At the office this morning, a little dialogue box popped up on my laptop saying my daughter in Thailand is online on Skype.
Thinking she might be skyping with my wife, I decide to join the conversation and say hi. My daughter answers immediately, and asks whether her mother told her to call. I said no, then asked why.
Because she got stung by a scorpion today.
She didn’t know what it was at first, she just felt this intense pain radiating from her big toe up her leg, and looked down and saw a small gray scorpion skittering away. She got a ride to a medical clinic in her village, and they sent her to the hospital in the next town. They gave her a shot for the pain, then when that didn’t work, another in her hip. They wanted to keep her overnight, but the Peace Corps doctor she had reached on the phone said that wasn’t necessary. So they sent her home with an antibiotic to take.
I decided to call my wife to make sure our baby isn’t allergic to the med. She’s not. So we strongly urged her to take it, and to call us in the morning (this evening, for us).
That was today, which sort of has us vibrating with apprehension. Here, from her blog, is a more typical day. She posted this Friday:
6 am: I wake up to the sounds of my neighbor calling for her cat, “JUNIOR!!! JUNIOR!!!!” and the clanking of pots and pans as my neighbors busy themselves preparing breakfast. I reach for my headphones.
7 am: The school across the street plays Pit Bull and KPop at a dangerous volume as my alarm begins to go off. I change the alarm to 7:30.
7:30 am: Snooze.
7:35 am: Change alarm to 7:45.
7:45 am: I lay in bed, contemplating my past, present and future.
7:50 am: Run to the bathroom and throw buckets of water on my shoulders. Nevermind the tadpoles. Brush my teeth with a bottle of water.
8 am: Put on my most missionary-looking outfit.
8:10 am: Mix some bottled water with a scoop of instant coffee and stir. Good thing I have all those years as a barista under my apron. Review my lesson plans as I choke on the bitter elixir.
8:20 am: Put on some mascara and lipstick and smile at myself. J
8:25 am: Walk across the street to the school. As I traverse the 15 feet, two different people on motorbikes will stop and ask if I need a ride, and then laugh because they remember I’m not allowed to ride a motorbike anyway.
8:30 am: Say “Sawatdi ka” and wai all of the elementary school teachers as the kindergarteners do the same to me, followed by them yelling English words at me, “HELLO!” “THANK YOU!!” “1,2,3,5,7!” I then go to prepare my classroom and wait for the students to trickle in.
8:40 am: I greet my students. One of them will yell, “STAND UP PLEASE”, and then as a group they will all say, “GOOD MORNING, TEACHER”. No matter how I respond, they will continue with, “I AM FINE, THANK YOU, AND YOU?” I normally try to stick with the script at this point because I can’t undo years of training and it’s good for them to feel confident greeting me in English, even if they really don’t know what they are saying. My English class will then consist of some kind of active review game, followed by the introduction of a new conversational question and answer with new vocabulary, and then an activity to encourage the students to practice speaking. My students are typically very well behaved and adorable. I really like them and am impressed with their big person personalities inside their little person bodies.
9:45 am: I ride my bike to another school for another class. On the way I grin at everyone I see and yell “Sawatdi ka”. Most people do the same to me and ask me where I’m going, though occasionally I will so surprise someone with my Caucasian-ness that they can only stare at me with a hilariously confused expression, or utter “Oh! Farang!”
9:55 am: I continue riding my bike and as I feel my skin getting warmer in the sunshine and look around at the endless green meeting the endless blue I tell myself again not to forget how lucky I am to be alive.
