Thursday, April 28, 2005

Oh happy day

Well, first I want to start out by giving y'all (some of the Thai nurses that live here too speak Engish and I was asking them a question and *of course* I started it with "do y'all" you should have seen the look they gave me, they had NO idea what I was saying, or what y'all meant, they had never heard it) anyways, I wanted to give y'all an update on (I hope y'all are appreciating this updates because I endure many a bug bite at this computer). The girl below that I have a picture of - the one I'm giving the scalp injections was back in clinic this week, I had her come back after 2 weeks. And I am SOOOO excited for her, you would NOT believe how much her hair has grown back in just 2 weeks - thank all of you that were praying. All but one bald spot has so much hair growth. Actually that last one does too, it is just gray hair. Ok, I'll finish my happy day story in a minute. Zsila was helping the Ashburn twins with their chemistry but now she is done so we are going to go back to watching Anne of Green Gables, I love those movies. That and I am about to scratch myself to death. Ahhh!

Monday, April 25, 2005

There weren't any more patients so I went and got my "boomerang." That's Noi in the front, making cotton balls from a bid hard spool of cotton. I'm in the background weighing my boomerang to see how much it is going to cost to mail in home. Thankfully it is only about 5Kilos, so it shouldn't cost more than around $25, but that is the cheapest route, so I won't see it for like 2 months. It's not really a boomerang, It's that wood carving I was talking about earlier...
 Posted by Hello

There are always patients that bring us stuff. Today they brought us this fun fruit called leechy or something like that. There is an opened one in front, it looks sort of like an eyeball. It tastes *really* good - sweet & sour, and has a funny, smooth, pit-like seed in the center. There are all kinds of really weird fruits here, I'll put in some more pics later. Two of our favorites are hairy eyeballs and mangoseen. They're like something out of a star wars movie... Posted by Hello

This morning in the clinic, Dr. A and I discuss a patient. Usually Mondays are the busiest but this morning went really quickly. We see patients from about 9 - 12 and take a break in the middle for a few praise songs, and a testimony. All the Thai girls that work there come out and sing with a guitar - it sounds so pretty :) Posted by Hello

Afterwards we went by to pick up the Ashburn's daughter, Anna, she's a sweetie! They were all swimming in the giant quarry, having a great time...They were using old bottles and pieces of styrofoam as floaties. Posted by Hello

Once we decided what we wanted she took our measurements. I got a skirt, top, and matching jacket, & Zsila got a shirt & top. Who know's how they will turn out! Posted by Hello

This is the house of the seamstress we went to. She was a really sweet lady. We stepped inside and she handed us some magazines w/ patterns so we just sat down on the tile floor and flipped through them. It was really hot and the sweat just kept trickling down every avenue on my skin it could find. Posted by Hello

Yesterday afternoon we went by the fabric store to pick out something so we can have something made before we leave. The fabric is a lot different than in America. It doesn't come by the yard. You just by the whole section which is patterned on one side and plain on the other. It seems like it would be really hard to work with. I bought 2 big sections for right under 1,000 baht like $25. A lot of these fabrics would make great pillowcases, and some looked thick enough to cover furniture. Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 24, 2005

No more tests in med-school, by Zsila

We finished our Texas Medical Jurisprudence Exams! Yea! I'm so glad! Julie reminded me that is our last test in medical school. to think of all the tests we've taken and they are over, praise the Lord! that is an awesome feeling. this test actually wasn't that big of a deal, but it was necessary that we pass it online.

