17 May 2009

The Thai'me of Our Lives

Sawàt dii kâ. Our saga continues...

So, Dayna's doctor apparently had some extra time on his hands, so he moved her treatment schedule up. That means we missed out on some of the planned sight-seeing. I say "we" because Dayna had this obsession with the idea that even though she was the one stuck in bed I should also experience the same restrictions.

Just in case I didn't have a life and needed something else to fill the gap.

Dayna was restricted to the hotel room. I stayed there because she was stuck there. We watched movies, mostly, although she also spent some time on the Internet.

I should mention at this point that I brought a laptop and she didn't.

Anyway, so the next day, Dayna and I hopped into a car driven by the man who drove us from the airport and we went to the hospital. Apparently, checking in is a long, complicated process. I didn't know this, since the last time I checked into a hospital I was blasted out of my mind by pain and bloodborn toxins, and later by morphine.

The hospital was the Piyavate Hospital, a private hospital in west-central Bangkok (teehee). I'm pretty sure I didn't see a single Thai patient there. Not that the hospital doesn't welcome Thais, but it was so crowded with patients from all over the world. Mostly, they seemed to come from Arabic countries.

In the room, I was helping Dayna get ready. By "helping Dayna get ready", I mean she was in the bathroom, changing into an open-backed gown and I was standing outside the bathroom door, telling her all the things that could possibly go wrong.

As I said before, Revenge Will Be Mine!

Anyway, I helped Dayna get ready, and Oatmeal took a little nap. Poor thing, he was apparently as tired as I was.

Dayna climbed into bed, went though the joys of being poked (IV) and shaved ("I've never been shaved there before") and prepped for surgery. After the fun part was over, we were waiting in the room, and Dayna was making vague threats about what was going to happen to Oatmeal, and in walked.... HER.

Her name is... Well, I won't print her name here. Let's call her Floozy Q. Floozy was an American who was there for some plastic surgery and a boob job. She had seen that there was an American in our room, and she was so starved for some fluent English that she came to see us. And to show us her boobs.

Dayna was wheeled off to surgery, so I did what any worried friend or relative would do... I grabbed my camera and started walking to the hotel. By "started walking to the hotel", I mean I walked outside, took a left (general direction of the hotel) and started walking. And promptly became lost.

You laugh, but that's how you really see a foreign city.

I walked for hours, saw the ghettoist parts of Bangkok (teehee), was flirted with by a 90-year-old man with two teeth (EWWWWEEEE!) and lost roughtly fourteen pounds in water weight. It was fun. Eventually, I grew tired and wanted to get back to the hotel. So, considering that I was completely lost, couldn't see the hotel or anything I recognized, and couldn't find myself on a map, I did what any Seasoned Traveler would do.... I took a cab.

I'm clever that way.

At the hotel, I dined on some Spicy Thai (still not as spicy as I would have thought) and called Dayna's parents. I also picked up the room a bit, because Dayna does for slobs what Tiger Woods does for miniature golf. No, really... When we first arrived at the hotel, I selected half the closet and hung up my clothes. She selected the other half of the closet, threw her garbage from the flight on the closet floor, and then (literally) dumped her suitcases on the floor in the middle of the room. I sent some dirty laundry down to be laundered (Dayna's paying for the room, so I'm generous and spare no expense), and I noticed that Oatmeal was kinda rank, so I sent him down, too.

When the laundry came back, every item was individually shrink-wrapped. Every sock, every pair of panties... every teddy bear.

The next day, I went back to the hospital. By cab, this time. I was still tired from the walk, and was convinced that I didn't actually know the route from the hotel to the hospital. I found Dayna asleep in her room, so I went to the next room to visit our new friend Yvanna.

