Friday, March 23, 2007

Experiencing Bangkok

Yesterday I started a narrative about our experience with traveling to Thailand and our initial hospital experience. I digress a little from that today, because I've found so much of interest in the slice of life that we see occurring outside our hotel-room window and all around us.

A couple of days ago we noticed a raised garden area near the entrance to the hospital. This morning we saw that it was a worship center, and as we arrived the morning offering of incense was in progress. For us it was an unusual sight, and it made me consider how seriously I treat the worship part of my life.

Viewing life through our hotel room window is fascinating. We get to watch the water taxis on the canal that is next to our hotel. We have a construction site next door. There is always colorful traffic. We see street vendors, either passing by or set up to do business across the street. And today we got to watch a public works project.
The water taxi is a high speed vehicle that leaves a strong wake, and lots of water sloshing up the sides of the canal. It is a very popular form of transportation. In watching people enter and exit the boat, it appears to be a bit precarious, although the men who tie the boat to the dock are very sure-footed and make the transition look easy.
In Bangkok most private vehicles are white, silver, or tan. Occasionally there will be a red car or a dark green pickup or black SUV. However, the only routinely colorful vehicles are the taxis, which come in every bright color imaginable: hot pink, bright purple, orange, copper, red, royal blue, bright yellow, bright green, or yellow top with blue or green bottom. There is no mistaking a taxi for anything else, and the bright colors make them very easy to find. If you watch traffic at times like 1 AM, you will see that it consists almost solely of taxis, either regular or tuktuks. And today, while walking back to the hotel from the hospital, it was almost a case of "Grandma got run over by a tuktuk"! You take your life in your hands when you try to negotiate traffic as a pedestrian. It is very important to remain on full alert while crossing the street here.

The public works project was to put pump motors in the vertical orange cylinder and next to the lower pipe connection. They also built a wood cover for the large hole in the sidewalk, using handsaws to shape the wood. Unfortunately I didn't see how they used the most interesting of their tools: a long bamboo pole with a large wire basket on the end, that looked like a giant version of the cooking implement Asians use to fish food out of a wok, usually when deep-frying. The crane lowered the pump into the cylinder, and afterward lowered a man into the cylinder to finish connecting the pump. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the project was the fact that all of the men working on it were wearing flip-flops! Not what Americans consider usual foot attire for that kind of work. (The footwear shows in photo #4, if you click on it to enlarge it.)

The street vendors are also interesting. The woman who sets up directly across from our window, by the orange pipes, can be seen every day. I'm not sure how she transports everything to and from the site. Most of her wares seem to fit into a carton that is not very big. She sits on a square stool that can only be about six inches high, and she has a large umbrella with a stand. Many times we can see vendors with push carts walking down the road, even at odd hours of the night. The last variety of street vendors we see carry their wares in baskets hanging off the end of a flexible bamboo pole. We are working our way toward trying some of what they offer, but we need to solidify the advice we've received about what is safe to try, and also to get our health back to normal.

We had a follow-up visit with our surgeon today, and with each visit the time is more enjoyable. He is very knowledgeable about this part of the world and is full of interesting information. We learn a lot about culture and politics as well as medical things during these visits.

At breakfast this morning we ended up talking to a man who had recently had a face lift. It turned out that it was done by our surgeon. This ended up being very funny. I mentioned to the doctor that we'd met another one of his patients. From our description, he figured out who the patient was, & showed us a picture. We easily identified the patient as the one we had met, which our doctor found very interesting, because he did not know the patient was staying at our hotel, and had been unable to find him. He took time out from our visit to call the patient at the hotel number. The poor man probably wondered how the doctor found him. We'll never tell! Actually, we were glad we could help out in that way, because we had previously learned from one of the plastic surgery nurses that our surgeon had tried to call us at our hotel to check on our well-being three times on the day after we were discharged, but the hotel kept telling him we weren't there. Apparently it is not always easy to keep up with patients who have been discharged from the hospital.

One thing about the doctors here that is very nice is that they do not see themselves as being "M-Dieties" (a term coined by Linus in the Peanuts comic strip). If you look at the name on their white coats, it is always Dr. ________ (fill in the blank with his or her first name). Kind of like the southern style of address. I don't know how it would be with any of the other doctors at the hospital, but we have been developing a friendship with our surgeon. It has been really nice to get to know him as a person as well as experiencing his medical skill and expertise. That has added meaning to our time here.

Next time I'll return to the narrative of our experience.

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