can i tell you about the journey we had while taking it? before we left for chang mai we were only able to take the first part of the two exams. that was b/c of a time factor and interference with nature, shall we call it. it was hilarious. it was late the night before we left and julie and i were in the lounge and we kept having interruptions by all God's creatures great and small. we'd be trying to read the book or take the test and then you would see something move by out of the corner of your eye and it was almost as if we were watching a tennis match. our eyes would be looking at the test or the book and then you'd see our heads move from right to left as we silently in unison followed the path of the lizard on the wall right in front of us. not to mention the sounds these lizards make. lizards the length of your pinky finger can hoot and holllar let me tell you. it sounds like a loud kissing hi-pitched noise. we always know where one is when we hear this. oh i love it when i hear it coming from near my bed especially! :) then an 8 legged spider would run across the desk just above the keyboard when we were trying to take a timed exam! at one point i was sitting across the room and julie was at the computer and all the sudden she froze and gasped. oh yes, sitting right next to the mouse of the computer was a massive tree roach! at this point, i couldn't take it any longer. this was not condusive to studying or my distraction free test environment! :) if only the people in america knew what we were going through just to pass this test. only in thailand can you have modern technology coexist with lizards and every type of tropical insect that you've only seen in museums. trust me! i'm serious, i saw a spider the other day that was something i have seen in the natural science museum and i'm pretty sure it was poisonous. great!
back to the roach - like i said, enough was enough. i calmly asked for a shoe and went to town getting that buddy. he was a little fast so at first i only got part of him and he turned over and did the famous cochroach dance. does la cucaracha sound familiar? i've noticed most of these critters just come out late at night. i forgot to mention the ants that were near the keyboard, but never seemed to sting us.

we took test two today after our trip and decided to do it right after church while less nocturnal creatures were out. it seemed to work out well.

anyways, i must say i've never taken a medical school test quite like these and will always remember the distractions that come while taking it in thailand. please, i'll take people coughing or getting up out of their seats anyday over these creepy crawlers. :)

it was a fun experience!


Our driver took us to this really awesome place on the water for lunch. Here we are in front of the King's tree, I forget what it is called, golden something. On his birthday they planted them all over the country. His color is yellow because he was born on Tuesday or something, every day of the week has a color here. Posted by Hello

As we drove around from place to place everyone we saw on the roads was soaked to the bone! At a stoplight these people stop to drain the truck bed of all the water. Hmmm, that reminds me of an aggie joke... Posted by Hello

Our really nice driver, he drove us ALL over chiang Mai ALL day long, and finally dropped us off at the mall, where I got to eat pizza - Yea! It was so good... Posted by Hello

At the umbrella factory. Do you remember those Mister Rogers adventures? I loved those! Well, this day was like a bunch of those all strung together :) In fact this factory reminded me of a particular episode - or maybe it was reading rainbow, where they made construction paper out of old jeans because at this factory they painstakinly make the paper for the umbrellas by hand in a fashion that was very similar to the way they made that construction paper. Posted by Hello

Mom & Dad, you would *love* some of the swings they had here :) Posted by Hello

Sitting on a giant piece of rosewood. They use that and teak for most of their work here. Posted by Hello

Trying my hand at the wood-carving place. They had some really beautiful stuff, the problem is getting it home! Posted by Hello

Those yellow things are the cocoons of the silk worms. After they form these cocoons they put them outside in the sun so the worms will die. That's right - gasp - it's murder! I wonder if all those animal activists know about this...
After they know the worms are dead they boil the cocoons and they start to dissolve into whispy hairs which they take and spool into thread. No wonder silk is expensive! But I don't know why it stains when it gets wet - would anyone like to commet on that? Posted by Hello

The worms at the silk factory in Chiang Mai. We had soooo much fun going to all the factories with our little personal driver.  Posted by Hello

The spirit in the Banyan tree

On the way up to one of the mountain village we always pass this tree. It is such a giant tree. I don't think you can really appreciate how big it is from this picture. All those dark things are giant bee hives. It's a really weird tree.
I was chasing these cows down the road right before I took this picture, fun times.
Thai people worship a number of random things, and trees happen to be one of them. It is generally believed here that most spirits living in trees are good ones. Of course the Bible and Christianity has a name for these spirits too - demons. Anyways, they make offerings to the tree and pray to the spirit they think lives in it. They also tie these huge ribbons of fabric all around the tree at the bottom. And, if one of their spirit houses is ever broken, they will place it at the base of one of these trees because it is "bad luck" to just dispose of one. I'm tellin' you, it is like stepping back in time here. Whenever you visit the mountain villages all the people, even the little babies have "spirit bracelets," but I haven't really understood exactly what their purpose is, something about protection. And all the villages have their own witch doctors. That reminds me of a patient I had my second year of med-school. He was a self-proclaimed witch doctor, but obviously not a very good one because he had sliced his foot open and instead of coming straight to the doctor he had just been dragging his bleeding foot all over his kitchen floor for like 3 days, using his own crazy concoctions. As a thank you once he did finally heal, he brought the doctor I was working with a real shrunken head. It was pretty freaky. I don't want to know where or how he got it - I mean is it even legal to own one of those? That also reminds me that I never finished the head-hunter story. I'll have to get back to that too...
 Posted by Hello