She's the one on the left. Yvanna is from Suriname, a Dutch-language country next to Brazil. Yes, that Yvanna. I met her at the hotel. She saw me and asked, "Are you a patient of Doctor Chettawat?" I wasn't, but that started a conversation, and we became close friends. I do that sometimes, but only with someone I can really relate to. I was able to relate to Yvanna. Her surgery was scheduled for the day after Dayna's, so she was in the hospital awaiting her time. I went over and spent some time with her. While we were chatting, her mother came in and met me for the first time. She asked, "Are you here to see Doctor Chettawat?" While I was visiting with them, Floozy came by and showed them her new boobs. Pictures were taken.

Later, Yvanna was prepped for surgery, and I went downstairs for some lunch with Floozy Q. We chatted about not much in particular, and she commented that I'm quite a good friend.

Yes. Yes, I am.

When Dayna awoke, she told me that she didn't want me to leave her alone. To clarify, she didn't say that she would prefer that I spend time with her. She told me that she didn't want me going back to the hotel without her, nor going downstairs to eat. She even told me at one point she didn't want me going to the bathroom.

Now, I'm a very good friend. But she was expected to be there for a week. Yeah, I'm not that good a friend.

So I spent a few days at the hospital. Dayna couldn't use her arms, even just to feed herself, so I had to help her out. This meant getting about two hours' sleep total, between feeding her, giving her water, calling the nurses, cleaning her, holding her hand (she has no pain tolerance), calling her parents, and did I mention cleaning her up? She basically did nothing all day every day, except watch me, waiting for me to fall asleep so that she could awaken me.


On the last day there, I heard about another American, so I went with Floozy to see her and show her Floozy's boobs. She (the new girl, not Floozy) was a nice lady from San Francisco who was here for some minor procedure. We chatted a while, during which she asked me, "Are you here for Doctor Chettawat?"

Why do people keep asking me that?

Anyway, so Dayna and I came back to the hotel. Dayna wanted to watch some movies, so she opened up the folder with her DVD collection. I was tired, so when her back was turned I hit her over the head with my tripod, so I could get some sleep.

That's all for now. I'll write again really soon. For now, Dayna's whining about wanting to use my computer.


19 April 2009

The Thais That Bind

So, there I was, in the top of an ancient temple in the former capital city of Thailand, conversing with a Buddhist nun from New Jersey, while my friend Dayna, disguised as a man, laid out golden leaves for making wishes to Buddha, and I was secretly plotting how best to get away with defiling this temple with the aid of my teddy bear.

Note: if the previous sentence sounds in any way exaggerated or unrealistic to you, then this must be your first time reading my blog. Welcome, and enjoy your stay.

But perhaps I should rewind just a bit. Houston (or rather, the Greater Houston Area) is one of the medical capitals of the world, with over 100 hospitals just in Houston and many more in the surrounding area. Some of the best quality medical assistance in the world can be found in and around Houston, and indeed many of Houston's residents (including my father and one of my bestest friends) originally came for treatment for everything from cancer to heart problems and wound up staying there.

Of course, in today's economy, not everyone can afford to go to the most reputable hospital. In fact, many can't afford medical treatment at all. My friend Dayna needed medical treatment, and although she was covered by insurance, it was actually less expensive for her to fly to Asia and pay cash for help. Let me restate... Although she was covered by insurance, it was actually less expensive for her to fly to Asia and pay cash for help!

So, she decided on Thailand. Although best known for its insane cats, the country has a medical system that meets government standards which exceed those of the American Medical Association. And some of the world's most renowned doctors can be found here. So Dayna saved her money and set up an appointment.

Her mother wanted to come along, but was unable to get out of work. Since I'm already out of work, Dayna's parents asked me if I would come along to help her out. I have to admit that the possibility of sight-seeing and taking photographs in the really cool parts of Asia appealed to me a lot, but, more importantly, no one should have to come alone to a foreign country for medical treatment which will result in weeks of convalescence. So I came along to play nurse. And take pictures.

The flight was supposed to take something like 26 hours or something like that, but it seemed quite a bit longer. Due to my... ummmm... full?... schedule, I was unable to pack and stuff until the last hours before the trip. The result is that I got like 6 hours' sleep the night before the night before the trip, and no sleep the night before the trip. I was on my way to the airport at 3:00 AM and made it to the gate just in time to board a surprisingly full plane.

