going to be a long one. The past several days have brought us out of Bangkok into the Northern region of Thailand. We flew into Chiang Mai for the weekend, which is the main city in the North (Thailand has four Regions: North, Northeast, Central [where Bangkok is located], and South).

On our last night in Bangkok, we went into Chinatown (yep, they’re in other countries, too) and walked around foreverrrr. We were in search of this one Indian restaurant that was recommended in someone’s little guidebook and was supposedly next to Chinatown, but finally gave up. Unfortunately, we had walked so far that there weren’t really any restaurants around, so before attempting to eat at a roadside vendor, but you can see how thrilled everyone was to be eating at the food stand…(that’s my roommate making the face, haha)

So we loaded into 2 taxis to head to a mall to eat. My rule of thumb with taxis has always been to always get in the taxi that Juriaan is in (he’s our new best friend; see earlier posts for info), and boy did it pay off. As we were driving, we stumbled upon the Indian district, hopped out of our taxi, and called the other group. But with phones dying, and a maniac taxi driver on the other end, they were never able to make it back to us and ate at a KFC. WE, on the other hand, ate an absolutely fantastic vegetarian Indian meal (Zack, Caroline, Joseph, Warren, Lacy, Hilary, etc: think Daru and FSU’s vegetarian lunch, but better). Afterward, Juriaan took us to a street lined with vendors and restaurants, where we bartered a little bit, and even caught the USA vs. Slovenia game on TV.

Then we flew out in the morning, and once in Chiang Mai, had a break from lectures and field visits. On Saturday and Sunday, we just toured around and shopped (in markets, as well as in various factories [silk, laquerware, silver, gemstones], which were all pretty interesting). The first place we went was Doi Suthep, a well-known mountaintop temple, where I had to rent a piece of cloth [there’s probably a real name for it] because my shorts didn’t cover my knees.

Chiang Mai is famous for it’s night markets, and they have them all over the city. Saturday night we went to one next to our hotel, which was cool, until we found out that the REAL markets—with actual local handicraft and not just touristy junk—is on Sunday nights. Woops. So Sunday night we went to the “Walking Street” night market, which is basically over a mile and a half stretch of road just completely lined with food, clothing, and knick-knacks. My most exciting purchase there was probably the bamboo worm, which actually didn’t taste too bad… (along with this ice cream on a stick thing, which (for Joseph) was milk tea flavored and was amazing.

On Monday, it was back to business, and we went to the Office of Disease Protection and Control for that district. We learned [again] about vector control [aka, mosquitoes] and also learned to make slides to test for malaria. Don’t worry guys, no parasites in me yet!

After that session, we drove further north to Chiang Dao, where we stayed at this really cool hotel—beautiful landscaping and architecture, but unfortunately our room (which was oddly and literally half the size of all the other rooms) had a bit of a bug problem. But we deal, right? I also got to run here (for only the second time this trip), and the quiet little mountain roads were so much better than the awfully polluted streets in even the small-ish city of Chiang Mai.

In Chiang Dao, we went to the Community Hospital and learned about the HIV and TB programs that they have (two very prominent diseases in developing countries around the world). I was actually quite impressed—they have a great community outreach program for HIV, for example, that involves HIV+ volunteers that can use their experiences to educate and empower other patients. After that, we took a trip to Baan Mitratorn, a Catholic orphanage (only the 3rd Christian establishment I’ve seen so far) for children who either have HIV, or whose parents died because of HIV. We brought them toys and snacks, and played with them for a couple hours. What an incredible thing. The orphanage seemed like a really great establishment, as far as those things go, and the kids loved us, even though we couldn’t even talk to them in the same language…

Right now I’m sitting in the hotel in Lampang. We went to the hospital today and did a daylong session on occupational health. it was super interesting, and probably my favorite day. Besides talking about all the occupational hazards that people in the community encounter (exposure to many physical, chemical, and biological agents from long days of hard work), we did a tour to see what kinds of things the hospital itself is doing to care for its employees. We completed one of the checkups they offer, involving flexibility, strength, endurance, lung capacity, body fat, and vision checks (the last of which ended with the woman telling me, “Be careful when driving car; you cause big accident.” Great…). We also completed physicals for several employees who work in the laundry and supply departments who had complaints of things like back pain and rashes.

A million years later, I think I’ve gotten you all caught up. Thanks for indulging in my long-winded storytelling : )
Till next time…

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