The Banyan tree

I really want to hurry and write about this before I go to bed but there are to many things scurrying around in here and it's startin' to freak me out. I'm pirched on top of this chair because I really don't want anything to scurry up my leg. There are waaaaay to many lizards in here...and roaches - AAAAAAhhh! Ok, this might be a short blog...

No more curry!!! By Zsila

tonight at the birthday party, we all lined up to go to the buffet to get the thai food prepared for us. amy was with julie and i and she made sure to tell us to stay away from the "dried blood." i asked which dish it was and she said the one that was "brown." well, there were several dishes so i spotted one that was brown and decided to stay away from that. i was excited i saw a dish i like here called green curry chicken. you pour it over rice. amy and i were next to each other and as i was putting the curry on my plate, she said watch out for the brown things! what??? i thought they were on the dish next to mine. she said what i was mistakenly looking at was pork. the brown things she had been referring to were IN THE CURRY. hello! this is majorly important for me to know about. the dried blood was in my curry on my plate! what could i do? so, i went back to the table and thought i could just pick around the dried blood squares. suddenly it occured to me, that it was in a liquid medium and dried blood can dissolve! i took one bite and realized i think i was tasting blood.
needless to say, i put that plate to the side and focused only on the fruit.
just some fun surprises you find out about in other countries!

julie, on the otherhand, had her own crisis. she ate some fish and after getting a mouth full, proceded to tell us that she had about 12 bones in her mouth! she couldn't do anything, but excuse herself from the table and the room and deal with it in a bathroom.

i crossed another life stepping stone. dried blood, who knew?