First stop, San Francisco. Nothing to report.

Then on to Tokyo. This hop took a while. I was sitting next to Dayna. Did I mention that I had gotten no sleep the night before? Yeah, I mentioned it to Dayna, too. But the b*tch wouldn't let me sleep. In fact, at one point, my eyes were closed, and she started poking me with something sharp. When I asked what she needed, she said, "Nothing. I just thought you were asleep." At one point, I asked why she didn't want me to sleep, and she basically said, "No reason."

Yes, you're right... Revenge will be mine. It is a dish best served cold, and eaten with your hands.

Aaaannnnyyyyyhhhoooooooo..... So, we flew to Tokyo. Then, we landed. In Tokyo. That's the way it works. We had a four-hour layover, so we took our sweet time. We had some real Japanese food at a real Japanese restaurant. (Tokyo is in Japan.) Then, on the final hop to Thailand, I was sitting two rows behind Dayna, and was able to get some sleep.

The plane was late before it even picked us up, so we arrived well after midnight in Bangkok. (teehee) We fought our way past tourists and anxious cab drivers, snuck through customs (I was seriously hoping they wouldn't search my bags), and found our pre-ordained (by Dayna's doctor) driver waiting for us.

The hotel wasn't bad. We arrived, I showered (Dayna prefers to sleep dirty and shower in the morning) and then laid down on our separate beds. Beds which I had fought for. The hotel clerk took us for... ummm.... girlfriends (which gave Dayna, an "out" lesbian, no end of amusement), and wanted to give us a room with just one bed, but I fought for separate beds. I mean, Dayna's my friend, and all, but, well, EEEEWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Anyway, we were lying in our respective beds, and Dayna wanted to watch a movie. She bent over her DVD collection to select something and I hit her from behind with my camera tripod.

I finally got to go to sleep.

The next day was our first day here. First stop, we went to the mall (it was a big building with a sign out front that said "The Mall") for some toiletries and stuff. Inside, we became so confused by the wide array of McDonald's franchises, Dairy Queens, Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets, Apple stores, Clinique counters and other Thai vendors that we forgot what we were there for and had some Thai food for brunch. That was fun. Then... ummmm.... OK, I admit, I don't remember anything else for the rest of that day. Weird, huh? That's been happening to me a lot lately. I don't know whether it's early-onset dementia or I'm being abducted by aliens, but I'm pretty sure it's something in between.

But I digress.

So, anyway, Dayna's visit to the doctor was a few days away, so the next day we decided to do some sight-seeing. We took a trip to the Grand Palace, where the king lives, but it was closed. So we decided to take a tuk-tuk around the city and see the sights. Some of them, anyway.

A tuk-tuk, taken from the Thai phrase meaning, roughly, "Oh my god, we're all going to die!", is a motorized trike with a shopping cart welded onto the back for passengers to sit on. Imagine a roller coaster, but without safety restraints.

It was just about the most fun I've had in my adult life.

Now, when I say that we decided to "take" a tuk-tuk, I don't mean that we climbed into the back and let the driver have his way with us... Dayna distracted him with a map and some questions, asked in German, and I hit him on the head with my tripod. We left him tied up in an alley while we used his vehicle to see the sights.

We visited a monument called "The Standing Buddha". Because it's a Buddha statue. And he's standing. I never realized he was so tall. The statue was 32 meters tall, and made of gold. Sorta.

Then, we visited a couple of other temples. Nothing to report. Finally, we found the alley where the driver was asleep (I hope) and we untied him and left his tuk-tuk there, along with the fees he would have charged and a tip.

We're adventurers, not thieves.

Tired, we headed back to the hotel for some Thai food. We looked at the menu and, after about ten pages or so, found some. It was good, but I really expected Thai food to be spicier.

The next day, we.... ummmm... okay, I don't remember that day, either. I think we visited some shrines, because I have pictures.