10 am: Ride into another school and am greeted much the same way as at the first, except, what is this? Why is everyone gathered outside, along with lots of villagers? I notice a tent set-up near the field and am told as I walk towards the principal that this is Sports Day! Wahoo! The principal greets me and hands me a microphone, saying, “speak”. He just laughs when I ask what I should say, so I start, (translated from Thai of course), “Hello, how is everyone today? Today is Sports Day. I am happy.” (Hundreds of people staring and taking pictures of me) “Umm… I Iike soccer and dtacraw, but I cannot play. Students at this school are good at volleyball. ” (Someone in the audience asks if I have a boyfriend, and another if I can eat spicy food.) “No I do not yet have a boyfriend and I can eat spicy food. Thai food is delicious. Thank you.” And then I try to run into the crowd but am intercepted and encouraged to sit at the obligatory VIP bench.
10:20 am: A chubby little girl brings me some 3-in-1 coffee and a little green cake. As she sets it down, a teacher yells at her to go do something else, turns to me, and says, laughing, “I make her run around because she is a fat girl. She needs exercise.”
10:30 am: SOOOO HOTTTTTT.
11 am: I am instructed to stand up and award the winners their medals, however, I am confused and think that I am being gifted an honorary aluminum foil. I realize my mistake and only I laugh…
Noon: Lunch time! Today we are having Gang Fak Tong, a hearty potion of pumpkin, chicken, and God knows what else. I am no food critic, I just know what’s good and it REALLY is. I chat with the parents and teachers and ask them how to make it, which I understand a lot of but forgot all of. Someone gives me a kanom wrapped in a banana leaf. It consists of cream soaked sticky rice sculpted around candied peanuts.
12:30 pm: Thank the principal for having me and make my way to another school to do Life Skills activities.
1 pm: I have managed to find my co-teacher. I explain to her my goals for the lesson and I think she understands.
1:20 pm: We begin the guidance period about Leadership skills with about 20 14 year olds all dressed identically. I am astonished at how patiently they listen to me stumble over their language, and am again impressed by their insight when I pose introspective questions.
1:50 pm: My co-teacher hands a student a camera to take pictures of us teaching together. I try to smile and not forget what I was talking about.
2:30 pm: I ride my bike to the SAO (Subdistrict Admistrative Office). I greet everyone and tell them where I’ve been when they all say, “I haven’t seen you in forever”.
2:35 pm: Someone grabs me and says we are going to the market.
3 pm: We go to the District Office and I try to be charming.
3:30 pm: We go to the post office.
4 pm: We stop at a Wat where, I am told, over 500 monks will be arriving the next day for a lecture.
4:15 pm: I entertain a large group of grandmothers hanging out at the Wat. They tell me I have to come to the event tomorrow.
4:30 pm: I am told to help make the Wat beautiful. So I am handed a bag of big yellow flowers, walk around and find nooks inside of these big leafy plants to put them. It really did look nice. I then threaded flowers through the middle to make garlands.
5 pm: We return to the SAO, having never made it to the market, and I get on my bike to ride home.
5:01 pm: Dogs across from the SAO chase me, so I get off of my bike and walk for a while.
5:03 pm: Everyone I pass asks me why I’m walking, so I get back on my bike and ride home. Where I put on some electronic or classical music and dance alone in my room.
6:00 pm: I go to aerobics with a group of ladies from the village. Everyone tries to make me teach but I refuse. Afterwards someone will insist on accompanying me home.
7:30 pm: I am hungry so I load up a bowl of deliciousness with rice and eat it while I watch Roseanne on Youtube.
8 pm: I screw around on the internet, try to learn something about what’s going on in the world via BBC 1 Minute World News or Vice, or make collages with cut-outs from Thai beauty magazines.
9 pm: Skype America or watch more Youtube videos.
10 pm: At this point in the night I want to eat something sweet, so I go look in the refrigerator. Sometimes I get lucky and there are little bottles of this sweet and sour fermented milk thing that I guess is kind of like yogurt. I eat it and feel great about it.
11 pm: I cut out my light and ask the Great Spirit to watch over my family and friends. Then I fantasize about my future in the mobile sweetened milk product business until strange things start to happen, and then suddenly I hear my neighbor yelling at her cat again.