The funeral and the monks

We got invited to a funeral the other night and apparently the more people that show up to a funeral the more "merit" the dead person gets - they think it helps them get closer to nirvana. There are all kinds of crazy rules in Buddhisms (like honking when you pass a temple - b/c that gets you merit too...) So they just invite anyone. No one I was going with (about 6 of us) even knew the deceased. I always thought nirvana was essentially paradise - but no - it's nothingness, you cease to exist. So their entire religion is bent on extinguishing themselves. They believe they will be born over and over again until they finally "get it right" and then they will never be born again, they will just die and cease to exist.
How depressing.
Buddha (which literally means "enlightened one") said he was reborn 500 times until he finally reached "the enlightenment". His real name was Siddhattha Gotama, he was a rich prince, born in India in 532 or something (they actually use his birth for their calendar so here it's like 2537). I'll talk more about that later. Buddhists don't ever "know" anything to be definite. They can never know whether the power of karma will move them up to a higher life or down to a lower life when they die. I think that uncertainty is what leads them to develop so many extra rules like the more people you have at your funeral, the better your chances of moving up a notch when you are reborn.
God does says that "eternity is set in the hearts of men." You can't get away from that sense of knowing that death is really not final, there IS something else. There are very few Buddhists here who actually practice Buddhism in it's truest form - the one that says there is no soul, there are no spirits, good are bad, and there is no God. Buddha just got rid of God altogether, so basically, in a round-about way, you are your own god -all the answers are inside of yourself. The only problem with that is that - They aren't!
I am so thankful that I do know the one who holds all the answers, that I know God and get to experience his peace daily - that I never have to fear death, because I know my future is secure. Unlike what Buddha said his beloved buddhist people can't get away from the feeling of a higher power so here most of the people just believe in the bad half of that power. All around Thailand - in places from houses to car dealerships you will find "spirit houses." They make these little replicas of houses for the spirits to live in and they try to appease them daily by offering them food, etc. But I'll try and talk about that more later -Back to the funeral.
So we pile into Mindy's truck and drive a few miles down the road. The funerals here are all at night and last several days. They are usually at the persons house. So we walk up and there are these big canopies with plastic chairs underneath, sitting on a dirt floor outside the house of the old lady that died. There are these speakers set up with really strange music (which we are told is always played at funerals) blaring out of them. We take a seat in the pastel colored plastic lawn chairs and just start looking around like everyone else is doing. To our left are two huge chalkboards in a row and people are coming up and writing their names on them. Apparently they write their name, what community they're from, and I think how much money they give. Unlike in America, it is the duty of the family of the deceased to provide food for everyone who comes, they had even rented a TV and placed it prominently outside to entertain the guests that would come from far away - and then everyone who comes donates money.
I can see the door inside the deceased house in front of me and to the left. It is open and a bunch of flip-flops and sandals are piled in front of the two steps that lead inside. The doorway gives off a warm, red, smoky glow from the pile of incense sticks smoldering inside. Dark shadows are flickering and you can't really see all the way into the house because of the darkness. Everyone is sort of just milling around. The girls we came with are saying that there is usually a lot of waiting involved in funerals. A "girl" comes by with a tray of water glasses, I grab one as I turn back to here what Noi is explaining to me and Zsila leans over and whispers (that's a man!). She is proud of her new found eye for the he-she. "Yes, Zsila that's a transvestite," and I turn back to Noi. Ever since we first arrived in Bangkok I tried to point them out to her (some of them actually make pretty girls and it is hard to tell) but she would NOT believe me. "Julie, that is NOT a guy." When it was painfully obvious to me that is WAS a guy. And now that she realizes I was right she tries to spot them before I do, it's a game now - Like slug-bug only, not...) The really funny, or sad I should say, thing is when you see an older European talking to one and you *know* he has no clue...Our cab driver told us that some of them think/hope they will come back as a girl in their next life. Anyways, I'm getting off topic again.
Then Zsila decides she wants to go inside the house so some of our Thai girlfriends and Zsila and I get up and walk to the house, slip off our shoes and walk inside. There is a picture of the old lady that died, it had been touched up in a weird way so that her midface was sort of blurred in an attempt to make her look younger. It was on a makeshift easel with flowers and some Christmas lights surrounding it - and a bowl of sand in which an abundance of incense sticks had been haphazardly placed. Besides a strange metal and glass wardrobe sitting off and away from the back wall (and still filled with what I assumed were the deceased clothes,), the articles to the left of the door I just described, and the people in the house, it was completely empty. The "house" was a really a shack, boards of wood composing the floor and walls. In the corner some of the boards had either rotted or were torn away with areas large enough for a dog to squeeze through. The small entry way was lower than the rest of the one-roomed house and a handful of men sat on the small ledge, dangling their legs, some almost lounging. No one seemed particularly sad...One of the men hopped up when we walked inside and asked in Thai if we would tell him what an American funeral was like. "Nothing like this" I thought to myself. We gave a rather quick description because other people were coming into the house and there really wasn't much room, so we went back to our seats.
A man grabbed a speaker up front and started talking. There was a table in front of us with a younger girl and guy who seemed to be taking money out of a big plastic bowl and putting it into a handful of separate envelopes. We waited a while longer and then we saw the first monk saunter in, almost forget to remove his sandals at the door, and step inside the house. Darn, I can't remember how many monks there were....either 5 or 6. It depends on how much money you have but the fact that the number is odd or even has significance, ok, wait a second - OK, I looked it up. Usually monks come (because they come for all kinds of reasons, ceremonies and such that people pay them to come to their houses) in odd numbers because even numbers are "unlucky." But, at funerals it is different for some reason and I think the number can be even. However, I remember counting the monks when they came out and I thought it was 5...Aaaaanyways - there were monks. Actually most of them looked pretty young to be monks. They were all wearing bright saffron (orange - the same color as the gates in central park! There is a picture of that at the beginning of my blog). I don't think there is really any rule to what color their tuniks or whatever have to be but almost all of them are usually some shade of orange, and they all shave their heads and eyebrows like every 14 days, can't eat after 12 noon, can't touch a woman, can only own a certain number of articles - and this number seems to be ever increasing, and can now include cigarettes, hmmmmm - AND Zsila said she's pretty sure she saw a monk on a motorcycle way up in the mountains the other day with a girl tied around his waist :) - They have a gazillion and one rules and every male buddhist is supposed to spend time as a monk at least once in his life, there is no specified time. People say that a lot of guys become monks so they can just be lazy, but, I don't know, I haven't asked them! But the real reason they become monks is because it gains them and their family merit. Later in life many Thai men spend the remainder of their lives as monks.
Soooo, the monks slowly trickled in to the house and sat in a row against one of the side walls of the house. I could see them through the doorway. All the Thais around me got in the wei position (like they're praying with their hands up in front of them), but not the Christian Thais of course. It was kinda like they were worshipping the monks or something. It's sad, since Gotama took away God they'll just worship any and everything. There is a lot of idol worship here, which sounds so archaic, but it is ubiquitous...
Then the monks started their chanting, it was pretty creepy, and no one understands what they are saying because they speak in a language no one knows, something from India. It was just a very dark, oppressive occasion. Definitely not like the funerals we have - where even though there is a lot of sadness, there are people saying words of peace, blessing, and encouragement. This funeral only had a spirit of fear and lifelessness - one big vacuum. Yuck! Oh, and this is the kicker - on the last day of the funeral they take the body of the deceased and light it on fire for everyone to watch. How macabe is that! The people here say it is really bad when they do it stake style, with the body standing up, being burned from the feet up until the face flames away as everything disintigrates into a pile of lumpy ashes.
Yeah, I'm glad I went on the first day and not the last, I don't want a living picture of hell imprinted in my mind!
Alright, now everyone go enjoy your day :)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Injecting steroids into the scalp of a young girl who is losing all of her hair. Please pray for her... Posted by Hello