So, the next day, we got up bright and early to go on a tour. We knew that there would be some temples on this tour, and there are restrictions involving women, their attire, and their interaction with Buddhist monks, so Dayna put on some of her butchest clothing, put her hair into a pony tail and didn't shave. Still, I don't think she pulled off her "male" act very well.

We traveled to Ayutthaya, which was the capital city of Thailand before Bangkok was made the new capital. The city was burned down centuries ago, but since stone doesn't usually burn very well, much of the city was mostly still there. Especially the ruins of a few old temples.

The first temple was surrounded by Buddha statues. I guess there were a lot of Buddhas. Or incarnations of the one Buddha. I took some pictures.

We wandered about the grounds, and found some stairs.

I can never resist stairs.

At the top of the stairs was a small room with a Buddhist nun and several small (four feet or so tall) statues of Buddha. The purpose of the room was to purchase gold leaves from the nun, go to each statue, leave a leaf there, and make a wish. Dayna is a devout non-practicing Buddhist, so we went and made her wishes. I think her wishes were answered, because my breasts started growing later that day. Anyway, while she was doing her thing, I was chatting with the nun. One of the first things I noticed about the nun was that she looked like a Caucasion. This was confirmed when I heard her English, with a Northern United States accent. I asked, and she said she was from New Jersey, but has been living in Thailand for twenty years. I swear, I've never heard a nun from any religion use so many bad words.

Now, there's this thing I do... I have this bear... his name is Oatmeal. I acquired him during my time in the military, circa 1990 A.D. So he's like 20 years old. His original purpose was to act as a sleep aid, but he was just so darned cute that I showed him to everyone, and eventually started taking pictures of him, and later, when we were told in vaguely hostile countries that we couldn't go out alone and always had to have a "shore buddy", if I couldn't find anyone who wanted to go see something other that the local clubs and prostitutes and stuff, I could just stick Oatmeal in my coat pocket. If I were asked, "Where's your shore buddy?" I would open my coat, reveal him, and say, "Seaman Recruit Oatmeal." That generally worked... the SPs would laugh so hard they would forget for a short time about the fact that I was violating the rules.

Apparently, I got away with a lot in the Navy.

So, anyway, at some point, my friend Jean pointed out that I was always taking Oatmeal with me when I travel, and that I was always taking pictures of him, standing in front of flowers, sitting on national monuments, doing things. I don't know when it started, but somehow it's become a "tradition" for me to take Oatmeal pictures when I travel. So my camera case has a special compartment for him.

So, there I was, in the top of an ancient temple in the former capital city of Thailand, conversing with a Buddhist nun from New Jersey, while Dayna, disguised as a man, laid out golden leaves for making wishes to Buddha, and I was secretly plotting how best to get away with defiling this temple with the aid of my teddy bear. Dayna finished her wishing and we headed outside. Many many Buddha statues... where to start?

There were many statues, as I just stated, and all of them were somewhat older than my home country. Raiders in the past had done some damage, so many statues were damaged. For this reason, we weren't supposed to touch them.

This was made abundantly clear. But you know me. I figured, though, that if I were caught placing Oatmeal on the statues, I could simply say that Dayna was a witch and had used a mind-control curse to force me to do her bidding. That way, she might have to be in prison for a while, but I would be set free. In fact, I would look like both a victim (of witchcraft) and a hero (for helping catch a witch). The only possible downside I could see to this plan was that when Dayna's parents asked me to keep an eye on her, they might have meant something a little different than getting her arrested.

So I was careful. I really didn't want to see Dayna in jail, but that was a risk I was willing to take.

So I took some pictures. The next stop was a temple that featured, among other things, the largest Buddha statue in all of Thailand. That's what the tour guide said. Of course, he also said that it was made of pure gold on the outside and filled with brass, but any idiot (with an advanced degree in particle physics and/or cosmology) can tell you that that much heavy metal concentrated in that small a space will result in, at the very least, nuclear fission due to critical mass, and possibly the creation of a miniscule "black hole". This would be bad. Idunno. What I do know is that the statue was, indeed, quite tall, and quite impressive. And kinda pretty, if you like shiny things.

The last stop was the old palace. The buildings on the palace grounds had been built by European contractors in the European style, making the entire place the single least interesting place in all of East Asia. It had two redeeming qualities. The first was a single building built in the Chinese fashion, but we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so I won't say anything else about it. I'm really in love with photography.

The second redeeming quality was that there were several banyan trees on the premises. Banyan trees are among the most interesting in the world. They appear to be made entirely of vines and roots, and periodically a limb will send a shoot in the ground, which becomes another tree. In the past, entire forests were discovered which turned out to actually be a single tree, since the parent tree doesn't always detach from the child tree. As a Druid, I'm bound by both law and tradition to note any nifty-cool trees I find and take pictures of them.

This concluded the active part of the tour. We took a boat back to Bangkok, a two-hour ride. Lunch was served on the boat, and we saw many temples and houses along the banks.

So far, so good. Ish. Sorta. The following day, Dayna was restricted to the hotel room by doctor's orders, so I stayed there to keep her company. That's just the kind of friend I am.

The trip isn't over, though. There will be more to report later. Right now, I'm off to enjoy a Thai massage. I wonder if they have anyone named Sven working here... I've always wanted a long massage from a big, muscular guy named Sven.

So, for now, sawàt dii kâ.

05 February 2009

Belated Happy New Year/Good Riddance

OK... I know it's been a while. But hear me out.

When this year started, I was really depressed. I was hearing rumors from a quasi-reliable source that I had lost a lawsuit by default... No papers had been served to me, but some were apparently served to someone living at my previous address. I'm not even sure what the point of the lawsuit was. I didn't do anything. Of course, this is America, land of the free ride and home of the frivolous lawsuit.

I probably rebuffed the wrong person online.

Anyway, so that really bummed me out. And worked well with the fact that I was laid off on December 31 from a job where I had been for eight years.

So, to sum up 2008:
  • I was in pain for the entire year
  • I had to battle misogynistic radicals in the workplace and nearly lost my job
  • I lost my job anyway
  • I lost a lawsuit I didn't know about and still have no details on
  • My hamster died
  • I lost my home
  • My father made a list of blogs he reads on his blog, and mine isn't included
  • I found out that my bank account somehow has someone else's name on it
  • I found out that I'm apparently no qualified to do the job I've been doing for eight years
  • Two of my favorite podcasts were canceled
  • I finally saw the Stargate SG1 movie, which closed out the TV series, and the ending was totally anticlimactic
  • Everyone except for one person (my BFF Luann) forgot my birthday!
    Even the people I had reminded the day before
  • Did I mention that the entire time all this was happening, I was in pain?
I had a bigger list while I was thinking about the past year, but I don't remember everything. The point is, I can safely classify 2008 as the Worst Year Ever (so far). Now, on to 2009:

First, we have a new president. I got that wish... Barack Obama. It's great, because he's black. Now, wait, he's white, but looks black. I mean... he's mixed. But looks black, and is a Muslim. No, wait, he's not Muslim, he's Christian but thinks he's Muslim. No, that's not right. He's Christian, but his father is Muslim, and he's anti-American. Wait, no, his preacher is anti-American. No, his preacher hates America, so he left the church, and is now a Muslim, and wasn't born in the US. No, wait, he was born near the US, but not quite here. No, he was born in Hawaii, which isn't part of the US. Wait...

Confused yet? This is the right-wing, Christian-controlled political extremist way to try to confuse people. Not that I totally agree with the left-wing, but come on! Here's the simple truth... He's black, but of mixed heritage (like virtually every other third-or-more-generation American). He was born in the US, but spent some time living elsewhere. (This is actually a good thing.) He is a Christian, but that's not really relevant, because he's going to try to depart from the last eight years by not letting his religion force him to make bad decisions. He left his church, but that might have something to do with the fact that for the next eight years he's going to be living elsewhere. His (former) preacher talked smack about the US government, but not as bad as some other consipiracy theorists, and only like tree times in the past ten years. (Note: You can't hold a man responsible for what someone else says. I've always believed this.)