The waiting room at our clinic. The pharmacy is through teh door on the right and the rooms where we see patients is behing me. Posted by Hello

The Clinic

We work in the clinics Mon - Fri from 8:45 - 12:00. Occasionally we'll have some patients in the afternoon (OK, once). It is actually a really nice clinic, complete with nurses, a pharmacy, a lab, an x-ray machine, U/S, a small OR for minor procedures and 3 rooms in which we see our patients. And it is all pretty well stocked. They work on what is called the "30 baht system" which means they can all be seen for 30 baht each (less than a dollar) and then they have to pay for extra procedures/medicine - but it is all still pretty cheap.
It is definitely *a lot* different than working in the states. People here just don't have a good understanding of their bodies. They'll tell you they have low, low pelvic pain - so of course, reluctantly, you do a pelvic exam only to realize in the end they have a gastric ulcer! Not even remotely near their pelvis. They just have difficulty telling you where things hurt. Another irksome quality is the fact that they *never* bring their medicine with them, or know what their taking, or know what the last doctor said is wrong with them - they just don't realize this is important. But they are all just too adorable and so you can't ever be genuinely annoyed, and they are all very thankful. Most of them come to our clinic because they trust us, but they don't trust the other doctors in the hospitals, and they know that we genuinely care. That's nice...
It's also a little frustrating, a lot frustrating, because you can only do so much. There are serious limitations. You can't even put anyone on Coumidin (blood thinner) because you can't take an INR (to monitor the level of the drug - which for all you non-med. people is actually rat poison. That's right, your grandma takes rat poison every day for her heart...)
All of the people are really sweet. It's funny because all the men come in complaining of dysuria (it hurts when they pee) but only when they are working out in the fields - it's because they aren't drinking any water as they sweat half their body weight away and they get all dehydrated. Simple stuff like that. Of course, there's plenty of not so simple stuff too, and we don't have the resources to diagnose it. Another sad thing is that if you have chronic kidney disease they can't get treatment in this country - dialysis is too expensive so they just don't offer it!
How blessed are we to be born, and live in the county we live in. So many Americans have NO idea...but that's another blog.
A lot of the patients I see work in the rice fields - all day. No one is ever really clean. There is just a gradient of dirtiness - but you don't really notice it after a while. Everyone wears flip flops so feet are just in a constant state of being covered with a thick layer of dirt. I think I'm even a little dirtier! Especially with all the extra sweating - yummy!
This really is the land of smiles. I had one old man come in - he must have been smiling his entire life, the few seconds you could catch him not smiling you would see these wisps of white coming out at the edges of his eyes, like crows feet only it was where the sun had never hit. He smiled so much that the creases in his eyes never relaxed long enough to be tanned by the sun. How sweet is that :)