Hopefully, he'll bring in some good changes. I understand he signed some hideous taxes regarding tobacco into law, but I don't use tobacco, so I'm not completely sympathetic. And the taxes will go to providing health care for uninsured children whose families earn too much money to qualify for medicaid. And (and I can't stress this enough), he didn't start this bill rolling. It was passed by both the House and Senate before getting to him.

I also understand he's doing some kind of craziness with bullets, but at least he's not outlawing guns. Just making them completely impractical. I don't know how well that one will work out, since people have been attacking the Right to Bear Arms for decades. That's alright. I guess. I believe in said right, and I'm all for gun owners having the right to use them, but I probably won't get a gun myself. I'm a decent shot with a pistol (about the only advantage of growing up in a Redneck family), but I'm a much better shot with a bow and arrow.

Still, a lot of Bad Things happened over the past eight years, and hopefully the new administration can fix some of them. But most importantly, we finally have a black president. I want to see the reactions of all those white people (you know who you are). And my mother, who is mostly white.

But... 2009 is here. It's a year of change. I know, because I have to find a new job. I'm thinking about changing careers. Mostly because I feel like I was bulldozed into IT, and it's not a perfect match for me. Sure, I could handle it just fine, but it wasn't a real challenge. I mean, when you get to the point where you want a computer to reboot faster, so you use the DOS "copy" command to enter a machine-language program straight from the keyboard in the form of control characters, you might have progressed to the point where you need to move onto something else. (Note: this was 14 years ago)

Also, I had to move out of the house I've been living in on and off for most of the past seven years. There just wasn't enough room, with the children getting older. So not only am I living in a different house (waiting for my RV to become available), but I'm actually living in a different city. I'm still within a reasonable commute distance of Houston, but I'm no longer living in Houston. That has been a goal of mine for a long time.

Another thing I've noticed is that with not working at the job where I've been forever and not living with the friends I've had forever, I've become more relaxed about being who I really am. I've mentioned before, I think, that I had a weird personality change a couple of years ago, and that Luann encouraged me to be myself. But now that I'm no longer surrounded by people pressuring me to be who they want me to be, I've really noticed changes. For the better, really.

It's weird, how someone my age can be so influenced by her peers.

Anyway... At the beginning of January, I was depressed. Very. I was feeling hopeless and couldn't imagine how I was going to survive the month, much less the year. But I made it. I got by, with a little help from my friends. The people who helped me get by the past month are:

  • Katy, who offered me a place to live while I search for a job
  • Luann, who shows me love and support
  • Buddy, whose love is both unconditional and unambiguous
  • Ciggy, my cousin, who taught me that if life gives you lemons, you dig out the seeds, plant them, and when the trees are big enough you can pick more lemons and sell them and use the money to buy apples or something (I hate lemonade)
  • Annie, who taught me that hugs can make anything better
  • Jean, who is caring for my animal friends until I can provide them a home
  • Ted, my cute personal trainer, who taught me that with a positive attitude you can do anything
I think that about covers it. Of courses, Katy has given me a lot more than a place to live. She's also helping me out in other ways, like helping me get set up with the Veteran's Administration, and has been working on my self-esteem (which I didn't realize had flagged).

Overall, it's been an eventful year. And I've given up on hoping that it will be a better year than last year, because, as it turns out, that just doesn't work.

Instead, I'm going to make this year a better year than last year. And I promise to write in my blog more often. I don't promise to write every day, but I do promise to try. And I'll try to make future entries more positive than this one. I'm actually feeling a lot more positive than I had been at the beginning of the year, and I want this blog to be a place where people can go to feel positive energy.

So, until next time, don't lose hope, don't try to victimize others, and, above all, be yourself.