You know it's hot when...

-You ask the nurses that live near the clinic what they did today and they say, "Nothing. It was too hot. We couldn't do anything."
-The most important holiday in the entire country is centered around getting total strangers sopping wet
- you wake up in the morning covered by a bright red rash like nothing you've ever seen on your own body (except the time you had poison Ivy 3 times in 9th grade and had to keep going to the nurses office to put on Calamine lotion) and it's a weird rash because it doesn't itch. At first you are just red *all* over, they just in little spots all over. You finally realize, no you don't have a bunch of new bed buddies, you have a heat rash...If Julie has a heat rash we ALL know it MUST be hot!
- You take a shower in the middle of the day - with your clothes on - just to cool off before you take another nap.
- You pour water in your bed before you go to sleep at night.
- Before you pour the freezing cold water you've been hoarding in the freezer on your friend to freak her out, you pour it on yourself
- Being slimy starts to feel normal...

Monday, April 18, 2005


We really didn't want to leave Chiang Mai, but we had no choice. One of the missionaries, mindy, was our ride back. We actually had a really interesting trip. We hadn't met her yet and had a good time getting to know her on the long way back. she grew up in Papa New Guinea. You know that place with the head hunters at least they had head hunters until they were outlawed in the 1980's. Yeah. We were playing pong here in the U.S. and they were still chopping each other's heads off and eating them for dinner. That's crazy. This girl had some awesome stories. she told us about when they first got there and they were required to live with a tribe for five weeks and they had to live as they lived. Her older sister was 12 at the time and somehow through a big miscommunication she had questioned them about the big celebrations they threw. But the tribe, misinterpreted it to mean that she had become of age and had her first period. (can you imagine how embarrassed her sister was when she realized what she told them!) so basically, their family just ended up going through with it b/c it was just too big of a mix up. The head of the tribe informed them that it was tradition for the men of the family to go into the forest and were not allowed to come back until they had hunted enough to provide meat for the entire tribe (like 200 people)ฌธษ๊ธษณ๊ฌ็

We wait to trade our oxen in for elephants, we're moving up in the world! Literally... Posted by Hello

Me right after I got ambushed by a thai kid on the side of the road and his posse. Posted by Hello

...and the kid who got me! Posted by Hello

Our nice, big elephant. Zsila is holding up the bananas we fed him on the way. It was a huge clump and they would just chuck the whole thing down their throat and swallow! The top of their heads really looked like a big hairy butt. Whenever we went through the water he would reach down with his trunk, suck up water and spray it all over us. Even the elephants played songkran! We smelled like elephant all day :) Posted by Hello

sitting in the box chair right before our little elephant driver hopped off and let us drive the rest of the way. It was nuts!!! Posted by Hello

Zsila and I right after church, and after I decided to start of Songkran right - by throwing her in the pool w/ her church clothes on. Yes, I got wet too. And, the missionaries youngest daughter was like, " I wanna come in too!" She is soo cute. However, her mom didn't think it was too cute that she jumped in the pond with her Easter dress on - but she quickly got over it, and we had a great time. I've never gone swimming with a skirt on! Posted by Hello